Homerless Pujols just one symptom

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Albert Pujols has hit soaring fly balls that died on the warning track. He has hit several liners deep into the gaps, and he produced a sizzling drive that barely caught the top of the left-field wall.

Yet during his 16 games with the Los Angeles Angels, the $240 million slugger still hasn't cleared a fence after doing it 445 times for the Cardinals.

While relaxing in front of his new locker at Angel Stadium, Pujols acknowledged that a homerless start to his AL career is both frustrating and amusing to a slugger who has never been contained by any park for long.

"Whenever it happens, whether it's going to be tomorrow or a month from now or two months from now, it's going to happen," Pujols said. "I know I have power. I know I can hit the ball from corner to corner. I know all that, but I'm not going to think about getting caught up and saying, 'Man, I haven't hit a home run.' ... I have, what, 445 for a reason."

Pujols' debut with the Angels hasn't met lofty expectations after just 65 at-bats, but the second-longest homerless drought of his career is only one reason the Angels' high-priced roster is off to a perplexing start. Los Angeles is 6-10 after losing Sunday's finale of a seven-game homestand.

Cleanup hitter Torii Hunter also is homerless. The vaunted starting rotation has stumbled. The bullpen has been terrible.

The struggles have even turned comical: Erick Aybar, their Gold Glove shortstop, made two errors on the same day he signed his new $35 million contract and received his Gold Glove trophy.

It's adding up to a distressing start to a season of enormous expectations. Sure, it's only April -- but even the Angels are getting a bit anxious for consistent success.

"Would we rather have a better record at this point? Absolutely," said manager Mike Scioscia, who has tried 14 different lineups.

"There's a mild frustration with some guys because they know we wanted to get off to a good start, and we're not there right now. But the talent in this team is real, and it will come to the forefront."

Sunday's loss to Baltimore left the Angels already seven games behind two-time AL champion Texas in the AL West standings.

"For Albert, this is totally different," Hunter said. "He doesn't know any of the pitchers. I'm his scouting report. But when he figures it out, there's going to be trouble."

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First Published April 24, 2012 12:00 AM


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