Pujols considering having torn elbow ligament fixed

ST. LOUIS -- Major league batting leader Albert Pujols may be headed to reconstructive elbow surgery that could sideline him into next season. Or he might not.

A day after the St. Louis slugger told KSDK television that he was considering having the operation, the Cardinals said it's not clear whether surgery is needed. General manager John Mozeliak was caught off guard by the remarks.

"You never deal in absolutes, but there are no plans for surgery at this time," Mozeliak said after the Cardinals' 4-3 win over the Cubs. "It's resolved."

Before the game, Mozeliak said in a statement that the team was "sensitive to Albert's stated concerns. At no time would we ever ask Albert to consider anything other then what is best for his career and future health."

Pujols has been playing with a torn ligament since 2003, but the Cardinals said in a statement on Tuesday that management, Pujols and his representatives agree that the injury "does not appear to be season-threatening nor do they have a clear indication that it will or will not require future surgery."

Pujols didn't want to discuss his elbow before Tuesday's game against the Chicago Cubs.

"I don't need to talk about anything," he said. "It's the same ... as it's been all year."

Mozeliak said the Cardinals will conduct a follow-up medical exam at the end of the season to determine future decisions.

Pujols discussed the possibility of surgery on Monday with KSDK.

"I'm thinking about it," he said. "I'm thinking really hard. I think in the long run the sooner that I get it done, the better it's going to be for me because I'm going to heal quicker than if I wait two or three years. But it needs to be done."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella, after learning of Pujols' remarks, said surgery might be the best option.

"It's unfortunate, but if it's going to bother him for a long, long time, get it over with and heal it and only miss the first month of the season and go from there," Piniella said "He's a very competitive guy, a very talented guy."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he and Pujols talk about the injury all the time and recently he asked whether Pujols wanted to have season-ending surgery. The Cardinals started Tuesday 4½ games off the NL wild-card lead with 19 games to play.

"I said 'Do you want to shut it down?'" La Russa said. "He said, 'No, I'm good to go.' "

Pujols and the Cardinals have said since last winter that at some point, the former NL MVP might require surgery. Pujols is hitting .361 with 33 homers and he needs only two RBIs for his eighth straight season with at least 100.

"It's not the first time he's done this, done something that's just amazing," La Russa said. "He usually plays in pain."

Seemingly contradicting his concern about the elbow, Pujols said after Tuesday's game that it's the best he has felt at the plate in "about a year-and-a-half." Elbow issues often kept him from getting full extension and driving the ball to all fields last season but that's not the case now.

"This year I've been consistent the last month or so driving the ball the other way, and I think that's why my batting average is up," Pujols said. "Hopefully I can continue to do it for 18 more games and hopefully make this season exciting."

The biggest risk to the elbow apparently is cutting loose with a throw. Pujols has been instructed to play under control.

"He does it carefully. He does it to win the game," La Russa said. "I think from the first day of spring training, he's had to be careful, but he's making all the plays."