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Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Eppard brings some familiarity

By Pedro Moura

ANAHEIM -- Of the nine hitters in the Los Angeles Angels' lineup Wednesday for their game against the Chicago White Sox, new hitting coach Jim Eppard has already coached seven of them during a regular season.

That's the familiarity Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto wanted in his new hire when he decided to fire longtime coach Mickey Hatcher following Tuesday night's 4-0 win over Oakland.

Eppard has tutored Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick -- and everybody else in the Angels' lineup except for big-league veterans Albert Pujols and Vernon Wells.

"A lot of the guys that are here, I've had them come through Salt Lake," Eppard said Wednesday in a pregame meeting with the media. "So I have a mental tape of those guys. And I also had everybody else in spring training, so I'm pretty familiar with the group."

Of course, Pujols and Wells have been two of the club's worst hitters so far this year, as the Angels have stumbled to a 16-21 start. But Dipoto and the Angels are hoping Eppard will bring a different, more patient approach to the entire club, from leadoff hitter Trout to temporary nine-hole man Bobby Wilson.

And Eppard, 52, said his conversations with Pujols are different than they are with other players he's coached. He said he asks Pujols a lot of the questions instead of the other way around.

He also said he's been "very much" surprised by Pujols and the Angels' early-season struggles. The slugger is hitting just .212 with one home run this season and the Angels have posted the fourth-worst team on-base percentage in the majors.

"It's hard to imagine, but it's baseball, and a lot of crazy things happen in baseball," Eppard said.

Speaking before Wednesday's game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia was complimentary of Eppard and the comfort he could bring to the club, but he also made it clear he wasn't happy that Hatcher was axed.

"I think Jim's a terrific hitting instructor," Scioscia said. "He's got a great understanding of hitting. He's a great teacher with a lot of the same attributes that Mickey had and hopefully he'll keep getting these guys in their comfort zone."

Said Dipoto: "Jim Eppard's been here a long time and he's trusted. The players know him."

* Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, expected to be out until the end of June following surgery on his right wrist last week, had the splint removed from the wrist Wednesday, Scioscia said. "The timetable still hasn't changed from the original forecast," the manager said.

* Trout went 3-for-4 with his third homer of the 2012 season on Tuesday. Scioscia said he's not surprised by the 20-year-old's play but is impressed. "Where he is right now, you're just seeing a young talent reaching a comfort level," he said.

Here are the lineups for Wednesday's 7:05 p.m. game against the Chicago White Sox:


Alejandro De Aza CF
Gordon Beckham 2B
Adam Dunn DH
Paul Konerko 1B
A.J. Pierzynski C
Alex Rios RF
Alexei Ramires SS
Dayan Viciedo LF
Brent Morel 3B
(Gavin Floyd P)

Mike Trout CF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Albert Pujols 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Mark Trumbo RF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Vernon Wells LF
Erick Aybar SS
Bobby Wilson C
(Jerome Williams P)