Vernon Wells, last year's Albert Pujols?

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
11:25
AM PT
Big-money contract, new team, new fans, a brutally slow start to the season. Then comes the mounting pressure of all of that. If it sounds familiar to Angels fans, it sounds painful to Vernon Wells.

Like Albert Pujols this season, Wells was that guy last year.

"I understand it first-hand," Wells said. "You never want to go through it, but I think it's a blessing if you're able to go through that, come out the other side and learn from it. When things come easily for you, it feels great, but you never master that ability to get through adversity."

Are we seeing Wells beginning to emerge from a slump that endured through six months of 2011 and had crept into the first five weeks of this season? The last nine games, over which he's hitting .303, may have been his most productive stretch as an Angel. He has already hit six home runs, a mark he didn't reach until June 13 last season, when he wound up with 25.

He said he's "getting there," when asked if he's as locked in as at any time with this team. Like Pujols, he is at his best when he's able to use the whole field. Like Pujols, he got pull-happy for most of 2011 and it choked off his ability to do other things. He hit only 15 doubles, less than half a typical season's worth.

"He's a right-handed pull hitter is what he is, but he has the ability to use more of the field than, at times, he's shown throughout his career," manager Mike Scioscia said. "This is something that plagued him in Toronto and, when he's gotten a grasp of it, he's as productive as any hitter in the league."

Here are lineups for Thursday's 12:35 p.m. game against the Chicago White Sox:

White Sox
Alejandro De Aza CF
Gordon Beckham 2B
Adam Dunn 1B
Paul Konerko DH
Alex Rios RF
A.J. Pierzynski C
Alexei Ramirez SS
Dayan Viciedo LF
Brent Morel 3B

Angels
Mike Trout RF
Maicer Izturis SS
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Howie Kendrick 2B
Vernon Wells LF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Peter Bourjos CF
John Hester C

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Mike Trout
BA HR RBI R
.288 27 89 84
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 27
RBIM. Trout 89
RM. Trout 84
OPSM. Trout .930
WJ. Weaver 13
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOG. Richards 164