Angels release Albert Pujols in surprise announcement

Albert Pujols’ time with the Angels has come to an end, with the club designating the first baseman for assignment in a surprise announcement Thursday.

The future Hall of Fame infielder was in the last season of a 10-year, $240-million contract.

Pujols, 41, had played 24 games this year, batting .198 with five home runs and 12 RBIs. His time with the Angels ends after 1,181 games. He hit 222 of his 667 career home runs with the club.

“The Angels Organization proudly signed Albert Pujols in 2011, and are honored that he has worn an Angels jersey for nearly half of his Hall-of-Fame Career,” Angels owner Arte Moreno said in a statement. “Albert’s historical accomplishments, both on and off the field, serve as an inspiration to athletes everywhere, and his actions define what it means to be a true Superstar. Since his Rookie of the Year Season in 2001, Albert and his wife Deidre have generously given their time and resources to countless charities throughout the world. We are thankful to the entire Pujols Family.”

According to a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly about it, Pujols was upset that he was not in Wednesday night’s lineup to face Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough, a left-hander that Pujols had gone six for nine with two homers, two doubles and seven RBIs against.

The person said that the decision to bench Pujols on Wednesday night was made by the front office and not Angels manager Joe Maddon.

“It wasn’t Joe’s call,” the person said, “despite the success Albert has had against Yarbrough.”

Prior to Wednesday’s game, Pujols had been playing on an almost everyday basis at first base after a season-ending injury to right fielder Dexter Fowler had forced Jared Walsh to play primarily in the outfield. He had started in 11 of 12 and 18 of the team’s past 20 games.

After getting off to a strong start to the season, however, Pujols had only seven hits (including three home runs) in his past 43 at-bats.

Pujols is in the 21st season of a distinguished career that is expected to earn him first-ballot entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

The 10-time All-Star spent the first 11 years of his career in St. Louis, where he established himself as one of the most feared right-handed hitters in the game. He helped the Cardinals win the World Series in 2006 and 2011 and won three National League most valuable player awards.

Pujols, nicknamed “The Machine” because of his consistent production, was not the same slugger after he signed with the Angels before 2012.

After batting .328 with a 1.037 on-base-plus-slugging percentage with the Cardinals, he hit .257 with a .761 OPS in his first nine seasons — several of them plagued by lower-body injuries — for the Angels.

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