Pujols begrudgingly gets first day off of year

Pujols begrudgingly gets first day off of year

SEATTLE -- Albert Pujols won't be starting 162 games this season. Angels manager Mike Scioscia made sure of that on Wednesday, when he told his superstar first baseman he'd be sitting for the first time in Thursday's series finale at Safeco Field and didn't let Pujols talk his way out of the day off.

He tried, though.

"Yeah, but they said no," Pujols admitted, laughing. "They don't even want me to hit. I'm just going to go to the cage just to get loose. I'm not taking batting practice, either."

The primary goal -- more so than having him in the lineup for every single game -- is to make sure Pujols stays as fresh as possible throughout the season, especially after he missed the last two months of 2013 with a partial tear of his left plantar fascia.

Pujols said his lower half is "good" and "better than it was on the last road trip," when the hard turf at Rogers Centre in Toronto took its toll on the 34-year-old. But Scioscia wanted to give Pujols the day off "just to get him to recharge."

"Albert will go out and play till the cows come home," Scioscia added. "It's time for him to take a day."

Pujols is batting .262 with a team-leading 14 homers, but his production has dipped over the last month or so, with a .236/.298/.445 slash line, five homers and 19 strikeouts in his last 28 games. In his last at-bat against Felix Hernandez on Wednesday night, though, Pujols stayed back on a 93-mph fastball and drove it to right field for a two-out RBI double in the ninth.

"It was middle-out, and that was a ball I was pulling a little bit," said Pujols, who has started at designated hitter 11 times this year. "I was able to stay through it. Hopefully I can take it to the next series, and hopefully I get an opportunity to play tonight."

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.