Pujols says hamstring feels better

Updated: June 16, 2004, 12:36 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols played first base for the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time since straining his left hamstring more than a week ago.

In an 8-4 win Tuesday against the A's, he was 1-for-4 with two runs batted in.

Pujols, the NL batting champion last year and the NL MVP runnerup the last two seasons, missed four starts in the field and then was the DH in a three-game weekend interleague series at Texas.

Pujols was 1-for-14 with one RBI during the Rangers series and was batting .309 with 17 homers and 41 RBIs.

"It's better and it's just going to get better and better every day as long as I play under control and I don't try to push it," Pujols said before the Cardinals played Oakland. "I know what I can do."

Pujols has been taking daily treatment for the injury, sustained on June 6. After resting without treatment on Monday, an off-day, he told manager Tony La Russa he was ready to play in the field.

"Mostly, I got a good report from Albert," La Russa said. "He's ready to go. He'll still be careful with his running."

Pujols started the Cardinals' first 56 games and has never been on the disabled list in his four-year career. He said it was tough sitting out a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs and not much better playing DH against the Rangers.

"DH is bad, it's a bad thing to do," Pujols said. "I don't want to experience that thing again. I don't know how Edgar Martinez does it; I guess you have to do it every day."

Pujols said it wouldn't be difficult playing under control, partly because he has practice. He played most of last season with a strained elbow ligament, and was unable to cut loose on his throws from left field.

"I played last year when I thought I was going to have to get surgery on my elbow," Pujols said. "It's the same thing with the hamstring. I need to make sure I don't hurt it again."

Pujols hopes the injury is a non-factor in a couple of weeks.

"It's tough to control when you're playing out there, and I play the game hard," Pujols said. "If it's 70 percent now, next week it should be 90 percent and the week after that 100 percent."

John Mabry played six of the seven games at first base while Pujols was out. Mabry has 10 RBIs and three homers in his last four games, going 6-for-14 in that span.

On Tuesday, he was starting in left field.

"Whoever goes out there, if you can take charge you can play a lot," La Russa said. "So he's in there today."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press