Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, a first-rounder in many fantasy drafts for this season, has a respectable .317 batting average after hitting a double in four at-bats Sunday afternoon. But that's hardly the story. It also came out Sunday that Pujols told the Los Angeles Times that the plantar fasciitis in his left foot clearly remains an issue. "I'm dying," Pujols said. "It's hurting real bad."
Yep, that's definitely an issue, and it's likely to panic fantasy owners enough to try to sell Pujols for whatever they can this week, before, as they tend to believe, the inevitable disabled list stint truncates his season. Well, I'll play the role of eternal optimist and still rely on and therefore trade for Pujols. I wouldn't part with a fellow first-rounder like Andrew McCutchen or Prince Fielder, but if this foot problem and the shocking quotes -- I mean, how often is an athlete this honest? -- creates a value opportunity, I'm certainly in.
Pujols went 6-for-13 this past weekend in a sweep of the Detroit Tigers with a pair of doubles, walks and runs scored, and this was against a good pitching staff, right-hander Rick Porcello excluded. (Still like Porcello from his spring training numbers? Ah, but I digress.) Anyway, if the worst thing that happens to Pujols is that he cannot play first base regularly and is stuck with designated hitter duties long-term, we'll take it. Of course, the worst thing would be a lengthy absence, but I don't see it coming any time soon. Pujols hit line drives all weekend. It's painful for us to watch him run to first base, and no doubt more painful for him, but even last season Pujols ended up hitting .285 with 30 home runs and 105 RBIs. He took a circuitous route to get there, starting the season terribly, but the hitting skills remain. If you expect a 40-homer, 120-RBI campaign, keep on dreaming, but that's not what we're talking about here.
The Angels say they'll keep using Pujols at DH as long as he can tolerate the pain, and judging by the future Hall of Famer's career and how he has managed to average 155 games played for the first 12 years of his career -- you know he must have played through injury before -- I don't see why a DL stint is inevitable. "He is particularly tough, mentally and physically," Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told the L.A. Times. "There's not a whole lot anybody can forecast. It's based on his own tolerance."
My personal tolerance for Pujols hate is actually well above normal. I stuck with him through his homerless April last season when he hit .217, buying low on him in one league, and enjoying three separate months with eight or more home runs and a .322 batting average from June through August. I ranked him seventh overall for this season, which matches his ESPN average draft position. He's not done. Yes, he's hurt, but from the at-bats I saw this past weekend, I'm not looking to sell Pujols in the leagues I have him. I don't expect him to steal bases in the foreseeable future, but he's capable of another 30-homer, 100-RBI season with a .300 batting average, and there aren't a ton of players who can still do this. Let's not assume this latest malady will trip up Pujols.
Box score bits (AL): Speaking of injured mashers, the Boston Red Sox welcomed David Ortiz (Achilles) back from the DL on Saturday, and he went 5-for-8 with a pair of RBIs in two games. Activate him immediately! … From old (Big Papi) to young: Right-hander Allen Webster was summoned for a Sunday doubleheader start, and it went reasonably well, with three runs (two earned) over six innings. He struck out five. Webster is already back with Triple-A Pawtucket, but we'll see him again, and there's promise. … Baltimore Orioles right-hander Jake Arrieta continues to struggle with walks. Including the five free passes he issued to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, Arrieta has walked 14 in his past 14 innings. While walks weren't even remotely a problem in 2012, Arrieta can't be relied on now. … Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Roberto Hernandez -- you might know him as Fausto Carmona -- fanned seven Oakland Athletics on Sunday for his first win. Hernandez never used to be a big strikeout option, but he has whiffed seven in three of his four outings. Call it the Rays' rejuvenating pitching magic.
Box score bits (NL): Right-handers Chad Billingsley and Jhoulys Chacin each hit the DL this past weekend. For Billingsley, the Dodgers right-hander generally in demand but a noteworthy career underachiever, it's expected that his balky elbow will need Tommy John surgery. Time to move on. With Colorado Rockies ace Chacin, however, the back spasms that forced him prematurely from his last outing have been termed minor, though he'll obviously miss a few starts. If you own Chacin, who is 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, try to keep him. He has strikeout upside and has kept the walks down. … Joey Votto panic alert! The Cincinnati Reds first baseman entered the weekend with only one home run! Then he homered Saturday and Sunday. Still, although I take the under on 25 for the season, it's good to see him driving the ball. … Speaking of struggling hitters, Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton entered Sunday with nary an RBI in 12 games on the season. Well, he singled twice and knocked in a run Sunday. Still worried? I still view Stanton as a top-20 player; he's just off to a slow start. He didn't have lineup protection when he hit .290 and mashed 37 home runs in 123 games last year, either. … I don't think Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo will have a season like New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis did in 2012, with power and a low batting average. Rizzo smacked his sixth homer Sunday. He's hitting .210. He'll hit .270. Give it time.