Albert Pujols clearly isn’t the player he used to be. However, what can’t be denied is his toughness and commitment, as he’s constantly playing through injury and when he is hurt always returning sooner than expected.
When the future Hall of Famer had surgery back in November to address the nagging plantar fasciitis issue in his right foot, the Angels said at the time that his rehab would take 4 1/2 months. That timeline seemed to make him doubtful to be ready for Opening Day. Yet, here we are with the spring training schedule not even started yet and it appears Pujols’ presence in the Halos’ April 4 lineup is now looking likelier by the day.
Pujols has not had any limitations in batting practice or in fielding drills so far in Angels’ camp. He has yet to be cleared to run at full speed or to play in games yet, but there’s plenty of time for that.
The Angels have the benefit of sticking the slugger in the designated hitter spot for a while at the beginning of the season, something they’ve often done when Pujols’ foot problems have acted up in the past. However, unless he has a setback, things are looking good so far for the 36-year-old being ready on Opening Day.
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Positive Day for Profar
It won’t go down officially as his first game with the Rangers since 2013, but Monday was nonetheless an encouraging day for Jurickson Profar.
Playing in an intrasquad scrimmage at the club’s spring training complex in Arizona, Profar made two great plays defensively at shortstop and also smacked a home run off of Cole Hamels. Having had his last two years wiped out due to a muscle tear in his right shoulder, Profar was playing a position for the first time since the beginning of 2014.
"It feels great," Profar said. "You know it's just one intrasquad game, but it feels good to be out playing."
Manager Jeff Banister was also feeling good about what he saw out of Profar.
"Day 1, I would say if you were looking to put some check marks on the positive side, it would be how he moved to the baseball and how he moved on defense," Banister said. "No second thoughts diving for the ball, came up and threw the ball. Very instinctual. I'm sure it was fun for him to play defense and swing the bat."
Obviously, one day in an intrasquad scrimmage doesn’t exactly justify us firing up the Profar hype train again, but the former top prospect will take all the positives he can get after a couple miserable years. The Rangers undoubtedly will stick the 23-year-old in the minors to begin the season and let him get his feet wet again, but it will be interesting to see if he can get back on the radar in deep fantasy leagues if he shows well in Arizona.
Achilles Injury Sidelines Pence
Hunter Pence might opt to skip spring training next year, telling the Giants he’ll just see them in San Francisco on Opening Day.
After fracturing his arm on a hit by pitch early last spring, the veteran outfielder is hurt early on in camp again with a sore right Achilles. All indications at this point are that this ailment isn’t nearly as serious as last year’s, but that didn’t stop the Giants from sending Pence for an MRI just in case.
“We’re being extremely conservative,” Pence said. “I do want to get out there as soon as possible, but the most important thing is getting it completely feeling good because we don’t want to start over.”
Pence added Monday that his leg “feels great,” but manager Bruce Bochy doesn’t expect to see the outfielder in games for at least a week, regardless of what the results of the MRI say. Obviously there’s no reason to push things at the beginning of March, especially with a veteran like Pence who doesn’t need a ton of at-bats to get ready.
Pence has been a bastion of health for the bulk of his career, entering last season having played at least 154 contests in each of the previous seven campaigns. Last year, though, he went to the disabled list on three occasions and wound up playing just 52 games.
He’ll turn 33 in April, but Pence’s track record suggests he’s a good bet to remain on the field and bounce back in 2016. Now just take it easy this spring, Hunter.
Quick Hits: Yu Darvish threw off a full mound Monday. It was his first bullpen session since last March’s Tommy John surgery ... Jon Heyman of MLB Network has reported that Major League Baseball will make a ruling on an Aroldis Chapman suspension this week ... Henderson Alvarez threw off a mound Monday for the first time since last July’s shoulder surgery ... Yadier Molina on Monday caught his first bullpen session since a second surgery on his left thumb ... Steven Souza (intercostal) expects to begin playing in Grapefruit League games next week ... Anibal Sanchez (triceps) played catch from 90 feet on Monday and reported no issues ... The Red Sox signed David Murphy to a minor league contract ... A.J. Pollock will not play in Tuesday's game versus the University of Arizona due to a sore arm. The discomfort has kept Pollock from taking batting practice each of the last three days, but it appears to be normal spring training soreness at this point ... Michael Brantley (shoulder) has been cleared to hit soft toss ... An MRI taken Monday on Chris Tillman's core came back negative and he’s expected to pitch in games by the end of the week ... Luke Gregerson (oblique) was able to ramp up the intensity of his workouts on Monday ... Recovering from offseason knee surgery, Justin Turner won't play in the first week or so of Cactus League games ... Nathan Eovaldi was scratched from a scheduled side session Monday due to minor groin tightness ... Alex Wilson will be shut down for the next couple of days due to soreness in his right shoulder ... Bronson Arroyo's contract with the Nationals states that the club has to let him know five days before camp breaks whether he's made the team ... The Diamondbacks signed Matt Capps to a minor league contract ... The Orioles signed Samuel Deduno to a minor league contract ...