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OC Register: Angels’ Albert Pujols sits on the doorstep of another historic milestone

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As Craig Biggio sat behind the plate at Minute Maid Park and pondered the next player to join him in the 3,000-hit club, his description of Albert Pujols was accompanied by a motion toward the farthest reaches of the ballpark over the left field fence.

“At any given time, he can do like he did and hit one off the glass in the back of the stadium here,” Biggio said, perhaps still feeling a bit of the sting that draws loud boos for Pujols every time he comes to the plate in Houston.

Pujols’ titanic stadium-silencing, pennant-depriving homer against the Astros in the 2005 National League Championship Series remains one of the iconic moments in a career that is about to add another milestone.

With 2,994 hits, Pujols is about to cross the 3,000-hit threshold. When he does, though, he will be unlike most of the 31 men who have already joined the club.

Many of them are like Biggio or Angels great Rod Carew or all-time hit leader Pete Rose: line-drive hitters with occasional power.

Pujols, though, will reach this milestone less than a year after joining the 600-homer club.

The collection of players who have hit 600 homers and racked up 3,000 hits is so small you can’t even call it a “club.” It’s more of a golf group.

Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez.

Pujols is about to make it a foursome.

Even among the 27 players with 500 homers, Pujols will be only the sixth with 3,000 hits. Pujols’ .560 slugging percentage is higher than any of the players with 3,000 hits.

“He’s amazing,” said Adrian Beltre, who reached 3,000 hits last year. “He’s one of not many guys who has been a complete player, especially offensively. Hit for power. Hit for average. Walk a lot. He’s been clutch his whole career.”

While Beltre has watched from the other side of the field, Carew has watched from the seats in Angel Stadium or his television at home in Southern California.

“I think it’s unbelievable,” Carew said. “If you can hit for power and you’re still hitting line drives, it tells a lot about the man himself. It’s all consistency. He’s not trying to hit every pitch out of the ballpark, but when he does get his pitch, he can still do that.”

Still. In 2018.

The current version of Pujols might be difficult for many Angels fans to appreciate. Unquestionably, his best seasons were in St. Louis. These days, the years and injuries have taken a toll on Pujols’ body, forcing him to slow down – both literally an in terms of his statistical accomplishments.

This season, the 38-year-old Pujols is hitting .257 with five home runs and 14 RBIs, numbers that indicate a modest bounceback from last year’s career-worst .241 average.

A winter without surgery allowed Pujols to come to spring training about 15 pounds lighter, he said. That’s allowed him to play first base more often, which he’s always preferred to DH-ing.

As a result, he has steadily climbed toward 3,000 hits. He has not gone more than two straight games without a hit this season.

The Angels mounted a sign beyond the seats in right field, showing his hit total as it approaches 3,000. As usual, Pujols is trying not to let the quest for the milestone be a distraction.

“It’s going to happen sometime this year, whether it’s this week, next week, whenever it happens, I’ll deal with it, but right now, I’m blocking out all that distraction because, at the end of the day, it’s not about my numbers, it’s about helping this organization and ballclub win,” Pujols said. “When it does happen, there will be a celebration. It’s hard not to think about it because every time you get a hit they raise the count out there (on the outfield sign). I think I’ll have plenty of time after my career is over to look back. Right now, I’m focused on helping the team win.”

Pujols will become the second player born in the Dominican Republic to achieve the milestone, just a season after Beltre got there.

“To be able to get that milestone took me a lot longer than it’s going to take him,” Beltre said. “It’s a privilege to be there. To get that milestone for me hasn’t completely set in yet. Obviously, I’m proud of what I’ve done.”

Biggio got his 3,000th hit in 2007 with the Astros, a key step toward the Hall of Fame for him. Carew, who got his 3,000th hit with the Angels in 1985, said reaching 3,000 hits was “the culmination of my whole career.”

Both Biggio and Carew, however, collected hit No. 3,000 in what would be their final season. Pujols, 38, has three years left after this one on his Angels contract. He has a chance to crack the all-time top 10 if he can surpass Paul Molitor’s 3,319 hits.

“You play long enough and you’re a special player like him, there are certain numbers that are scary numbers,” Biggio said. “He’s just been an incredible player for a long period of time.”


Angels (Andrew Heaney, 0-1, 9.64) vs. Yankees (Luis Severino, 4-1, 2.32), Friday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports West, KLAA (830 AM).

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