As a three-time MVP, a .321 career hitter with 492 home runs and a certain Hall of Famer when he retires, Albert Pujols has no need to listen to critics, especially those ripping on his huge contract.

Oh, but how he would love to silence them.

Pujols, who is trying to bounce back from the two worst seasons of his career, said he avoids reading stories about himself and doesn't have time to indulge those who say he's an old 34 and will never reach his previous heights again.

There's a perception that such doubts fuel Pujols' drive, which he denies, but he does say, "I'm still in my prime. If I'm healthy, I'm going to show that on the field and shut a lot of mouths.''

Being healthy and on the field is no longer a given for Pujols, who averaged 155 games – and never played less than 143 – in 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals before signing a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels in December 2011.

Pujols was limited last spring while recovering from offseason surgery on his right knee, then was dogged during the season by an acute case of plantar fasciitis in his left foot that hampered his performance before he finally went on the disabled list for good in late July.

The ailment eventually healed with rest and treatment, but Pujols wound up with career-low offensive numbers across the board, batting .258 with 17 homers, 64 RBI and a .767 on-base plus slugging percentage in just 99 games.

The OPS figure was especially troubling, because it was the fifth year in a row it dwindled. While with the Cardinals, Pujols thrice led the National League in OPS with numbers above 1.100.

"I know because of injuries I haven't been the same player the last two years, but what I've been able to do, I've done on one leg and coming off surgery,'' Pujols said. "If I feel 100%, I have no doubt I can reach the goals I've always had.''

He certainly looks ready for the task. Pujols came into camp seven pounds lighter, and his legs are stronger after being able to implement his usual workout regimen in the offseason without concern for the knee.

Pujols played 65 games last season as the designated hitter, by far the highest total of his career, and is determined to spend the majority of time this year at first base. Angels manager Mike Scioscia, mindful of keeping his bat in the lineup, is not making any promises, but is pleased with what he has seen so far.

"He is moving better than we've seen him since he's been here, which is only a couple of years,'' Scioscia said. "I think he feels much better than he did at any point in the last couple of years, and it's more in line with what we saw in St. Louis.''

Once regarded as the game's best hitter and a model of offensive efficiency, which earned him the nickname "The Machine,'' Pujols has lacked his typical consistency with the Angels.

Perhaps caught in the trap of living up to the contract and the hype, he got off to a brutal start in 2012, batting .217 with zero homers in April. Pujols bounced back to finish with 30 homers, 105 RBI and an .859 OPS, but that was still a far cry from his standard with the Cardinals, for whom he averaged 40 homers, 121 RBI and a 1.037 OPS.