The tense ligament bothered him for much of the year, but particularly after August, when he wore orthotics that had not been broken in appropriately. On the tough, deep infield at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, his foot began to radiate pain.
Pujols underwent shockwave therapy Sept. 29 and sat out the final week of the season. He insisted he would not need subsequent surgery, and in November the Angels’ general manager, Billy Eppler, said the same.
“But as some time went on, it didn’t take,” Eppler said Friday. “It didn’t remedy any of the discomfort he was feeling. His pain was getting progressively worse.”
So Pujols saw Dr. Robert Anderson, an orthopedic surgeon based in North Carolina, who recommended surgery. Pujols and the Angels opted for that over the alternative: another 10 weeks of waiting on another non-surgical route.
Taking care to note he was speaking in generalities, Eppler said it typically takes three months after this surgery before a patient can resume training for baseball, and another month to play.
Opening day for 2017 is four months from Saturday.
Pujols is using crutches now. After Anderson performed a similar operation on him in November 2015 and put his opening-day availability into question, Pujols repeatedly lamented his lack of a normal off-season. He said it contributed to his slow start to 2016, which he concluded with a .268 average, 31 home runs, and 119 runs batted in while playing little first base. He had a .780 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, nearly 200 points below his career standard.
While pleased with his performance, he attributed the statistical downfall to his insistence to play hurt.
“You listen to your body. Well, sometimes I don’t listen too much,” he said on Sept. 30. “I want to be out there. When I can take a day off to help me out, I don’t really listen.”
Pujols said then he was looking forward to a “real” off-season, to prepare himself for an improved 2017. He planned to play much more first base and serve as a designated hitter far less. He would be able to run better, without such obvious pain.
And now, this.
“I would imagine he’s frustrated and I can sympathize with that frustration,” Eppler said. “The mark of an elite athlete is dealing with those obstacles. He embraces challenges. I would imagine he’ll do the same in this scenario.”
Pujols has been bothered by plantar fasciitis for several seasons. He ripped the ligament in his left foot in 2013 and sat out two months.
He’ll turn 37 in January. The Angels owe him $140 million over the next five years.
The Angels have agreed to a minor league contract with left-hander John Lamb, a 26-year-old Laguna Hills High graduate who was once one of baseball’s top prospects. They also agreed to sign former No. 4 overall draft pick Tony Sanchez, a catcher, to a minor league deal this week.