Angels' Albert Pujols gets first day off; Josh Hamilton nears return

Albert Pujols gets the night off as #Angels face Seattle #Mariners

Albert Pujols was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season Thursday night, but the Angels first baseman said it was a scheduled day off and that he has not been slowed by any kind of injury.

“They told me [Wednesday] that no matter what, it was going to be a day off,” Pujols said before Thursday night’s game against the Seattle Mariners in Safeco Field. “They don’t even want me to hit. I’m just going to go to the cage and get loose. I’m not taking batting practice, either.”

Pujols is batting .262 with a team-leading 14 home runs, 14 doubles and 32 runs batted in, but he had had only one hit in 13 at-bats in four games before his RBI double in the ninth inning broke up Felix Hernandez’s shutout Wednesday night.

But Manager Mike Scioscia said he didn’t necessarily see something in Pujols’ recent swing or the way he is running or playing defense that suggested he needed Thursday night off.

“With Albert, obviously, he’s been in every game, and to just get him a chance to recharge is important,” Scioscia said. “There are a lot of guys who have played a lot. Albert would play until the cows came home, but it’s time for him to take a day today. He definitely benefits from exhaling and resting.”

With Pujols out, Scioscia moved Mike Trout from second to third in the order, dropped Howie Kendrick from the leadoff to the fifth spot and moved Kole Calhoun back into the leadoff spot for the first time since he returned from a right ankle sprain on May 21.

The Angels could also get their cleanup batter, Josh Hamilton, back soon. The left fielder, out since April 9 because of a torn left-thumb ligament, hit in the cage and took batting practice on the field Thursday.

Barring setback, Scioscia said, Hamilton -- who is also recovering from a bone bruise in his left thumb -- could resume his rehabilitation stint with triple-A Salt Lake on Friday and join the Angels next week in Houston.

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