02/02/12 2:46 PM EST
Pujols plans to report to camp 'a week earlier'
Star aims to familiarize himself with surroundings, teammates
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
Speaking from the Dominican Republic, the prized slugger told Enrique Rojas of ESPNdeportes.com that he plans on reporting to his new club's Spring Training complex a week before position players are scheduled to, putting him in Tempe, Ariz., at or around Feb. 19.
"I think it's important to get there early, not just because I'm on a new team, but because for the last 12 years I've lived in the city of St. Louis, where it's cold," Pujols said in Spanish from the Angels' academy in his native country, where he has been training recently. "I'm going to try to get there a week earlier to get used to the weather, get to know my teammates and avoid getting there a day before and have a bunch of complications."
Pujols, the National League's Most Valuable Player three times during a superb 11-year run with the Cardinals, signed a 10-year, $240 million contract to join the Angels on Dec. 8 -- the same day C.J. Wilson inked a five-year, $77.5 million agreement.
Pujols' contract includes a no-trade clause, a vast array of incentives and an optional 10-year personal-services agreement that kicks in after he retires and pays him $1 million per season.
With Pujols entrenched at first base and the No. 3 spot, the Angels hope to improve an offense that ranked 10th in the American League in runs last season and make the playoffs after missing out each of the last two years.
"Only God knows what will happen," Pujols told Rojas. "One thing I can ensure you is that I am healthy and that I will play hard, representing my country and trying to set the same example I did through the first 11 years. For me, that's the most important thing. ... Numbers, I don't think about that. You can't control that."
Pujols, who turned 32 on Jan. 16, has hit .328 with 445 home runs in a career the Angels hope is only halfway through. The nine-time All-Star's numbers slipped a bit last year, but he hit .318 with 28 homers in the last four months of the regular season, then posted a 1.155 OPS en route to winning his second World Series title.
In other words, Pujols' resume speaks for itself.
As for his presence in the Angels' tight-knit clubhouse?
"I think he'll feel welcomed coming into our locker room," second baseman Howie Kendrick said upon signing a four-year, $33.5 million extension on Jan. 9. "We've got a lot of guys that have been around each other for a long time. We're all really comfortable with each other, and I think there wouldn't be any problem with him fitting in with anybody around.
"Obviously he's a superstar-caliber guy, he's well respected; I have a lot of respect for him. I haven't been around him a lot. I've met him a few times, talked to him, but from what I've heard of him and what I've seen from him, I really like him. I'm interested in learning from him. A guy with that much talent, he's going to have a lot to offer, not only on the field but in the locker room."
Angels pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 19, with position players following on the 26th.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.