Angels Ready for Hamilton, Pujols, Trout Together
TEMPE, Ariz. – As Josh Hamilton hammed it up with a series of good-natured wisecracks, a serious Albert Pujols sat in silence two seats away, arms crossed.
Mike Trout was in the middle, grinning.
“Hello guy in the booth, what’s your name?” Hamilton asked.
“Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Do I have time to go to the bathroom?”
The Los Angeles Angels’ new slugger might have the biggest personality of this talented trio. Biggest swing? To be determined, though Pujols and Trout aren’t about to pick against Hamilton in a home run contest.
Hamilton led an entertaining back-and-forth for 30 minutes Thursday at a cactus-lined hotel perched above the team’s spring training site in the Arizona desert.
No joint nickname for these power hitters. Not yet, anyway.
Jered Weaver has no idea how he would pitch to them – and it’s not his problem. For that, he is thankful.
Weaver will get to watch the Angels’ big boppers do their thing each day. And he pities the rest of the American League’s pitching staffs for having to face this slugging crew.
“I don’t have to worry about it, so that’s a plus for me,” Weaver said. “There’s a lot of potent pieces in this puzzle, in this lineup. I feel sorry for opposing pitchers. We’re pretty good one through nine. You get to not only the top of the lineup but the middle of the lineup and there are still some guys who can hurt you.”
The Angels will hold their first full-squad workout Friday at Tempe Diablo Stadium with the three stars together at last. Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP, received a $125 million, five-year contract in mid-December, a year after Pujols’ $240 million, 10-year deal.
Manager Mike Scioscia insists he’s not getting too excited until everybody is healthy and in the lineup come opening day, which still feels way off.
Scioscia realizes with his roster, there’s no avoiding the constant attention that will be on his club in Orange County considering the high-profile moves and a lineup of stars.
“It’s going to be good to get them in the clubhouse,” the skipper said before the pitchers and catchers worked out Thursday. “I think we’re excited about getting that whole group in here tomorrow and getting started. We know what we need to accomplish in the spring and we’re going to focus on that, and from there we’re going to look toward opening day once we get through spring. And I think that’s when it will hit. Hopefully, you get through spring in one piece and get guys where they need to be and you can watch that lineup play that day and hopefully for a long time from there.”
Hamilton and Pujols have more than one thing in common. They both have a strong faith, and have even traded Bible verses at first base.
“He’s a great guy. Every time he goes to first base, it seems like he always has a verse for me, ‘What you got for me?'” Hamilton said.
This spring, Pujols is easing back from arthroscopic right knee surgery in October, but plans to be full strength by opening day.
Hamilton has maintained his weight at 225 pounds, where he ended last season. He cut out bread and gluten, then added juice drinks.
“Don’t use a headline ‘Hamilton juicing,'” he quipped. “I already feel better. My joints feel better, energy level’s up, caffeine’s down. I didn’t lose any weight, I just didn’t gain any.”
Scioscia has thought about lineups with Hamilton batting second but plans to go with Pujols in the No. 3 slot and Hamilton cleanup to best take advantage of Pujols’ on-base percentage.
“Right now to try and lengthen our lineup out to where we want to be, it makes more sense to have him in the cleanup spot and we’ll adjust as our offense evolves, if we have to,” Scioscia said.
The Angles are in a must-win now mode after an 89-73 season in 2012 for a third-place finish in the AL West and a third straight year out of the playoffs.