Slugger vows injury won't hold him back

ST. LOUIS -- Despite offseason treatment for a heel injury
that hindered him much of last season, St. Louis Cardinals star
Albert Pujols says the pain has returned.

Pujols, third in the NL MVP voting last year behind Barry Bonds
and Adrian Beltre, underwent sound wave treatment for chronic
plantar fasciitis on his left heel after the season. He had been
feeling much better in the weeks after the treatment, but began
experiencing trouble again about a week ago.

Team doctors had planned for Pujols to undergo more than one
treatment but he had been feeling so good the team hadn't thought
there was a need.

"It's still bothering me," Pujols said Monday. "It's
something I'm pretty sure I'm going to go through again this year
because it's too late for surgery. I don't want to miss spring
training, and I don't want to miss the first month and a half of
the season."

Pujols, 25, batted .331 with 46 home runs and 123 RBI last
season, and had 51 doubles for the second straight year. He's the
only player in major league history to hit 30 or more homers in his
first four seasons.

Pujols said the heel isn't as painful as it was during the

"But at the same time I'm not playing baseball," he said.
"Hopefully, it gets better and we go from there."

If he has to undergo the treatment during the season, Pujols
said he might miss two or three games. But he said that would be a
small price to pay.

"I'm telling you I'm not going to go through the same thing I
went through last year," Pujols said. "I don't think my body can
handle that in back-to-back years."

Despite his numbers, Pujols said it was difficult to play with
the injury.

"Only God knows and myself, how much pain I was playing in,"
he said. "It's over, I went through it and that's something I
don't want to experience again."

The first treatment for his heel was such a success that Pujols
was able to play golf just a few days later. He was just as
encouraged about being able to climb out of bed without a sudden
jolt of pain.

"It was real good," Pujols said. "Hopefully, the next
treatment will get it better."

In any case, Pujols said he won't allow the injury to hold him

"I'll be ready to go for spring training, no matter what, I can
tell you that for sure," he said. "I'm not going to back off."