Continued from page 1

Around baseball, some say that whatever Pujols says he’s worth, he’s worth.

“The way some of the guys are getting paid, if anybody’s worth the money, it’s Albert,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said Thursday. “Wouldn’t you agree? If there’s one person in baseball that you’d say well, who should be one of the highest-paid guys, the top three in baseball, you’ve got to mention Albert.”

Pujols will not reopen talks with the Cardinals until after the season. He can become a free agent after the World Series.

He said he would not negotiate publicly, nor discuss any part of what either side brought to the bargaining table, saying he saw how that can backfire earlier this year when talks between Derek Jeter _ like Pujols, someone who has iconic status with his franchise _ and the Yankees became public and a bit contentious.

“You have to put a deadline … because you don’t want to bring distractions to the ballclub,” Pujols said, then made one of what became several requests to reporters to not ask his teammates to speculate about what may loom in the future.

La Russa said in recent days that he believes Pujols and agent Dan Lozano were getting pressure to “set the bar” on the new deal from the players’ association, a stance the union denied.

Pujols said neither he nor Lozano had been pressured by anyone, and said only five people knew the details of the talks: Him, his wife, Lozano, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and Cardinals chairman William DeWitt Jr.

When _ and if _ talks resume, it’s unclear if St. Louis will increase its offer to Pujols’ liking.

“It’s their money. It’s Mr. DeWitt’s decision,” Pujols said.

Pujols will make $16 million this season in his contract’s final year, with $4 million of the money deferred with no interest.

The Cardinals will have a payroll of between $100 million and $110 million this season, and say they can’t go into the huge-money ranges like some of baseball’s biggest spenders like the Yankees and Red Sox _ two clubs that would figure to have interest in Pujols once he hits the free agent market. Others are already getting mentioned, like the Rangers, Cubs and Angels.

“What do I want? Hey, I want to be a Cardinal forever,” Pujols said. “That’s my goal.”

___

AP Baseball Writer Joe Kay in Goodyear, Ariz., contributed to this report.