TEMPE, Ariz. — Albert Pujols has won three most-valuable-player awards and two World Series titles and hit 475 home runs over his illustrious 12-year career, but the Angels slugger still admitted to being “a little bit nervous” before his first at-bat of the spring Tuesday.
“My dad always said if you’re not nervous, you’re not ready,” Pujols joked after grounding out twice and striking out once in a 6-4 Cactus League victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Tempe Diablo Stadium. “I was a bit nervous, but it was good to be back in the dugout and get out there with the guys.”
Pujols is recovering from right-knee surgery and was limited to batting practice, grounders hit right at him and running on a treadmill for the first few weeks of camp. But after he ran wind sprints Saturday and Sunday, the Angels deemed him fit enough to hit in a game, about a week before he was expected to play.
Pujols, who started at designated hitter, hit a broken-bat grounder to third off Reds starter Mike Leake in the first inning and struck out on a full-count slider from hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman in the fourth. Facing left-hander Carlos Contreras in the sixth, Pujols grounded out to short.