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Albert Pujols goes 0 for 3 in spring debut

Slugger is fired up about return, which comes about a week earlier than expected. He grounds out twice and strikes out.

March 05, 2013|By Mike DiGiovanna

TEMPE, Ariz. — Albert Pujols frustrated Angels fans at times last season with his aggressive baserunning, which helped the slow-footed slugger hit 50 doubles but also got him thrown out at second base a few too many times.

That wasn't an issue Tuesday when Pujols, who is recovering from right-knee surgery and was limited in the first three weeks of camp, made his exhibition debut in a 6-4 Cactus League victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Pujols started at designated hitter and was ordered by Mike Scioscia to run with a "governor" on. "The only extra-base hit he's going to get," the Angels manager said, "is going to be a home run." The Angels got permission from the Reds to pinch-run for Pujols but allow him to remain in the game to hit.

Though Pujols grounded out twice and struck out in three at-bats, the fact he played about a week before he was expected to was cause for optimism for the Angels, who hope Pujols and Josh Hamilton form one of the best middle-of-the-order tandems in baseball.

"I was a little bit nervous, but my dad always said, if you're not nervous, you're not ready," said Pujols, who won three most-valuable-player awards and two World Series titles with the St. Louis Cardinals.

"It was good to get into a game and see some live pitching, to get my swing ready for the season. It was good to be in the dugout with the guys. I'm pretty fired up about this ballclub."

Scioscia thought it would be good for Pujols to "see some velocity." Pujols saw that and more in the fourth inning when he faced left-hander Aroldis Chapman, whose fastball often tops 100 mph.

Pujols made a good pass at a 2-and-0 fastball, fouling it off, before striking out on a nasty full-count slider, the last of three straight breaking balls in the at-bat. He'll probably get another crack at Chapman in April — the Angels open the regular season at Cincinnati.

"I thought I put a good swing on that 2-0 pitch," Pujols said. "If he throws that pitch in a couple of weeks, maybe I'll put a better swing on it, but I was right on it. He's a great pitcher … but I was fine seeing the ball off him."

Range rovers

Mike Trout (left field), Peter Bourjos (center) and Hamilton (right) started together for the first time, their six innings against the Reds the first step in building on-field chemistry for an outfield many expect to be one of baseball's best.

No balls were hit deep enough into the gaps to force the outfielders to communicate and converge, but Bourjos raced to the warning track to catch Todd Frazier's drive in the second, and Trout made a nice running catch of Shin-Soo Choo's third-inning drive before running into the wall.

"It will take a little time," Scioscia said, "but I think when guys have superior range and skills, it's easier to find chemistry than with guys who don't have range."

In other words, this trio should have an easier time melding together than the 2010 outfield, in which Gold Glove-winning center fielder Torii Hunter was flanked by Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu, neither of whom covered much ground.

"The biggest thing is finding the chemistry of range, not overlapping too much and running into each other," Scioscia said. "It should flow pretty good."

Short hops

Relievers Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen each threw a scoreless inning, Frieri giving up no hits, striking out one and walking one and Jepsen giving up one hit and striking out one.

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