Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa talked with Albert Pujols after the Los Angeles Angels designated the future Hall of Famer for assignment Thursday.
“He really believes — and if he believes, then I believe — that he’s got game left,” La Russa said before Friday’s series opener against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. “So I’d be very interested to see if a club sees the fit. Because they’ll get a very determined Albert.
“I’ve got great respect for (Angels owner) Arte Moreno and (team President) John (Carpino) ... and I know how excited they were, and with the nine years with Albert, that had to be a very difficult decision for them. But Albert’s got game left. He said it and I believe it.”
La Russa managed Pujols for 11 seasons as the two led the St. Louis Cardinals from 2001-11.
A reunion is unlikely.
“We’ve got (first baseman) José (Abreu) and then you’ve got (designated hitter) Yermín (Mercedes) and even if Yermín gets a little less hot, it’s good to DH other guys to get them off their feet,” La Russa said. “There’s not a fit here, unfortunately.”
La Russa said he talks with Pujols often.
“I did have the opportunity last year to be around him (as a special assistant with the Angels) and it has to do with health,” La Russa said. “I think that was a problem for the nine years. Probably five or six of them he had real issues in his bottom half. He felt good last year. He’s in great shape, feels good this year.
“For him there is no other state of mind. This is the season, he wants to be playing and if somebody acquires him, they’ll get a very determined Albert, I hope it’s another league or in a different division, because I would never underestimate him.”
La Russa described Pujols’ years with the Cardinals as “historic.”
“Ten were .300 (batting average), 100 RBIs, over 30 home runs, and then 2011, you look and he missed the RBIs (99) and batting average (.299) by just a few and he missed almost three weeks of play with a wrist injury,” La Russa said. “He was and he is one of the game’s great winning and competitive players because he plays every game. Whatever he’s doing, whether he’s playing defense, whether he’s cheerleading on the bench, if he’s running the bases or if he’s hitting, he knows exactly what the score is and he knows what the responsibility is and he plays the game to contribute to a win.
“Watching him, we were all just amazed. Just to add two other things, the more success he had and the more money he put in the bank, the hungrier he got, which is a testament to his character and his commitment. And finally, it’s really been a great trend in the last bunch of years where players are starting their own foundations and doing more in the community. What Albert has done with the Pujols Family Foundation, it’ll be tied for first and he gives it during the year. St. Louis, off day, really hot, he’d be out there with those kids, whatever the event was. I always say he’s ‘APP,’ Albert Perfect Pujols. He is perfect.”