ANAHEIM -- Chalk this up as one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 baseball season: the Angels have by far the worst OPS in the Majors from the No. 3 spot (.501) entering Tuesday's game, which they essentially committed $240 million to shore up in December.
That can be almost entirely attributed to the early struggles of Albert Pujols, who came into Tuesday's game against the Athletics with a .197/.235/.275 slash line, one home run, 12 RBIs, one walk since April 26 and one multi-hit game since April 20. Only 22 percent of the season is complete -- and Pujols still has a chance to finish the year with good numbers, even by his standards -- but so far, the Angels have received little-to-no production from a lineup's most important spot.
Still, manager Mike Scioscia isn't giving much thought to temporarily hitting Pujols lower in the lineup while he tries to figure it out, saying: "He's much better served staying where he is right now and just grinding through it."
"You'd only consider that if it was going to be a means to a better end," Scioscia added. "We don't see that as anything that's going to get us there right now. ... You look at some different lineup considerations, we definitely feel better to grind it out with where Albert is now."
There have been some slight positives from Pujols lately. He's driven in seven runs over the last eight games -- after totaling just five in the first 27 -- and hit three balls hard to the left side while going 1-for-4 in Monday's 5-0 loss. But he's still swinging at an uncharacteristically high number of pitches outside the strike zone (38.7 percent, after being below 30 percent from 2002-10), and isn't hitting the ball the other way like he normally does.
But the Angels are confident he'll figure it out, and they seem determined to stick with him in the No. 3 spot until he does.
Part of the reason is there aren't many other options anyway.
"You look up and see him hit .190 or something and you're just like, 'Gosh, this guy is at times hitting the ball much harder than that,'" Scioscia said. "I don't think right now it's going to serve any purpose to push him down, unless you had a reconfiguration that really just made sense. I don't think we're at that point right now."
Iannetta aims to get back as soon as possible
ANAHEIM -- Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, expected to be out 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery on his right wrist Friday, figured something was wrong while playing in three straight games last week.
"I couldn't really swing," he said. "There was no explosion. All I could do was cheat to swing the bat, try to get the head out. I swung at a lot of pitches I don't normally swing at, got pitches down the middle of the plate that I was tapping to short, things like that."
Iannetta stayed in the game after being plunked on the right hand on May 2 -- the night of Jered Weaver's no-hitter -- then was out of the lineup for three straight days, then started feeling better, then played in three in a row, then wasn't feeling right again.
An X-ray during the Angels' off-day on Thursday came up negative, but an ensuing CT scan showed he had shattered one of the bones in his wrist in three or four pieces and would need to go under the knife.
"It stinks," said Iannetta, now sporting a cast on his right hand. "I was hoping it was a bruise. I was hoping that it would continue to get better."
Now, all Iannetta can do is bide his time. He's not sure when the cast will come off, but is scheduled to make the team's upcoming road trip -- to San Diego, Oakland and Seattle -- and has been mostly limited to conditioning while Bobby Wilson receives the majority of the playing time behind the plate.
"You get paid to play, and when you can't play, it's tough," Iannetta said. "Nothing I can do about it now. Just be a good cheerleader and a good teammate, and work on getting back as fast as I can."
Langerhans, Hester value time in the Majors
ANAHEIM -- Angels outfielder Ryan Langerhans and catcher John Hester certainly aren't here to stay. Langerhans was called up to take the place of Torii Hunter, who's on the restricted list to deal with a personal matter but could return in less than a week. Hester's stay may be a bit longer -- he's taking the place of Chris Iannetta, who will be out 6-8 weeks after undergoing wrist surgery -- but his days in the big leagues are counted, too.
Short-lived as it may be, though, Langerhans and Hester have learned to value any amount of time they spend in the big leagues.
They're a reminder of how fickle this game can be.
"Pretty much since I left Atlanta [in 2007], it's been a grind -- always battling, trying to be up here as long as you can," Langerhans said. "Any day you get to be up here, you don't want to take for granted."
"Not that I took things for granted in Arizona," Hester added, "but I think you just put things in perspective a little bit with just how lucky you are to be up here and how special it really is."
Hester -- a 28-year-old, 6-foot-4 catcher -- appeared in 53 games for the D-backs from 2009-10, then was traded to the Orioles in April 2011, was released by Baltimore this past April 12 and signed a Minor League deal with the Angels shortly thereafter.
Hester had other options. He could've pursued jobs with the economics degree he picked up from Stanford University. But he believes toiling around in the Minors, riding around in buses and hoping for that next callup still beats getting a real job.
"I would like to think so," he said, smiling. "I talk to friends that have real-life jobs and they just tell me to keep doing what I'm doing and there's no hurry to get involved in anything else. I think they're all a little jealous. At least that's what I like to think."
Langerhans, a 32-year-old left-handed hitter, appeared in 259 games with the Braves from 2005-06, then bounced around to five different organizations and averaged 64 games per season over the next five years -- including 19 with the Mariners in 2011.
"As you get older, you cherish any time you get up," said Langerhans, who signed a Minor League deal this offseason and spent the majority of the spring at Angels camp. "But the main thing is getting up here and trying to do a job."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.