The St. Louis Cardinals were not able to bring Albert Pujols back for the 2019 season, but they have found a way to make sure that he is still out there in his 22nd consecutive Opening Day start as their designated hitter on Thursday when the club opens its exhibition schedule with an intrasquad game at Roger Dean Stadium before hitting against Kansas City Royals minor leaguers from 7:05-8:10 p.m., part of a split squad day scheduled by Major League Baseball

Albert Pujols will make his 22nd consecutive Opening Day start for the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, but he’ll be DH on the day after he hit a homer in his first at-bat of the season.

Albert Pujols will start for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, in what is expected to be an emotional return to Busch Stadium.

Pujols, who inked a $2.5 million deal to return to the club where he made his name, will make his 22nd straight Opening Day start as the designated hitter, according to Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol. That puts him in a tie with Hank Aaron and Carl Yastrzemski for second place, behind only Pete Rose, who hit 23 consecutive home runs throughout his career.

“I don’t want to establish expectations because I want to be surprised, so I’m just going to enjoy it,” Pujols said as spring training in Jupiter, Florida neared its end. “I’m sure it’ll be an emotional experience for both myself and the fans. But right now, my focus is on getting the reps I need to prepare for the season.”

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This season, Pujols might fill in for Paul Goldschmidt at first base on occasion, and he was anticipated to receive some practice there this week before the team returns to St. Louis. Aside from that, the Cardinals see him as a designated hitter and late-inning pinch hitter, as well as a knowledgeable presence in a clubhouse with a good blend of old and modern.

The 42-year-old and his close pal Yadier Molina have already said that this is their last season in the major leagues. That might also be the case for right-hander Adam Wainwright, who won World Series victories with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011.

Pujols, who has 679 career home runs, hit.236 with 17 home runs while splitting time with the Angels and Dodgers last season. However, the three-time NL MVP shown that he can still be a force against left-handed pitching, hitting.294 with 13 homers in just 136 at-bats, making him a valuable depth option for the Cardinals.

Marmol observed, “This man is obviously keyed in.” “He’s on a mission to do the task successfully. He’s in good form, he’s in good spirits, and his timing allows him to feel better with each at-bat. He’s ready to go in both mental and physical terms.”

Wainwright, 40, was selected to start Opening Day on Saturday, but the news only confirmed what almost everyone already knew. It will be his sixth Opening Day as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Me and those two men are the only ones left,” Pujols said. “It’s amazing to have them with me as I close my career.” “Hopefully, we’ll get another shot at the crown. It would be ideal if you could do that.”

In other Cardinals news, right-hander Jack Flaherty was put on the disabled list on Monday, while rookie pitcher Andre Pallante won the last slot on the 28-man roster after a good spring training.

Flaherty isn’t expected back for the first month of the season, according to the Cardinals. On March 18, their Opening Day starter for the previous two years underwent a platelet-rich plasma injection to relieve inflammation in his shoulder, and he has been struggling with a tiny rupture in his right labrum, which might make the rehabilitation more difficult.

Flaherty pitched for the Cardinals in season, going 9-2 with a 3.22 ERA in 15 starts and 17 appearances.

Right-hander Jake Walsh was optioned to Triple-A Memphis on Monday, while left-hander Connor Thomas, catcher Julio Rodriguez, and infielder Cory Spangenberg were reassigned to the minors.

Albert Pujols has been a member of the St. Louis Cardinals since 2001, and he is currently signed with the team through 2019. He will be making his 22nd consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds. Reference: deidre pujols.

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