Protecting Pujols in lineup a priority for Angels

Protecting Pujols in lineup a priority for Angels

Protecting Pujols in lineup a priority for Angels
MINNEAPOLIS -- Sure, protecting your No. 3 hitter is always important. But this year, considering the Angels' new No. 3 hitter sports a career .421 on-base percentage, it could have a major impact on how this season of great expectations plays out.

Through the season's first series against the Royals, protecting Albert Pujols was something the Angels struggled with. And that was especially the case in Sunday's 7-3 loss, when the Nos. 4-5-6 hitters -- Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Kendrys Morales, respectively -- combined to go 1-for-14 with seven strikeouts.

As a result, Pujols reached base four times but never scored.

"When you have a guy in your lineup who's getting on base 40 percent of the time, you want guys behind him that are going to take advantage of that," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully, we will. I mean, it's three games. Some guys are still trying to find their comfort level in the batter's box. ... Those guys that are hitting behind Albert, you're going to see the opportunity for them to put up some numbers, and hopefully, they will."

With right-hander Nick Blackburn toeing the rubber for the Twins on Monday, Morales, Hunter and Bobby Abreu, respectively, hit behind Pujols.

Wells, who had just two hits in 13 at-bats to start the season -- though one of those hits went out for a solo home run -- got the day off, partly so that Abreu could start against a righty and partly because Scioscia believes Wells may be putting too much pressure on himself to bounce back from a bad 2011 season.

"There's no doubt about his passion," Scioscia said. "He understands how much we need him. There could be some things players do from time to time that are going to overcompensate for some things they're trying to correct. Vernon needs to get simple, and he understands that."