Pujols still one homer from 600 as Angels host Twins (Jun 01, 2017)

BY AP • June 1, 2017

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Adalberto Mejia, meet Albert Pujols.

When Mejia takes the mound for the Minnesota Twins on Thursday, he will be facing Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels for the first time. Mejia made his major league debut last year and has started five games for the Twins this year.

However, the 23-year-old left-hander could soon find himself in the history books if he catches a little bit too much of the plate when he faces Pujols, who is looking to become the ninth player in major league history to hit 600 home runs.

Pujols belted homer No. 599 on Tuesday, and he reached a minor milestone Wednesday, collecting hit No. 2,874, passing Babe Ruth for No. 44 on the all-time list.

Pujols seems to be rewriting the record books with every hit, home run, RBI, etc., but he said he is too caught up in the grind of the season to think about where he stands in history.

"I don't play for numbers," Pujols said. "My goal from Day 1 since I got to the big leagues was to help the organization that I wear the uniform for. My whole career I've been telling you guys numbers are numbers and I'm going to have plenty of time to look at them. But now my main goal is to try to win a championship here and to do whatever I can to help this ballclub day in and day out.

"Whether I have an oh-fer or I get two or three hits, this game is up and down, and more mentally than physically, you have to be strong and be ready to grind every day whether you feel 100 percent or not. When I play the game during the season, it's hard for me to focus on who's in front of me. I'm aware of the history, don't get me wrong, I respect that. But that's a distraction I don't want to bring into the game for me."

While Pujols is working toward baseball immortality, Mejia is a work in progress. The lefty started the season as the No. 5 starter but had three rough outings and was sent to Triple-A sporting a 5.79 ERA. He returned to start the second game of a doubleheader on May 21 against the Kansas City Royals and earned his first major league victory.

In his last start, Mejia (1-1, 4.64 ERA) gave up three runs in five innings for a no-decision against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. The experience is paying off, he believes.

"I was more amped for my start (against the Royals) because it was my first start in the big leagues (this year)," Mejia told MLB.com. "This time (vs. Tampa Bay), it's different."

Alex Meyer is expected to start for the Angels on Thursday, though the club had not yet made the announcement official as of late Wednesday night.

The 27-year-old right-hander spent the past 11 days on the disabled list because of back spasms that were considered minor.

Meyer, like Mejia, has bounced from the minors to the majors and back this season, but he is showing signs of improvement.

Meyer is 2-2 with a 5.79 ERA in five starts for the Angels, but his start on May 14 against the Detroit Tigers helped those in the Los Angeles organization keep the faith in their 6-foot-9 right-hander. In that game, he gave up one run and three hits in 6 1/3 innings to get the victory.

In his last outing before going on the DL, Meyer was touched for four runs (three earned) in four-plus innings during a loss to the Mets in New York.



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