02/28/12 8:09 PM EST
Angels targeting 162 games for Pujols
DH provides slugger with another option for at-bats
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
There's one thing he has never done, though: play all 162 games in a season.
But yet, 162 was a number Angels manager Mike Scioscia volunteered when talking about his new first baseman recently -- as in the number of games he's counting on Pujols' bat to be in the lineup. Pujols may be getting up there in age -- he turned 32 in mid-January -- and may have missed time on the disabled list last year, but now that he's in the American League with the designated hitter as a resource, Pujols has an added avenue to keep himself fresh.
And the Angels certainly have plenty of first basemen to fill in for him.
"I'm hoping if Albert is injury-free all year, which is obviously what you hope for, that he's going to hit in 162 games," Scioscia recently said. "Obviously, we have to split that up with how much is going to be first base, how much is going to be DH. I think he's at his best when he gets to play first base because he's a presence at first base. How many games that's going to be, I don't know. But our priority is going to be having him in our lineup as our first baseman."
Pujols has been one of baseball's most durable players since reaching the Majors in 2001, averaging 155 games per season through his first 11 years and playing in no less than 147 (last year's total) throughout every campaign.
Pujols played in 161 games twice in his career (in '01 and '05) and 160 just two seasons ago.
"You always prepare yourself mentally to play every day, and I've had that mentality from the Minor Leagues to the first day in the Majors," Pujols said Tuesday. "You prepare your body hard during the offseason to prepare yourself for the regular season. That's my goal -- to stay healthy and do the best I can to take this team to the next level."
But while 162 may only be a number, having Pujols' bat in the lineup on a consistent basis throughout the season will pay huge dividends for an offense that ranked ninth in the AL in runs last year. And keeping him healthy throughout the tenure of a 10-year, $240 million contract is imperative.
That's why the DH can be such a valuable tool for Pujols -- this season and in the future.
"I don't make that decision," said Pujols, who has hit .360 with four homers in 12 career games as a DH. "If I am in at DH, then that's fine, because I've done it and I've never had a problem with it."
Are Angels gaining on Dodgers in LA rivalry?
TEMPE, Ariz. -- With the Angels signing two marquee players this offseason, and the Dodgers still trying to sift through their ownership situation, the question beckons: Does Southern California still belong to the Dodgers?
Prompted about that on Tuesday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said his team still rules the Southland.
"It's like the Mets and the Yankees," Mattingly said. "The Yankees are the team. I'm not badmouthing the Angels at all and Mr. [Arte] Moreno and Mike [Scioscia] do a great job and had a great run, but we're the Dodgers and that's not going to change."
The Dodgers, formerly of Brooklyn, certainly have the edge in history.
The Angels are the last Southern California team to win a World Series (in 2002), but since the franchise's start in 1961, they've been beaten out by the Dodgers in basically every aspect -- playoff appearances (16-9), pennants (8-1), championships (4-1) and, for every season until 2011, overall attendance.
"I know what he's trying to say because there's a lot of history there," said second baseman Howie Kendrick, who has spent his entire career with the Angels. "[The Dodgers] have a lot of fans -- L.A., Hollywood area. But at the same time, with all we've done this year, I'd say there's a lot of Angels fans, too."
In many ways, the Dodgers' standing as the most popular team in Los Angeles may never change, especially since the Angels reside in Anaheim. But now, with Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson on board with the Angels, and an ongoing bankruptcy sale impacting the Dodgers' payroll, perhaps things can start swaying in the Angels' direction.
Mattingly, whose playing days coincided with his Yankees on a dry spell and the Mets winning the 1986 World Series, doesn't think so.
"At the end of the day," he said, "the Dodgers are the Dodgers."
But right-hander Dan Haren kind of disagrees, saying Dodgers-Angels is "kind of closer" than Yankees-Mets.
"I guess it's kind of the same situation like with the Lakers, and now the Clippers are a better team -- but I think our tradition is a little better than the Clippers'," Haren said. "[The Dodgers and Angels] draw so many fans on the field and they usually put a good product out on the field. There are, it seems like, just as many passionate Angels fans now as Dodgers fans. It's just, we're more located east of L.A., the Orange County area."
Callaspo unsure of role on retooled roster
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Albert Pujols signing has created a domino effect, one where a multitude of former fixtures are unsure what role they'll play in the early stages of Angels camp. Alberto Callaspo, the club's starting third baseman last year, is no exception.
"I've always started out that way and I end up playing," Callaspo said in Spanish. "I'm hoping they give me a chance to play regularly this year, but well, we'll see. ... Those are things that happen. It's all for the good of the team."
Callaspo was signed by the Angels out of Venezuela in 2001, then reacquired from the Royals in July 2010. Last year, in his first full Major League season in Anaheim, the 28-year-old batted .288 with six homers, 46 RBIs and 23 doubles while making 125 starts at the hot corner.
But now Mark Trumbo is trying to make the switch to third base, at least on a part-time basis, and the Angels also have Maicer Izturis as an infielder. With Scott Sizemore out for year with a torn ACL, Callaspo's name also has been thrown around as a potential trade chip for the Athletics.
"I'm just relaxed," Callaspo said, "waiting to see what happens and waiting for them to give me the opportunity to do my job."
Callaspo spent the offseason in Venezuela, playing winter ball but only as a designated hitter because of tendinitis in his throwing shoulder. The switch-hitter says his arm is good to go now, though.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.