Pujols passes 'test run' by playing first base

Slugger is aiming to be back in the field full time by Opening Day

Pujols passes 'test run' by playing first base

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols returned to first base in Monday's 8-8 tie with the Cubs, playing five innings without any issues in his first game at the position since November foot surgery.

Pujols made his previous 15 starts at designated hitter this spring, but he had been taking part in defensive work since the start of camp. The 36-year-old will probably spend an extended amount of time at DH this season, with the Angels aiming to keep his legs fresh and his bat in the lineup.

The Angels aren't certain if Pujols will be ready to play first base by Opening Day, but Pujols doesn't believe he needs much game action in order for that to be the case.

"As long as I get my legs into it and my ground balls, I could not play first base in Spring Training the entire time and be ready by Opening Day," Pujols said recently. "The thing is moving and running, getting your ground balls, getting your legs sore, getting your legs in shape. My legs are in shape from all the ground balls."

Pujols jumped slightly to catch a line drive and also fielded a grounder against the Cubs, their upcoming Opening Day opponent. At the plate, Pujols mashed his fifth home run and also lined a double deep into the left-center-field gap.

Pujols gets Montero out

Pujols hadn't played first base in a game since Sept. 4, 2015. Unrelenting pain near the arch of his right foot prompted the two-time Gold Glove Award winner to start his final 28 games at DH last season, which then led to surgery a month later. First base takes a major toll on Pujols largely because he plays well off the bag and crouches unusually low for each pitch.

The Angels saw Monday's debut as something of a test run.

"We're not going to put anything at risk in the batter's box that he's doing right now, because he feels really strong and comfortable," manager Mike Scioscia said before the game. "But this is something that I think he feels strongly about it, and we feel strongly about it, just to see what the prospects are for him being on the field."

Worth noting
C.J. Wilson will return with the team to Southern California and will "get his strength evaluated" over the weekend, Scioscia said. The Angels are hopeful that Wilson, dealing with tendinitis in his left shoulder throughout Spring Training, can resume playing catch by Opening Day.

• First baseman Ji-Man Choi started in left field on Monday, a position he has played a handful of times during Spring Training. Choi, a Rule 5 Draft pick who looks like a favorite for the last bench spot, has "shown well" in left field, Scioscia said, though Choi misread a sinking line drive in the fifth.

• The Angels eclipsed 100,000 fans at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Monday, marking the fifth straight season and the 11th time in the last 13 years they have reached that total. The Angels drew 111,672 fans last spring and a club record 130,126 in 2012. They're at 107,597 with one game left.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.