Pujols fine with new intentional walk rule

Halos' slugger got a free pass in Monday's opener

Pujols fine with new intentional walk rule

OAKLAND -- Entering Monday, Angels slugger Albert Pujols had 302 career intentional walks over his first 16 years in the big leagues. But his next one, which he received in the eighth inning of the Halos' 4-2 Opening Night loss to the A's, was a little bit different from the rest.

After Mike Trout doubled to give the Angels the potential tying run at second base with two outs, the A's signaled to issue an intentional walk to Pujols, who became the first Angels player to automatically take first under Major League Baseball's new rule.

In the past, pitchers had been required to throw four balls to the catcher to trigger an intentional walk, but MLB decided to scrap the pitches this season as part of its effort to improve the pace of play.

"It was a little bit different," Pujols said Tuesday in Spanish. "I don't have a problem with it. There isn't an advantage for anyone. We all have to adjust to the rules set by Major League Baseball and the Players Association. They're rules that we all have to get used to. The first ones are going to feel weird, but I think in the end we're all going to adjust."

Trout said it took him a moment to realize what had occurred after he saw Pujols trotting to first. "I called timeout, got back to the bag, and when I looked up, he was on first base," Trout said. "It was different. He was laughing. I was laughing. It took me a little bit to figure out what happened. But that's the way it's going, I guess."

The Angels weren't able to capitalize on their late-inning scoring threat, however, as A's pitcher Ryan Madson induced a groundout from C.J. Cron to end the inning, leaving the Halos trailing, 3-2.

Worth noting

• Reserve infielder Jefry Marte received the starting nod at first base over Cron against A's left-hander Sean Manaea on Tuesday. Though both are right-handed hitters, Marte has a career .827 OPS against southpaws, compared to .698 for Cron.

"I think definitely in the first week we want to try to get our bench guys out there," manager Mike Scioscia said. "You don't want them sitting too long. But I think Jefry is a great matchup for left-handed pitching. It's a good night for him to get some at-bats."

Cron has had reverse splits over his first three years in the Majors, with a .788 OPS against right-handers and a .698 OPS versus lefties, but Scioscia said he believes that trend might be more of an aberration due to Cron's limited at-bats against southpaws.

"I think C.J., when he's right, no doubt he can hit anybody," Scioscia said. "He showed it last year. There are some splits that are maybe a little unexpected, but he's making adjustments."

• Right-hander Huston Street, who has been sidelined since March 3 with a right lat strain, began his throwing program at the 60-foot mark Tuesday.

• The Angels announced Tuesday that they've extended their affiliation with Triple-A Salt Lake through the 2020 season.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.