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OC Register: Angels’ Albert Pujols feeling healthy after time off

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ANAHEIM — The start to Albert Pujols’ 20th season in the majors will be delayed by nearly four months. One positive to that is that Pujols will have had more time to put his injury issues behind him.

By the time the season starts, it will have been about 22 months since Pujols had the third of three surgeries he had at the end of the 2018 season. He has had two full offseasons, plus what was essentially a third mini-offseason, for his body to recover.

“I think being healthy brought me more joy for the game,” Pujols said Saturday morning. “Talk to any athlete and you start going through injuries and tough parts of your career and you start doubting yourself.

“There was a period where I couldn’t stay away from the surgery table. Every year it seemed like I had something. Elbow, knee, foot. It was tough. But I think when you stay healthy like I have… it’s like, ‘Wow, this how it felt when I was 25 and in my 30s.’”

Pujols, who turned 40 in January, has one season left on his 10-year deal after this one. Although he’s nearing the end of his career, he still has the passion that keeps him going.

“If I wake up one day and I don’t feel that desire, that hunger or that passion for the game, that would be last game,” Pujols said. “It could be tomorrow. It could be today. When you cannot compete anymore, that’s when you need to walk out. When you don’t have that hunger and that joy and that passion coming to the ballpark and hanging out with your teammates, that’s when you walk away.”

For this 60-game season Pujols is still penciled in to be the Angels’ primary first baseman, although he’ll certainly get all the days off he needs. When Pujols is not playing first, Maddon is expected to use either Matt Thaiss or Jared Walsh. Although Thaiss has not yet been able to participate in camp, Maddon still included him in listing the first-base candidates. Maddon said he’s also talked to Tommy La Stella about first base “as a just-in-case.”

Although it’s clear that Pujols at 40 is long past being the force he was during his heyday, Maddon said he’s still been impressed with what Pujols has shown him as far as work ethic and attitude.

“He has one agenda,” Maddon said. “He is definitely a Level 5, all-I-want-do-is-win guy. He has been there, done that before. I’m watching his workout here right now and I’m watching him hustle, bust on and off the field, running to first base. To say he gets it is ridiculous. He’s gotten it for so many years.”

Pujols further demonstrated his leadership during the pandemic, when he committed about $180,000 to support the Angels employees in the Dominican Republic who had been furloughed.

“It’s something I felt was needed for these people,” said Pujols, who added he was unhappy the act leaked to the media. “It’s not like I’m going to help them with all their problems. They’re going to have problems in the future, but I think a little push for the next five months, I was able to do that. I just felt it in my heart to do that and I felt after I spoke with my wife that it was the right thing to do. I know there’s other guys on our ballclub too that have done all this stuff for different coaches in the organization.”

Pujols, whose 22-year-old daughter Isabella is high-risk because of Down Syndrome, said he has taken the coronavirus seriously throughout. He believes that MLB’s protocols will work to allow the season to be played during the pandemic.

After talking to former Angel Jefry Marte, who is playing Japan, Pujols even has some hope that major-league games can be played in front of fans later this season.

“He said they’re going to allow like 5,000 fans, maybe, into the stadium, and like 10,000 fans probably within two weeks,” Pujols said. “So hopefully you know this thing goes fast and hopefully by the end of the season – our goal is hopefully everything goes well and they can allow fans like that getting into the stadium and in the playoffs.”

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2 minutes ago, Slegnaac said:

If the NL adopts the DH, maybe he goes back to the Cardinals to finish his playing career. 

I think I've written this before, but it would be genuinely funny if he plays one last year in SL and hits .290 with 45 bombs, then talks about how he was inspired by all the great fans. (Maybe not funny per se, but the comments here would be worth it.)

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4 minutes ago, SoPas Angel said:

I think I've written this before, but it would be genuinely funny if he plays one last year in SL and hits .290 with 45 bombs, then talks about how he was inspired by all the great fans. (Maybe not funny per se, but the comments here would be worth it.)

We would raise funds to erect a statue just to topple it.

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1 hour ago, Glen said:

Only one more year of hearing this story again.

If he goes to camp injured next year and robs us of the chance of the hilarious posts, I'm going to be pissed. 

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4 minutes ago, m0nkey said:

I opened this thread assuming it was going to be stradling and Claude going back and forth for 20 posts.  Pleasantly surprised

Yea, I open it assuming stupidity and jealousy, eh.  

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