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.
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."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press