Pujols: 'Still got some gasoline left in tank'

May 18th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- has lived through just about every situation during his illustrious career. One thing he hadn’t done, however, is join a new team during the middle of the season.

That officially changed on Monday, as the future Hall of Famer sat inside the Dodgers’ press conference room wearing a blue uniform for the first time in his big league career after coming to terms with Los Angeles on a one-year deal.

But according to Pujols, his mindset hasn’t changed despite the hectic couple of weeks that he has lived. He mentioned, over and over again, that his only goal is to try to help the Dodgers repeat as World Series champions, regardless of the role assigned to him. He’ll wear No. 55 since Corey Seager already has No. 5.

“I told them I’m here to do whatever,” Pujols said. “Pinch-hit, first base, whatever they want. I think, at the end of the day, I’m just excited for this opportunity to wear this uniform and, you know, glad to be here.”

He was immediately thrust into action, hitting cleanup against lefty Madison Bumgarner and the D-backs on Monday. After flying out in his first at-bat, Pujols delivered an RBI single in the third inning. He finished 1-for-4 in the Dodgers' 3-1 victory.

Pujols said he never had doubts he would play again after the Angels designated him for assignment on May 6. He said he worked out almost every day as he waited for his next opportunity. Various teams were interested in Pujols, but once the Dodgers called on Thursday, he was immediately intrigued.

After having a meeting with manager Dave Roberts and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman on Friday, Pujols said the clear communication was what ultimately drew him to picking the Dodgers. The deal was agreed upon on Saturday and official on Monday.

“My agent and I and obviously Andrew and Doc had a great communication, great talk,” Pujols said. “It went really well and [they had] a really great plan, you know, about things, about the organization and they were really excited to have me here. I’m really excited to help this organization this year to get another ring.”

When Pujols became available, the Dodgers were not one of the obvious fits for the 41-year-old. He is the Majors’ active leader in home runs (667), RBIs (2,112), runs scored (1,852) and games played (2,886), and he’s fourth among active players in career OPS (.921). But the Dodgers have Max Muncy at first base, and there is no designated hitter in the National League. Los Angeles, however, has struggled against lefties over the last few seasons and really needed a boost when it comes to bench production.

With injuries piling up, including to Seager and AJ Pollock over the weekend, the Dodgers believe Pujols can help fill some of the team’s needs. His role could change, but the expectation is that he will play some first base and serve as a key pinch-hitter.

“We have a lot of young players up right now, guys that we like and feel will be productive Major League players,” Friedman said. “At this point, they haven’t really seized that opportunity, and it’s been sporadic playing time. … We’re just trying to figure out how to augment our bench, our lineup, our defensive configuration, at every turn.”

Before Pujols embarked on the next chapter of his career, he spoke about his tenure with the Angels and how it all ended. He was in his 10th and final season of his $253 million deal with the club.

After Pujols was DFA’d, Angels manager Joe Maddon and general manager Perry Minosian said that Pujols wanted to be an everyday first baseman, but the organization wanted to go in another direction. Pujols repeatedly said he doesn’t have “any hard feelings” toward the Angels and knows that it’s a business, but he did try to share his side of the story.

“My goal over the last two years was never to try and be the everyday first baseman,” Pujols said. “I told you guys earlier in Spring Training, whatever role they have for me, I’m going to go with. I understand they make that decision as an organization, business decision and no hard feelings, I understand that. They had a talk with me, and that was it, move forward and I’m just glad to get an opportunity wearing a different uniform.

“But there’s a lot of things out there saying, 'He wanted more playing time, he wanted to play every day,' and that never came out of my mouth.”

Something Pujols isn’t ready to talk about is retirement. At the beginning of the season, he said he didn’t plan on announcing his retirement at any point during this season. Those plans haven’t changed.

“I feel like I still have some gasoline left in the tank,” Pujols said.

The Dodgers are banking on that being true.