La Russa accuses union of pressuring Pujols

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa claims the players' association is pressuring Albert Pujols and his representatives to set a contract record, an accusation the union denies.

Pujols is eligible to become a free agent after the World Series and has set a Wednesday noon EST deadline to reach agreement on a new deal.

Alex Rodriguez's $275 million, 10-year deal with the Yankees is baseball's current high.

"I know what he's going through with the union and to some extent his representatives because his representatives are getting beat up by the union," La Russa said in Jupiter, Fla. "Set the bar, set the bar. You've got to deal with it. It's not the way it should be."

Pujols, a three-time NL MVP, has vowed to cut off negotiations once he arrives at spring training. Pujols has played his entire 10-season career with the Cardinals and has repeatedly said he would like to stay with the franchise.

"We've had no discussions about numbers with Albert or with (agent) Danny Lozano or with any of his representatives," union head Michael Weiner said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "Albert is a very experienced, sophisticated, intelligent player. He's got good, experienced representation. We're always available to consult with players, but there's been no discussion of numbers and clearly no pressure at all."

At Port St. Lucie, Fla., new Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said the lawsuit against Fred Wilpon and the rest of the team owners filed by the trustee trying to recover money for the victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme should not affect operations at camp.

Speaking as pitchers and catchers reported for their first spring training under new manager Terry Collins, Alderson also said "it's unlikely" any contract extension talks with shortstop Jose Reyes would take place during spring training. Alderson would like to see Reyes play during the season first.

"I think it's important for all of us, I think it's important for ownership, that the focus here be on baseball," Alderson said."

In New York, Donald Trump said he is thinking about investing in the Mets.

"I hope that it works out well for the Wilpons because they're friends of mine," Trump said. "If they ever needed help, I'd be there to help them. If I could help, I'd love to help them."

In Peoria, Ariz., the San Diego Padres said closer Heath Bell is sidelined by a strained left calf. Bell, second in the NL with 47 saves last season, said he missed Tuesday's bullpen session for precautionary reasons one day after he injured himself while running during the team's first workout. Bell said Tuesday afternoon that the injury improved enough in 24 hours for him to think he can return to the mound quickly but he isn't as certain about when he'll run again.

"I don't think it's anything major," Bell said. "They were pleased with how I walked in today. Really, it's just get as much treatment on it and just be cautious. I probably have to eat a little bit better these next two weeks because I can't run."

Seattle, which shares its spring training home with San Diego, said Ken Griffey Jr. is returning to the Mariners as a special consultant less than a year after abruptly retiring from baseball, the team said Tuesday.

Griffey's role is still being defined, but he'll be involved with the Mariners at spring training and the regular season, along with visiting most of the Mariners minor-league affiliates.

"I'm looking forward to staying very involved with the Mariners, working with the players throughout the organization, staying involved with the community and assisting in other areas of the organization," Griffey said in a statement from the club. "It's an exciting time and I'm very appreciative of the opportunity."

In Kissimmee, Fla., Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones took grounders and got in some swings on the first day of spring training, a significant step in his recovery from major knee surgery.

Until Tuesday, Jones had only taken swings in the batting cage beneath Turner Field. But he went out on the field with pitchers and catchers at the Disney World complex, reporting no major problems after fielding about 40 grounders and taking around the same number of swings.

"It's important to be seen, to let everybody watch, to see the ball coming off my bat, to see me moving around out there at third," the 38-year-old said. "The knee is not 100 percent. There's no way around that. I don't know when it's going to be. But if I'm 80 to 90 percent, I still think I can go out there and play good third base and still be a factor at the plate."