4/3/2014 3:02 A.M. ET
New sign tracks countdown to Pujols' 500th homer
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Right behind Section 249, left of the scoreboard, above the grassy area in center field and below the flags at Angel Stadium, sits a 10-foot sign that will count down Albert Pujols' quest to reach 500 career home runs.
Pujols was eight away when the Angels and Mariners took the field for Wednesday night's series finale, but he's never comfortable when the focus shifts to his individual accomplishments.
"Let's wait until I hit it," Pujols said. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to be pretty emotional about it -- but it depends how it happens, too."
Meaning he'll talk openly about it if it comes as part of an Angels win and probably dismiss it if it comes in a loss.
"My focus is on helping this team win," said Pujols, who's also one RBI shy of joining Alex Rodriguez as the two active players with 1,500. "I'm going to have plenty of time, hopefully after I retire, to look at everything I've accomplished in this game. Right now, my goal is to try to win championships and hopefully stay healthy."
Pujols, 34, looked primed to reach 500 homers last season, until a partial tear of his left plantar fascia ended his season on July 26, with a career-low 17 home runs. When he reaches 500, he'll be the 26th player in history to reach the milestone -- with an additional seven years in his contract to keep adding on.
"We'll talk when it happens," Pujols said. "Hopefully it happens soon and we can talk about it and get it over with."
De La Rosa, Burnett throw in simulated game
ANAHEIM -- Key relievers Dane De La Rosa and Sean Burnett took important steps in their respective rehab programs while participating in simulated games at Angel Stadium early Wednesday afternoon.
De La Rosa, who has already appeared in a couple of Minor League games, threw roughly 35 pitches in the bullpen and 25 more to hitters who knew what was coming ahead of time. When the Angels venture on a six-game road trip through Houston and Seattle starting Friday, De La Rosa will go on a rehab assignment with Double-A Arkansas to appear in two or three games.
His hope is to be activated by the Angels' next home game, April 11 against the Mets.
"I'm getting antsy," said De La Rosa, who's working his way back from a right forearm strain suffered March 6. "When we get everybody healthy, together at the same time, we're going to be a shutdown bullpen."
Burnett threw 30-some pitches in the bullpen and another 15 in the sim game. It was his first time facing hitters since May 26, 2013, and he called it "the biggest hurdle I think I can possibly clear." Burnett will throw in another sim game in Arizona in two days, then hope to go out on a rehab assignment after that.
"I couldn't throw the ball much better than I did today," Burnett said. "Now it's just arm strength, building up to 25, 30 pitches."
The Angels' bullpen has started the year by giving up 12 runs over 10 innings through the first three games, essentially turning small deficits into blowout losses. Kevin Jepsen and Nick Maronde gave up six runs in Monday's ninth inning, Michael Kohn gave up two runs in Tuesday's ninth, and Fernando Salas allowed two runs in Wednesday's sixth.
Closer Ernesto Frieri (10 scoreless outings in the spring) and setup man Joe Smith (signed to a three-year, $15.75 million contract in the offseason) only pitched the last two innings on Wednesday because they had gone too long without making their first appearances. When they did, the game was pretty much out of reach.
"If you establish that depth, you might see those guys eventually holding deficits," manager Mike Scioscia said. "With Dane De La Rosa and Sean Burnett hopefully coming back, there's a possibility you're going to see some really good arms that are going to be holding deficits. If it can evolve to that, great. But right now, we really need Joe and we really need Ernie to hold leads."
Shoemaker provides length in bullpen
ANAHEIM -- Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher grabbed Matt Shoemaker as he was making his way into the clubhouse after Saturday's Freeway Series game against the Dodgers to tell him he made the team.
"I didn't cry, but I wanted to," Shoemaker said. "Adrenaline took over. I shook his hand and I started shaking. It's a lifetime dream to be here, and it's just the ultimate excitement factor."
Shoemaker, 27, had gone from not being invited to Spring Training in 2013 to making his first Opening Day roster in 2014, a result of Dane De La Rosa and Sean Burnett still rehabbing and Shoemaker's impressive spring (four runs, one walk, 12 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings).
Then, in Tuesday's 8-3 loss to the Mariners, the right-hander relieved C.J. Wilson and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up just one hit and striking out two.
Shoemaker has spent the past two years in Triple-A Salt Lake's starting rotation, minus the five scoreless innings he pitched in a start with the Angels last year. The prevailing thought is that Shoemaker will be the first reliever to be sent down, probably when De La Rosa makes his expected return on April 11.
But he provides something no other arm in the Angels' bullpen does -- length.
The rotation has two pitchers with historically high walk rates, in Wilson and Hector Santiago, and a left-hander who's only 22 years old (Tyler Skaggs). So, the Angels may need a reliever to pick up multiple innings, like Shoemaker did in his 2014 debut.
If he keeps it up, Shoemaker could make this an extended stay.
"I think that's the role you can see him in," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He can come in and I think hold a lead in the middle innings or give you a little bit of length."
Angels claim Minor League reliever Brady
ANAHEIM -- The Angels claimed Minor League reliever Michael Brady from the Marlins on Wednesday.
Brady, a Southern California native who attended the University of California, Berkeley, is a 27-year-old right-hander who posted a 1.53 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and a 6.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Double-A last season.
Brady was placed on the 40-man roster, which is now full, but will be optioned to the Minor Leagues.
• Manager Mike Scioscia visited hitting coach Don Baylor at UCI Medical Center on Wednesday morning, with other players and coaches trickling in later. Scioscia said Baylor looked "pretty comfortable" after surgery to repair a fractured right femur.
"Don is one tough guy," Scioscia added. "He's anxious to get back, too. He'll watch games while we're on the road and we'll text and talk, see what opinions he has."
• The Angels' international spending pool this season will be $2,383,700, 14th in the Majors. Last year, they had $1,993,700, which ranked 21st. They ultimately sold some of their slot values and spent $580,000 on left-hander Ricardo Sanchez, a 16-year-old from Venezuela who's already sitting at 94 mph consistently with his fastball. The international signing period starts July 2.
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.