07/24/12 2:22 AM ET
Don't look now, but Pujols is hitting like ... Pujols
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
But since May 16, Pujols' 1.034 OPS ranks seventh in the Majors. And his current stat line -- .280 batting average, 18 homers, 60 RBIs -- inspires one to believe his year-end totals can be very close to Pujols-like if he continues his current pace.
"It doesn't surprise me," Pujols said in Spanish on Monday, prior to a three-game series against a Royals team he grew up watching. "That's the dedication and the time that I put in this game. And I've said it to you all year -- I told you in April, just like I'm telling you today, like I'll say next month, like I'll say in Spring Training -- the season is very long. Sometimes in this game, it has to go bad in order for you to do better later. I never worried about the numbers."
But Pujols will readily admit that he was putting too much pressure on himself early on, as evidenced by going 29 games with only three walks. Many looked at those numbers and figured Pujols was now in decline and that the 10-year, $240 million contract would be a giant burden for owner Arte Moreno.
The verdict is still out on that, but Pujols will point to similar struggles in past years, particularly the last one.
"The thing is, it's happened during the season, not the first month," Pujols said. "But I don't worry about that. I don't worry about the numbers or anything like that. What I'm thinking is this: What can I do tonight against Kansas City to help my team win? And that's my focus every day. I'm not a player who's selfish. I think about my teammates, about this organization and about the great team Mr. Moreno put together so that we have a chance to win a championship this year."
The Angels have a chance at that, in part because their offense is a lot more functional now with Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo thriving.
Those two, especially the 20-year-old Trout, have dominated the attention while Pujols has somehow slid into the background, with fans ever so captivated by what's new and different and fresh. Over his last 53 games, Pujols is batting .338 with 15 homers and 42 RBIs, including five homers in his last 10 contests.
He's done it rather quietly, though.
"I don't need to prove to anyone what I can do, because everyone already knows what I can do," Pujols said. "If I would've come here and hit .500 in April, everyone would've said, 'Oh, that was the same Albert that we all know.' But look at what I've done since then. Now everybody's like, 'Oh, he's back, he's back.' I've always been there. It's just that baseball is like this."
Angels deal for D-backs' ex-big leaguer Enright
ANAHEIM -- The Angels took a step toward addressing their thin organizational starting pitching depth on Monday night, acquiring Minor League right-hander Barry Enright from the D-backs in exchange for a player to be named or cash considerations.
Enright, who will start for Triple-A Salt Lake and will not initially be on the Angels' 40-man roster, has spent the 2012 season with the Triple-A Reno Aces of the Pacific Coast League, going 8-6 with a 5.87 ERA in 21 starts.
Enright, 26, made 17 starts in the big leagues in 2010 (posting a 3.91 ERA) and seven starts in 2011 (7.41 ERA).
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who knows Enright from his time with the Arizona, said he "can command four pitches" and described him as a "good teammate and quality makeup guy who does the little things well," such as fielding his position, holding runners, etc.
Selected by the D-backs in the second round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Enright went to Pepperdine, tallying 35 wins in three seasons.
"I'll miss my teammates and the D-backs family," Enright wrote in a text message to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez. "They have been great to me through ups and downs. Ready and excited for a fresh start. Go Angels!"
Angels await X-ray results to determine Aybar move
ANAHEIM -- Saturday's X-ray showed a "line" in the right big toe of shortstop Erick Aybar, but the Angels haven't determined whether that represents a fracture that could put him on the shelf for at least a couple of weeks.
So, they'll wait -- and hold out hope.
Aybar is still listed as day to day and will be re-evaluated on Wednesday, with the club waiting on team doctor Lewis Yocum to read the results and determine whether the shortstop needs to go on their disabled list.
"If he can improve enough, hopefully we can avoid the disabled list, but he's still sore," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said prior to Monday's series opener against the Royals.
"Right now, we've got infield coverage and the day off Thursday. Pitching looks like it's hopefully still fresh to get us through the off-day. The big thing is not how much we can wait, but what is a reasonable amount of time for Erick. Is this going to take two days or two weeks? That's what we're trying to work through right now."
In the meantime, the Angels have Maicer Izturis to start at shortstop and have called up top prospect Jean Segura, who can play both middle-infield positions and provide depth.
Aybar, in a walking boot Monday, hurt the toe on a foul ball during Saturday's game against the Rangers and Yu Darvish. Signed to a four-year extension in April, Aybar got off to a really slow start and, despite picking it up a little recently, is batting .257 with a .296 on-base percentage on the year.
If Aybar is placed on the DL, the Angels would probably call up another reliever.
Jepsen once again a key arm in Angels bullpen
ANAHEIM -- It took four months longer than they expected, but Kevin Jepsen seems to have worked himself into the role the Angels envisioned coming out of Spring Training.
Jepsen gave up nine earned runs in seven innings during his first nine appearances of the season, leading to a Minor League demotion in early May. Since rejoining the team in early July, though, the 27-year-old right-hander has hurled 6 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and one walk while striking out seven.
Now, Angels manager Mike Scioscia is using Jepsen -- and his upper-90s fastball -- as his main bridge to the dynamic 1-2 punch of Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri.
"Putting Kevin back into that mix definitely gives you two power right-handed arms that you can sandwich around Scotty Downs," Scioscia said. "That's a good place to be when you're matching up like we are right now."
Jepsen, fully recovered from knee issues that derailed him in 2011, looked sharp in Spring Training, prompting the Angels to believe he was back to being the guy who posted a 3.97 ERA and 9.3 strikeout-per-nine ratio as a key bullpen cog in 2010.
What's he doing now that he wasn't at the beginning of the season?
"Just commanding the baseball better," Scioscia said. "I think his cutter's more consistent, his fastball, obviously, the velocity's there. He's getting in the zone early and making good pitches."
Angels director of pro scouting Hal Morris was among those in attendance for Josh Johnson's start in Miami on Monday, when the Marlins right-hander gave up just one hit and struck out nine in six innings. The Marlins, who sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Tigers for Jacob Turner on Monday, appear to be sellers and could move Johnson before the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31.
After Sunday night's game, Rangers manager Ron Washington scoffed at the lofty Trout comparisons, saying: "He's not Willie Mays. He's a pretty good player, but I think the comparisons have to stop. Let the kid play. When he's been here five years, six years, then you can start doing that."
Scioscia essentially agreed.
"Wash is saying the same thing we're saying," Scioscia said. "We're saying, for a guy to reach some of the things that those guys in baseball immortals have done, it has to stand the test of time. When you talk about what is the kind of player Mike reminds you of, or the tool set, I think that's where he's getting compared to guys, not anything that's being ordained as to where he's going to end up."
Jerome Williams will basically be working as a long man out of the bullpen in the meantime, but Scioscia continues to say that he has a chance to "earn a spot and get a spot back in the rotation."
The Angels' 16th annual Canned Food Drive, held this weekend in conjunction with Wells Fargo, raised $3,710 and 2,687 pounds of food. With Wells Fargo matching the contributions, that accounts to 24,505 meals.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.