TEMPE, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols may only be halfway through -- that's the Angels' hope -- but he already has accomplished practically everything in his career.
There's one thing he has never done, though: play all 162 games in a season.
But yet, 162 was a number Angels manager Mike Scioscia volunteered when talking about his new first baseman recently -- as in the number of games he's counting on Pujols' bat to be in the lineup. Pujols may be getting up there in age -- he turned 32 in mid-January -- and may have missed time on the disabled list last year, but now that he's in the American League with the designated hitter as a resource, Pujols has an added avenue to keep himself fresh.
And the Angels certainly have plenty of first basemen to fill in for him.
"I'm hoping if Albert is injury-free all year, which is obviously what you hope for, that he's going to hit in 162 games," Scioscia recently said. "Obviously, we have to split that up with how much is going to be first base, how much is going to be DH. I think he's at his best when he gets to play first base because he's a presence at first base. How many games that's going to be, I don't know. But our priority is going to be having him in our lineup as our first baseman."
Pujols has been one of baseball's most durable players since reaching the Majors in 2001, averaging 155 games per season through his first 11 years and playing in no less than 147 (last year's total) throughout every campaign.
Pujols played in 161 games twice in his career (in '01 and '05) and 160 just two seasons ago.
"You always prepare yourself mentally to play every day, and I've had that mentality from the Minor Leagues to the first day in the Majors," Pujols said Tuesday. "You prepare your body hard during the offseason to prepare yourself for the regular season. That's my goal -- to stay healthy and do the best I can to take this team to the next level."
But while 162 may only be a number, having Pujols' bat in the lineup on a consistent basis throughout the season will pay huge dividends for an offense that ranked ninth in the AL in runs last year. And keeping him healthy throughout the tenure of a 10-year, $240 million contract is imperative.
That's why the DH can be such a valuable tool for Pujols -- this season and in the future.
"I don't make that decision," said Pujols, who has hit .360 with four homers in 12 career games as a DH. "If I am in at DH, then that's fine, because I've done it and I've never had a problem with it."