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If Pujols wants extra coaching, he could get it from fellow players, talk-radio callers, and even fans on the street in Anaheim and Los Angeles, where Pujols‘ arrival was heralded by a massive marketing campaign and a sharp spike in ticket sales for the already-popular Angels, who outdrew the Dodgers for the first time last season.
The solutions range from swing adjustments to pressure-relieving mind games to extra days off. Pujols downplays the difficulties of switching leagues and studying the innumerable idiosyncrasies of 13 new pitching staffs, but Hunter acknowledges it’s tough for Pujols.
Even ex-players have theories on Pujols, including Jim Leyritz, the former Yankees and Angels catcher who now hosts an Internet radio show.
“I can tell you that coming over from New York and playing here that first year (in 1997), it was tough to get motivated because the fans weren’t the same,” Leyritz said. “Every at-bat wasn’t the World Series, and it took me a little while to get used to the slower pace. I’m sure that’s what he’s going through right now is that this is a little different pace than it was in St. Louis. It’s different surroundings. It’s going to take some time to adjust. Once he makes that adjustment, the rest of the American League better be careful.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia has tried numerous changes to his lineup, which ranks 13th out of 14 AL teams with just 80 runs in the Angels’ first 23 games. Scioscia insists Pujols will find his own way out of the slump, even while it deepens.
“He’s got a routine that’s worked for him, he’s committed to it, and there’s nobody working harder to get out of this than Albert,” Scioscia said. “Anyone who plays this game accepts the fact that there are going to be tough times during the season and during a career. But his talent is real, and he’s going to grind it out until he gets to where he needs to be.”
But 247 players have homered this season before Pujols, who led the NL in homers in 2009 and 2010. He hasn’t even had many narrow misses, among them that foul ball and a drive off the top of the left-field fence against Oakland during the Angels’ previous homestand.
Scioscia has no intention of moving Pujols from his No. 3 spot in the lineup. The Angels still have five months left in a season of enormous expectations, and they’re confident Pujols has plenty of time to help fulfill them.
“Pujols, he’s always going to get the nastiest of everything,” Hunter said. “He’s going to get the hardest pitches. The ball is going to move the most. … I know, and everybody else knows, this guy is going to hit. Once he gets that big home run to win a game, it’s over.”
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