05/23/12 12:27 AM ET
Pujols showing signs of regaining form
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
"Tony is somebody that I respect," Pujols said. "He's like a dad to me. But only God knows my swing better than myself."
And that's why Pujols -- not La Russa, and not even new hitting coach Jim Eppard -- is really the only man who can help get himself out of this early-season skid.
The Angels' first baseman came into Tuesday's contest against the A's with a .212/.256/.318 slash line through 42 games, with three homers, 18 RBIs and an OPS (.573) that was better than only 12 Major League qualifiers. But a sacrifice fly and a towering solo homer in his first two plate appearances gave him 16 RBIs this month -- after ending April in a 14-game RBI drought -- as he continues to display more flashes of the great hitter he's always been.
The key is consistency -- the consistency that made him so great through 11 years in St. Louis and the one that has eluded him so far this season.
And the key to finding that, Pujols believes, is simplicity. As he said, "When your swing is right, you don't think. That's the beautiful thing."
"Hitting is hard, but you have to keep it simple," Pujols added. "As much as you know it's hard, you have to really keep it simple and go out there and swing. Sometimes, you're going to feel good. Most of the time, you don't. The times that you don't feel good is when you have to survive and get that streak going."
Heading into the second game of a three-game series at Oakland Coliseum, Pujols had been behind in the count in 64 of his 180 plate appearances (batting .156 in that situation), had hit an inordinate number of balls to the left side (causing several teams to shift) and had drawn only 10 walks.
"I was probably expanding the strike zone a little bit more if you look at it," Pujols said, "and my walks can tell you everything."
But he believes he's past that now. He believes he's more patient, not trying to do too much and, he hopes, getting to a point where he can consistently produce at the rate he's accustomed.
"Right now, I'm putting good swings," Pujols said. "Whenever it clicks, it clicks. Sometimes it takes awhile, sometimes it doesn't. As long as you don't beat yourself down and continue to press, and just go out there and get ready every day, I think that's the big thing."
Kendrys struggling from right side of plate
OAKLAND -- Sometimes it looks like Kendrys Morales is two different hitters -- the one who hits left-handed and the one who hits right-handed.
The Angels' designated hitter hardly starts when an opposing lefty is on the mound -- manager Mike Scioscia uses those as his off-days to keep him fresh -- but it's evident when he does that his timing isn't the same. Heading into Tuesday's game against A's righty Graham Godfrey, Morales was hitting .309 (29-for-94) from the left side but had only three hits and no walks in his 20 plate appearances from the right.
Switch-hitters usually struggle most from the right side simply because they see right-handed pitchers more frequently. For Morales, who missed the previous 1 1/2 seasons and hardly starts when an opposing lefty is on the mound, hitting from the right side can be an even bigger challenge.
"It had been a long time since I hit from the right side," said Morales, who went 0-for-4 when starting against A's lefty Tommy Milone on Monday. "It's normal for it to be like that. There are times when I have started against a lefty, but they're very few and far between and usually it's only one at-bat. It's very difficult to adjust like that, but I think I'll get there."
Aybar exits game after hit by pitch
OAKLAND -- Erick Aybar left Tuesday's game against the A's with a right knee injury, suffered on a seventh-inning hit-by-pitch, but the Angels diagnosed it as a bruise and the switch-hitting shortstop isn't expected to miss any time.
Manager Mike Scioscia actually expects him to play on Wednesday afternoon.
"He'll be fine," Scioscia said after his club's 5-0 win at Oakland Coliseum. "We think he'll be OK tomorrow. It just hit him in a weird spot outside of his knee that got a little sore, a little numb, but he'll be OK."
With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh, Aybar was hit by a fastball from A's reliever Jim Miller, causing him to buckle to the ground in pain before walking gingerly off the field with help from the Angels' medical staff.
Aybar, signed to a four-year extension in mid-April, was batting only .230 on the year but came into Tuesday's game 9-for-18 in his previous four contests. Scioscia doesn't expect Aybar to undergo any X-rays.
Albert Pujols' third-inning home run Tuesday shortened the list of teams he has yet to hit a home run against to two -- the Orioles and his former club, the Cardinals.
Kole Calhoun made his Major League debut in Tuesday's 5-0 win, checking in as a defensive replacement in right field to relieve Mark Trumbo before the bottom of the ninth.
Angels catcher Chris Iannetta is still wearing a guard on his right wrist, on which he had surgery May 11 to knock him out for 6-8 weeks.
"I can't do anything," he said. "Just stay in shape."
Reliever LaTroy Hawkins (broken right pinkie) continues to throw lightly off flat ground but is also weeks away from getting back.
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.