Albert Pujols has a .334 career average after the All-Star break, the best mark of any active player and fifth-best in major league history. The Angels would appreciate it if that trend continued this summer.
The designated hitter began Friday with a .249 average, .324 on-base percentage and .429 slugging percentage, steep drops from his career slashline of .325/.414/.608 going into 2013 and last season's .285/.343/.516 marks.
Pujols, slowed all season by plantar fasciitis in his left foot and a sore right knee, ranks second on the team with 57 runs batted in and is tied for second with 15 home runs, decent production considering his average and American League-leading 18 double-play grounders.
But if the Angels are to put a dent in what was an 11-game AL-West deficit before Friday, they'll need Pujols and slumping middle-of-the-order mate Josh Hamilton to start crushing the ball consistently.
"Success is crucial in the second half because it's when your team needs you the most," Pujols said. "My job is to get ready every day whether it's the first or last game of the season, to have quality at-bats and help the club any way I can."
Pujols got hot in June, hitting .380 (19 for 50) with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 12 games June 9-21, but in his next 19 games before the break, he hit .189 (14 for 74) with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
"It happens, it's part of the game," Pujols said. "Four or five weeks ago you couldn't get me out. But I'm seeing the ball good. For me, it's not about the numbers, it's how I feel."
Manager Mike Scioscia hoped the four-day break would rejuvenate Pujols, but the slugger said his foot felt "the same" Friday as it did Sunday. Pujols will probably undergo surgery after the season to address his painful foot condition, but he didn't want to discuss it Friday.
"That's not in my mind," said Pujols, who hit his 16th homer of the season in the third inning Friday night. "There are still a lot of games left. I don't want it to be a distraction."
Jason Vargas is likely to stay
Jason Vargas, who underwent surgery June 26 to remove a blood clot in his left armpit, does not expect to resume throwing off a mound until late next week, and he'll probably need one simulated game and one or two minor league starts before being activated.
That assures that the left-hander, who is 6-4 with a 3.65 earned-run average and could draw trade interest if the Angels fall far out of playoff contention, will remain on the disabled list through the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Though there is no rule prohibiting teams from trading players on the disabled list, Vargas' injury and six-week absence would greatly reduce the chances of a deal.
Peter Bourjos will have the broken bone in his right wrist X-rayed again July 29, at which point he hopes to be cleared to hit. The earliest the center fielder will return is early August.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun