By Mike DiGiovanna Los Angeles Times
OAKLAND, Calif. — Albert Pujols aggravated the left foot injury that has hobbled him all season on a ninth-inning, two-run single Friday night and returned to Southern California on Saturday to undergo an MRI test and be examined by a doctor, a setback that is expected to send the Los Angeles Angels slugger to the disabled list.
“It’s more sore than anything he’s dealt with all season,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “We’ll get some direction and see where he is.”
Despite playing with painful plantar fasciitis, a condition that relegated the first baseman to designated hitter for 65 of his 99 starts, Pujols is hitting .258 with 17 home runs and 64 runs batted in.
Though Pujols, the team’s No. 3 hitter, said the foot didn’t feel significantly better after the four-day All-Star break, he did go 12 for 34 (.353) with two homers and seven RBIs in eight games after the break and was heating up at the plate.
Pujols, who has eight years and $212 million left on his 10-year, $240 million contract, had not decided whether to undergo off-season surgery in which the plantar fascia ligament is cut to release tension and relieve inflammation.
If the tendon tore on its own Friday night, surgery might not be necessary, but such an injury would probably sideline Pujols, 33, for the rest of the season. If the tendon is not torn, Pujols might receive a cortisone injection that would sideline him for four or five days.
Pujols’ loss for an extended period would not only put another dent in the Angels’ fading playoff hopes, but it also would remove a powerful right-handed bat from a lineup that is hitting .239 against left-handed pitching and fell to 10-15 against left-handed starters after Saturday’s loss to A’s left-hander Tommy Milone.
Scioscia moved Mike Trout from the second spot to third Saturday, and the center fielder will remain there while Pujols is out.
“We’ve been struggling against left-handed pitching, but losing a guy like Albert isn’t narrowed to just that scope,” Scioscia said. “He’s the foundation of the lineup, a guy you want to build around.”
Pujols has battled plantar fasciitis off and on since 2003, but the condition has never been as painful and persistent as this season.
“I tell you what, it’s misery,” former Angels right fielder Tim Salmon, who played most of 1998 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, said earlier this season. “It is absolutely one of the most painful things you’ll experience outside of a kidney stone because you’re putting all your weight on it, and it feels like you’re walking with a nail in your heel.”
If Pujols goes on the DL, the Angels will probably recall outfielder Kole Calhoun, who is hitting .354 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs in 59 games for Triple A Salt Lake and was not in Saturday night’s lineup, an indication he might have been on his way to Oakland.
The one player who has struggled the most against left-handers this season, Josh Hamilton, accounted for the Angels’ only run Saturday off Milone. Hamilton’s solo homer in the second inning was his second homer off a left-hander this season and improved his average against left-handers to .163 … After throwing 49 pitches off a mound Friday, left-hander Jason Vargas, who had surgery to remove a blood clot in his armpit on June 26, will probably throw simulated games Monday and Thursday before pitching in a minor league game the following week. … Center fielder Peter Bourjos (broken bone in right wrist) took 15 to 20 dry swings Saturday and hopes to progress to soft-toss and batting practice by the end of the week.