CINCINNATI -- Albert Pujols is noticeably not himself yet, but he's playing nonetheless.
Pujols suited up for the third straight game on Thursday afternoon, even though it was a quick turnaround from the Wednesday night affair and even though the National League rules require him to be at first base in order to hit in the lineup.
"I'm limping a little bit, but I don't think it's because of my knee -- I think it's more because of my heel, that plantar fasciitis," said Pujols, who's 1-for-11 to start the season. "Running-wise, it's not as good as I want to, 100 percent, but it'll get there. I'm pretty happy with how I feel, how I'm running, how I'm moving, how I feel out there in the batter's box, which is something that last year was bothering me, big time."
Pujols started to look more like himself at the plate in Thursday's 5-4 loss, going 1-for-4 with a double, a hard lineout to right field and two RBIs, on a groundout and a sac fly. But he was caught stealing on Wednesday night, even though Reds first baseman Joey Votto wasn't even holding him on, and would've been thrown out trying to score from second on Thursday if catcher Ryan Hanigan hadn't missed the tag.
Now that the Angels are going back to American League rules, Pujols can expect to see some time at designated hitter the next few days. But while he waits for his legs to get under him, and the plantar fasciitis to heal, he's noticing a difference in the batter's box.
"Now I can get my two-strike approach, get low, get high and try different things," Pujols said. "It feels pretty good not to feel that pain in the back of your knee. To be able, this year, even in Spring Training, to do the things that I wasn't able to do [late last year], I have to be pretty happy about how I feel. But still, I'm getting my treatment. It's a process. Hopefully in the next month or so, I'll feel better. We work hard at it."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.