After 20 major-league seasons, one would think Albert Pujols would have a set routine by now.
But perhaps the reason Pujols is still slugging home runs for the Los Angeles Angels is he isn’t afraid to switch things up.
The 41-year-old is batting .224 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in 19 games as the Angels open a three-game series Friday night in Seattle.
“I feel great,” Pujols said. “This is probably the best I’ve felt in a while. I think part of that is the training I put in this offseason. When you’re breaking down or feeling injuries, you can be doing nothing at home and feel sore. But you know you’re healthy when you’re able to train in the gym and move weights. It’s something that I continue to do.”
His five homers are just one shy of the six he hit in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
“My swing is always there,” Pujols said. “You look at the batting average and you can be discouraged hitting .224 or .226. But I could be hitting .350 with better luck. I’ve been swinging the bat pretty good even since Day 1 of spring training. I think part of it is the attitude and approach I’ve been taking, but I think being healthy is the key.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon said he believes Pujols’ flexibility has helped him stay on the field in recent years.
“He’s very limber,” Maddon said. “When he stretches, he’s very flexible. With his body size, it belies that. … But I’ve seen him put his leg over the rail during batting practice and it’s like, ‘Oh my God.’ I think his longevity is due to that flexibility and pure will. You have to be strong-willed to do what he does and do it for that long.”
Pujols has played in 2,881 career games and is 16 games away from passing Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson for 15th place in major-league history.
“It means one thing, and that I’m getting old,” Pujols joked. “It’s something I’m proud of. It’s something where if I’m healthy, I want to be out there playing. Obviously, injuries over the last seven or eight years haven’t been fun for me, but I’ve found a way to stay on the field.”
The Angels have won three of their past four games to pull within a half-game of second-place Seattle in the American League West.
Left-hander Andrew Heaney (1-1, 4.35 ERA) is scheduled to start for Los Angeles in the series opener against Mariners right-hander Chris Flexen (2-1, 2.74). Heaney is 3-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 12 career starts against Seattle while Flexen will be facing the Angels for the first time.
While the Angels had Thursday off, the Mariners snapped a four-game losing streak with 1-0 victory at Houston as Yusei Kikuchi allowed only one hit in seven innings and Taylor Trammell homered.
Kikuchi’s start was welcome news on a day the Mariners placed ace Marco Gonzales on the 10-day injured list with a left forearm strain.
“Not just myself, but the entire staff definitely needs to step up and throw long innings deep into the ball game,” Kikuchi said. “An extra inning, even just an extra out.”
–Field Level Media
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