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Angels, Pujols take first steps toward 2012

Posted on: February 27, 2012 5:40 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 5:50 pm
 
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Was it the Angels, or were their halos actually glowing a little brighter in the Arizona sun as they convened for their first full-squad workout with Albert Pujols on Monday?

"Absolutely, you can feel his presence," ace Jered Weaver said.

"There's a sense of excitement, with all the big names," second baseman Howard Kendrick said.

There wasn't any real drama to Monday's workout, unless you count the crush of fans down the right-field line near the team's clubhouse entrance that surged forward so intensely when Pujols stopped to sign that a couple of those in the front row were pinned dangerously against the fence. One cried out in pain.

Maybe that's why Pujols didn't stick around very long to sign.

But though there was nothing to write home about on the field, not even Pujols' live batting practice session against journeyman reliever Brad Mills, the Angels were marking this day on their calendars anyway.

And from Pujols' perspective, he didn't appear to lose his bearings at all.

"He was everywhere," veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said. "He was where he was supposed to be.

"He ran with us. He stretched with us. He hit in the right group.

"He was following Erick Aybar. Aybar knows where he's going. As long as he wasn't following Howie Kendrick. ..."

Kendrick chuckled when he heard that.

"Torii might be right," Kendrick said.

Following more than a decade of spring training with the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., Pujols said there really isn't a dramatic difference in the way St. Louis and the Angels conduct things. It's not like, say, there's a secret entrance to the infield at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

"Camps are the same," Pujols said. "There's nothing different."

The nuances will come later.

"It's going to be fun once we start right-side defense," said Kendrick, who will play next to Pujols on that side of the infield. "That's when we'll start interacting.

"I've got to figure out what his range is, how he likes to play. I think with the Cardinals, it looked like he went to his right pretty well. It didn't look like he was afraid to go to his right.

"If he does that, then that allows me to play up the middle more. And we can cover a lot more ground."

Weaver said he got to know Pujols some during the 2006 World Series, when Jered's brother, Jeff, pitched for the Cardinals.

"He's a great guy," Weaver said. "He's always been nice to me and my family. Plus, not only can he hit, but he's a Gold Glove first baseman [winning in 2006 and 2010].

"It's not going to take him long to fit in, I know that. It's exciting. This is my seventh spring here, and there's always been talk in the offseason of us going and getting some people, and we haven't always done it. But with him and C.J. Wilson and LaTroy Hawkins. ..."

The Angels did it this winter, and now they can't wait to get going.

And that scene with the fans as Pujols was leaving the field for the day?

"It also helps with the autograph hounds," Weaver said, chuckling. "They all run to him.

"It takes a little pressure off the rest of us."

Sunblock Day? Sure was, for now, at 78 degrees. But by the time the Angels were wrapping things up around 12:30 p.m., the wind gusts were already starting to howl. Strong winds are predicted to sweep through the desert tonight and knock the temperature down to a high of 62 Tuesday.

Likes: Looking forward to being a panelist this evening at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State in a forum discussing spring training coverage. Other panelists: Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Janie McCauley, the AP writer in San Francisco. ... Not only is Bobby Valentine going to be great as a manager in Boston, it's going to be great fun with him at the helm. Ex-Red Sox manager Terry Francona had barely finished calling Boston's clubhouse beer ban a "PR move" on the radio Monday morning when Valentine fired back after the Sox workout. "Remember, you're getting paid over there for saying stuff," Valentine said. "You get paid over here for doing stuff. I've done both." Nice. ... Love Craig Counsell moving from the field to being a special assistant to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. And how about this: The other day, Counsell and Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke went together to scout a pitcher during a game at Arizona State University. ... Dodgers GM Ned Colletti in the crowd at the Oscars on Sunday night, with great seats not far behind Michelle Williams, who was up for Best Actress for My Week With Marilyn. ... Man, with Colletti and Athletics GM Billy Beane both attending the Academy Awards (Beane to support Moneyball, of course), next thing you know, Cubs GM Theo Epstein will become a regular at the Grammys. ... Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on Jimmy Fallon's show Monday and Friday nights this week. ... Love what I've heard of Wrecking Ball, the new Springsteen record out March 6. Some rock, some Seeger Sessions-style stuff, some gospel, some folk ... great mix.

Dislikes: Aw, Johnny Cash would have been 80 on Sunday. Happy birthday anyway to the Man in Black. Got a chance to walk through his tour bus a couple of years back when it was on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Very, very cool. Reading daughter Rosanne Cash's memoir, Composed, now. In turns, a very thoughtful, emotional and introspective work.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I go out on a party
"And look for a little fun
"But I find a darkened corner
"Because I still miss someone"

-- Johnny Cash, I Still Miss Someone
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