Albert Pujols isn't ready to call it a season.
The Angels slugger said Thursday he would not rule out a return from a serious foot injury in the season's final weeks even though his team's flickering playoff hopes may have been extinguished by then.
"Whether it's two games out, 20 games out, if I feel good, ready to play, I'm going to be out there playing," Pujols said in his first meeting with reporters since he partially tore the plantar fascia in his left foot last week in Oakland.
Pujols said he was already virtually pain-free but will remain in a walking boot for three more weeks, at which point he will have a better indication of whether he can play again this season. A foot specialist told Pujols the recovery period for his condition is typically six to eight weeks but that some players can return in as little as three weeks' time.
"I was already playing at 45% this year, so even if I feel 55% then, I can come back and play," said Pujols, who hit .258 with 17 home runs and 64 runs batted in despite being bothered by the condition in his foot all season. "I'm going to be out there and playing because I love this game."
There is one certainty regarding Pujols' future: He won't require surgery. His doctor informed him that tearing the fascia avoided the need for an invasive procedure.
"He told me, 'Congratulations, you just did the surgery yourself,'" Pujols said.
Pujols wasn't celebrating. His injury came at a time when he had hit .353 with two homers and seven RBIs in eight games since the All-Star break for a team that desperately needed his production. The Angels are closer to last place than to first place in the American League West.
Pujols described the pain he experienced as a seven or an eight on a scale of one to 10 — with 10 being the worst — but said it had subsided to about a one. He won't have to worry about a recurrence of the condition because the pain is resolved once the area tears.
Pujols noted that he has a history of returning quickly from injuries, coming back in only two weeks from a wrist injury that was expected to sideline him at least a month when he played for the St. Louis Cardinals.
"My body heals very well, so I'm praying to God and having faith and hopefully that happens," Pujols said. "Hopefully I'll be out there on the field before you know it."
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Pujols would not be relegated to designated hitter as much once he returns because he will presumably feel more comfortable moving around at first base. Pujols had made 65 of his 99 starts this season as the designated hitter.
Jason Vargas, sidelined since surgery in late June to remove a blood clot in his armpit, pitched in the bullpen and is scheduled to throw a three-inning simulated game Saturday. He could progress to a minor league rehabilitation start after that. … Center fielder Peter Bourjos took batting practice on the field for the first time in his recovery from a broken bone in his right wrist but continues to feel some soreness, Scioscia said.