ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals fans all over the country received some great news at about 1 p.m. CT on Tuesday afternoon, when superstar Albert Pujols was named the winner of his third Most Valuable Player Award. But the news they got about 2 1/2 hours later might have been even better.
At a news conference following the award announcement, Pujols said his surgically repaired right elbow is doing very well, and reiterated that he hopes to remain a member of the Cardinals for the rest of his career.
Trophies are nice, but a healthy, happy Pujols is even more important to the organization going forward. Pujols had an operation in October for the debridement -- or cleanup -- of bone spurs on his elbow and removal of bone chips from the joint.
"Really good," he said Tuesday when asked about his recovery. "I just saw Dr. [George] Paletta yesterday, and he gave me the OK to go ahead and start lifting weights. Really careful, but I've been there because last offseason I had surgery. ... He told me to be careful and start training, and that's what I've been doing so far."
Pujols said he'd be ready to go for Spring Training and Opening Day in 2010. And that had been in some doubt. The slugger acknowledged that when he went to Alabama for the surgery last month, he was very worried that he might need Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.
THREE OR MORE MVPs
1990, '92-93, 2001-04
1951, '54, '55
1951, '53, '55
1939, '41, '47
1932, '33, '38
1956, '57, '62
1943, '46, '48
2003, '05, '07
1980, '81, '86
"I was so nervous," he said. "Going down there, I was pretty much thinking 95 percent that I was going to have the Tommy John surgery. But at the same time, I have faith. I've been playing with this ligament like this for six years."
Pujols first sustained the injury to his right ulnar collateral ligament in 2003. It has long been clear that at some point he may need the reconstruction, but Andrews concurred once again that such a procedure is not necessary yet.
As for his contract, Pujols didn't tread any new ground, but what he said nonetheless was sure to warm the hearts of St. Louis fans. Pujols is signed through 2010 with a club option for '11, and the Cardinals have expressed an interest in securing him with a long-term extension.
"This is my place," Pujols said. "This is where I want to be. I don't hide that. I keep saying that, since you guys [reporters] started talking about whether I'm going to be a free agent or whether I'm going to sign here. We've still got two years left. ... When my decision comes, then I'll deal with that. Right now I don't have to worry about it because I'm still going to be a Cardinal for two more years and hopefully for 15 more years if I can play for that long and can retire as a Cardinal."