Okay so I may be a little bit behind, but sometimes the good life in the greater Phoenix/Scottsdale area gets in the way. On Wednesday the Athletics had an off day, so we decided to mosey over to the Peoria Sports Complex, shared by the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners to take in a contest between the Padres and the division rival Los Angeles Angels. All of the big names were going to be in the lineup for the Halos, so it was a nice opportunity to see the presumed favorites in the AL West first hand, and there were certainly a few things that stood out immediately to me. There were also a few former Athletics in uniform that day, which is always amusing to see.
There were three very strong first impressions made on me before the game got going. We stood on a little bridge beyond the right field foul pole and watched various players emerge from the clubhouse and head out to the field to begin warmups. There were droves of Angels fans hoping to get a coveted Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, or Josh Hamilton autograph (all of them failed as far as I could tell). The most striking impression was made by Albert Pujols.
Mar 13, 2013; Peoria, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols (5) hits an RBI sacrifice fly during the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
We all know he’s been battling knee problems recently, and he certainly looked like it as he noticeably hobbled across the outfield towards the Angels dugout. I am not a physical therapist, but at this stage in Albert’s career I simply cannot imagine this problem going away any time, sooner or later. Pujols did have to run the bases, and he brought back memories of Frank Thomas lumbering around back in 2006. If I were the Angels I would be very concerned about having Pujols under contract for 9 more seasons when he looks this bad.
The second strongest impression was made by Joe Blanton, who looked significantly trimmed down from his former self that earned him the nickname “Cupcakes” in many circles. There’s no telling whether his improved conditioning will have any positive impact on his performance, but it can’t hurt.
One of the biggest stories of Spring Training thus far has been Mike Trout, who came to camp at 240 pounds instead of the 210 he had weighed in at before. Many feared that the weight gain would hinder his ability to combine the power and the speed he possesses that made him such a phenom in 2012. He led off the game with a triple that he made look easy. He did lose a fly ball in the sun that dropped in for a ground rule double later, but Trout certainly passed the eye test. For all the A’s fans who were hoping Mike Trout had gotten fat, and would experience a sophomore slump, I think you all will be sorely disappointed.
We also did get to see former A’s Travis Buck, and Gregorio Petit on the Padres side of things, which was admittedly about as exciting as you’d expect it to be. The Padres would score 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th, capped by a costly 3 run error on a fly ball to left and would ultimately win 8-6. We also got to sit next to some very nice Texas Rangers fans, and found it incredibly amusing how much they truly despise Josh Hamilton now. We do too Texas Rangers fans, we do too.
Day 3 impressions will be forthcoming.