Hamilton returns early; Pujols in lineup at first

Hamilton returns early; Pujols in lineup at first

ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton returned to the starting lineup after an 11-game absence, and Albert Pujols was back at first base for Tuesday's game against the Mariners, one night after the Angels first baseman exited in the third inning because of a cramp in his left hamstring.

Hamilton had been out since Sept. 4 because of stiffness near his right shoulder, an ailment that required three cortisone shots and a couple of trigger-point injections. But the 33-year-old outfielder had what Angels manager Mike Scioscia hoped was a "breakthrough" workout prior to Monday's game, taking batting practice on the field and running the bases.

Hamilton, who batted sixth and served as the designated hitter, wasn't expected back until Wednesday, but Scioscia said Hamilton felt much better on Tuesday.

Pujols' hamstring grabbed on him as he pulled up to second base after a two-out, three-run double against Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma on Monday, but he said after the game that the training staff had already worked out all of the tightness and he felt fine.

"I think that Albert is adamant in the fact there's no pull," Scioscia said. "Our medical staff feels there's nothing there but a cramp that really after the game was gone."

Hamilton started as the No. 6 hitter for the first time this season, with hot-hitting Howie Kendrick (.457 in his last 11 games) taking his place as the cleanup hitter. Scioscia didn't say how long Hamilton would be slotted there in the lineup.

"I think we can adjust a lot of different ways if we get Josh swinging the bat to his capabilities," Scioscia said. "You have a lot of different looks you can get and we'll be a deeper lineup whether he's hitting in the cleanup spot or fifth or sixth."

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.