Angels' Mickey Hatcher to take hands-off approach with Albert Pujols
Mickey Hatcher has been the Angels’ hitting coach for 12 years, but he will be more pupil than teacher this spring when he begins working with Albert Pujols, the Hall of Fame-caliber slugger who signed a 10-year, $250-million deal with the team in December.
“I’m definitely not going to try to confuse him -- you’ve seen me do that already with [Vernon] Wells,” Hatcher joked, referring to the outfielder who hit a career-low .218 in 2011 after being traded from Toronto to the Angels last January.
“He knows himself more than anyone else, and like a lot of great hitters, his swing hasn’t changed much over the years. I need to learn what his routine is, what his program is, how he prepares for a game. I have to be in tune with him. It’s not like I’m going to teach him or coach him. My job is to be there when he needs me.”
Hatcher has been studying tapes of the swing Pujols used to hit .328 with a .420 on-base percentage, 445 homers and 1,329 runs batted in for the Cardinals. He has not consulted any of the hitting coaches Pujols had in 11 years with St. Louis -- Mike Easler, Hal McRae and Mark McGwire -- but he said he may reach out to them. Mitchell Page, Pujols' hitting coach from 2001-2004-2004, passed away last March.
Hatcher is often a target of criticism when the Angels aren’t hitting, and some fans might scoff at the idea of a former utility player who hit .280 with 38 homers and 375 RBIs in 12 big league seasons giving hitting advice to Pujols, considered by many to be the best hitter in the game.
But the Angels signed another star slugger in his prime in 2004, and Hatcher certainly didn’t do anything to mess him up -- Vladimir Guerrero hit .337 with 29 homers and 126 RBIs that season to win American League most-valuable-player honors.
“I’ve never had a guy, no matter the caliber of player, who hasn’t trusted me, and that’s what I have to do in spring training -- gain Albert’s trust,” Hatcher said. “I’ve been in this game, been a coach, for a long time, and you can’t be intimidated because a guy is a superstar. I’m excited about it. This guy is a great hitter.”
Photo: Albert Pujols. Credit: Ed Szczepanski/Getty Images.