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Pujols returns to field, likely to play more 1B

Angels veteran slugger freeing up at-bats for Ohtani at DH
MLB.com @mi_guardado

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols started only six games at first base for the Angels in 2017, but he is expected to play the field more often this season to free up at-bats for Shohei Ohtani at designated hitter. The 38-year-old slugger began the process of getting reacquainted with his defensive position on Tuesday, when he made his first start of the spring at first base in the Angels' 5-2 win over the Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Pujols did not face any significant defensive tests during his three innings at first and finished 0-for-2 at the plate. In his first at-bat against Rockies starter Jon Gray, Pujols delivered a deep fly ball to center field, but it was caught by Raimel Tapia. Pujols lined out to third base in his second at-bat against Jeff Hoffman in the fourth.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols started only six games at first base for the Angels in 2017, but he is expected to play the field more often this season to free up at-bats for Shohei Ohtani at designated hitter. The 38-year-old slugger began the process of getting reacquainted with his defensive position on Tuesday, when he made his first start of the spring at first base in the Angels' 5-2 win over the Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Pujols did not face any significant defensive tests during his three innings at first and finished 0-for-2 at the plate. In his first at-bat against Rockies starter Jon Gray, Pujols delivered a deep fly ball to center field, but it was caught by Raimel Tapia. Pujols lined out to third base in his second at-bat against Jeff Hoffman in the fourth.

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"Albert was on some pitches," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Gray has got a really good arm, and our guys had some pretty good looks at him, so that's encouraging."

Pujols showed up to camp looking noticeably trimmer and fitter after losing about 15 pounds over his first surgery-free offseason in two years. The Angels are hoping that better conditioning will help revitalize Pujols, who posted a career-low .672 OPS in 2017.

Shoemaker debuts
Right-hander Matt Shoemaker also made his Cactus League debut on Tuesday, allowing one run over 2 1/3 innings against the Rockies. He gave up three hits, including a solo home run to Mike Tauchman, while walking none and striking out one.

Shoemaker had been scheduled to throw 30 pitches over two innings, but he came out for the third after he needed only 19 pitches to record the first six outs of the game. He faced two more batters before reaching his pitch limit and departing the game.

Video: LAA@COL: Shoemaker fans Story in the 2nd inning

Shoemaker, who suffered a fractured skull after being hit on the head by a line drive in September 2016, wore a protective insert inside his cap last season, but he said he has yet to use it this spring.

"I still have it," Shoemaker said. "There's still a very good chance I'll wear it."

The Ohtani brief
Ohtani went 0-for-3 in his second start at designated hitter for the Angels on Tuesday. The two-way phenom struck out looking against Gray in the first inning, flied out to right field in the third and hit into a fielder's choice in the sixth. Ohtani is 1-for-4 with two walks in two Cactus League games as a hitter this spring.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Ohtani will not play Wednesday, as he is scheduled to throw a bullpen in preparation for his second start on the mound in a "B" game against the Brewers at Maryvale on Friday. Scioscia said the Angels decided to have Ohtani start the "B" game, rather than their Cactus League game against the Cubs, because they want to make sure that he throws 40-45 pitches over three innings in a controlled setting.

The Angels aren't having Ohtani hit on his bullpen days, but they said the plan could change later in the season as he gets more accustomed to the workload in the Majors. Because he also doesn't hit on days when he starts on the mound -- and the days before and after -- the earliest he could return to the Angels' lineup is Sunday, meaning he'll go four consecutive days without swinging a bat in a game.

"I've been experiencing the same thing in Japan for a while," Ohtani said via interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "The only thing I've been doing is taking BP as much as I can. That's the way I stay in rhythm."

Video: LAA@COL: Angels turn strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out DP

Camp battles
Right-handed relievers Noe Ramirez and Blake Wood, who are competing for bullpen jobs this spring, each tossed one scoreless inning Tuesday against the Rockies.

Up next
Left-hander Andrew Heaney will make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday, when the Angels host the Indians at Tempe Diablo Stadium at 12:10 p.m. PT. Relievers Cam Bedrosian and Blake Parker are expected to make their first relief appearances of the spring.

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

Los Angeles Angels, Albert Pujols