Feeling 'really good,' Pujols returns with HR

Angels slugger opts to play after recovering from tight left hamstring

Feeling 'really good,' Pujols returns with HR

SAN FRANCISCO -- Albert Pujols homered in his return from a tight left hamstring Saturday, providing one of few bright spots in the Angels' 5-4 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park.

Pujols had been out since Wednesday night, when his hamstring grabbed on him while jogging down the first-base line on a sixth-inning single. The 35-year-old took batting practice on the field Friday -- though Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he wasn't available to pinch-hit later that night -- and did light agility drills Saturday morning.

Scioscia considered keeping Pujols out until Monday, when the team returns home and he can be used as a designated hitter. But Pujols declared himself ready and felt "really good" afterward, saying he plans to play in Sunday's series finale as well.

"I'll be smart with something like this," said Pujols, who finished 1-for-4 and struck out looking while representing the tying run in the ninth inning. "If I feel like I can't play, I don't play, especially so early in the season. But I felt good. Nothing bothered me."

Even with Pujols back, Scioscia opted to keep Kole Calhoun -- his leadoff hitter since the start of last season -- in the middle of the lineup. The move made Erick Aybar the new table-setter, ahead of Mike Trout, and provided some depth to a lineup that has struggled to score runs consistently all season.

Scioscia hopes it's temporary.

"When we get things rolling and get a lineup from one through nine doing what they can do and the bottom of the order getting on base like they did last year, Kole is a great fit as a leadoff hitter," Scioscia said prior to Saturday's game. "But if you want to specifically talk about the lineup today, you want to try to get Kole hitting, taking advantage of whatever Mike or Albert can set up for him."

• Entering Saturday, Chris Iannetta had only five hits in his first 58 at-bats, putting his batting average at .086 to start the season. Scioscia kept him out of the lineup Saturday, but doesn't plan to give him an extended amount of time off, saying: "Chris needs to be part of our club on the offensive side. As of right now, no, but Chris needs to be a little more comfortable in the batter's box."

• Fellow catchers Carlos Perez (.368/.427/.574) and Jett Bandy (.345/.355/.483) are hitting well at Triple-A Salt Lake, but Scioscia doesn't believe the Angels can afford to carry three catchers at the moment. If you're going to have two catchers off the bench, "you have to have a pretty set lineup and some versatility on the bench," Scioscia said, "and we don't have either of those now."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.