Toronto catcher Jeff Mathis, right, is congratulated by teammate Brett… (Getty Images )
The irony isn’t lost on Jeff Mathis, the notoriously weak-hitting Toronto Blue Jays reserve catcher who in a mere 17 at-bats this season has two more home runs than Albert Pujols, who now dons the No. 5 Angels jersey Mathis wore from 2005-2011.
How can it not be when just about every writer, broadcaster or fan Mathis comes into contact with brings up the fact that, entering Thursday night’s game against the Angels, Mathis has out-homered the $240-million slugger who has 445 career homers but none in 101 at-bats this season?
“You’re not the first one to bring that up,” said Mathis, who is making his first Angel Stadium visit since the trade that sent him to the Blue Jays for pitcher Brad Mills on Dec. 3. “Y’all just relax. Albert has been a good hitter for a long time. Give him a little time. He’ll be swinging the bat.”
Mathis, who is playing once or twice a week behind starter J.P. Arencibia, has done a fair amount of damage with the bat in a little amount of time this season.
In addition to his two homers, Mathis is batting .294 and has as many runs batted in (five) as Pujols in a fraction of the at-bats. He hit .174 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 247 at-bats over 93 games with the Angels last season.
“I opened my stance up a bit, which has shortened my swing and helped me see pitches better,” Mathis, 29, said. “I’m enjoying it here.”
Mathis exchanged handshakes and hugs with about a dozen former Angels teammates and coaches behind the cage before batting practice Thursday.
Though it was clear the Angels, in acquiring Chris Iannetta from Colorado, wanted an offensive upgrade behind the plate, Mathis, an agile and athletic defender, said there were no bitter feelings about the way his Angels career ended.
“I had good relationships with everybody here,” Mathis said. “There just comes a point in time when you want to make a change. It’s part of the business.”
The Blue Jays arrived in their hotel Wednesday night just in time for Mathis to catch the last three outs of Jered Weaver’s no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins. Weaver, one of Mathis’ closest friends on the team, always had high praise for Mathis’ defensive skills.
“It was neat to see the last inning,” Mathis said. “Any time you watch a no-hitter, it’s cool, whether you know the guy or not. In this case, it was a guy I know and worked with a lot. I’m happy for him.”
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Home run scoreboard: Jeff Mathis 2, Albert Pujols 0