Before connecting for his first homer for the Halos, Pujols has already altered his new club dramatically. He’s sold tickets and merchandise. He’s raised the Angels’ profile and their expectations. And, as one of the most feared hitters of his generation, Pujols has given them a frightful presence in the middle of their lineup, one that keeps pitchers awake at night.
“He’s going to improve the offense single-handedly because he’s such a force,” said Wilson, who went 16-7 last season for the Rangers. “We saw that last year with St. Louis. If you take him out of that lineup, it’s not very threatening. But you put him in there and it’s `Oh man, we’ve got to pitch to (Lance) Berkman, (Matt) Halladay and (David) Freese.’ I think he will have the same effect here.
“The guy’s got a career .418 on-base percentage or something ridiculous. He’s going to be on base, at the worst, a lot for these guys. There are only so many guys you can put on base before you have to pitch to somebody. If the 5-6-7 guys stay within themselves, they’ll have a lot more pitches to hit and a lot more chances to drive runs in because of him.”
Mark Trumbo didn’t mind being kicked off first base and moved over to third to make room for Pujols. Raised in Orange County, Calif., Trumbo pulled for the Angels long before he played for them. He’s got a good sense of the team’s history, and the signing of Pujols, who many thought would stay in St. Louis, caused a reaction unlike anything before it.
“It was awesome, he said. “I haven’t seen a buzz like that _ ever,” he said.
“I live near the stadium and drove by and saw the massive amount of cars,” Trumbo said. “I guess I wasn’t surprised because those are monumental signings.”
As for being one of Pujols‘ teammates, Trumbo isn’t sure what to expect. However, he intends to make the most of being around the nine-time All-Star.
“It hasn’t quite set in for me, honestly,” he said. “I guess you kind of imagine what the benefits will be, not only for him but for everyone around him. A lot of guys might be vying for that No. 2 spot. It’s going to be a real pleasure just watching him work. I hear he’s a workaholic. I’ve yet to meet him, but people say he’s a special person and a special player.
“I just look forward to picking his brain and shadowing him. I don’t have to ask questions. I can just watch what he’s doing and try to pick up on that. There’s a reason he’s as good as he is.”
Scioscia knows this spring may be unlike any he’s experienced before. There will be more attention on his team, more media demands for him and his players, who must adjust to being in a superstar’s shadow.
Pujols will bring it all.
And as Scioscia is concerned, it’s all good.
“I can’t imagine it being anything but positive,” he said. “Albert is good for a reason, and it’s not just natural ability. He respects the game. He takes as much pride in his defense and baserunning as he does in the batter’s box. He’s a professional so it will be a positive to be around him and that chemistry shouldn’t be an issue.
“We’ll worry more about the on-field chemistry, how he folds in with Howie (Kendrick) at second, the right-side defense. All that stuff is much more of a focus on doing that then there is wondering what will happen in the clubhouse. It will all be positive in the clubhouse.”