Albert Pujols reported to St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp early Thursday morning, the day after his self-imposed negotiations deadline passed without an extension with the team. Pujols showed up at 7:35 a.m., smiling, and said he was feeling "better than ever."
The Cardinals had until noon on Wednesday to reach a contract extension with Pujols, but 12 p.m. EST came and went without a deal, meaning the three-time MVP will become a free agent after the 2011 season. Pujols has maintained he will not discuss a new contract during spring training or the regular season.
"Once the 2011 season is over, we hope to revisit those talks," Pujols said in a statement late Wednesday.
With the talks off until after the season ends, Pujols is now fixated on winning.
"The last thing anyone in this clubhouse needs to worry about, is what's going to happen to me after the season," he added.
So far, his teammates are doing their best to not let it all become a distraction. "I don't think it's changed for anybody in here," Cardinals' pitcher Kyle Lohse said.