Albert Pujols had an absolute blast. And not at the plate this time, either.
The longtime slugger made his first career pitching appearance on Sunday night, closing out a 15-6 blowout for the St Louis Cardinals over the San Francisco Giants.
Pujols, the Cardinals’ designated hitter and a 10-time All Star, entered to pitch in the ninth inning for the first time in his 22-year career. His pitches topped out at around 55mph and he gave up a three-run homer to Luis Gonzalez and a solo shot to Joey Bart but managed to get the final three outs with plenty of margin to spare.
“A dream come true to say that I did it,” said Pujols, whose 681 home runs are the fifth-most in MLB history. “It was fun. It wasn’t fun giving up two bombs. I think the fans had a good time. I’m sure the guys that took me deep did, too.”
The 42-year-old Pujols became the oldest player to make his pitching debut since Lena Blackburne brought himself in at age 42 in his final game as a player/manager for the 1929 Chicago White Sox.
With the Cardinals ahead by 13 and the outcome all but decided, Pujols overheard manager Oliver Marmol asking for someone to throw the final inning so the team could avoid using another reliever.
“They were looking and I was like, ‘I’Il do it. Why not?’” Pujols said.
He took plenty of good-natured ribbing from teammates.
“He’s got to keep the ball down,” catcher Yadiel Molina screamed in the locker room.
Pujols had an explanation.
“The thing is, I couldn’t even get it there. Every time I tried to keep it down, I was bouncing it,” he said.
LaMonte Wade Jr grounded out against Pujols to end the game.
Pujols had a slightly more successful day with the bat than the ball: he was 2 for 3 at the plate with a double. He scored twice and drove in a run.