Pujols matches Musial at 475 career home runs
Angels slugger concerned with winning championships, not personal numbers
KANSAS CITY -- Though Albert Pujols might have thought it was just another home run at the time, Wednesday night's blast against the A's was different.
It was career home run No. 475 for the slugger, and it tied him with Hall of Famer Stan Musial for 28th place on the all-time list. Pujols has tremendous respect for Musial, gained when he played for the Cardinals.
"It's an honor, obviously. Any time you get your name named along with Stan Musial and other guys, it's just a privilege and an honor," Pujols said. "Being able to have the opportunity to have conversations with Stan and the respect I have for him, I thank God for him and the ability to be able to do it.
"But at the same time, I don't play for milestones. My goal is to try to help this organization to win."
Pujols made a point to say he's not playing for numbers. But look at the numbers. They're astounding.
Wednesday's homer was Pujols' 30th of the season, and with it he became the first player in baseball history to start his career with 12 straight seasons of 30 or more home runs. He's just the fourth player to accomplish the feat at any point during a career, joining Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx.
"I don't like to compare myself with other players. That's for you guys to do," Pujols said. "People ask me, 'How's it feel? These numbers are better than Babe Ruth in his first ...' I don't like to compare myself. It's something because of the respect that I have for the game and that's the way that my dad always taught me. Don't take anything for granted and always respect the game the right way."
This weekend, Pujols returns to Kansas City, where some of that respect was forged. He moved to the area from the Dominican Republic with his father as a 16-year-old. He graduated from high school in neighboring Independence, Mo., and he played baseball at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City before turning professional.
"Every time I come here, I enjoy it," Pujols said. "I get to see family and friends. They don't get to see me now that I'm out West. I was a little bit closer in St. Louis, so they used to come out twice a year. It's always nice to come here. This stadium is one of my favorites."
Despite being 25 home runs away from 500, Pujols is focused on one goal: bringing the Angels another World Series title.
"This is not about me," Pujols said. "This is about 25 guys that want to accomplish something that everybody wants, and that's to be able to be a champion at the end of the year. I don't play for numbers. If I can stay healthy, I know what I can do. ... This is a team effort.
"I obviously have accomplished what I have accomplished because of my teammates getting on base and being able to put on good swings. But I don't try to concentrate on that because at the end of the day, it's just not about me. I try to make sure that I get my attention off me and make sure that I put it somewhere else where it belongs."
Pujols makes his return to first against Royals
KANSAS CITY -- Albert Pujols was back at first base for the first time in more than three weeks.
After spending the last 16 games serving as the designated hitter, Pujols returned to his usual defensive spot in Friday's series opener against the Royals. It was his first game back at first base since injuring his right calf on Aug. 22 against the Red Sox. Pujols missed the next four games before returning as the DH, while still battling inflammation.
"He feels comfortable with it, and our medical staff does. I think that's the biggest thing in the decision-making process," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he's far more comfortable when he plays the field, as far as what he can contribute to the team. And if he feels good about where his leg is, if he feels he can get out there, that's definitely a plus for us."
"Health-wise, you can't control it," Pujols said. "You go out there and play 162 games, you wish you could stay healthy the whole time, but that doesn't happen. Look at the injury that I have. It's weird. Nothing's really damaged, and they started me as a DH for two weeks. Stuff like that is out of your control."
Pujols credited the Angels' training staff with getting him ready to take the field.
"[It was] just a lot of treatment, a lot of hard work with the trainers," Pujols said. "I'm just glad to be out there, and hopefully I can stay there for the rest of the season."
Izturis may be available to play in KC series
KANSAS CITY -- Infielder Maicer Izturis is available to play this weekend against the Royals, but only on a limited basis, according to Angels manager Mike Scioscia.
Izturis sustained a left rib strain on Sept. 8 against the Tigers, and hasn't seen action since.
"We're going to see exactly, as he starts to get into to some activities, what he can do," Scioscia said. "He's feeling better. He can definitely pinch-run or do some things. As far as defense or swinging the bat, we'll get a little more information after he works out."
Meanwhile, ace right-hander Jered Weaver is doing well after Thursday's start -- his first since Sept. 2.
"He feels good right now," Scioscia said. "Sometimes things hit a couple days later, but right now he feels good. That's a good sign. He felt great today."
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.