Notes: Busy offseason for Pujols
Cards slugger made humanitarian trip, became U.S. citizen
JUPITER, Fla. -- Albert Pujols has been fielding congratulations from teammates and coaches since he arrived at Cardinals camp last week, but it has nothing to do with his first Gold Glove or winning a World Series ring. Pujols' most recent accomplishment was of another sort entirely: he became a United States citizen last week.
Pujols addressed reporters on Wednesday for the first time since he was naturalized as a citizen of his adopted home, and he said the ceremony was a special day indeed.
"The U.S. opened the door for me and for my family," said Pujols, who was born in the Dominican Republic. "First of all, my residence expired, so I had to do it. And then the other thing is I want to help some of my family, my mom, to come here, and that's the only way I could do it. It was awesome. It was a lot of hard work, but I came through."
It was probably Pujols' most eventful offseason since he's been in baseball. In addition to the honors and demands that come with being a world champion, as well as the citizenship ceremony, he made a humanitarian trip to the Dominican in January. With a crew of doctors in tow, the traveling party provided medical care and education for about 1,000 Dominican children.
"We saw some bad things," Pujols said, "but it was a great experience. It was awesome. When you close your eyes and think about it, you want to cry about it. But at the same time, you're also excited and happy and blessed that you get to do that."
The trip was one of the biggest endeavors yet by the Pujols Family Foundation, which the slugger established in order to help children in the United States as well as the Dominican. He's hoping to be able to return on a regular basis.
"I want to go so bad, if I could do it every month, I'd do it, because that's the way it is," he said. "Not just there. Through my foundation, my goal is to spend everywhere, not just in the Dominican Republic, but in Latin America and hopefully here in the United States like we've been doing."
Pujols, always an early arriver at Spring Training, has been in Florida since Friday. For the first few days, he worked out at a nearby high school with his friend and trainer, Chris Mihlfeld. On Wednesday, he worked out at Roger Dean Stadium, while also getting in some quality time with son A.J.
Pleased with progress: Pitching coach Dave Duncan said on Wednesday that he's encouraged by the progress of two rehabbing relievers. Jason Isringhausen has begun throwing off a mound, and Duncan said he likes the way the right-hander looks. Isringhausen underwent hip surgery in September.
"Very good," Duncan said. "He looks strong. He's feeling good, throwing the ball good. He's got a good mental attitude because of his health."
Meanwhile, left-hander Ricardo Rincon, who had both his shoulder and his elbow operated on in 2006, will be thrown right into regular activities. Rincon will not be held back at all.
"I've been told that Rincon will join us and be part of the program just like everybody else," Duncan said. "No restrictions.
"I think it's important to take into consideration that he's coming off of surgery and he didn't pitch last year. We certainly don't want to make evaluations too quick. We want to give him the opportunity to get back into the pitching groove and give him a fair evaluation."
Everyone on time: The Cardinals do not expect to have any late arrivals among pitchers and catchers. According to assistant general manager John Mozeliak, all pitchers and catchers are expected to be present and available for Thursday's workout.
Quotable: "It was awesome. That obviously completed my trophy case. But how can I put it, I wasn't shocked about it because I worked hard for it. Me and [infield coach Jose] Oquendo worked hard. That was our goal when I moved to first base. When was it, three years ago? That was my goal, to try to be a Gold Glover. Not just to be a Gold Glove first baseman, but just to try to be better where I can make my infielders better." -- Pujols on winning his first Gold Glove
Weather report: Wednesday was about as perfect as it gets in southern Florida, with temps in the low 80s, a few clouds and a gentle breeze. But it'll be a little different on Thursday, as it gets a bit chillier. Overnight lows will dip into the 50s, and Thursday's high isn't expected to get much higher than 70. Still not too bad.
Coming up: Pitchers and catchers begin working out on Thursday. They'll take physicals in the morning before hitting the field sometime between 9 and 10 a.m. CT. Position players report Monday, Feb. 19.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.