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Albert Pujols enjoying retirement, happy to be back helping Angels

TEMPE, Ariz. — Nearly two years after Albert Pujols’ career with the Angels ended unceremoniously with his being released, Pujols is again wearing an Angels uniform this week.

Pujols has begun working as a special assistant to the club, part of the 10-year personal services contract he signed at the time he inked a 10-year deal to play for the Angels in 2011.

Pujols said on Wednesday that he never considered that he would back out of the personal services contract, no matter how his playing career in an Angels uniform ended.

“That’s part of the business,” Pujols said. “That’s how it is. There’s no nothing holding back on anything. I’m happy to be back here. What happened two years ago, I don’t hold any grudges on anything. That’s part of the business.”

If Pujols had simply declined to take the $1 million a year the Angels were set to pay him under the terms of the personal services contract, he certainly could have done that. Perhaps he’d want to instead serve in a similar role with the St. Louis Cardinals, the team with which he started and ended a career that will land him in the Hall of Fame.

Pujols said the Cardinals never broached the idea of working for them because they knew, and he knew, that he was going to work for the Angels.

“This is what I was going to do after I was done playing, whether it was last year or this year,” Pujols said. “I was going to move forward with the contract I signed.”

Pujols, who first was in uniform on Tuesday, said he’s planning to spend four or five days in camp, helping out however he can. Later in the year, he will work with young players at the Angels’ complex in the Dominican Republic.

Mike Trout was a young player when Pujols first worked with him in an Angels uniform in 2012, so Trout appreciates what Pujols still has to give to the current generation of young players.

“It’s good to have him in camp,” Trout said. “He’s been through it all. If these young guys or even myself have questions, he’s a great influence.”

Pujols said he’s content with this limited role in the first season following his 22-year big league career. He said he would “never close any doors” to a full-time position in baseball, but for now, he’s enjoying his retirement.

This month alone, he has played in the Waste Management Open pro-am golf tournament and the NBA All-Star celebrity game. He also attended the Super Bowl.

“I’m enjoying doing things that I wasn’t able to do,” Pujols said. “I was blessed to play for a long, long time. And now I’m able to flip that chapter and start a new chapter in my life, and at the same time doing what I love to do, helping and being involved in baseball. That’s my life.”

OHTANI’S SCHEDULE

The Angels rescheduled Shohei Ohtani’s start to next Tuesday, against the Oakland A’s in Mesa, instead of the Angels’ home game the following day. This allows Ohtani one extra day to get over the jet lag on his trip back to Japan for the start of the World Baseball Classic.

Ohtani is scheduled to be the Angels’ DH in their home Cactus League games on Sunday and Monday, after getting the day off for the opener on Saturday.

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NOTES

The Angels have right-hander Griffin Canning on the schedule to throw live batting practice this week, but right-hander Chris Rodriguez is not. The two candidates for the Angels’ rotation are often discussed together, since both missed all of 2022 with injuries, but Manager Phil Nevin conceded that Canning is ahead of Rodriguez. Canning was out with a back injury, and Rodriguez was rehabbing from 2021 shoulder surgery. “Canning is full go,” Nevin said. “We will be careful with him certainly, because of where he’s been, but maybe a little more cautious with C-Rod, but he’s feeling really good.”

The Angels did pop-up drills despite the gusty wind on Wednesday. “It’ll be like Candlestick Park here,” quipped Nevin, referring to the often windy former homer of the San Francisco Giants. “Not a better day to do it, right?”

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