Pujols wastes no time warming up boomstick

March 13th, 2017

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Well, that didn't take long.

, who is already a huge part of Major League home run history, swatted a ball out of the yard for the first time this spring in his fifth official at-bat of the 2017 Cactus League schedule on Monday afternoon against the Dodgers.

It was not surprising at all for a guy who ranks ninth on MLB's all-time homers list with 591, but it still was a welcome sight for the Angels, who hope to see him make even more of a dent in the record books once the regular season begins.

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In his first at-bat of his third Spring Training game, Pujols -- who started at designated hitter against Los Angeles -- squared up a pitch and slammed it onto the grassy berm beyond the left-field wall.

"His swing's there, but it's timing," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's just a situation where all the guys have to see the ball, get their timing, and Albert's no different. But you can see after a couple of days that his at-bats are getting better and better."

Pujols, 37, got a late start to Spring Training games as he recovered from December foot surgery. Pujols has been occasionally plagued by plantar fasciitis since 2013, but still has pop at the plate. He hit 31 homers last year and drove in 119 runs, his highest single-season RBI total since 2009.

This year, he has to hit only nine homers to reach the rare 600 mark. He's also only 18 away from Sammy Sosa, who's No. 8 on the list, 21 away from No. 7, Jim Thome (612), and 39 away from Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., who's sixth on the list with 630 homers. Pujols also needs 175 hits to reach the exalted 3,000 mark.

He won't get there unless he's healthy for a good portion of the season, but the Angels got another encouraging sign from Pujols on Sunday.

Facing Seattle, Pujols doubled down the left-field line in his first at-bat and tested the foot right away, running as hard as he could all the way and sliding into second. When left fielder 's errant throw got away, Pujols advanced to third base, and he completed the circuit by scoring on a wild pitch.

"You won't believe how hard he's worked to get back to this point," Scioscia said.

"And just the fact of him legging out a double … he's running better now than obviously once he had that injury, once it started bothering him last year. And that's a positive."