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Pujols doesn't plan to ease up despite pain

JUPITER, Fla.-- Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has
no plans to take it easy during spring training, even though his
running might be restricted because of a heel injury that hindered
him much of last season.

"I'm going to go out and try to win a job," he said Sunday
after reporting to camp at Roger Dean Stadium, where pitchers and
catchers were working out for the second day.

Position players are due Tuesday but Pujols was early along with
several other veterans, including Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker.

Pujols, third in the National League MVP voting last year behind
Barry Bonds and Adrian Beltre, has chronic plantar fasciitis, a
condition more commonly associated with long-distance running.
Pujols is affected most when he runs the bases aggressively, though
the injury didn't stop him from racking up impressive stats last
year.

While leading the Cardinals to the National League title, Pujols
batted .331 with 46 home runs and 123 RBI. He's the only player
in major league history to hit 30 or more homers in his first four
seasons.

After the season, Pujols underwent sound wave treatment on his
left heel. He was feeling much better in the weeks after the
treatment, but started having trouble again in January and
underwent a second treatment.

Pujols doesn't know what started the injury.

"It just started hurting and never stopped," he said.

Though Pujols doesn't plan to take it easy, he will be careful.

"The injury will be in the back of my mind, and I want to be
smart about it," Pujols said. "If it comes to the point that I am
going through the pain that I went through last season, I don't
think I can do it. I'll have to take some time off."

That's something he didn't do last summer when the pain
sometimes hobbled him.

"We saw another side of Albert last year," manager Tony La
Russa said. "He is working with a guaranteed contract and it could
have been easy for him to say, 'Hey, why do I have to be out
there?' But Albert wants to win."

The Cardinals will monitor how much running Pujols does this
spring, and he may sit out some drills.

"He really likes to run hard because he wants to show people he
is hustling all the time," La Russa said. "But now he has to be
smart about it. There may be times when he has to gear down a
little bit."