Monday, February 16, 2009

Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols Has Elbow 'Discomfort'

Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols recently took a week off after "experiencing discomfort" related to a lingering ligament strain and related elbow surgery he underwent in October, The St. Louis Post Dispatch said, citing an unnamed source familiar with Pujols' condition.

Pujols, who swung a bat in the cage for several reps after arriving in camp on Sunday, told the newspaper that his elbow has favorably responded to an aggressive hitting and workout program, but that he likely will be unable to buy insurance that would allow him to participate with the Dominican Republic team in the coming World Baseball Classic competition.

Pujols has not played since the surgery, in which his ulnar collateral ligament was replaced, the so-called "Tommy John" procedure. Because he has not played since that time, he cannot be insured by a standard policy, the newspaper said.

The newspaper also pointed out that in addition to the surgical procedure, Pujols suffers from "a high-grade ligament strain" in the elbow.

An independent sports medicine consultant familiar with the procedure told MLB Rumors that a "high-grade strain" would suggest fraying so severe as to pose a potential catastrophic breakdown of the ligament, but that the chances are not great that Pujols would be in jeopardy of such a failure as long as he is merely swinging the bat or playing first base rather than pitching or throwing from the outfield.

It appears that Pujols took a 7-day break merely because he overexerted himself during rehabilitation, the MLB Rumors source theorized. "If they were worried about it, there would be no way he would be doing anything in spring training," the source said.

The newspaper report hinted, however, that Pujols may be limited to as little as one at-bat per game during spring training.