Quality swings, not homers, matter to Pujols

Quality swings, not homers, matter to Pujols

Quality swings, not homers, matter to Pujols
SAN DIEGO -- The home run that Albert Pujols hit on Monday to end the longest drought of his career was good for his psyche, Pujols somewhat acknowledged on Tuesday, if only because he had seen so many of his well-struck drives end up in gloves.

Take his first at-bat Monday, Pujols clocking a pitch, the ball soaring and then dying in San Diego's coastal air, Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin catching it on the warning track -- and Pujols looking like someone picked his pocket.

"I thought, 'You have to be kidding me,'" Pujols said on Tuesday, also mentioning similar results in both Kansas City and St. Louis.

As the miffed Pujols circled back toward the dugout, he bumped into poor Jon Jay, his teammate who had retreated to first base and into Pujols' path. Down went Pujols.

"I looked at Jay and said, 'What the heck, dude?'" Pujols said.

A man who has hit 416 home runs isn't easily discouraged, though, and although Pujols smacked another drive that Maybin also caught in PETCO Park's massive outfield, he said he was encouraged because up-the-middle blasts portend good things for him.

"It's when I'm rolling over the ball and striking out that you get concerned," Pujols said, describing chunks of his April.

He blasted a third consecutive shot next time. This one floated past left fielder Ryan Ludwick and over the wall, one row back.

"I'm glad it was the first row and not in Luddy's glove," said Pujols, whose homer was his eighth of the year.

Pujols had gone 105 at-bats without a home run, which was 26 at-bats longer than his previous career-long dry spell.

Meaningless, Pujols and manager Tony La Russa said, because Pujols was hammering pitches and doing many other things to help the National League Central leaders.

"I'm just trying to help this ballclub win," Pujols said. "I can't care less about home runs. Home runs are going to come when they come. They come in bunches. I have hit 14 homers in a month. As long as you hit the ball hard and put good quality swings, that's all I want."

Pujols spoke to the digestibility of hard-hit outs, depending on how he and the team are doing.

"When you are hitting .320, .330 and take a good swing," he said, "you say, 'Hang with it.' But when you are hitting .240 and you put a good swing on a ball like that [went to Maybin], you take on a little more frustration, because you know that ball should have dropped or that ball should be in the gap and be an RBI, or it should be in the seats. But hang with it."

He added: "It's part of baseball, the main thing is to not get frustrated, because it is part of baseball. The thing that helped me to be so successful is knowing that if it's going to be a [tough-luck] year like that, it's going to be a year like that. But my job is to make sure I continue to put up those quality at-bats, because at the end, I know things are going to all fall in place, I hope."