Home Baseball Albert Pujols Returns to St. Louis Cardinals

Albert Pujols Returns to St. Louis Cardinals

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JUPITER, Fla. — Adam Wainwright remembers exactly the place he was on that unhappy December morning when the perfect hitter of his technology left the St. Louis Cardinals.

“I was on the golf course, on hole No. 4 at Frederica Golf Club at home when I found out that he had signed with the Angels,” mentioned Wainwright, who lives in St. Simons Island, Ga. “That was a life-altering, shifting moment, how big that was.”

That was in 2011, simply after Albert Pujols had gained his second championship with the Cardinals. A day like Monday, when Pujols signed a $2.5 million deal to return to St. Louis for a farewell season, appeared inconceivable. He was 31 years previous when the Angels gave him $240 million to play for them for the following decade, plus a private companies contract for an additional decade after his retirement. It regarded just like the everlasting shedding of an ideal match.

“Was it a sad day, a dark day?” John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ president of baseball operations, mentioned on Monday morning. “Yes, for sure. But in this industry, especially in baseball, you have to keep thinking ahead. You have to be looking forward.”

And so each events solid forward and aside, with neither tasting a title once more. With out the Cardinals, Pujols made simply two journeys to the postseason. With out Pujols, the Cardinals made seven however reached just one World Sequence, a six-game loss to Boston in 2013.

Pujols collected milestones alongside the best way: his five hundredth and 600th residence runs and his 3,000th hit. He’s the one participant to succeed in these benchmarks in a profession with no less than two championships.

The departure from St. Louis marked a transparent dividing line, although, and Pujols’ worst season with the Cardinals was higher than his greatest for the Angels. But as a result of he stored his household basis in St. Louis, Pujols at all times felt linked.

“I felt like, yes, I might be wearing a different uniform, but I felt like I never left,” he mentioned, including that he typically returned for charity occasions. “The people still treat me the same way, whether I was wearing the Cardinal uniform, whether I was wearing the Angels or the Dodgers, they never change. That’s what’s so special about the Cardinals’ fans. They love you when you wear their uniform, but they still love you because you’re part of this organization.”

Now — because the oldest participant within the majors, at 42 — Pujols is formally again, largely due to his efficiency after the Angels launched him final Could. Pujols joined the Dodgers and performed in 85 video games, hitting .254 with 12 residence runs. General, he clobbered left-handers for a .603 slugging share. With the designated hitter in the National League now, Pujols could make an influence.

“Oh, he’s got something left,” mentioned Oliver Marmol, the Cardinals’ first-year supervisor. “He’s got more than something left. Albert wants to play this year because he can help a team win.”

The Cardinals, who misplaced to Pujols’s Dodgers in the N.L. wild-card game final October, will open the season with out two of their higher younger pitchers, the right-handers Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes, who’ve shoulder accidents. However the staff signed two free agent pitchers — the left-hander Steven Matz and the right-hander Drew VerHagen, who revived his profession in Japan — and nonetheless has catcher Yadier Molina, 39, guiding the employees.

Molina and Pujols have mentioned definitively that this can be their remaining seasons, and Wainwright, 41, mentioned he was leaning that manner, too. All three are royalty in St. Louis, with Pujols bringing an particularly regal air to a company that prides itself on custom.

“This organization never closed the door on me, and I never closed the door on the organization, either,” Pujols mentioned. “It’s just a great opportunity.”

Molina and Wainwright had been desperate to reunite with Pujols, pestering him repeatedly on FaceTime about his plans. When Pujols arrived on the staff’s spring coaching complicated on Monday, he discovered Wainwright napping earlier than his begin and woke him with a bear hug. Through the sport, the followers roared as Pujols strode from the correct discipline nook to the Cardinals’ dugout. He smiled so he wouldn’t cry.

“I’m a pretty emotional guy,” Pujols mentioned. “It doesn’t take that long.”

Pujols performed 76 video games at first base final season however understands he is not going to unseat the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt, a four-time Gold Glove winner and one of many league’s most dependable sluggers. Pujols mentioned he would do no matter Marmol needed, and hoped to mentor younger gamers the best way teammates like Placido Polanco and Edgar Renteria did for him as a rookie in 2001.

Wainwright sees it taking place already. After his outing on Monday, he seen some youthful gamers dressing to depart for the day. When these gamers noticed Pujols and Molina heading for the batting cage, Wainwright mentioned, they modified again into exercise garments and tagged alongside.

Pujols can provide intangible assist like that, by way of his steering and instance. However he didn’t signal to be an envoy. Pujols is returning with a function.

“Anytime Albert’s motivated,” Wainwright mentioned, “it’s a very, very dangerous thing.”

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