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Angels' Albert Pujols, Vernon Wells homer in win over White Sox

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

The two home runs are part of the Angels' 12-hit attack in a 7-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox. The extra power comes one day after the Angels bring in a new hitting coach.

May 16, 2012|By Lance Pugmire

Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said his decision to fire hitting coach Mickey Hatcher and replace him with Jim Eppard could be "a spark."

Something, perhaps, like those fireworks that erupted Wednesday beyond Angel Stadium's center-field wall, where Albert Pujols deposited his second home run as an Angel in a 7-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Dipoto said he thought "long and hard" before deciding a hitting coach switch had to be made, a move unmistakably opposed by Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, a former Dodgers teammate of 13-year hitting coach Hatcher.

"Mickey was a great teacher and great hitting coach," Scioscia said Wednesday. "We all respect what the general manager's office is looking out for we were not in a funk because of Mickey Hatcher. We respect the decision, and move on."

Dipoto, in his first year as Angels general manager, praised Eppard for his work developing several current Angels during a 10-season run as hitting coach at triple-A Salt Lake.

"I feel we've underachieved, and we're all judged by our results," Dipoto said. "Sometimes I do believe you need a different voice This is a result of the results."

In his Anaheim debut, Eppard watched Pujols' three-run homer give the Angels (17-21) a 4-2 lead in the third inning.

"It feels good to hit a ball hard like that," said Pujols, who's driven in 12 runs in the last 10 games and now leads the team with 17 runs batted in.

"I want to be a leader. Everyone's looking up to me. I'm here for a reason."

The lead was extended to 7-2 in the sixth with three more of the Angels' dozen hits, including Vernon Wells' sixth homer, a two-run shot to left.

"Some components we know we have — the power, the situational hitting — there were a lot of good things on the offensive side," Scioscia said after the game. "We're building some momentum."

Pitcher Jerome Williams (4-1) won his team-record seventh consecutive home start, scattering 10 hits in eight innings with the help of two double plays, to beat Chicago's Gavin Floyd (3-4).

Regarding Hatcher's ouster, Dipoto pointed to the Angels' being shut out a major league-leading eight times through a 15-21 start and their anemic production in runs and on-base percentage (12th in the American League).

Pujols' slow start further soured the experience, with the Angels scuffling to produce with runners in scoring position.

Eppard, a former Angels player who presided over the development of current Angels Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout at Salt Lake, places importance on the idea of having a plan in each at-bat and sticking to it, said Bourjos, who was promoted after 60 hits in July 2010 for Salt Lake.

"The important thing is getting back to basics, hitting a good pitch, going after it," Eppard said.

Eppard's introductory news conference inside the Angels' dugout was truncated by Scioscia, who told Eppard, "You've got guys waiting for you," in the clubhouse.

Scioscia then stopped far short of saying he endorsed Hatcher's firing. Late last month, Scioscia said he was confident Hatcher was the right man to guide the Angels through their offensive struggles.

Dipoto declined to discuss internal conversations with Scioscia about the firing. The general manager made the decision before Tuesday's 4-0 victory over Oakland, and he and Scioscia broke the news to Hatcher afterward.

"It's a dramatic moment," Dipoto said. "You don't make those decisions easily."

Although the 2007 Angels set a club record by batting .284, Hatcher was long a public lightning rod whenever hitting slumps struck. He irritated Pujols by disclosing comments in a closed-door meeting last month, but both Dipoto and Scioscia said that was overblown.

"It seems like the fans have been calling for [Hatcher's firing] for a long time," Trumbo said. "You can call for a guy's head for years on end, but unless you're seeing the effort the man puts in day in and day out "

Pujols said after Wednesday's game, "I have a lot of respect for Mickey. He was a guy who was always positive, even in the struggles, he was giving it his best. I feel bad."

Trumbo, who hit 36 homers with Eppard in Salt Lake in 2010, said the new coach "really understands the struggles of going through a season."

Before his three hits against the White Sox, Trumbo said, "It's up to us as players to get it done."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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