Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
More surprising than Albert Pujols suddenly getting released was the Los Angeles Dodgers jumping at the opportunity to sign the future Hall of Famer for the remainder of the 2021 season.
Some of the shock stemmed from reports indicating Pujols informed the L.A. Angels he coveted regular starts at first base. Pujols refuted that after signing with the Dodgers and made it clear he was open to the role president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Dave Roberts presented.
“I’m really excited to help this organization this year to get another ring,” Pujols said last May. “I’m here to do whatever. Pinch-hit, first base, whatever they want. I think at the end of the day I’m just excited to have this opportunity to wear this uniform.
“I’m glad to be here. A bunch of great guys in this clubhouse and they’re already making me feel at home. … I really love the gameplan Doc (Dave Roberts) and Andrew (Friedman) have.”
Injuries wound up leading to Pujols making more starts than initially expected. From the time of signing with the Dodgers through June, he was in the lineup for 18 of 30 games. When stretching that through July, Pujols started 28 of 51 games.
He then started six of 15 games in August, before shifting back to more of a bench role that the Dodgers envisioned.
Overall with L.A., Pujols batted .254/.299/.460 with three doubles, 12 home runs and 38 RBI over 85 games (37 starts).
One month into his tenure with the Dodgers, Pujols passed Barry Bonds for fourth place on the all-time total bases list. Shortly after he reached 6,000 career total bases, becoming just the fourth player in MLB history to accomplish the feat.
Pujols later surpassed Willie Mays for 11th place on the all-time MLB hits list.
Beyond his production on the field, Pujols was a welcomed presence in the Dodgers clubhouse. He regularly was praised by Roberts and several players for a willingness to mentor others.
Pujols’ 2021 highlight
In finishing out the season in the National League, Pujols was afforded an opportunity to face his former St. Louis Cardinals team at Busch Stadium.
He fittingly started in the series opener, slugged a solo home run in the first inning and was treated to a standing ovation by Cardinals fans.
“It’s always pretty special,” Pujols said of the cheers. “Any time you come here to St. Louis, with the history I have playing here and the fans, it was really a great moment once again. To be able to deliver like that in the first at-bat was huge.
“Especially when we have our bullpen going, we want to make sure we score some runs early so they can have a little cushion.”
The 41-year-old free agent has not officially committed to playing this season, but every indication is he won’t yet retire.
Pujols presumably would reprise his role as a bench player and stands to benefit for the potential implementation of a universal designated hitter.
Have you subscribed to the Dodger Blue YouTube channel? Be sure to ring the notification bell to watch player interviews, participate in shows and giveaways, and stay up to date on all Dodgers news and rumors!