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Angels' Albert Pujols struggles to adjust to new league, pitchers

April 25, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • New Angels slugger Albert Pujols has gone 17 games and 69 at-bats into 2012 without clearing the fences.
New Angels slugger Albert Pujols has gone 17 games and 69 at-bats into 2012… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.--Throughout spring training, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols downplayed speculation that it might be difficult to adjust to a new league and a new set of pitchers after spending his first 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.

All the National League pitchers were new to Pujols when he broke into the big leagues in 2001, Pujols reasoned, and that wasn’t a problem — Pujols hit .329 with 37 home runs and 130 runs batted in that season to win National League rookie of the year honors.

But with each day that passes without a homer from Pujols, who has gone 17 games and 69 at-bats into 2012 without clearing the fences, the more it seems that, yes, perhaps that adjustment to a new league is a little tougher than he or the Angels envisioned.

“The pitcher has a slight advantage because the batter hasn’t seen his release point, but a guy of Albert’s talent usually makes a quick study of those things, and he will,” Manager Mike Scioscia said after the Angels’ 5-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. “Right now, we need a catalyst, and the obvious catalyst would be Albert swinging the bat like we know he can.”

That definitely hasn’t happened yet. Pujols, a career .328 hitter with 445 homers and 1,329 RBIs entering the season, is hitting .232 with four RBIs entering Wednesday night’s game against the Rays, and advanced metrics show he has been chasing far too many sliders and curveballs outside the strike zone.

Pujols has also gone four consecutive games without a hit for the first time since 2010, and during that stretch, he faced seven pitchers who he had a total of four regular-season at-bats against.

But when pressed after Tuesday night’s game on the subject of adjusting to new pitchers and a new league, Pujols refused to use it as an excuse.

“I don’t like to look for excuses — I don’t want to blame my struggles on being in a new league,” Pujols said. “It’s the same game. Does it help if you’ve seen a guy before? Of course. But I still do the same preparation. To tell you the truth, I feel good. I’m not far away from breaking out of this.”

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Angels' Albert Pujols struggles to adjust to new league, pitchers

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