Los Angeles Angels fans wanting to see first baseman Albert Pujols play in a Spring Training exhibition game may have to wait a bit longer. The 33-year old Pujols hasn’t played in a spring game yet in 2013, and he may not at all. Considering the slow start that Pujols got off to with the Angels last season, this can’t be the news fans wanted to hear.
In 2012, Pujols hit just .217 with no homers and four RBI during the month of April. His recovery from off-season arthroscopic knee surgery has kept him out of the lineup so far this spring, although he has been going through both hitting and fielding drills, as well as jogging on a treadmill. Pujols told the Los Angeles Times that even if he doesn’t play during Spring training, he will be ready to go by the season opener.
When asked how many spring games he would need to be in playing shape, Pujols told the paper, “None. As long as my body feels good, I’m ready to go. I’ve got 8,000 at-bats in the big leagues. I think I’ve got plenty.”
Well, at least he’s confident.
As for me, I’d prefer my $240 million man to get a least a few live swings in against some big-league competition before he steps in on opening day. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia agrees, telling the paper, “He needs to see some velocity to try to get locked and in and get his balance. … But as long as he’s playing by the middle of March, there’s no doubt he’ll be ready.”
In Pujols’ absence, Efren Navarro, a 26-year-old minor league veteran, has been filling in at first base during the spring games. Navarro probably wouldn’t be the Angels’ choice at first base if Pujols can’t answer the bell by the season opener, as they have Mark Trumbo who normally would be their regular designated hitter.
The Angels–who missed out on the postseason in 2012–may not be able to survive another slow start for their high-priced slugger, as the AL West may be even more loaded with talent than it was last season. Guys like Pujols are paid to give a team those few extra wins that a team needs, and last year, it just didn’t happen.