Our younger readers might not remember it, but Albert Pujols actually broke into the majors as a jack-of-all-trades, starting at both corner infield and outfield positions as a rookie in 2001. Mark McGwire’s retirement the following year facilitated his eventual move to first base, but there was a time, long, long ago, when Pujols (who many forget was actually drafted as a shortstop) was athletic enough to man the hot corner.
Pujols has played first almost exclusively in recent years (he’d probably be the Angels’ primary DH if not for Shohei Ohtani), but an injury to teammate Anthony Rendon late in Monday night’s game against the Rays put Los Angeles in a compromising position. With no one else to turn to, Pujols dusted off his third baseman’s mitt, moving across the diamond for the first time since August 6, 2019 against Cincinnati.
The three-time NL MVP had an uneventful stint at the hot corner (nothing was hit to him), but it was still amusing to see Pujols, who some suspect is older than his listed age, cameo at a position he hasn’t played with any regularity in almost two decades. Pujols last started a game at third in 2012, his debut season with the Halos.
Certainly, Pujols doesn’t have the range that he did in his early days as a Cardinals up-and-comer. He ranks 340th—dead-last—in average sprint speed (Pujols' attempt to tag up on a Jose Iglesias flyout Monday night went about as poorly as you'd expect). But even at the tender age of 41, manager Joe Maddon still trusted him to hold down the fort in Rendon’s stead, even if it was only for an inning.
In his final year under contract—and perhaps his last season in the big leagues—the Dominican-born slugger has produced a tepid .195/.250/.378 batting line in 88 plate appearances, though at least his power stroke (five homers) hasn’t completely abandoned him. In other Pujols-related news, today is the third anniversary of his 3,000th career hit.