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Pujols returns to first base

SEATTLE -- Angels slugger Albert Pujols returned to the field for Thursday's series opener against the Mariners, starting at first base for the first time since April 15. The plantar fasciitis affecting his left foot, which had relegated him to designated-hitter duties in seven straight games and nine out of the last 10, is no better or worse.

"It's the same," Pujols said in Spanish, "but I want to play first. I think I can play first."

Pujols hopes to play first base in at least three of the four games at Safeco Field, then Monday and Tuesday in Oakland. "And then we'll go from there," the two-time Gold Glove Award winner added.

"Being on the bench," Pujols said, "it's almost like you're not in the game sometimes. Like yesterday ... you get one of these long innings, like the fourth, and I came to bat that inning. I was riding the bike, but I didn't feel completely ready."

Pujols arrives in Seattle with a .267/.385/.413 slash line, starting each of the Angels' 20 games despite playing in noticeable pain.

Some days Pujols will wake up feeling better, other days his foot feels discernibly worse, but pain is ever-present. It doesn't bother Pujols while hitting, but the pain begins to kick in when he runs full speed, hits the bag or stands around for long periods.

Pujols doesn't believe playing defense will make much of a difference.

"Maybe in the fourth or fifth inning you start feeling a little uncomfortable," he said, "but I'll be all right."

Mark Trumbo has filled in admirably at first base, already racking up 12 starts at the position, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Pujols' starts there will remain a day-to-day decision.

Besides getting the invasive surgery, which would put Pujols out a few weeks and isn't particularly necessary, stretching, massage, orthotics and antiinflammatory medication are essentially the only treatments for plantar fasciitis, which Pujols dealt with early in his career.

"I don't know that there's anything we can do to provide relief for him," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "He's incredibly tough, and he tolerates what he tolerates."

When will the plantar fasciitis subside entirely, allowing Pujols to run at a normal pace and play his position on a daily basis? It's impossible to tell.

But Pujols is staying positive.

"Everything takes time," Pujols said, "and as long as I'm doing my treatment -- maybe one day I wake up and I don't feel it. It is what it is."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez.
Read More: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Albert Pujols