Dealing with a rash of injuries that forced young players into bench roles, the Los Angeles Dodgers addressed their roster depth last week by signing Albert Pujols and acquiring Yoshi Tsutsugo from the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Pujols signing came as a surprise considering he lacks positional flexibility, is an aging slugger and reportedly sought an everyday role. Pujols refuted the notion he only was interested in starting, and said he was fully on board with the plan the Dodgers presented.
L.A. is on an eight-game winning streak since Pujols signed, and though he isn’t necessarily the driving force in terms of production, his arrival nonetheless has not been lost on the team.
“It’s been awesome. I think you take for granted the experience factor. Just seeing a guy like Albert Pujols in your clubhouse, it’s a great feeling,” Clayton Kershaw said.
“His track record speaks for itself but just the attitude and personality he brings to the clubhouse every day, he seems really excited to be here in his role. And he’s a wealth of knowledge. He’s going to help a lot of our young guys on the bench try to figure out how to do that. And then there’s something to be said when he comes up to bat with guys on base.
“You know there’s no panic or stress in him. He knows exactly what he can do. He said it himself. He’s got a lot left in the tank. He still hits the ball really, really hard. So I think it’s a great pick up for us. I’ve known him a little bit off and on over the years. I just have a tremendous amount of respect for him and everything he’s done, and as a person as well.”
Manager Dave Roberts agreed with Kershaw’s assessment: “We got him not only because we expect him to perform on the field, but his impact with our guys has been immediate.
“I guess you could kind of say everyone is on their best behavior when he’s around, and I say that a little tongue in cheek. The way he prepares each day, his demeanor, guys want to kind of please him because he sets the bar. That’s a Hall of Fame bar, so I think the level of play and focus — which has always been good — Albert has enhanced that.
“I think Albert would argue he’s more energized by being a Dodger and being around his teammates than he’s infusing into our guys. I think for me personally, I think we’re getting a lot of the benefit. Just seeing the conversations, his joy around the ballpark, his tones, I know he’s kind of revitalized. Yeah, he’s been with a couple other ballclubs throughout his career, but this is a resurgence and I know he wouldn’t rather be any place in the world right now.”
Pujols impressed by Smith
When the Dodgers held their World Series ring ceremony, a video message from Pujols was shared before Will Smith was introduced. The young Dodgers catcher grew up idolizing the further Hall of Famer, who already has been impressed by Smith.
“He told me he grew up watching me play. I’m like, ‘Please don’t. You’re making me older,'” Pujols joked. “But it’s great to see the talent. He’s pretty special. When he’s hitting in the cage, I keep my eye on him.
“He has a really special swing. He knows what he wants to do at the plate, he’s really mature, he’s not only worried about his hitting but he’s a heck of a catcher behind the plate.”
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