04/27/09 7:55 PM ET
Pujols named NL Player of the Week
Slugger shows hitting prowess, speed for surging Cards
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
It starts with the obvious -- Pujols absolutely raked. Over St. Louis' six games from April 21-26, the reigning NL MVP went 9-for-20 (.450) with three home runs, 11 RBIs, five walks, seven runs scored and only one strikeout. Moreover, the Cardinals won five of six games against the Cubs and Mets, expected to be two of the league's best teams.
Then there's the other stuff. Pujols stole three bases, including a pivotal theft on Friday night that set up the winning run in a victory over Chicago. And to round out the eventful week, he was hit in the lower back by a pitch from the Cubs' Rich Harden on Sunday after Todd Wellemeyer plunked Alfonso Soriano in the head. It's certainly a week Pujols will remember. And believe it or not, he still finds the awards memorable -- even his ninth Player of the Week honor.
"I don't get tired [of it]," the slugger said. "I wouldn't get tired if I won it every time. I want to win one this week. I don't play for that. But it's always good if you get recognized for what you do on the field."
After hitting Pujols on Sunday, Harden didn't say he was trying to retaliate. But he didn't say he wasn't, either. Even so, Pujols had no complaint.
"They had to do whatever they had to do," he said. "They did it. And I'm glad the way they did it, they did it professionally. They didn't go up to my head. They hit me in my lower body, and that's it. They tried the first time and they didn't do it, and then the second time around, they hit me."
Pujols is off to an exceptional start to the season, even by his own high standards. He certainly could have won the award in the season's first week, as well. He chalks it up to feeling better physically than he has in quite some time.
"I got hurt in 2003, and every year I lost strength," Pujols said, referring to the right elbow injury that he still manages to this day. "I had to make adjustments with the elbow. Right now it feels to the point where I feel pretty comfortable, pretty good about it. I'm capable to do things and I don't have to worry about laying in bed tonight seeing if my arm hurts. Those are things that I had to deal with. Right now it feels great, so I don't want to jinx anything. Everything is feeling great."
That means he's in position to win plenty more awards as the year goes on.
"He's won it nine times and probably contended for it 19 times," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's so consistent."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.