For the next two days, Albert Pujols will try not to think about what it will be like to play at Busch Stadium for the first time since his storied career there ended eight seasons ago.
He’ll wait for the moment to come to him when he digs into the batter’s box Friday night in St. Louis, the place he burnished a legacy that will easily carry him into the Hall of Fame.
“I don’t want to know because if you start thinking about it and it doesn’t go that way you might be a little disappointed,” the Angels first baseman said Wednesday at Rogers Centre. “But I’m pretty sure [the reaction will] be emotional.”
The Angels have played the Cardinals in two interleague series since signing Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract in December 2011, but Angel Stadium hosted both. This weekend’s three-game set will provide Pujols his first chance to play in front of the fans who saw him win two World Series and three most valuable player awards.
“I’m going to enjoy every moment because it’s a moment that won’t happen again unless we face them in the World Series.”
Pujols was a 13th-round pick of the Cardinals in 1999 and debuted two years later. During the 11 seasons that followed, he led the team to seven playoff appearances. He batted .328 over 1,705 games.
No one was more dominant at the plate from 2001 to 2011 than Pujols: His 445 homers and 1,329 RBIs led all players.
“I would imagine he would be excited to go back because it’s been so long,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He was obviously a tremendous player with the Cardinals for 11 years. I’m sure it’ll be emotional. He has a lot of good memories from his time there.”
More draftees signings
The Angels announced the signings of third-round draft pick Jack Kochanowicz, a left-handed pitcher out of Harrison High in Pennsylvania who was committed to play at Virginia, and fourth-rounder Erik Rivera, a two-way player from Puerto Rico. Both signed for more than the recommended slot value, with Kochanowicz getting a $1.25 million bonus and Rivera signing for $597,500 plus a $2,500 contingency bonus. Rivera signed last weekend and is already training in Tempe, Ariz.
Two days after being designated for assignment to accommodate the return of Justin Upton, outfielder Cesar Puello was traded to the Miami Marlins for cash. The Angels had hoped to sneak Puello, who had a 1.183 OPS in 12 games, through waivers and keep him in the organization. … Right-hander Trevor Cahill will pitch in a game for the first time since being sidelined because of elbow inflammation Friday for triple-A Salt Lake. It may be only his rehab start. … J.C. Ramirez, recovering from Tommy John surgery he underwent in April 2018, will make at least one more minor league appearance before the Angels decide he’s ready to rejoin the pitching staff. … Reliever Keynan Middleton, who had his own elbow ligament surgically repaired in May 2018, has been throwing bullpen sessions for about a month. Ausmus said he doesn’t know when Middleton will advance to facing hitters.