Angels’ Albert Pujols nears the end of a surprisingly healthy season, looks forward to final 2 years of deal

first_imgANAHEIM — Albert Pujols is finishing this season so strong that he’s eagerly looking ahead to the remaining two years on his contract.“I think the way I train and my dedication and my discipline I have in this game, if I am healthy I can play until I’m 50,” the 39-year-old Pujols said on Friday. “I don’t have any doubt in myself. I still have that drive to compete every day. The fire is there. I think it’s always going to be there for me until the day I’m done.“Whether it’s tomorrow or in spring training, if I feel one day the fire is not there, it doesn’t matter how much money is left on my contract, it’s time to go. But I don’t see that happening. Because this year this is the most fun I had because I was healthy and I was able to do things I wasn’t able to do in the past.”In the eighth year of his 10-year, $240-million contract, Pujols altered the trajectory of a career that seemed to many like it was headed quickly toward its end. He was coming off the worst seasons of his career, and last year ended with three surgeries. Angels’ poor pitching spoils an Albert Pujols milestone Last year, Pujols’ season ended in late August when he had surgery on his left knee. A few weeks into his rehab from that, he had a cleanup on his right elbow. Pujols also said he had a cleanup on his left elbow.Despite the three procedures, Pujols had them early enough that he still had a normal offseason of workouts. That, he said, is the reason that he’s been able to stay on the field.Pujols has also performed better than he had in the previous two years. His .739 OPS through Friday’s game is his highest since a .780 mark in 2016. His 23 homers surpassed the 19 he hit last season. He also has 93 RBIs.In the second half, Pujols has hit .262 with a .763 OPS. He said he made an adjustment at the All-Star break, with the help of hitting coaches Jeremy Reed, Shawn Wooten and Paul Sorrento.“They have put me in a better position to attack the ball like I normally do,” Pujols said.Ausmus pointed out that Pujols has specialized in using the whole field with runners on base. He hit .294 with runners in scoring position.“He’s a tremendous example, in this day of shifting, of how altering your approach to drive in that runner from second or third, how valuable that could be,” Ausmus said. “We’re trying to score runs and beat the other team, and he’s a great example for these younger players.”Each of those hits also slows the steady decline of Pujols’ career batting average, which sat perilously at .2998 as play began on Friday. While that number still rounds to make him a “.300 hitter,” as it will when this season ends, Pujols won’t be able to play regularly throughout the final two years of his contract without losing that distinction.He insists that he doesn’t care.Related Articles Angels offense breaks out to split doubleheader with Astros Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Against all odds, though, Pujols has been just about the only member of the 2019 Angels who hasn’t been hurt.He missed one game because of his son’s high school graduation and one because he was sick, but otherwise he got through the season without any health issues.“I think if you were a betting person, you probably would’ve thought there would’ve been issues,” Manager Brad Ausmus said. “But he’s done an excellent job of doing his maintenance work, his strength work and keeping his body healthy, keeping his knees healthy.”On Friday night Pujols was at first base for the 97th time, the most games he’s played in the field since 2014. He has started 125 of the Angels’ 160 games.Most of Pujols’ seasons with the Angels have been marred by injuries, or at least followed offseasons in which he had his workouts interrupted by surgeries.center_img Angels’ Shohei Ohtani spending downtime working in outfield Jose Suarez’s rocky start sinks Angels in loss to Astros “It doesn’t matter if I hit .280 or .290 or .300,” Pujols said. “At the end of the day, if you look at my career, it would be selfish of me to think, ‘Oh, I didn’t hit .300.’ That’s a question a lot of people are bringing to me. … I have dropped probably 30 points since I left St. Louis. If I drop two more, three more, four more, I don’t think anybody is going to look at the batting average.”As Pujols heads into the winter, Ausmus said the Angels can reasonably expect him to perform about the same next year. Pujols is likely to get the benefit of more days at designated hitter next season, with Shohei Ohtani leaving the spot open more often once he’s pitching again.Because he’s ending this season healthy, Pujols figures he can get even stronger this winter.“All I can control,” Pujols said, “is to try to get myself ready and finish strong over my contract the next couple years, just one day at a time.” Angels’ Mike Trout working on his defense, thanks to Twitter last_img

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