04/22/12 1:17 AM ET
Hunter warned Pujols about marine-layer effect
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
Hunter brushed it off -- until he realized how much of a factor it really was.
Now the same is happening with Albert Pujols.
"I told him that in Spring Training," Hunter recalled. "He's like, 'Really?' But you don't really know until you go through it."
Oh, Pujols has gone through it, all right.
He ended Saturday's game against the Orioles with a 61-at-bat homerless streak, the longest of his career to start a season. But for at least four straight nights, he has hit balls that have looked like homers off the bat. There was one to deep center field on Wednesday, the line drive that was six inches from going over the left-field fence on Thursday, the bomb he hit to deep left-center field but was caught just below the "387" sign on Friday, and a foul ball down the left-field line on Saturday.
After Friday's latest close call, Pujols viciously clapped his hands in frustration. He simply couldn't believe it.
Hunter estimates that the marine layer during night games at Angel Stadium can take away 15 feet from a ball.
"You really have to hit it flush and hard," Hunter said. "If you have [Mark] Trumbo pop, it doesn't matter. But it's weird because that marine layer is real."
Hunter averaged one home run every 21.1 at-bats with the Twins from 2001-07, but 24.2 in his first four years with the Angels -- and he'll tell you age had little to do with it.
But as the temperature rises and the humidity lessens, the marine layer becomes less intimidating. To right field, where the stands are higher, the ball carries normally. And during the day, the ball can really carry.
"Day games, I think you're going to see everybody swinging for the fences," Hunter said. "That's the time."
And it's not like Pujols is used to hitting in a launching pad. Angel Stadium ranked 25th in the Majors in homers according to ESPN's Park Factors, but Busch Stadium -- his old home ballpark in St. Louis -- ranked 27th.
To Pujols' benefit, he's more of a line-drive hitter than a home run hitter.
"He's definitely that guy who can go gap to gap and occasionally hit a homer -- he just happens to get 40 of them a year," Hunter said, laughing. "But when you're a line-drive hitter like that, doubles guy, those become homers."
Segura's future with Angels now hazy
ANAHEIM -- When the Angels spent $68.5 million to lock up shortstop Erick Aybar and second baseman Howie Kendrick, it meant stability in their middle infield through at least 2015 -- and insecurity surrounding the future of middle-infield prospect Jean Segura.
Segura, 22, was ranked by MLB.com as the Angels' second-best prospect heading into the season, then turned heads with his performance in Spring Training and was looking like a viable fallback option if the Angels couldn't work something out with Aybar, who avoided free agency by signing a four-year, $33.5 million extension on Thursday.
"What you can't do is build a roster toward the idea of waiting for prospects or players to arrive," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "What you can do is when they arrive, you make room for them to play. Jean's got a unique skill set, in that he has enough snap in his bat that there's other options that can present themselves."
The more likely scenario, though, is that Segura will eventually become a trade chip, considering he doesn't seem to have a role in the big league club, and his value should only increase with a healthy season of Double-A this year.
Dipoto, however, won't go into that.
"I don't look at players that way at all," he said. "First you identify the players you're trying to pursue, and a trade is a two-way street."
For now, Segura will continue doing the same thing he would've been doing if Aybar had not signed his extension -- continue to play shortstop regularly at Double-A Arkansas, while occasionally playing some second and third base to stay versatile.
"Jean needs reps," Dipoto said. "He needs to prove the ability to play every day."
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, Segura has always had promise with his speed, approach, arm strength and sneaky power. But he was initially moved to second base, and hamstring issues limited him to just 52 games in his first season back at shortstop last season.
Because of that, the likelier scenario was that Segura -- with a .240/.296/.300 slash line through his first 13 games of 2012 -- wouldn't have been ready to be the Angels' everyday shortstop for the start of next season.
So, rather than wait on Segura, the Angels chose to act now with Aybar -- and got a pretty team-friendly contract out of it.
"Thrilled to have him, but it's not like we had an ETA on Jean taking over every day at shortstop to begin with," Dipoto said. "He's a very good young player. He's got a tremendous upside. That being said, there's two levels between he and the Major Leagues. We're here to compete and contend for a championship. Erick's the shortstop on this club, and Jean was not a factor at all in our negotiations."
Cassevah not yet ready to be activated
ANAHEIM -- Angels reliever Bobby Cassevah was expected to pitch on back-to-back days for the first time on Saturday, but that will not mark the final stage of his rehab.
Cassevah, who began the season on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, had previously made five one-inning appearances for Class A Inland Empire -- totaling one run on four hits and two walks -- and debuted at Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday, hurling a scoreless frame despite giving up two hits and a walk.
The sinkerballer has long been eligible to be activated from the disabled list and help the Angels' struggling bullpen, but he still needs more time.
"This is Bobby Cassevah's Spring Training," Dipoto said. "He needs work."
Cassevah, who posted a 2.72 ERA in 30 big league appearances last season, didn't pitch and hardly threw during Spring Training. When he does get activated, he'll likely replace another ground-ball pitcher, rookie reliever David Carpenter.
"He's still working on location," Scioscia said of Cassevah. "The life is back on his fastball, he's got good sink. He just has to refine it."
On Sunday, prior to the 12:35 p.m. PT series finale against the Orioles, the Angels and the Angels Baseball Foundation will host FanFest, which gives fans a chance to meet their favorite players, coaches, alumni and broadcasters. FanFest will open with the start of their annual 5K at 7 a.m. and will close at 12:30. Players are expected to arrive at approximately 9:30.
Despite his homerless drought to start the season, Albert Pujols has reached base in every game.
The Angels own a five-game home winning streak against the Orioles, in which they've outscored Baltimore 36-18 in that span.
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.