LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Mike Scioscia expects a healthy Albert Pujols and a more comfortable Josh Hamilton to be ready to lead a Los Angeles Angels offensive resurgence.
Speaking at baseball's winter meetings Wednesday, the Angels manager said he thinks his two high-priced sluggers are ready to rebound from difficult seasons.
Pujols had right knee surgery last spring and then missed the final two months of the season with a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot. In the second year of a $240 million contract, 10-year contract, Pujols had career lows of 17 homers and 64 RBIs in 99 games.
"Albert is, he's swinging the bat. He's taking batting practice. He feels very strong physically," Scioscia said. "I think that I really feel that he's going to be the healthiest he's been, certainly from what he's been out here with us, probably a couple of years before that in St. Louis where he was banged up. I think the foot will be a nonissue."
If healthy, Pujols will be able to play most of his games at first base, which helps the Angels' defense, too, Scioscia added.
Hamilton struggled in his first season of a $125 million, five-year free-agent deal with the Angels. Coming off a year in which he hit 43 homers and drove in 128 runs with Texas, he spent much of the year looking lost at the plate as Los Angeles finished had its first losing season since 2003 at 78-84. He batted .250 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs.
Hamilton bounced around all three outfield positions with Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout, J.B. Shuck and Mark Trumbo. Now Trumbo and Bourjos are gone and Scioscia has a more definite plan for Hamilton.
"I think Josh is going to move back to left field and just stay in left field. And I think he'll be more comfortable with that aspect as opposed to switching him to right field," Scioscia said. "But I do feel, from the way he finished up the second half of last season and made some adjustments that he understands what his role is a little more, what our team is about and what he can bring. And Josh is going to have a big year for us next year."