ARLINGTON -- Albert Pujols homered for the fourth time in his 13th start at first base on Monday, which is one fewer than the amount of home runs he has managed in 32 starts at designated hitter. His slash line on the days he starts at first base is .313/.400/.604,
ARLINGTON -- Albert Pujols homered for the fourth time in his 13th start at first base on Monday, which is one fewer than the amount of home runs he has managed in 32 starts at designated hitter. His slash line on the days he starts at first base is .313/.400/.604, but only .195/.270/.333 at DH.
It's a small sample size, but it may not be a coincidence.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged that Pujols "absolutely" feels "more comfortable" when he starts at first base, a position where he has claimed two Gold Glove Awards. But that won't make Scioscia alter his plan of ensuring that Pujols' legs remain fresh for the extent of the six-month season.
"Eventually, I think with Albert, if he pushes too hard at first base, no matter how comfortable he feels, he might not be as strong in the batter's box as he needs to be," Scioscia said after the Angels' 2-0 win from Globe Life Park. "And that's important."
Pujols underwent surgery on the arch of his right foot in November and entered this season -- his 16th in the Majors -- resigned to spending extended time at DH. His starts at first base have been largely dictated by the proximity of the indoor batting cage, a pivotal tool with regards to staying loose between plate appearances.
Now 36, Pujols excelled at DH in 2014, managing a .943 OPS in 43 starts. But position players typically have a hard time producing at the plate when they don't have the rhythm that comes from playing the field. It's what can make DH a difficult transition for aging players.
Pujols acknowledged that in prior years but has mainly deflected the topic this season.
"I don't think about that," Pujols said Monday. "I'm still going to prepare the same way, whether I'm DH-ing or I'm playing first. It doesn't make any difference for me.
"Whatever my team needs me to do, I do. If Scioscia wants me to play first, I'll play first. If he wants me to DH, then I'll DH, too. It's not about me; it's about our ballclub, and however I can help my team out to win."
Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast.