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Pujols insists he's not thinking beyond next at-bat

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols spits in the dugout during Game 2 of the MLB National League Championship Series baseball pl
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols spits in the dugout during Game 2 of the MLB National League Championship Series baseball pl

By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One day after joining baseball's exclusive 500 home run club, Albert Pujols insists he is not concerned with reaching another longball milestone.

Let the fans and the media talk about 600 or 700 home runs, Pujols said, adding that he's not even thinking about homer number 501.

"You can't read the future. It's still going to be the same goal that I've had from day one - and that's about winning," the Los Angeles Angels slugger told reporters Wednesday.

"It's about taking care of the 25 guys (in the clubhouse) and representing the name across my shirt. Before you get to 600 or 700, you need to get to 501.

Pujols clubbed two homers against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, the second enabling the 34-year-old first baseman to become the 26th major leaguer to hit 500 home runs.

He contends that he will feel no differently at the plate now that the highly anticipated benchmark has been reached.

"I'll feel the same way that I've felt for 14 years," he said. "Probably better than the last couple of years because I'm healthy now. I can tell you that for sure. My approach is not going to change."

Pujols won the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 and then signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels before the year was out.

His numbers declined during the next two seasons but Pujols maintains he's ready to return to the form that made him a three-time National League most valuable player with St. Louis.

"I'm healthy and I'm feeling good at the plate right now," he said. "It would be stupid for me to tell you I've felt like that the last couple of years. My power wasn't there.

"You can look for your own eyes."

Pujols said the three moments he'll remember most from Tuesday's landmark homer are running around the bases, seeing his teammates at home plate ready to embrace him, and the heartfelt reception he received in the clubhouse after the game.

"Those moments are pretty special," he said. "You know, I've had some special moments in my career. This is one of them. But nothing tastes better than raising a championship trophy.

"Hopefully, we can get that this year. That would be sweeter than what happened last night."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he enjoyed watching Pujols reach the 500 homer plateau but the camaraderie in the dugout was more memorable.

"Watching Albert interact with the team in the dugout right after it happened and then in the clubhouse was special," he said. "As happy as Albert is to reach his milestone, I know his teammates were happier for him. It was fun to watch.

"And I know Albert is just as happy we won the game last night than he is with the milestone. Probably happier."

Pujols will undoubtedly be asked by the Baseball Hall of Fame to donate his bat, hat, uniform or shoes that he wore on Tuesday at Nationals Park.

They might be disappointed, he said.

"I have to talk to my family, my kids," he said. "I'll have to see what they want. My family is more important."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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