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Angels' Albert Pujols to play third in NL ballparks

The move will allow Manager Mike Sciscia to keep Kendrys Morales, who has been designated hitter all year, in the lineup.

June 02, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels star Albert Pujols will move from first to third base during interleague play starting next weekend to make room in the lineup for Kendrys Morales.
Angels star Albert Pujols will move from first to third base during interleague… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

Coming soon to an Angels infield near you: Albert Pujols at third base and Kendrys Morales at first.

Manager Mike Scioscia said Saturday that Pujols will move from first to third and Morales will play defense for the first time this season when the Angels play interleague games at Colorado next weekend and in Dodger Stadium next week, turning what was considered a possibility two weeks ago into a concrete plan.

"Kendrys has been working out at first, and we feel much more comfortable with how he's moving, how he feels," Scioscia said. "His mobility is much better."

Morales, who returned this season after sitting out 11/2 years because of a broken left ankle, has been relegated to designated hitter this season and has not played the field since May 2010.

By moving him to first and Pujols to third, the Angels can keep their third and fourth hitters in the lineup in National League parks. Morales, limited to pinch-hitting duty in San Diego in May, won't play all six games against the Rockies and Dodgers but could play three or four.

Pujols has a .931 career fielding percentage in 104 games at third, and he played seven games there, including four starts, for St. Louis last season.

"It's not something I'll do all year, but I feel pretty comfortable doing it," Pujols said. "Whatever we can do to keep Morales in the lineup would be huge. It's about what I can do every day to help the club win."

They key for Pujols, who knows he won't turn into Brooks Robinson overnight, is keeping things simple.

"You have more time than you think," Pujols said. "It's not like playing shortstop or second. The ball gets to you quick, you catch the ball, you throw it. That's it."

No. 4 starter

In a Sports Illustrated poll of 293 major leaguers, Angels right-hander Dan Haren was voted the fourth-most underrated pitcher in the game behind San Francisco's Matt Cain, Detroit's Doug Fister and Toronto's Ricky Romero.

"Being underrated means you're good, so that's good," said Haren, who will take a 3-5 record and 3.52 earned-run average into Sunday's start against the Texas Rangers. "Most of it is because I'm not 'sexy.'

"I don't throw 95 mph. I've never won more than 16 games. I've never gone too deep in the playoffs. I haven't even gone to the playoffs the last five years. And I've played the majority of my career on the West Coast, like Cain. A lot of it is where you play."

Short hops

Scioscia said reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who will pitch Sunday for Class-A Inland Empire, should need only two minor league rehabilitation appearances before being ready to come off the disabled list this week. Hawkins has been out for a month because of a broken right pinkie. … Pitcher Jered Weaver threw lightly Saturday for the first time since going on the DL Tuesday because of a lower-back strain.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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