Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Pujols upbeat in new colors

TEMPE, Ariz. — Decked out in Angels' gear from head to toe, Albert Pujols looked like the same slugger whose swing in St. Louis became as symbolic as the Gateway Arch.

With a halo-topped "A" logo on his cap, Pujols, his massive chest and arms filling out every corner of his red shirt, sat behind a microphone and excitedly announced the start of a new stage of his career.

"Here I am," he said.

And here he goes.

Arriving just as the morning sun crept above the horizon, and more than a week earlier than required, Pujols reported to training camp Monday with the Angels. The three-time NL MVP will be paid $240 million over the next 10 years to be the face of the franchise.

"I'm just really excited to be here, it feels good to be outside," Pujols said during a news conference at a nearby luxury hotel. "I've been training for three months, hitting in a cage in St. Louis, and it feels good to be here for some spring baseball."

Although only Angels pitchers and catchers had to be at camp this early, Pujols wanted to be there from Day 1 as well. That's how the 32-year-old has done it since breaking into the big leagues in 2001, and he wasn't about to change his routine.

He also felt it was important to begin bonding with his new teammates, some of whom were caught staring at him from across the clubhouse.

Driving a black Mercedes still tagged with Missouri license plates, Pujols pulled into the players' parking lot at 7:15 a.m. There were only a handful of fans waiting to catch a glimpse of the nine-time All-Star, who helped lead the Cardinals to a World Series championship last season before leaving the only baseball home he had known.

Pujols stopped in the equipment room and shook a few hands before heading to the clubhouse, where his locker is flanked by veterans Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter.

"The guys are awesome," Pujols said. "They well-received me as soon as I walked in there."

WAITING FOR BRAUN: The Brewers hope to hear this week whether arbitrator Shyam Das will uphold NL MVP Ryan Braun's 50-game suspension for a positive drug test. In the meantime, a large contingent of position players were already in camp ahead of Saturday's first full-squad workout. Manager Ron Roenicke said he expects Braun to arrive in time for that initial practice.

HOWARD ON MEND: Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, expected to miss the first two months of the season with a torn Achilles' tendon, took some ground balls and a few soft-toss swings in the batting cage in Clearwater and may be ahead of schedule.

PROTECTING POSEY: Giants manager Bruce Bochy has forbidden catcher Buster Posey from blocking the plate. The 2010 NL rookie of the year missed most of last season after a violent home-plate collision.

SHORT LEASH ON ACE: Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who is coming back from elbow-ligament replacement surgery, will be limited to 150-160 innings this season, manager Davey Johnson said.

PITCHER IN CRASH: Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson is being checked for a possible concussion after blowing a tire on his way to the first workout of spring training. Hanson apparently bumped his head on the steering wheel or windshield. In other Braves news, right-hander Tim Hudson expects to miss at least the first month of the season after Nov. 28 back surgery.

CUBS: Infielder Blake DeWitt cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to the minor leagues.

D'BACKS: Shortstop Stephen Drew, who broke his right ankle and severely damaged ligaments sliding into home seven months ago, was back on the field handling ground balls. He isn't sure if he'll be ready for opening day.

MARLINS: Right-hander Juan Carlos Oviedo, formerly known as Leo Nunez, is having difficulty securing a visa in the Dominican Republic, and it's unknown when he'll report. Oviedo was put on the restricted list after it was revealed that he falsified his identity.

RANGERS: Left-hander Neal Cotts, 31, who hasn't pitched professionally since having ligament replacement surgery in July 2009, agreed to a minor-league contract.

RED SOX: Right-handed reliever Bobby Jenks, who had two offseason back surgeries after pitching only 152/3 innings in 2011, will not pitch this spring and might not return until midseason.

ROCKIES: Manager Jim Tracy received what general manager Dan O'Dowd called an "indefinite" contract extension. O'Dowd said it was a handshake agreement, so Tracy eventually must sign a new deal.

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