Jon Morosi had a quick little update on our veteran slugger Albert Pujols today, and the good news is that there really isn't any timetable-altering news...at least according to the Angels. The Machine has been cleared to hit baseballs off of a tee again, so that's something to rejoice over, as he is getting over the surgery on the plantar plate of his right foot and heading back towards full-on baseball activities. Baby steps, as Dr. Leo Marvin would advise his patients.
The early word on Pujols, when it was announced that he would be getting surgery on his ever-ailing foot, was that he wouldn't be able to resume baseball activities til March, and being cleared to hit off the tee will pretty much keep him on that timetable, according to the team. As Morosi notes, it's probably in their best interest to be cautious with Albert, and not rush him back.
The team's cautious approach with Pujols might result from his difficult recovery after knee surgery following the 2012 season. He was intent on making it back for Opening Day in 2013 -- and did -- but his body wasn't completely ready for the daily rigors of the baseball season. The result was a .767 OPS in 99 games, both career lows.
We all remember 2012, and how horrible and out of shape Pujols looked in that campaign, so sure...keep him on the slow-but-safe road to recovery and get this man healthy for Spring Training. That seems to be what the Angels want to do...that is, unless they listen to Albert Pujols.
The latest news does not appear to have altered that timetable, but the Angels are pleased with Pujols' overall progress. They're also inclined to trust Pujols' assessment of the way he feels -- rather than rely on MRIs or other scans -- because of how well the 36-year-old knows his body.
Hmmm, ok. So they've still got memories of that downtrodden 2012 season fresh in their mind, and it's understandably making them take the slow and steady route, which sounds nice and all. But then at the same time, they're apparently willing to just forego any of that sciencey, MRI-ish mumbo jumbo and instead have Albert tell them when he feels good enough to get back in the game. Seems slightly contradictory and a TAD disheartening.
Look, Pujols is a veteran and one of the biggest gamers(as in he's competitive, not like League of Legends gamer) in the MLB, and I can definitely see why a team would defer to the player to see how they're coming along, and when they might be able to resume baseball activities. But this is Albert Pujols, a man who, while only appearing on the DL about five times in his MLB career, has also had a TON of known injuries that he has played through, with gritted teeth galore. Perhaps it might be best to NOT listen to Albert and rely solely on what the docs say, because if it's even bothering him slightly, I can imagine an Albert Pujols that plays through the pain just in hopes of making that Opening Day contest against his old NL Central rivals, the Chicago Cubs.
All in all, good news for Albert, though. He'll be mashing balls off that tee in between bouts of foot rehab, and if things go smoothly, we'll see plenty of him in Spring Training. As for Opening Day, that may still be a long shot...unless the Angels consult Albert Pujols. In which case, he'll be in the lineup against the Cubs, and he'll be playing first base. Because he's Albert Pujols.