Walking into the room while being serenaded to chants of "MVP, MVP, MVP" by his manager, the St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols spoke with members of the media to close out the 13th annual Winter Warm Up. Tony La Russa wouldn't let his slugger get too comfortable by ending his chant by adding "Last Year."
After a season in which he hit .357/.462/.653 to go along with 37 home runs and 116 RBIs, Pujols wishes he could "tear the MVP trophy into pieces and share it with the ball club." El Hombre will receive his honor Monday night at the St. Louis Baseball Writers dinner.
Though coming off of surgery, Pujols believes, "The body is perfect." His rehab mode was a "month ago" and he feels 100%. He added, "If I called swinging the bat and throwing and lifting, rehab mode, I would be lying to you."
On the elbow in question, Pujols says, "there is some scar tissue from not doing anything for two months because I was rehabbing. I don't feel any tingling in my finger which is good and I don't feel any pain in my elbow or the area that they moved the nerve."
Though optimistic, Pujols is a realist, adding, "It is not until the season when you can test (the elbow) and play everyday and play 162 games when you will know if the surgery really worked."
As Spring Training approaches, the two-time MVP is expecting to have no limitations on what he can do. "I'd prefer that if something is going to happen, it happen in spring training or now when I'm training then during the season."
Though it now looks like he will not play in the World Baseball Classic, Pujols seemed like he was ready to play on Monday afternoon. When asked if he was going to play in the event, he replied, "I am. I am really excited and looking forward to it. There is couple of things about the injury list that if you had surgery in the off-season you fall into a file. I don't know if I'm ever going to be on the roster right now because of insurance."
But he made his status hazy with his following comments, "If I get down to spring training and I feel any tweak I am not going to go but that's the only thing that's going to stop me. I am looking forward to representing the Dominican Republic."
Pujols likes the talent on this team and is looking forward to proving critics wrong again.
The quote of the day came when he was asked if he was glad CC Sabathia had left the Central division. Pujols, "No disrespect to any pitcher but I don't fear any pitcher." Pujols has three more years on his contract along with a club option for 2012 so he's not ready to start talking about his next contract.
"Ask me that question in 2011", he said. "Right now I don't really care about that."
When asked if it is important for him to be the highest paid player in the game, Pujols stuck to his guns. "I don't want to talk about money right now. I got a $100 million contract, $30 million left or whatever I got left. So I am happy with that. I am blessed."
"This is the city where I love to play," he said. "Hopefully I'll finish my career here. I think this is a great organization, great city, the best fans in baseball, and hopefully I can finish my career here. But I think you guys and everybody understand this is a business. Who knows what's going to happen this year? Who knows what's going to happen in 2010 or '11? You have a bad year, they don't want you anymore and you get traded."
I then asked him if it would be exciting to play in front of his hometown fans in this year's All-Star Game. "I think it is going to be great. Can they top what happened in New York last year, I don't know it going to be tough. I think MLB and the city here can make the All-Star game really special. It was really emotional and really awesome last year in Yankee Stadium. It is going to be exciting to our fans. I think MLB chose the right city to host the All-Star game this year."
Though he hasn't had a chance to see his catcher, Yadier Molina, you could tell he is keeping tabs on him. He is glad that Molina is handling the loss of his father though Pujols admits he has not had to go through it personally. It feels it was awesome that his backstop won the Gold Glove and accordingly, feels the "Kid gets better every year."
Pujols would like to not only see his manager back next year but for every year of his career. "He is a guy that I trust. He has been a daddy to me, a manager, and a good friend." But if he does leave, he believes the organization will bring a manager in that can help the team as well as help the young ball players. He believes Tony La Russa is a man who can relate to the veterans and the young players.
A little known part of Pujols' current contract is the monies deferred at no interest. Putting his money where his mouth is, literally, he did this to free up payroll for the front office to bring in players to help the team win. Though many fans have expressed their discontent on the internet message boards, he believes the organization is bringing in players to win. As he put it, "they are signing players all over the place."
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