5/16/2014 9:22 P.M. ET
Scioscia carefully monitoring Pujols' health, action
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols was back at first base on Friday, one day after serving as the designated hitter for the third time in a six-day stretch.
Pujols has yet to miss a game, and he's no longer hindered by the plantar fasciitis that crippled his 2013 season, but there are days when he doesn't run very well, or the stiffness creeps in, and it's something Angels manager Mike Scioscia is constantly monitoring.
"He's playing a lot, and at times there's going to be some stiffness that players have, especially a player like Albert who had leg issues last year," Scioscia said. "But he's managed it well, and I think he's moving very well on the field."
Pujols is once again displaying Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base, but he's tapered off at the plate after a hot start to the season, with just four hits, zero home runs and zero RBIs in his last 38 at-bats. The 34-year-old admitted on Wednesday that the four-game series in Toronto, played on artificial turf, caused some soreness in his lower half -- a soreness that may have been impacting him at the plate.
"Our goal is to keep him in the batter's box every game that we can," Scioscia said of Pujols, who's batting .257 with 10 homers and 26 RBIs. "Not only that, but keep him with that good base and that strength in his lower half that's going to let him be the productive hitter he can be. We're going to pay attention to that.
"I don't know any player who's more comfortable DH'ing than playing the field, so it's not like he's embracing it, but he understands the tool, and he understands the impact his bat can have."
Freese to play rehab games for Triple-A Salt Lake
ANAHEIM -- Angels third baseman David Freese will be with the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees on Saturday, serving as the designated hitter for what he hopes is the first of only a couple of rehab games.
Freese, out since May 2 with a non-displaced fracture in his right middle finger, is lined up to join the Angels by early next week -- even though he probably won't be 100 percent by then.
"It's a tolerance thing," Freese said. "It's not going to be completely healed."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia wouldn't specify how many rehab games Freese would need, but called Saturday "an important workout day." Freese was batting .202/.266/.286 before a Colby Lewis fastball put him on the shelf, but was showing signs of turning a corner at the plate.
Freese will likely start at third base on Sunday, and perhaps one other time on Monday.
"The main thing is just to show them I can play the field," he said. "The hitting is fine."
Freese, who will play with a sleeve on his injured finger, threw across the diamond on Thursday and Friday and said his latest session "was a huge difference. So that's a good thing."
Farm system making impact in big leagues
ANAHEIM -- They can be a bit streaky at times, and they managed just eight hits in their last 43 at-bats with runners in scoring position, but the bottom line is the Angels entered Friday ranked second in the Majors in runs per game.
And they're doing it with as many as four organizational players from a farm system that has been deemed the worst in baseball two years running.
"We may not have any big-name guys, but at the same time, we can play," slugging prospect C.J. Cron said. "We knew that. We don't really care what people rank us as. We just want to go out and have a good season and make our way to the big leagues, which we did."
Cron, ranked third in the system by MLB.com, has batted .364 with a pair of homers in 10 games and has seemingly carved out a prolonged role in the big leagues as a right-handed-hitting option at designated hitter and a first baseman who can give Albert Pujols an occasional day off his feet.
Then there's Grant Green, who was acquired from the A's for Alberto Callaspo last July, has hit .333 in 10 games and has displayed the versatility the Angels had been looking for from him, playing left field, third base and second base.
Or Luis Jimenez, who was called up because two third basemen -- David Freese and Ian Stewart -- are on the disabled list and won a game for the Angels on Tuesday night, hitting a go-ahead two-run double and saving another run with a diving catch.
Or first baseman Efren Navarro, a 50th-round First-Year Player Draft pick who has spent almost all of the previous three seasons in Triple-A, then dabbled in the outfield during winter ball this offseason and has gone 5-for-14 with three walks in the Majors, playing the outfield corners as Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun continue to rehab.
They've all been called up from Triple-A within the last 14 days, and they've helped the Angels win eight of 13 games during that stretch.
"It makes me feel really good," Navarro said of having so many of his Salt Lake Bees teammates contribute. "They kept me on the roster for a reason, and they called me up for a reason, and that's to help the team win. That's what [manager Mike] Scioscia expects from us."
The Angels' farm system was ranked 30th by Baseball America heading into the 2013 and '14 seasons, mainly because of the lack of high-ceiling prospects and the overall dearth of starting pitching.
But they have a few talented relievers -- especially Mike Morin, who has yet to give up a run in seven big league appearances -- and some of their upper-level position players have shown they can contribute.
"We knew going into Triple-A this season that we had a good offense," Cron said, "and there were a lot of guys that had either played in the bigs before or were right on the doorstep. And kind of having that mentality helped us to start the year. We have a good group of guys, and that's our job -- to be prepared if they need us."
• Lefty reliever Sean Burnett (left elbow surgery) has pitched in three rehab games for Double-A Arkansas and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said "he's getting close." Burnett pitched a scoreless outing on Thursday, allowing two baserunners and striking out three, and Scioscia said Burnett is "more comfortable with his stuff." It's still unclear how many more rehab outings he would need.
• Jimenez defeated Rays ace David Price in the annual cow-milking contest at Angel Stadium. Jimenez got tips from a couple of experts as he approached the two cows behind home plate and didn't lose his composure when one started to move around, scaring off the teammates who came to watch. For that, he received a giant bucket for a trophy.
• Calhoun (sprained right ankle) went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored while leading off and playing right field in his first rehab game for Triple-A Salt Lake. Calhoun, who came out of the game after five innings, is on track to return early next week.
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.