TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Josh Hamilton stepped to the plate Tuesday for his second plate appearance with the Angels, he took the first pitch, then flashed a look in the direction of Jim Eppard.
One of baseball's most aggressive first-pitch swingers, Hamilton said he and his new hitting coach have been trying to dial it back just a bit.
"Everybody knows I like to swing if it's around the strike zone," Hamilton said. "I talked to Ep about working on taking more pitches and maybe walking some. He's trying to get me to do it in batting practice and it hasn't been too successful."
Last season Hamilton swung at the first pitch 48 percent of the time, the second consecutive year he led the majors in that category. You can make a case that Hamilton shouldn't fix what isn't broken, because he still put up big numbers in those years. However, his best offensive season in Texas was 2010, which also happens to be the year he swung at the fewest number of first pitches, only 41 percent. Hamilton won the MVP that season.
"If you don't think you need to work on something, you aren't going to be striving to get better," Hamilton said. "You'll get complacent. There is always something you can get better at. You talk about the guys with good strike-zone recognition and walks and on-base percentage and things like that. It's about helping your team."
Eppard said, despite Hamilton's success with his current approach, the Angels would still like to see a little more discipline.
"We'd like him to strike out less, and walk more," Eppard said.
That being said, don't expect Hamilton to change dramatically. He concedes that he will always prefer swinging to working the count.
"If it's late in the game and you need a real tough at-bat, it's different," Hamilton said, "but you have a better chance of swinging at three strikes than one."
Hamilton did swing at the first pitch in his other two trips, grounding out the first time and swinging and missing in the third at-bat, which he still worked to six pitches before he hit a fly out. After taking that pitch in the second at-bat, Hamilton hit a fly out on the second.
It made for an 0-for-3 debut for the Angels' $125 million offseason acquisition.
Before the game, Hamilton caught a glance of the Angels logo on his chest and mentioned to Jeff Weaver, "That's kind of weird."
Weaver's reply: "Yeah it is. But I like it."
Albert Pujols, the only Angels regular who has not appeared in a spring training game, is still limited to fielding ground balls hit directly at him and running on the treadmill. He is hitting without restrictions.
Pujols, rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, plans to begin running on the field later this week, but he still won't be able to run the bases for a few more days after that.
Manager Mike Scioscia is still expecting Pujols to be ready for the April 1 opener.
"If opening day was on the horizon he might feel the need to push it a little," Scioscia said. "He really doesn't need to be in games till the second week of March. I anticipate he'll play before then."
Right-hander Ryan Madson threw from 75 feet for a second consecutive day, the first time since his Feb. 1 setback that he has thrown on back-to-back days. Madson needs to stretch out to about 150 to 180 feet before he can get back on the mound, so he's still a few weeks from getting into a game. ... Left-hander Sean Burnett might be ready to get back on the mound in a few days, Scioscia said. Burnett has been out because of a stiff back. ... Alberto Callaspo has lost most of the extra pounds he brought to camp, Scioscia said. Scioscia estimated that Callaspo came to camp 18-20 pounds overweight, but Callaspo has been doing extra work in the two weeks he's been here and now "he's only a handful of pounds away." ... The Angels re-assigned right-hander Tony Pena to minor league camp. Pena, a veteran big league reliever, did not have a chance to make the team because he's still months away from completing his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Pena had the surgery in August 2011, but he had a setback in October 2012.
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