06/07/12 3:06 AM ET
Pujols to man hot corner vs. Rox, Dodgers
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
The Angels have six straight road games coming up against National League teams, in Colorado and Los Angeles, and the last thing manager Mike Scioscia wants to do is relegate designated hitter Kendrys Morales to bench duty for that entire time. So, against the Rockies and Dodgers, Morales can expect to see time at first base, with Albert Pujols transitioning to third.
For Morales, it will mark a return to a position he hasn't played since shattering his left ankle in May 2010.
And for Pujols -- who came up as a shortstop, has played plenty of outfield and spent some time at third base as recently as last year -- moving around is nothing all that new.
"I remember I used to carry four gloves with me -- middle infield, first base, third base and an outfield glove," said Pujols, who spent 96 games at the hot corner during his first two years in the Majors and made seven appearances there last year, while David Freese was hurt.
"It doesn't make any difference to me. I was a shortstop. My dad and everybody said, 'If you can play shortstop, you can play any position.' So I don't have any problem playing [third base]."
It was Pujols who volunteered to move across the diamond against NL opponents so that Morales can find his way into the lineup. Scioscia believes Morales is "moving well enough to handle a position," but probably won't start him there more than twice over the next week.
"I don't think it's something you really want to overplay right now," Scioscia said, "but you don't want him sitting for six days."
"It's going to be my first game there in more than two years," Morales added in Spanish, "but I'm mentally and physically ready for it if they need me there."
Morales has been getting work at first base for a little over a month now, fielding grounders, covering the bag and starting double plays during batting practice. The Angels stayed away from any defensive work during Spring Training, preferring that he just worry about getting his timing back in the batter's box since Pujols was going to play first base every day.
But adjusting to a DH role, at age 28, presented a challenge in itself.
"That's hard," said Morales, who has undergone two ankle surgeries. "I'm still pretty young. It's not easy to get used to something like that when you're used to playing every day. But with time, you can adjust to anything."
Scioscia reiterates confidence in Santana
ANAHEIM -- Garrett Richards was dominant in his first Major League start of 2012 on Tuesday, and Ervin Santana has had a rough start to the season. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia said thoughts of putting Santana in the bullpen and leaving Richards in the rotation when Jered Weaver returns from the disabled list are premature.
"We're not contemplating anything like that," Scioscia said prior to Wednesday's series finale against the Mariners. "It's great to have that depth in the rotation, it's great to see what Garrett did. Ervin is a guy that we're counting very heavily on and have a lot of confidence that he's going to pitch more to his ability than what we saw, maybe, the last couple of starts. That's where we're at right now. Your rotation certainly evolves at certain points in the season, but right now we're not contemplating anything but getting Ervin back on track and hopefully Garrett contributing when he's getting the ball."
Richards, who came into the season as the No. 2-ranked prospect in the Angels' farm system, pitched seven innings of one-run ball on Tuesday, striking out eight, walking two and scattering four hits. Santana, meanwhile, leads the Majors in homers allowed (16), is tied for the lead in losses (seven), sports a 5.33 ERA and has walked 14 batters over his last 14 2/3 innings.
Richards may get a couple more turns in the rotation before the return of Weaver, who's nursing a lower back strain and is probably a little less than a week from getting on a mound again. Richards would need to stay stretched out and likely wouldn't be an option for the bullpen, either.
But Scioscia isn't thinking that far ahead just yet.
"These things are all things that are going to be addressed at the right time," he said. "Right now, we're far from having to contemplate anything like that."
Angels ace Jered Weaver (lower back strain) amped up his long-tossing on Wednesday, throwing from 250-300 feet, and could throw his first bullpen session in less than a week. Weaver, who hasn't been experiencing any next-day soreness, anticipates needing two or three bullpen sessions before being ready to return to the rotation.
Catcher Chris Iannetta (right wrist surgery) took batting practice on the field for the first time on Tuesday and is slated to throw to bases on Thursday, in what could be his final hurdle before beginning a rehab assignment over the weekend, according to Scioscia.
"He's been keeping his legs in shape, he's been able to catch 'pens, done a lot of the fundamental things that a catcher needs to do in these last 10 days or so," Scioscia said. "Now he's getting some stamina in his arm, some good long-toss, and once his arm feels it's ready to go, that'll be a huge hurdle."
LaTroy Hawkins (broken right pinkie) is scheduled to pitch in what could be his final rehab appearance for Triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday.
Kendrys Morales went 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs in Wednesday's 8-6 loss to the Mariners. The Angels' designated hitter is now batting .320 (17-for-53) with four homers, 14 RBIs and 12 runs scored over his last 13 games.
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.