National League MVP Albert Pujols, a native Dominican who pulled out of the World Baseball Classic last month due to insurance issues, won't play in the St. Louis Cardinals' exhibition game Thursday against Team Dominicana at spring training in Florida.
"It's all about respect. I don't want to play against them," Pujols said Sunday in Jupiter, Fla., according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I don't feel comfortable with it, and that's it."
Pujols, who hit .357 with 37 homers and 116 RBIs in 2008, played for the Dominican team in the 2006 WBC but couldn't find insurance to cover him for this year's tournament. Pujols underwent surgery to a nerve near his right elbow in October but said last month he's completely healthy.
But according to the newspaper report, Pujols, 29, also has a "high-grade" ligament sprain near the same elbow.
"We're all proud of our country and want to do our best and win," Pujols said, according to the paper. "But if you can't do it, you can't do it. You need to understand that. You can't force the situation. That's the way it is."
Pujols, who moved to the United States as a teen and gained citizenship in 2007, said he would have also sat out Thursday's exhibition had he been playing for the Dominican team.
"I would have looked at it the same way," he said. "It's out of respect for both my teammates. It would have been the same for either side. To me, that would have been disrespectful toward the Cardinals."