CHICAGO -- Before every game, a few minutes before it's time to get on the field and stretch, Albert Pujols gets the attention of shortstop Erick Aybar and third baseman Alberto Callaspo. At that point, they know -- it's time to grab your bats and head to the cage for early batting practice.
"When you're always hitting with a guy like that, who's hit .300 his entire career, it helps out a lot," Aybar said in Spanish. "He corrects us a lot, me and Callaspo. … He has a great mind for hitting."
Aybar felt the benefits of that a few weeks ago, when Pujols -- quick to offer his opinion if he sees something wrong with a teammate's approach -- noticed he was overanxious at the plate. He was diving at balls, torquing his body too aggressively and not letting pitches travel deep enough to slap them the other way like he normally does.
And since then, Aybar has taken off, batting .352 (31-for-88) over a 23-game stretch that has seen his batting average rise by 32 points -- from .257 to .289.
"At the start, I was swinging too crazy," Aybar said before leading off Tuesday's game at Wrigley Field. "Now I feel better because I'm more calm. I'm seeing pitches better."
Trout says he's OK not taking part in HR Derby
CHICAGO -- Mike Trout will not be taking part in Monday's Chevrolet Home Run Derby at Citi Field. That became official on Tuesday, when Major League Baseball announced that A's slugger Yoenis Cespedes would be the fourth and final participant for the American League, joining the Orioles' Chris Davis, the Tigers' Prince Fielder and the Yankees' Robinson Cano.
But Trout said Tuesday that he was never asked by Cano, who's serving as the AL captain for the second straight year. And a few days earlier, Angels manager Mike Scioscia strongly recommended that his star outfielder not take part.
"He doesn't want me to do it because nothing good comes out of it," said Trout, who took part in a Minor League Derby three years ago.
"I did one in Low A in the Minor Leagues. Yeah, I had fun with it. But I don't know if it was my thing."
Trout did say that "maybe later down the road" he'd think about taking part in one. Generally speaking, Scioscia said Sunday that he's "not a fan" of the event, adding: "It's grueling for a participant. The number of full gorilla swings you take, it's like being on a driving range and hitting 10 buckets of balls. It's tough. I haven't seen someone come away from that Derby and be a better player for it."
Albert Pujols agrees with his skipper on how tiring the event can be, but says the three days your body has to recover before the start of the second half is normally plenty of time.
Pujols took part in the 2009 Home Run Derby in St. Louis, making it to the second round, and liked the experience. Cano invited him to participate last year in Kansas City, where Pujols attended high school and community college, and he would've gone had he been selected onto the All-Star team.
When he wasn't, Pujols recommended his teammate, Mark Trumbo, who made it to the second round and put on a show. But then Trumbo went on a prolonged slump shortly after the All-Star break, once again raising the question of whether the Derby can alter a player's swing.
Trumbo disagrees, saying that it was "business as usual" at the plate once the games resumed.
"I think if you get to this level, you should be able to have a decent understanding of what you can do and have some bat control," Trumbo said. "In that situation, you're trying to get under some balls. But it shouldn't be terribly hard to adjust out of that. You are going to be sore. If you go far enough, physically you're going to be a little bit tired."
Hanson, Burnett, Vargas working way back from DL
CHICAGO -- The biggest additions the Angels make before the non-waiver Trade Deadline could be Sean Burnett, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas -- three pitchers they hope will be back from the disabled list by late July or early August.
Hanson, out since suffering a right forearm strain prior to a start on June 26, is the furthest along. He's been playing catch almost every day for more than a week and is slated to throw his first bullpen session on Wednesday. Ideally, he'd be back by July 23 -- the next time a fifth starter is needed -- but the Angels are taking it day by day and aren't sure if he'll need a rehab assignment before returning.
"We're going off how I feel, but I feel good," Hanson said. "Hopefully it stays the same and I'll get back out there as soon as possible."
Vargas visited Tuesday with the doctor who operated on his blood clot and was cleared to start playing catch on Wednesday -- exactly two weeks post-surgery, as originally scheduled. If cleared, Vargas will start that process in Southern California while the Angels finish their last road trip before the All-Star break.
Burnett, the lefty reliever who has been on the DL with a left elbow impingement since May 28, played catch for the first time Tuesday and hopes to get off a mound in a couple of weeks. He and Vargas are basically on the same throwing schedule.
• Asked if Albert Pujols could play first base again on Wednesday, allowing him to be in the lineup for both games under National League rules in Chicago, Angels manager Mike Scioscia was non-committal, saying: "We're going to play tonight and see what happens."
Pujols' start at first base Tuesday marked the second time in 15 games that he has played the field. He hasn't played back-to-back games at first base since June 20-21.
• Josh Hamilton made his first start of the season in left field on Tuesday, with Mark Trumbo going to right as the Angels and Cubs played without a designated hitter at Wrigley Field.
"Mark is more comfortable in right field, and Josh kind of welcomes the adversity of [switching positions]," said Scioscia, who started Hamilton in center field on June 30. "Most players really like playing one position, getting settled. Josh is fine bouncing around occasionally."
• With Friday's deadline looming, the Angels are still hopeful of signing right-hander Blake Goins, whom they took with the 12th selection of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. Goins, out of Pearland High School in Texas, has a full ride to the University of Texas. The Angels made a final offer to him recently and are waiting to hear back. He's the only draftee left unsigned.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.