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'In good shape,' Pujols starts swinging bat

'In good shape,' Pujols starts swinging bat

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'In good shape,' Pujols starts swinging bat

ANAHEIM -- If there was ever any doubt that Albert Pujols would have a normal offseason, there's this: He's already begun to swing the bat.

Pujols, who will leave for his annual medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic later this week, spent the last two months of the regular season rehabbing from a partial tear of his left plantar fascia, and Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said he's currently "in good shape" and "as prepared as he ever is."

"I know he's swinging the bat already and taking on some baseball activities sooner in the offseason than most guys ever would, and I think that's a normal activity for Albert," Dipoto said. "He swings so much. That's something that he's already doing."

In Year 1 with the Angels, Pujols slumped mightily for the first month and a half and was limited in September because of knee and hamstring issues. In Year 2, he was still recovering from offseason knee surgery and eventually hampered greatly by plantar fasciitis, which cut his season to 99 games and contributed to a career-worst .767 OPS.

But Dipoto always points to the period between mid-May and the start of September 2012, when Pujols was healthy, had shaken off the jitters and posted a Major League-best 1.041 OPS.

That, Dipoto believes, is the Pujols the Angels can expect next season.

"Albert hasn't forgotten how to hit," Dipoto said of Pujols, who is owed another $212 million over the next eight years. "His physical injuries took a toll on him this year and there's only so much he can do, but again, you just go back to when we saw Albert healthy and comfortable after he transitioned to his time with the Angels. From that time, mid-May through when he had his knee episode in Boston [on Aug. 22, 2012], he was dynamic. That's a pretty good barometer as to what he can do."

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.

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