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Pujols comes off DL, starts at 1B vs. White Sox

MLB.com @mi_guardado

ANAHEIM -- Angels first baseman Albert Pujols was activated off the disabled list on Monday after sitting out the requisite 10 days with left knee inflammation.

Pujols hasn't played since July 12, though he missed only six games since his DL stint was set up to overlap with the All-Star break. He batted fifth and started at first base Monday night in the Angels' series opener against the White Sox at Angel Stadium.

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ANAHEIM -- Angels first baseman Albert Pujols was activated off the disabled list on Monday after sitting out the requisite 10 days with left knee inflammation.

Pujols hasn't played since July 12, though he missed only six games since his DL stint was set up to overlap with the All-Star break. He batted fifth and started at first base Monday night in the Angels' series opener against the White Sox at Angel Stadium.

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Pujols, 38, has been battling knee soreness throughout the season, but the Angels are hoping that the platelet-rich plasma injection he received on July 13 and extended rest will help him manage the discomfort moving forward.

"It was needed, for sure," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Albert, he's amazing. This guy plays at 50 percent and does things that make you shake your head. He's such a gamer. It got to the point where it was going to start to impact what he was doing in the batter's box. We definitely want to get him feeling at a higher level. He is now, and hopefully he'll maintain it throughout the whole season."

Keeping Pujols fresh has been a bit more challenging for the Angels this season, as the veteran slugger has shouldered a heavier workload at first base to accommodate Shohei Ohtani at designated hitter. Monday marked Pujols' 49th start at first base, more than his previous two seasons combined (34).

Pujols usually served as the DH at least three days a week when Ohtani was pitching, but he no longer has that break from first base since Ohtani is currently limited to hitting as he recovers from a sprained elbow ligament. Now that Pujols is back from the DL, Ohtani is likely to sit against left-handed starters to allow Pujols to occasionally DH and take a break from defensive duties.

"I think we will definitely be able to manage that," Scioscia said. "I think there are going to be some days where Albert will DH. There's going to be days when Shohei will get a day off. Our goal is to get both those guys in the lineup as much as we can. But our focus is on making sure guys on our team are able to handle what we're asking them to do."

Pujols entered Monday batting .251 with a .723 OPS, 16 home runs and 52 RBIs in 86 games. His 630 career home runs are currently tied with Ken Griffey Jr. for sixth on the all-time list.

Video: Must C Classic: Pujols ties Griffey Jr. in career HRs

To clear roster spots for Pujols and rookie Jaime Barria, who was recalled from Class A Advanced Inland Empire and started against the White Sox on Monday, the Angels optioned Deck McGuire to Triple-A Salt Lake and designated Oliver Drake for assignment.

Strong up the middle
The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) on Monday released its Defensive Index rankings for the first half of the 2018 season, which help determine the Gold Glove Award winners at the end of the year. Ian Kinsler leads all American League second basemen with a 7.6 SDI, while Andrelton Simmons ranks third among AL shortstops with a 7.0 SDI. The standout defenders have combined to make several highlight-reel-worthy plays and have helped the Angels turn an MLB-high 265 double plays this year.

"When you have somebody playing next to you that's capable of doing everything, it allows you to do more," said Kinsler, who won a Gold Glove Award in 2016. "It allows you to use your imagination a little bit more and do what's comfortable because you know they can handle what's being thrown at them, or vice versa. It's been a really good relationship."

Video: HOU@LAA: Angels turn DP to end the top of the 7th

Valbuena out, Fletcher in
Rookie infielder David Fletcher started at third base over the slumping Luis Valbuena on Monday against White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito. Valbuena, a left-handed hitter, generally starts against righties, but he's lost playing time to Fletcher, who is batting .296 over his last seven games.

Valbuena has struggled to get into an offensive groove this season and is hitting just .202 with a .589 OPS and nine home runs over 88 games. He was spotted on the field taking early batting practice on Monday.

"He had a workout early, trying to get a little more continuity in his swing," Scioscia said. "We'll see when we work him back in. But right now, there's no doubt that David Fletcher is playing well. He'll get his opportunities."

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Albert Pujols