OAKLAND -- Maybe some began to doubt Albert Pujols when he struggled to begin the 2012 season, perhaps thinking that he wouldn't be able to produce the way that his massive new contract said he should.
Don't count Mike Scioscia among that group.
The Angels' manager said that even as Pujols wasn't looking like himself at the start of the season -- the slugger's batting average sunk as low as .192 on May 13 -- Scioscia had confidence that the star would soon get back to his All-Star ways.
"We knew at some point he was going to go, and I think a lot was magnified early in the season," Scioscia said. "Your statistics are bare, they're out there. I don't know if there's quite a stretch he's ever gone through like that. But I think that if you look at the variables, it's something that I think if you were going to say, 'Is this explainable or is it an enigma?' It was definitely explainable, and I think that's what we've seen."
Instead of dwelling on how Pujols opened the year, Scioscia is probably just happy to see the way he's been producing lately. The first baseman is fresh off winning American League Player of the Week honors after batting .424 with five doubles and six home runs in seven games for the period ending August 5.
Along with several other hitters finding their stroke, Scioscia credited Pujols' return to form as a big reason in helping the Angels turn around their season.
Scioscia hopes off-day helps reset flailing 'pen
OAKLAND -- After Jered Weaver's shutout on Monday, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it shouldn't take long for some of the pitchers in the club's beleaguered bullpen to reset, and Weaver's outing would help.
But C.J. Wilson followed Weaver's effort with just five innings on Tuesday, and the bullpen was taxed again, with three relievers combining to give up four runs. That pushed the total to 27 earned runs allowed in 24 1/3 innings in the first nine games of the 10-game road trip that wrapped up with Wednesday's series finale against the A's.
So how does Scioscia feel about the bullpen's status at this point? A little better, with the team going into a much-needed off-day on Thursday.
"The guys we know we have confidence in that are going to hold leads for us, they're fine," Scioscia said. "They should be fine now, especially with the off-day tomorrow. Hopefully they've reset and we'll be able to monitor and manage it moving forward."
But that came with the caveat that some of Scioscia's other arms have some "wear" on them, an issue exacerbated by the fact that they've been used more than he would like recently due to short outings from starters. The manager noted that usage like that can lead to pitchers' stuff being less sharp, and he's seen of some of that with the 'pen.
Scioscia, too, was quick to point to those issues with the larger staff, calling it "misleading" to just focus on the relievers due to the starters' problems getting deep into games. Other than Weaver's nine-inning effort on Monday, only two outings have gone longer than six innings in nine games of the road trip.
"Even if it's a game you end up not winning, you need starters, to a certain point, to stay in the game and hopefully have a chance to come back," Scioscia said. "We've been having trouble minimizing damage and some games have gotten a little out of hand."
Iannetta, Greinke developing feel for each other
OAKLAND -- When a team adds a high-profile pitcher, most of the focus goes right to his on-field performance. Zack Greinke falls into that category, and his results so far were mixed heading into his third outing against the A's on Wednesday.
But lost in the stats is the development of the pitcher-catcher relationship, a critical element in a hurler's overall success. A move to a new new team brought a new backstop for Greinke, as well as a new arm for catcher Chris Iannetta.
Iannetta said the process is an everyday thing, occurring every time he and Greinke talk, toss or work together. So far, though, so good.
"I don't think we've really had any issue," Iannetta said. "The first two innings of the first game were a little slow, just getting on the same page, but after that it started flowing a lot better. I started getting a feel of what he liked to do. It's going to continue to get better over time."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia knows all about the issue, having spent 13 years in the big leagues a catcher himself.
Scioscia emphasized that the pitcher-catcher relationship is important in the organization's philosophy, but that he knows it's always being worked on. In fact, he said he was still developing a rapport with pitchers that he had worked with for 10 years during his career.
"Get the right location on the right count, getting a good visual, let them execute a pitch, and then all those other things will start to fall in place," Scioscia said. "I think [Iannetta and Greinke] are on the same page as far as that regard, but it's a work in progress, and it will be for a while until you find some chemistry, and then you keep building on that."
Right-hander Jordan Walden threw his second bullpen session in three days on Wednesday, and Scioscia said it's likely Walden will now go on a rehab assignment, provided no problems arise in his recovery from the throwing session. Walden has been on the 15-day disabled list since July 15 with a strained right biceps.
After lasting just three innings in his outing on Monday for Triple-A Salt Lake City due to left knee soreness, right-hander Garrett Richards is fine to make his next start.
The Angels released catcher Robinzon Diaz and right-hander Francisco Rodriguez from Salt Lake City.
Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.