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Angels show an intensity in early-spring games

The team is posting impressive numbers as players stress preparation for the regular season as their big motivating factor. 'Everybody's hungry,' Angels first baseman Albert Pujols says.

March 12, 2012|By Lance Pugmire
  • Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hits a fly ball to center field in the first inning against the Dodgers during a spring training game Monday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols hits a fly ball to center field in the… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)

Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — Howie Kendrick struck what looked to be a routine single to left-center field, but he was intent not to treat the situation routinely.

The Angels' No. 2 hitter sprinted hard around first base and didn't slow before sliding safely at second with a first-inning double Sunday.

The play epitomizes how the Angels aspire to treat these exhibition games. Before losing to the Dodgers, 9-1, on Monday at Diablo Stadium, they began the day as baseball's spring leader in team batting average (.343) and runs per game (7.2).

"One of the basics of spring training is to get sharp, but you also want to be as prepared for the season as you can be," Kendrick said. "I don't go up there thinking it's spring training. I play like that no matter what."

With singles in his first two at-bats Monday, Kendrick is batting an impressive .571 (eight for 14).

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia praised the early-spring intensity Monday: "We're taking the field with a purpose."

"Everybody's hungry," Angels first baseman Albert Pujols said, comparing it favorably to the approach taken by his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, with whom he won two World Series.

"It's nothing different from how I've played the game.… It's the right way."

No biggie

Jered Weaver couldn't make it through the second inning against the Dodgers, but the Angels' possible opening-day pitcher shrugged off the outing.

"I was a little quick, not quite hitting spots," Weaver said. "I was mixing in some breaking balls and that's not going to be on point now."

Weaver said his arm slot was inconsistent, and it was not helpful that he missed a live batting practice session last week because he had stomach flu.

"Repetition gets you back where you want to be," he said.

Forging a bond

Vernon Wells wants to produce more than the 66 runs batted in he had last season.

By taking part in a daily power-hitting summit with Pujols, Torii Hunter, Mark Trumbo and Bobby Abreu, Wells is hopeful.

"We have a good group of guys who aren't afraid to speak up and to listen to each other," said Wells, who blasted a three-run home run over the left-center field wall Sunday. "We have the ability to do some damage, and not necessarily only with homers, but doubles."

Morales runs again

The return of Kendrys Morales to the playing field remains on target for later this week after the recovering designated hitter (left ankle) ran the bases in spikes for a second consecutive day Monday.

Scioscia said Morales ran four first-to-third drills and another first-to-home, and is expected to play either with the Angels or one of their minor league teams as soon as Thursday.

Trout also close

Top prospect Mike Trout, stricken by flu symptoms that caused him to lose 10 pounds, said his illness is "definitely over" and he could return to play by Wednesday or Thursday.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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