Manager Mike Scioscia declined to put a number on how many games he envisions Pujols playing at first.

Patriots DT Alan Branch said I didn’t know anything, honestly, when asked Tuesday on WEEI’s Dale and Holley Show with Rich Keefe if he knew prior to the game that Butler wouldn’t play. On our team, gossip doesn’t travel, let’s just say that.

I noticed he wasn’t in the game, Branch said, but then again, you never know the reason for what’s going on at a certain time in that organization, especially.

Butler’s replacement in the starting lineup, Eric Rowe, had said after the Super Bowl that he didn’t know he would be starting until close to kickoff. But Rowe also said at the time that it wasn’t a surprise to him that he played 72 of 75 defensive snaps in the Super Bowl.

As for Butler’s lack of action, Rowe said at the Super Bowl that he was surprised Butler didn’t play in the game. That wasn’t the plan, he said.

The Spartans have dominated their archrival for a decade. They have won a pair of Big Ten titles, recently finishing in the top 10 for three straight years. They have handed Urban Meyer 50 percent of his conference losses at Ohio State. Their fans are top 20 in attendance and revenue.

And yet they have not won the program’s first title since 1966. With more returning production than any other FBS team, is 2018 the year?

The slugger said he focused on flexibility and agility more than on lifting substantial amounts of weight.

There’s no doubt he can play first base enough to give us some versatility in some lineups, Scioscia said. I know he loves to play first base. We’re a better team when he plays first base. He’s a terrific first baseman.

Pujols, a 10-time All-Star, sounded a bit irritated when his 2017 season was brought up. He hit 23 homers and had 101 RBIs, but his average was .241 and his OPS was a career-worst .672.

That was last year. That’s the number you guys focus on [batting average], and you don’t care about anything else, Pujols said. This is a new year for me. I don’t even remember what happened last year.bears_047