Pujols frustrated not to get into All-Star Game

Updated: July 11, 2007, 2:39 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SAN FRANCISCO -- Albert Pujols was angry about being left on the All-Star bench and the St. Louis slugger took aim at the National League manager -- who just happened to be Tony La Russa of his own Cardinals.

"It's the All-Star Game. He can do what he wants," Pujols said Tuesday night. "He does whatever he wants. If I wasn't expecting to play, I wouldn't have come up here."

Pujols, the NL MVP in 2005 and key to the Cardinals' win in the World Series last year, said La Russa didn't talk to him the entire game.

Pujols could only watch when Aaron Rowand flied out with the bases loaded to end the American League's 5-4 win.

"If he wants to get upset, he can get upset," La Russa said. "Whatever he wants to do, he can do. It's America. That wasn't the most important thing tonight."

With the 32-man rosters, it's not uncommon for few players to be left out. The AL used 27 players, while the NL used 28.

Neyer: Preposterous

It's ridiculous that Tony La Russa didn't play Albert Pujols with the All-Star Game on the line, writes ESPN.com's Rob Neyer. Blog Insider

Pujols and Texas shortstop Michael Young -- last year's All-Star Game MVP -- were the only position players who didn't get into the game. Ever since the 2002 event ended in an extra-innings tie, managers have tended to hold a hitter back just in case.

La Russa said he indeed was saving his star player in case the game went long.

"Once we lost [Miguel] Cabrera and [Freddy] Sanchez, he was the guy we were going to use to protect ourselves in case we kept playing because of Albert's versatility," La Russa said. "I think we had the right guy at bat."

La Russa told reporters that he explained how he was going to use Pujols to his star slugger before the game.

"Albert was the guy who was going to do whatever we needed," La Russa said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "If Albert doesn't understand that, I'm surprised and disappointed. It isn't that tough a thing. I explained his role to him before the game.

"Let me ask you this. If we go to extra innings, who's going to be our player to move around and play? Can Dmitri [Young] move around and play? Or is Albert going to do that? Who's the most versatile guy not playing? It's Albert. It isn't even that tough. He'll figure it out sooner or later."

Dmitri Young pinch-hit in the ninth inning, leaving Pujols as La Russa's lone bat left on the bench.

A six-time All-Star, Pujols finished about 770,000 votes behind starting first baseman Prince Fielder. He played left field regularly in 2002 and '03 and also saw time at third base in 2001 and '02.

Pujols said he was getting his body loose the whole night.

"I was ready to go since the game started," Pujols said.

Pujols is mired in a career-worst home run slump -- 22 games and a career-worst 74 at-bats. He is tied with Chris Duncan for the team lead with 16 homers and his last homer was off Kansas City's Jimmy Gobble on June 14.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.