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Angels' Albert Pujols credits better communication with surge

He doesn't put blame so much on fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, instead saying he and the other Angels have learned to talk better. He also talks of gaining energy from young teammates.

June 12, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hits a two-run home run against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday. Pujols says better communication has played a role in the Angels' recent success.
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hits a two-run home run against the Colorado… (David Zalubowski / Associated…)

A late-night comment by Albert Pujols after a 3-2 victory Monday shed some light on a problem that plagued the Angels during their dismal April and may have contributed to the firing of hitting coach Mickey Hatcher in May.

"One thing we've been doing is we're really communicating well — that's something we weren't doing," Pujols said after the Angels improved to 15-4 since May 22 and moved to within 21/2 games of Texas in the American League West.

"We knew we were going to be where we're at right now, but communication has been a key — how we're going to approach a pitcher, saying, 'Hey guys, he's doing this right now, he's changing his plan.' We're able to make adjustments, and that's a big thing."

Pujols, who hit a game-winning run-scoring single in the ninth inning Monday night, wasn't pointing a finger at Hatcher so much as he was himself and his teammates.

"Early on, everybody was pressing," said Pujols, who entered Tuesday with a .462 batting average (12 for 26) over his last six games. "It happens. It's part of the game."

Still, it is not difficult, especially for critics of the embattled Hatcher, to draw a correlation between Hatcher's departure and the Angels' surge.

The team was 16-21 with a .250 average, .301 on-base percentage and .379 slugging percentage on May 15, the day Hatcher was fired. Since then, the Angels are 17-8 with a .275 average, .337 OBP and .432 slugging percentage.

Of course, the arrival of Mike Trout in late April, Mark Trumbo's consistent power and Pujols' rebound from a dreadful start have had a lot more to do with those numbers than Hatcher's departure.

Trout energized the club — he entered Tuesday with a .354 average, .412 OBP and a team-leading 35 runs and 15 stolen bases; Trumbo entered with a .325 average and a team-leading 14 homers and 39 RBIs, and Pujols, after hitting .217 with no homers and four RBIs in April, has raised his average to .260 with nine homers and 33 RBIs since.

"It's really exciting that I'm going to hopefully spend the next 10 years with Trout, Trumbo and Peter Bourjos," Pujols said. "Those guys are going to keep me young. It's exciting to see them play. They don't take anything for granted.

"It doesn't matter whether they're 0 for five or five for five, they're always laughing, smiling. They don't get too high or too low. They stay humble all the time. They play hard. They do what it takes to win."

Manager Mike Scioscia was asked Tuesday whether Pujols, the 11-year veteran, three-time National League most valuable player and two-time World Series champion, has "rubbed off" on Trout. A better question might be, has the 20-year-old Trout rubbed off on Pujols?

"Albert has seen a lot in this game," Scioscia said, "but his eyes light up at some of the things Mike does."

Short hops

With a win Monday night, reliever Jason Isringhausen became the 15th pitcher in major league history with at least 50 wins and 300 saves. "I'm not a big history guy," Isringhausen said, "but it's something nice for my kids to tell their kids." … Jered Weaver (lower-back strain) threw a 55-pitch bullpen workout Tuesday and is scheduled for a simulated game Friday. The right-hander, injured May 28, should return next week. … Catcher Bobby Wilson, on the seven-day concussion disabled list, will play for Class-A Inland Empire on Wednesday and hopes to be activated Friday. The Angels, in need of some bullpen depth, recalled right-hander David Pauley from triple-A Tuesday and optioned reserve outfielder Kole Calhoun back to Salt Lake.

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