Pujols avoids injury, defends Bonds

Updated: May 17, 2006, 10:02 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols defended Barry Bonds on Wednesday, saying he respects the accomplishments of the San Francisco Giants' slugger.

Pujols was in the St. Louis lineup after a nasty slip and fall and felt good enough to discuss the widespread belief that Bonds' pursuit of Babe Ruth's hallowed 714-homer total is tainted by alleged steroid use. Bonds is one shy of tying Ruth for second on the career list. Pujols also addressed whispers that have followed him since he broke into the major leagues in 2001 that he fudged on his age.

Last year's NL MVP said people have been "too hard" on Bonds. He and the Cardinals play the Giants for the first time next week in San Francisco.

"I know he's probably made some mistakes in the past, but come on, give the guy a break," Pujols said. "Respect the numbers in the career he has put up."

Pujols feels like he's under suspicion, too, because people don't believe he's really 26.

"You know how many times I hear -- and I'm sick and tired of people saying it -- that I'm not 26?" Pujols said. "I know how old I am and I know that I don't use any of those bad things people are talking about that I use."

Pujols said in the current climate, players seem to be guilty until proven innocent.

"People talk. That's their job, to write something stupid without finding out," he said. "Like Barry, people are talking about him and they haven't found anything out about the guy. They're talking about making the guy a bad guy. Prove the point first and then you can write anything about it. But before, leave the guy alone."

Pujols added that Major League Baseball could test him for illegal drugs "every day if they want."

"I don't need any type of things like that to help me out with my game," said. "I don't need to do anything more than what I've done in the past or doing right now.

"I'm happy with my career so far and what I've done in my career, and I don't need anything extra."

Pujols, who leads the majors with 19 homers and 48 RBIss, also fouled a ball off his left shin on Tuesday and was a lot more sore than usual. But he was determined to keep playing.

"I'm a little banged up," Pujols said. "But when I'm out there performing I'm going to do my best and I'm going to forget about any pain that I'm going through."

Not long after a rain delay of 101 minutes Tuesday night, Pujols slipped on the plastic on-deck logo that had become dangerously slick while chasing Jose Reyes' foul pop near the Cardinals' dugout in the eighth inning.

Pujols said the thought crossed his mind that the logo was going to come into play just before he slipped. He landed hard on his back and was down for several minutes before deciding to stay in the game.

"Right before I called for the ball I knew I was going to step on it, I think, and I knew I was going to have problems with it," Pujols said. "Hey, it happens. I'm glad it only had to happen one time before they took it out."

Pujols said his upper back took the brunt of the impact, and he also felt his neck pop, but somehow he avoided banging his head, too.

"It could have been worse," he said. "I could have broken my neck, I could have broken my back. The good Lord was watching me."

Pujols had back issues before the slip. He missed his only game of the season earlier this month due to a lower back strain.

"This doesn't help," trainer Barry Weinberg said. "Someone with a good back would be sore today. So, I'm not surprised that he's sore."

Manager Tony La Russa, who's been testy recently when he feels Pujols gets too much attention, seemed to believe reporters were interested in Pujols' condition because of his star status.

"It doesn't concern me any more because it's Albert," La Russa said. "So maybe we should pull the whole team off the field after rain delays and forfeit?"

Just like he wanted to be in the lineup on Wednesday, Pujols said he did not want to leave the game on Tuesday.

"The last thing I want to do is my spot comes up with the game on the line and me being out of the lineup when I know I could have stayed there and hit," Pujols said. "If I can't play, I'm going to come out.

"But if I'm able to do some damage I'm going to stay in there, and I felt I was fine."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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