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Pujols excited about return to game

Scioscia feels the All-Star will be ready for Opening Day
MLB.com @mi_guardado

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When he first arrived to Spring Training last month, Angels slugger Albert Pujols set March 10 as his target date for playing in his first Cactus League game. Pujols stuck to that schedule Friday, making his spring debut in the Angels' 4-2 loss to the Padres at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Pujols, who has been rehabbing from December foot surgery, served as the designated hitter and finished 0-for-2 with a walk. He grounded out to third in the first, drew a walk off Padres starter Clayton Richard in the third and grounded into a force out in the fifth.  

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When he first arrived to Spring Training last month, Angels slugger Albert Pujols set March 10 as his target date for playing in his first Cactus League game. Pujols stuck to that schedule Friday, making his spring debut in the Angels' 4-2 loss to the Padres at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Pujols, who has been rehabbing from December foot surgery, served as the designated hitter and finished 0-for-2 with a walk. He grounded out to third in the first, drew a walk off Padres starter Clayton Richard in the third and grounded into a force out in the fifth.  

"It just feels good to be back, wearing the uniform and being out there with the guys," Pujols said. With more than three weeks until Opening Day, Pujols appears to be on track to be ready for the start of the season, though he still wouldn't make any promises about his availability for April 3 when the Angels face the host Athletics.

Video: SD@LAA: Pujols draws a walk in Spring Training debut 

"I'm just taking it one day at a time like I did last year, and have you guys play the guessing game," Pujols said. "It's not fair right now for me to tell you, 'Yeah, I'll be ready to go,' when I just played my first game of the spring."

Video: Pujols on forgetting the past, looking ahead to 2017

Manager Mike Scioscia, however, sounded confident that Pujols will be in the Angels' Opening Day lineup.

"I think, physically, he'll be ready," Scioscia said. "Our goal is to get him enough at-bats to where he's locked in."

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Pujols said he's still working on getting his timing back and will DH every other day for the time being. Though the 37-year-old veteran has been participating in defensive drills, it's unlikely that he'll see much time, if any, at first base this spring.

Video: Outlook: Pujols continues to deliver power for Angels

"I'm not thinking about that right now," Pujols said. "Just DHing right now as much as I can."

Worth noting

• Though Cameron Maybin is hitless in 17 at-bats this spring and reserve outfielder Ben Revere is batting .526 (10-for-19), Scioscia said Maybin's starting spot in left field is secure.

"Cam is going to be our left fielder, and we'll see where Ben folds in," Scioscia said. "But I think we're in a unique situation where we have a player of Ben's caliber that is not really a fourth outfielder. He's going to move around and get some playing time, and it's going to be to get some guys off their feet. It's going to help take some pressure off the guys if they need a day off and still have a good lineup. We have some depth there for sure."

Luis Valbuena (leg tightness) said he hopes to return to the Angels lineup Sunday or Monday. The 31-year-old infielder has not played in a Cactus League game since March 2.

• Third baseman Yunel Escobar was in Miami on Friday to take the Oath of Allegiance, the final step in the U.S. naturalization process. Escobar, a Cuban defector, passed his naturalization exam last week and is expected back in Angels camp Saturday.

• First baseman Matt Thaiss, the Angels' first-round pick in 2016, was reassigned to Minor League camp Thursday. Thaiss went 5-for-11 (.455) with two walks and one RBI in 10 exhibition games with the Angels, and made an impression on Scioscia.

Video: Thaiss, Ward on their time in Spring Training

"For a 21-year-old, he really held himself up well in the clubhouse and on the field in drills," Scioscia said. "He's going to hit. I think this guy has got an incredible future. He's an exciting young hitter."

• The Angels have agreed to terms with all 22 of their pre-arbitration players and did not have to renew any contracts this spring.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels, Albert Pujols