ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols steadfastly declined to discuss his contract negotiations in an occasionally testy news conference on Sunday at the Cardinals' annual Winter Warm-Up fan festival.
Accompanied by a representative of agent Danny Lozano, Pujols said he would not discuss the tenor or progress of negotiations with the club regarding a new pact. He is signed through 2011, the final year of a deal that will end up paying him a total of $111 million.
"Let's set it up and straight," Pujols said when the topic was first raised. "My agent is talking with Bill [DeWitt, the club's principal owner] and [general manager John Mozeliak], and let's leave it up to that. We'll tell you guys. Whenever we get a deal done, I think everybody's going to know. And that's it."
Asked if he was confident a deal would get done, Pujols said, "We don't need to talk about contracts, dude. That's it. That's all I can tell you."
When an additional follow-up was asked, Josh Goldberg, the representative for Pujols camp, cut in and told a reporter, "That's all we're going to talk about that."
Mozeliak told reporters on Saturday that Pujols had set a deadline of the beginning of Spring Training for getting any deal done. Pujols was willing to explain the thinking behind that stance
"I think you guys know," he said, "what is more important: my contract or my team? Do you want to bring all that into the clubhouse all year like you guys have been doing the last couple years? No. I think you need to respect that. I respect my teammates more than this contract. I think that's more important to me than anything else. And that's why you have to set some deadlines on this. And that's it. If you guys don't get that, I'm sorry about it. But I respect my teammates too much for me to bring all that into the clubhouse."
Still, Pujols seemed irritated that the discussions had even become as public as they have.
"I just think you guys need to respect," he said. "I said, whenever we start talking about contracts, it's going to be quiet. If the Cardinals want to say something in the paper and talk about our business, then they can say something. But myself, I think I'm more professional than that, and if you want to get something done, we get it done. Everybody's going to know when we get it done. You guys have the opportunity to be writing about this over the last two years. What else is to say? I think everybody knows I want to be a Cardinal, and what else is to say?"
DeWitt also met with reporters on Sunday and struck a similar tone.
"As you all know, we've agreed not to discuss the status of the discussions," DeWitt said. "But we have met with Albert's representative, and those are ongoing conversations that we'll have. But beyond that, there's not a lot to say. We've always known that Spring Training is a point in time that we need to have something done by, whether it's day one of Spring Training or... I don't know that there's a midnight hour or anything like that, but clearly the start of, early Spring Training we would want to have something in place if it's going to happen prior to the season."
DeWitt took some issue with how one of his recent comments was portrayed in subsequent reports. DeWitt told a reporter from FOXSports.com that he was "hopeful" of getting a deal done, without expressing any degree of confidence one way or the other.
"I thought that was a great word," DeWitt said. "The headliner put 'optimistic,' which I didn't say. I said hopeful. I'm not going to qualify in that regard, other than, we're certainly hopeful because we want him to be with us. So that's the hope we have. I think that's the appropriate word. Until something happens one way or the other, there's not a lot to say beyond that."
Pujols did of course discuss a wide range of topics besides his contract. In particular, he noted that his often troublesome right elbow has given him no difficulty this winter.
"I feel great," he said. "To be able to finish healthy and take my time off and start lifting weights and feel pretty good, I haven't felt like this the last two years because of surgery. I had to wait until almost Jan. 20, around this time, to start lifting heavy. I've been lifting for 2 1/2 months now and it's feeling pretty good. Pretty strong. Hopefully I can stay healthy all year and help this ballclub."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.