Angels’ Albert Pujols not bothered by slow start
MINNEAPOLIS — There have been far more ground balls to the left side than line drives to the gaps, but Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, who is batting .217 after Thursday’s 10-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins, is not overly concerned about his slow start.
“Not to be cocky, but I know I can hit. I showed that in spring, I’ve shown that for 11 years, and it’s not going to go away like that,” Pujols said, snapping his fingers. “I’m trying to stay inside the ball and not think too much. But I think that’s what’s been going on the last few days; I’m thinking too much.”
Pujols is one of baseball’s most feared sluggers, but one week into his 10-year, $240-million deal with the Angels, he’s no different from many teammates trying to find their swings. In 26 plate appearances, Pujols has hit eight grounders to the left side and four infield popups.
“You look at our lineup, nobody is hitting good, we haven’t clicked,” Pujols said. “You have a tendency to try to do too much the first week of the season, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Pujols recalled a slow start in 2003, when he hit .241 in his first eight games and went on to hit a National League-leading .359 with 43 home runs, 51 doubles and 124 runs batted in.
Pujols, 32, hit .267 with nine homers and 31 RBIs last April and May but snapped out of his funk, batting .318 with 28 homers and 68 RBIs from June 1 on. He hit .353 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 18 postseason games to help the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series.
Pujols led the American League with seven homers and an .850 slugging percentage this spring.
“I went through a rough start last year and learned from it,” Pujols said. “I had a good spring and took it into the season, but obviously my numbers don’t show that. … I can’t think about my numbers, just how many wins we have.”
On to New York
Pujols will play his first games this weekend in the new Yankee Stadium, where he will hold a news conference Friday to accommodate the large number of New York-area media requests.
Pujols played only three regular-season games in old Yankee Stadium, going three for 10 with a homer in 2003, and he was two for three in the 2008 All-Star game there.
“No disrespect, but I look at it as just another city, another stadium,” Pujols said. “I try to separate off-the-field stuff with preparation. Yeah, it’s a big city, it’s Yankee Stadium, we’re facing the Yankees, but to me that doesn’t matter.”
Pujols moved to the Bronx from the Dominican Republic when he was 16 but lived there for only six weeks in the winter before moving to the Kansas City area, so he never attended a game in Yankee Stadium as a kid.
His first major league game was an Angels-Royals game in 1996, when Angels center fielder Jim Edmonds made a spectacular diving catch on the warning track in Kauffman Stadium.
“That was an unbelievable catch,” said Pujols, who later became a Cardinals teammate of Edmonds.
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