ANAHEIM -- Slow starts are nothing new for slugger Jose Pujols, so the Angels aren't fretting too much over the fact that he collected only one hit over his first 20 at-bats of the 2017 campaign.Pujols, the Halos' cleanup hitter, batted .356 (16-for-45) with three home runs and 14 RBIs
ANAHEIM -- Slow starts are nothing new for slugger Jose Pujols, so the Angels aren't fretting too much over the fact that he collected only one hit over his first 20 at-bats of the 2017 campaign.
Pujols, the Halos' cleanup hitter, batted .356 (16-for-45) with three home runs and 14 RBIs over 16 games during Spring Training, but those results have yet to translate to the regular season. Still, manager Mike Scioscia said Pujols' lengthy track record suggests he will begin to settle into a grove once he accumulates more at-bats.
"Albert, I think most seasons has taken some at-bats to get into his game," Scioscia said Saturday. "He swung the bat so well in the spring. Coming out and starting the season, sometimes it's different for players, and Albert is historically a little slower starter. But it doesn't take him very long to find it. And when he does, it stays there for a long time, so we're very confident in the fact that it's just going to take some ABs for Albert to start doing what we know he can do."
Pujols hit just .176 over 91 at-bats last April, but he still wound up delivering a productive season for the Angels in '16, batting .268 overall with 31 home runs and 119 RBIs.
• Scioscia said left-hander Tyler Skaggs will start against the Rangers on Tuesday in place of Garrett Richards, who landed on the 10-day disabled list on Friday with a biceps strain. The Angels have an off-day Monday, which will allow them to skip Richards' turn in the rotation and start Skaggs on normal rest.
Jesse Chavez and Ricky Nolasco will also pitch in the three-game series against Texas, with Matthew Shoemaker drawing the Angels' series opener against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Friday.
Since Richards isn't eligible to come off the disabled list until April 16, the Angels will need a starter to fill in for him next Saturday. Yusmeiro Petit, the Angels reliever with the most length, could be tapped for the spot start, though the Halos could also elect to call up a starter from Triple-A Salt Lake, such as Alex Meyer.
• Scioscia has traditionally preferred to have defined roles for his relievers, but a moment in Friday night's 5-1 win over the Mariners suggested that bullpen assignments could be more fluid this season.
With the Angels ahead, 3-1, in the bottom of the seventh, relief ace Cam Bedrosian began warming up, and Scioscia said he planned on having him face the heart of Seattle's order in the eighth. But Kole Calhoun's two-run homer opened up a four-run lead for the Angels, allowing Scioscia to stay away from Bedrosian and instead use Andrew Bailey and Richard Parker to handle the final two innings.
While Bedrosian has been the Angels' most effective reliever, Scioscia has not officially named him the closer, giving the club the flexibility to deploy him in high-leverage situations outside of the ninth inning.
"I think he's got the opportunity to be a lead dog in that group," Scioscia said. "We'll use him in those high-leverage situations later in a game whether it's a save situation or not."
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.