Pujols adamant about being ready for Opening Day
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols, still methodically working his way back from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, is adamant about being ready by Opening Day.
Asked how many Spring Training games he needs to be on the field by April 1 in Cincinnati, the Angels' high-priced first baseman said: "None. As long as my body feels good, I'm ready to go. … I've got 8,000 [plate appearances] in the big leagues."
Pujols, of course, will need some appearances in Cactus League games to get ready for the regular season and is still expected to get that chance by mid-March.
But he's trying to make a point.
"He does not need the 40 to 50 to 60 [at-bats] that some guys need," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "There's always a range of what's comfortable with what a player needs, not only to see some velocity but to try to get locked in and see some balance. There's no way that he needs that many, but he'll be ready for the season."
Pujols continues to hit -- he's been doing that since showing up a couple of days before the club's first full-squad workout -- and has been lightly taking ground balls on the field while running on the treadmill. But Pujols, who ran 13 minutes on the treadmill "at a good pace" on Friday morning, isn't sure when he'll be able to run full speed just yet.
That remains the final hurdle.
"I don't want to go out in Spring Training and play without running the bases," Pujols said. "Even if you are healthy, it usually takes a week of running the bases before you can get in a game. That's where we're going."
The program Angels trainers have mapped out has Pujols playing in games in a couple of weeks, which they feel is plenty of time to get him ready by Opening Day -- even though they'll be playing under National League rules.
Pujols, coming off a year in which he batted .285 with 30 homers and 105 RBIs, is 25 homers away from 500 for his career and 66 RBIs away from 1,500.
"Pretty much if the season started tomorrow, I'd be out there playing," said Pujols, who had the surgery early in the offseason. "But there is no reason for me to go out and play when we have five more weeks before Opening Day. We're being cautious about it because we have five weeks before Opening Day.
"I had surgery in the past and I had my best year. I don't worry about it. As long as I'm healthy, I'll do whatever I have to do."