Pujols bats cleanup for first time since 2003

For the first time since the 2003 season, the St. Louis Cardinals All Star first basemen Albert Pujols will bat clean-up in Monday’s game with the Washington Nationals. The last time Pujols batted clean-up was in May of 2003, when Eduardo Perez was the team’s # 3 hitter.

The move by Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa was said to energize Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday. Holliday, who signed a huge contract in the off-season, has just 14 runs batted in on the season. The Cardinals have struggled as a team losing nine of their last 12 games. The Cincinnati Reds beat the Cardinals the final two games of the recent series to move into first place in the National League Central.

Pujols, a three time Most Valuable Player in the National League has started slow as well in 2010, batting .310 with 8 homeruns and 29 runs batted in. The 30 year old from the Dominican Republic is a career .333 hitter. Pujols will reach 400 homeruns this season, and is expected to amass 1200 career runs batted in this season. Pujols’ personal favorite stat is runs scored, where has leads the team with 21 this year, just 8 shy of 1100 in his career.

The biggest news regarding Pujols is his status after the 2011 season. The Cardinals have a team option for 2011, which they expect to pick-up, but following that, Pujols will be a free agent. With the Philadelphia Phillies recently locking up Ryan Howard to a big time deal, Pujols is expected to receive anywhere from $20-$30 million. Pujols makes $14,595,953 this season.

St. Louis is starting a seven game home-stand on Monday. After two against Washington, they will host Florida for two and then welcome the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to town. Following the home stand, the Cardinals finish May with a trip to San Diego and another to Chicago, before coming back home at the end of the month to host the Reds once again.

The Cardinals also activated short-stop Felipe Lopez. Lopez is slated to lead-off in the game on Monday night, after missing time with elbow tightness. Rookie infielder Tyler Greene was sent back to Memphis to make room for Lopez. The Cardinals are hoping the emergence of Lopez energizes struggling regular shortstop Brendan Ryan. Ryan is hitting just .162 for the Cardinals.