If called upon, he would serve.
Though an apparent casualty of his left wrist injury in late fan balloting, Albert Pujols says he is up for participating in next Tuesday's All-Star Game should NL manager Bruce Bochy need a replacement.
"I always enjoy being invited to the All-Star Game," said Pujols, who played in his first game Wednesday since landing on the disabled list with a fractured wrist. "People always say, 'Don't you get bored?' Why would you get bored being in the same room with so many superstars? You should enjoy every opportunity you get because you don't know if it will be your last. I don't want to think that way but you know how crazy the game can be. I enjoy every time I go. I never get tired of going."
Pujols admitted Monday that his numbers — a .279 average, 17 home runs, 45 RBIs and an .855 on-base plus slugging percentage — aren't as eye-popping as in previous years. Still, he ranked among the top 10 in home runs, runs scored and RBIs when placed on the disabled list.
"I said the other day my numbers obviously are not as good as they've been in the past but they're still up there with the top 10 in the league," Pujols said. "I can't speak for people. I think those that got chosen to go to the game are having great years and deserve it. But if there was an opportunity, I would be glad to go."
Pujols still relishes the experience and deems it even more special as his son A.J. becomes increasingly appreciative of the opportunity to attend and mingle with superstars.
Pujols led in fan balloting before a collision June 19 with Kansas City Royals third baseman Wilson Betemit resulted in his injury. Word of Pujols' potential return did not leak until Saturday, well after fan balloting closed and only hours before the full squads were to be announced Sunday. Despite garnering over 4 million votes, Pujols finished third in fan balloting to Prince Fielder and Joey Votto among NL first basemen.
Votto became an automatic selection because he ranked second in the players' vote. Gaby Sanchez was also named as the Florida Marlins' only representative.
Replacements can be named through Monday. Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun's availability has come into question because of a calf strain that has kept him out of the last four games. Shortstops Jose Reyes and Troy Tulowitzki are also out but expected to attend.
Manager Tony La Russa fully endorsed Pujols' participation in the game if he's extended an eleventh-hour invitation.
La Russa's zeal for Pujols attending stopped short of his becoming part of the Home Run Derby, the traditional Monday sideshow that La Russa and other traditionalists have decried for its potentially harmful effect on swings.
"Hopefully not the home run contest," La Russa said. "That wouldn't be good. But to play? If he had a chance to play Tuesday I'd be all for it."
If not invited, Pujols plans to take batting practice against hitting coach Mark McGwire and a pitching machine. However, even basic activities at Busch Stadium may be complicated by preparations for the approaching U2 concert.
With Pujols back in the lineup, La Russa resisted the temptation of starting his regular eight, instead resting third baseman David Freese, who had played in eight consecutive games since exiting the disabled list. "If you play Freese today, you may have to give him three or four days off," La Russa reasoned. "He's played a lot. I think it's really a good day for him to take off." Freese could find himself starting all four games of the Cardinals' series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. ... Reliever Eduardo Sanchez makes a rehab appearance tonight at Class AA Springfield. La Russa projected his return for the team's series in Cincinnati to open the second half. ... The Cardinals' second-round pick from the recent amateur draft, outfielder Charlie Tilson, attended batting practice with his father. General manager John Mozeliak and vice president of scouting and player development Jeff Luhnow served as escorts for the still-unsigned Tilson, who has accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Illinois.