JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -St. Louis manager Tony La Russa and the Cardinals' medical staff will keep a closer eye this season on Albert Pujols' balky right elbow.
Pujols, who opted not to have surgery to repair a strained ligament after meeting with specialists during the offseason, is less concerned. The slugger said he will not change his routine as he prepares for opening day.
``If it blows out it's going to blow out,'' Pujols said. ``You can't control that.''
The Cardinals, though, will try.
Pujols arrived in South Florida on Friday and went through his first workout at the Cardinals facility later that afternoon. The first baseman was in the batting cage Saturday morning long before the pitchers and catchers took the field.
The injury has bothered Pujols since 2003 and it flared up last season.
``It didn't make sense having the surgery and just clean it up, when cleaning it up it wasn't going to make it good,'' Pujols said. ``I had to do something in the ligament.''
BIs - La Russa noticed something different with Pujols' swing.
``We'll definitely monitor it,'' La Russa said Saturday. ``Talking to the trainers this morning one of the biggest issues will be throwing so we'll be on the careful side of really firing it. He could make a swing that could tweak it, too. It's one of those deals.''
The injury has been more bothersome throwing rather than hitting. But so far Pujols has done both during his early arrival.
``Coming to spring it never bothered me,'' he said. ``It gets irritated during the year when I'm hitting and throwing and doing more basic stuff and not resting.
``I'm not even thinking about it. I'm going to do what I have to to get ready. If it does come to a point where I do treatment, I do treatment. Right now the way it feels I don't need to talk about any treatment. It feels good.''
The Cardinals are hopeful it stays that way. Pujols remains one of the most feared hitters in the game and is a tireless worker. St. Louis could rely on him even more this year after undergoing several changes in the offseason.
Gone are shortstop David Eckstein, third baseman Scott Rolen and center fielder Jim Edmonds. Their replacements are expected to be Cesar Izturis, Troy Glaus and Rick Ankiel.
The one constant, though, is Pujols, who's beginning his eighth major league season and has spent his entire career with the Cardinals.
``There's been a lot of change but sometimes change is good,'' Pujols said. ``Sometimes change gives young players some opportunity. We're going to have a lot of young players, but we're going to have a lot of young players with talent.''

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