Hitting coach cites Pujols for slugger's turnaround

Hitting coach cites Pujols for slugger's turnaround

Hitting coach cites Pujols for slugger's turnaround
SEATTLE -- Heading into Sunday's series finale against the Mariners, a lot of recent numbers pointed to a resurgence at the plate by Albert Pujols. He's homered in three straight games and six of his last 11. He has 22 RBIs in 24 May games. And he's batting .304 since May 9.

But here's also another way people look at it:
• .212/.248/.288 with one homer and 14 RBIs in 36 games under the old hitting coach.
• .295/.360/.750 with six homers and 12 RBIs in 11 games under the new hitting coach.

Jim Eppard, called up from the Minors to replace 13-year hitting coach Mickey Hatcher on May 15, can only laugh at that coincidence.

"I can't say yes or no to that," Eppard said of whether he's had that kind of impact on Pujols' production. "Obviously Albert has a great track record, long before me, so I'm a little bit more humble than that."

Eppard was heading into his 10th season as hitting coach at Triple-A Salt Lake, and with Torii Hunter on the restricted list and Vernon Wells on the disabled list, 10 of the 13 position players on the Angels' active roster were under the tutelage of Eppard before reaching the big leagues.

But dealing with a player like Pujols is a whole different challenge for Eppard. He admitted the two haven't had much dialog just yet, with Eppard still getting a feel for his routine and just making sure he's there for him.

"I'm kind of learning on the job on that one," Eppard said. "I'm used to having young guys who are coming through and just learning a level, or guys that have struggled and are trying to get back into a flow of things. So to be here around guys that are obviously superb athletes and great baseball players is a treat for me."

What has accounted for Pujols' turnaround? Eppard does notice that Pujols has had more "consistency from swing to swing," and Pujols said recently that he's not expanding the strike zone as much as he did earlier in the year.

But it could just be the law of averages.

"It's part of the game," Pujols said after Saturday's 5-3 win over the Mariners, which saw him hit a double and a solo homer. "I'm just going to try to continue to do my best to help this ballclub win. That's my goal every time I come to the ballpark."