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OC Register: Angels lineup shuffle drops Albert Pujols to 5th for the first time in 17 years

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SEATTLE — Albert Pujols is in a lineup spot he hasn’t seen since he was a rookie 17 years ago.

The Angels lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Seattle Mariners had Pujols hitting fifth, the first time he’s started a game lower than fourth since 2001, his first season.

Manager Mike Scioscia moved Andrelton Simmons up to the No. 2 spot, which had been occupied by Mike Trout. That pushed Trout, Justin Upton and Pujols all down a spot, to 3-4-5.

Asked if he needed to have a conversation with Pujols about this move, Scioscia said it wasn’t an issue.

“We’ve talked to all the guys,” he said. “They are on board with whatever we think is going to make us more productive. He’s got the same grouping in front of him, so he’s going to get the same RBI opportunities.”

Pujols, 38, has been a lightning rod for criticism in recent years because he’s remained in the middle of the lineup while his production has decreased. The Angels have maintained that he was still driving in runs. This season, Pujols has hit .318 with runners in scoring position.

Overall, he was hitting .247 with 12 homers, 45 RBIs and a .688 OPS. Although the Angels had hoped that a surgery-free winter would help Pujols improve from last year, his overall performance is only slightly up from his .672 OPS in 2017.

There had been other times in recent years when Pujols was slumping more than he is now, but the Scioscia apparently didn’t have the right mix of other players to make this move until now.

Simmons has been hot for most of the season, hitting .318 with an .826 OPS, but Scioscia had insisted he wanted Simmons to bat with runners on base. Now, the Angels have Shohei Ohtani back, so he can go behind Pujols, where Simmons was.

This allows Simmons to help the set the table for Trout.

“Our lineup has a chance to get deeper now, with Shohei in it, with it turning over with David Fletcher at the bottom,” Scioscia said. “Every inning you need to pressure other teams. Hopefully, we can start to get to that, particularly getting some guys on base in front of Mike. Helping him get some of those opportunities is important. That will feed into Justin and Albert.”

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