Albert Pujols says he hasn’t decided if he’ll retire at end of season
When will Albert Pujols retire?
It’s a question the 41-year-old Angels first baseman didn’t have an answer to on Saturday, saying in his first session with the media this spring that his “mind is not even there” entering his 21st MLB season.
“I think that decision will come at the end of the year,” he said, adding, “My mind is staying focused [on staying] healthy and help this ball club try to win this year.”
Pujols’ wife, Deidre, appeared to indicate in an Instagram post on Monday that this would be the last season for the three-time most valuable player and 10-time All-Star. After the post set off a wave of speculation on social media, she edited the wording of her post to reflect that 2021 is the last season of Pujols’ contract with the Angels and that she was simply trying to send her husband “blessings” going into this season. She clarified that it was not an official retirement announcement.
Pujols said the original post was misinterpreted and blown out of proportion.
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“It’s the same thing that she’s always done, sending me every year with a blessing,” Pujols said. “If she had just [originally] said, ‘the last year on my contract with the Angels,’ it would have been different. But I told her, ‘You don’t need to apologize. I know what you mean.’”
Earlier this week, Angels manager Joe Maddon said the situation was “no big deal.”
“He’s fine,” Maddon added. “He made that very clear. So we just get back to normal patterns.”
On the field, Pujols is hoping to reverse the declining production that has become his trend in recent seasons. After three consecutive campaigns with a batting average in the .240s and on-base-plus-slugging percentage below .750 from 2017-19, Pujols’ numbers reached new lows in last season’s pandemic-shortened campaign, when he hit a career-worst .224 with a .665 OPS and 25 strikeouts to only nine walks in 39 games.
Pujols, who is fifth on MLB’s all-time home run list with 662, hasn’t recorded an above-average OPS+ (an advanced metric in which 100 is considered league average) since 2016. According to Fangraphs, his wins above replacement statistic has been in the negatives for four straight seasons as well.
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Pujols, however, believes he can contribute. He entered this year’s camp feeling “fresh” physically after deciding to start hitting later in the winter than usual, giving himself more time for gym work this offseason. He isn’t worried about playing time at first base after the emergence of Jared Walsh last season.
“He understands what’s going on, he accepts it well,” Maddon said. “We’ll just continue to try to on a nightly basis [to] figure out the best route. But regardless of the role we put him in, I know he’s going to react to it well.”
As far as his potential retirement, Pujols said any official announcement will come in a more formal manner than an Instagram post.
“When I feel like it’s time to go,” Pujols said, “everybody’s going to find out at the same time.”
Let the games begin
The Angels will open exhibition play with a road game against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday at 12:05 p.m. PST and a home game against the Chicago White Sox on Monday at 12:10 p.m. PST. A reduced-capacity crowd of about 2,000 socially distanced fans will be allowed to attend games in Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Under baseball’s rule modifications for this spring, games through March 13 may be shortened to five or seven innings upon mutual agreement of both managers, and games from March 14 through the end of spring may be shortened to seven innings.
Through March 13, managers also will be allowed to end an inning prior to three outs following any completed plate appearance provided the pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches, an option that will reduce the chance of injury to an overtaxed pitcher struggling to complete an inning.
“The most important thing,” Maddon said in regard to the shortened games, “is to make sure the fans know and understand that.”
José Quintana will start Sunday’s game for the Angels. Patrick Sandoval, Dillon Peters, Jake Faria, Gerardo Reyes, Kyle Keller and Thomas Pannone are also scheduled to pitch.
Shohei Ohtani threw a live batting practice Saturday. According to the team, his velocity topped out at 100 mph in the 35-pitch session.... Angels left-hander Packy Naughton has suffered a Grade-1 UCL strain in his throwing elbow. A nonroster invite this spring acquired from the Reds before last season’s trade deadline in exchange for Brian Goodwin, Naughton had an MRI on Friday after reporting pain in his elbow. Maddon said the Angels “will play it slow” with the 24-year-old, who is ranked the No. 12 prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline. ... Relief pitcher Alex Claudio (hip infection) joined the pitchers on the field for light mobility drills. He isn’t yet ready to get back on the mound, Maddon said, “but I know he’s doing a lot better.”
Staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.
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