Albert Pujols was running the bases at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Friday.
OK, maybe it was more of a jog. And maybe he still tread gingerly on a right knee that underwent arthroscopic surgery less than five months ago. But Pujols’ jog was a little bit ahead of schedule, and that constitutes progress for a three-time MVP that hasn’t played in a Cactus League game.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that Pujols would be running the bases “later in the weekend,” and maybe that buys Pujols some time to turn that jog into an actual run. Maybe it doesn’t.
Either way, the Angels’ slugger gave the impression that it doesn’t really matter what he does between now and Opening Day, April 1, in Cincinnati. Heck, he could be on crutches on March 31.
“As long as my body feels good, I’m ready to go,” he said.
What if he doesn’t get any at-bats in spring training?
“I’ve got eight thousand at-bats in the big leagues,” Pujols said. “I think I’ve got plenty.”
Pujols might have been kidding, but he wasn’t smiling.
There’s always the possibility that Pujols could DH in spring before he is cleared to play the field, but he said “it’s hard to read the future.” Besides, circling the bases looked more difficult for Pujols on Friday than playing first base. He was doing the same drills as his teammates and has been for several days. It’s not game speed, but the range and nature of the motions are close.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia is being deliberately cautious about giving Pujols a timetable for appearing in a game, repeating Friday that “if he’s playing by mid-March he’ll be ready.” Taken literally, Pujols could play up to 16 games if he debuts on March 15 against Seattle, the midpoint of the month, since the Angels have two off-days between then and the regular-season opener.
But Scioscia said he doesn’t have a number of games or at-bats in mind for Pujols.
“He’s not going to need the 40 to 50 (at-bats) that some guys need,” he said. “There’s no way he needs that many.”
How many he wants or gets remain a mystery, and that seems fine with Pujols.