- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ANAHEIM, CALIF. (AP) - The Los Angeles Angels fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher on Tuesday after Albert Pujols and many of his teammates got off to dismal offensive start this season.

Hatcher’s dismissal was announced about 90 minutes after the Angels had 12 hits in a 4-0 victory over Oakland. A day earlier, Los Angeles lost 5-0 to the Athletics _ its major league-worst eighth shutout loss already this season.

Los Angeles promoted hitting coach Jim Eppard from Triple-A Salt Lake to replace Hatcher, who had been with the Angels since manager Mike Scioscia _ his former Dodgers teammate _ took over the club in 2000. A 12-year major league veteran as a player, Hatcher was the Angels‘ hitting coach during their only World Series title run in 2002.

“Offensively we have underachieved, and everyone shares in the responsibility of what has transpired thus far,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said.

That’s putting it mildly for a club with one of the majors’ highest payrolls and enormous expectations for this season.

Los Angeles (16-21) has scored just 134 runs, ranking 22nd in the majors while setting a club record for shutout losses at this point in the season. The Angels’ on-base percentage is .301, worse than all but three teams.

Although Hatcher’s job description probably didn’t include fixing Pujols, the $240 first baseman is having trouble in his first six weeks with the Angels, batting .212 with just one homer. The three-time NL MVP boosted his average 15 points Tuesday with three infield singles, driving in two runs.

Hatcher also angered Pujols a few weeks ago when he shared a few innocuous details about a team meeting with reporters. Pujols said he planned to talk to Hatcher about keeping clubhouse discussions private, although neither man commented about what happened after that.

Just three seasons ago, Hatcher presided over a roster that set several franchise records for hitting and fielded a lineup with nine .300 hitters while the Angels reached the ALCS. These days, few Angels are having offensive seasons that aren’t embarrassing.

Shortstop Erick Aybar, who got a $35 million contract last month, is batting .187, and outfielder Peter Bourjos has been benched after his .193 start. New catcher Chris Iannetta slumped to .197 before going on the disabled list, and Bobby Abreu was batting just .208 before Los Angeles released him.

High-priced outfielder Vernon Wells is in his second straight middling season, batting .242 with five homers. Howie Kendrick, an All-Star last season, is batting just .273.

Eppard worked with Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout in the minors while spending the last 10 years at Salt Lake. He played four years in the majors for the Angels and Toronto.

Scioscia said nothing about Hatcher’s departure Tuesday after the Angels‘ win over Oakland.

“We think the absolute world of Mickey as a person and thank him for all of his contributions to this organization,” Dipoto said.

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