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Winning a priority for Pujols

Fresh from winning his second N.L. MVP award, Albert Pujols is eyeing the future. As in, will St. Louis still be the right fit for him?

The Cardinals star said the team’s commitment to winning will dictate if he re-signs when his contract expires in two years.

“It’s not about the money all the time,” the first baseman said Sunday in Jupiter, Fla. “It’s about being in a place to win and being in a position to win.

“If the Cardinals are willing to do that and put a team (on the field) every year like they have, I’m going to try to work everything out to stay in this town. But if they’re not bringing championship-caliber play every year, then it’s time for me to go somewhere else that I can win.”

Pujols arrived in camp Sunday and spent time in the batting cage. He’s signed to a seven-year, $100 million deal, and hit .357 with 37 home runs and 116 RBIs last season.

The Cardinals won the World Series in 2006, but have missed the playoffs the last two years. They were 86-76 last season, fourth in the N.L. Central. Their biggest offseason moves were trading for shortstop Khalil Greene and signing reliever Trever Miller.

Pujols had surgery on his right elbow to fix a nerve problem in November and is unsure how it will react to the everyday workload of spring training.

Manager Tony La Russa said the Cardinals will be “very careful in the progression with his drills and swinging and off-field work.”

Pujols is uncertain if he will play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic because of the surgery and insurance issues. He was a member of the team in 2006.

“I’ve already done it once,” he said. “I need to make sure everything goes the right way,” he said.

Boston right fielder J.D. Drew, meanwhile, is feeling back stiffness from a herniated disk that limited him in 2008. He said he had one MRI exam after the season and that it didn’t show any serious injury.

“It’s still pretty stiff,” he said in Fort Myers, Fla. “I’ve been able to hit and run and all of that staff. I’m just in the maintenance stages.”

The 33-year-old Drew hit 19 home runs and had 64 RBIs in 109 games last year. He said he could play right now if the team needed him.

The San Francisco Giants hope 45-year-old Randy Johnson will boost their rotation. He grew up in the Bay Area and signed a one-year contract.

Johnson starts the season with 295 career victories.

“Winning 300 is important, but it is not the sole reason I am playing this game,” he said. I’d like to have people think that I made a difference, that I had an impact in some way.”The five-time Cy Young winner had his second back surgery last year and finished 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA. He will begin a spring healthy for the first time since 2006, the second of his two seasons with the New York Yankees.

“It’s a change. These last two years have been kind of frustrating, because I knew that I could still go out and pitch,” Johnson said. “It was evident the second half of last year. But when you can’t go out and do mechanics the way you need to do them in order to pitch, you’re not going to be successful. I started experiencing that with two months left in New York. I could barely even tie my shoes. All that’s behind me now.”


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