Pujols anticipates return in few days

Saturday, March 9, 2002

JUPITER, Fla. -- National League rookie of the year Albert Pujols was back in uniform Friday, a day after a nasty encounter with first base. And the quick return was a big relief for the Cardinals.

"We all feared worse than this when he went down," manager Tony La Russa said.

Pujols' sprained left ankle turned out to be so minor that La Russa plans on using him as a designated hitter for two or three at-bats Saturday against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., and hopes he can play third base as soon as Sunday.

Pujols is coming off one of the best debut seasons in major league history, batting .329 with 37 homers, an NL rookie-record 130 RBIs and 112 runs scored. After playing mostly at the Class A level in 2000, he's become one of the Cardinals' go-to guys and shares the cover of this year's media guide with recent Hall of Fame inductee Ozzie Smith.

"It's the best year by a position player I've ever been around," La Russa said. "And I've seen some really good years."

The big scare came Thursday as Pujols legged out a grounder to third against the Phillies and landed awkwardly on the first-base bag. He said he was trying to avoid first baseman Travis Lee.

"I saw him leaning and

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: