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KC@LAA: Angels fans give Pujols a warm welcome

It will be a battle of pitchers with no-hitters on their resumes Sunday when the Royals and Angels close out their season-opening series at Angel Stadium.

The season debuts of Royals left-hander Jonathan Sanchez and the Angels right-hander Ervin Santana are a lot more about the present than what either one of them might have accomplished in the past. But both have shown the ability to shut a team down, all day long.

Santana has the more recent experience-of-a-lifetime, having thrown one of three no-nos in the Majors in 2011 with his gem at Cleveland last July 27. It was two years earlier for Sanchez, when he dealt one for the Giants on July 10, 2009 -- one year before he was part of a 2010 World Series-winning rotation.

Traded to Kansas City this offseason in a deal that sent outfielder Melky Cabrera to San Francisco, Sanchez is in a new environment coming off a 2011 season in which hit the disabled list twice and had a 4.26 ERA in just 19 starts, taking a step backward after a career year in 2010.

Still, his average of 9.37 strikeouts per nine innings is the third-highest in the Majors since 2008.

"I can make you chase out of the zone, and I'm going to throw strikes so you've got to be ready," Sanchez said.

Sanchez must now focus on the challenges he'll face in his first American League start. Front and center among those is a guy named Albert Pujols, who has gone 5-for-10 against him with a double, an intentional walk and two strikeouts but no RBIs. Pujols got his first hit as an Angel on Saturday in Kansas City's 6-3 win.

Overall, Royals manager Ned Yost has said the approach with Pujols is to make sure they take a cautious route when they can.

"We'll try not to let him beat us," Yost said of Pujols. "You get in certain situations where there's no way around it, you've got to go mano-a-mano. But we're not going to walk the dadgummed guy with nobody on."

If Santana can keep on the same track that he was on a year ago and in the spring, he might not need a lot of help from Pujols and Co. In 2011, Santana had a career-low 3.38 ERA in a career-high 228 2/3 innings -- oh, and that no-hitter.

The 29-year-old Santana had a really good spring (2.08 ERA in 17 1/3 innings). But he has a 4.80 ERA in 84 1/3 career innings against the Royals.

Royals: Catching corps falls in line
Humberto Quintero, acquired late in the spring after the injury to Salvador Perez, will catch back-to-back days after receiving Luke Hochevar on Saturday. Yost says he wants Quintero to catch Hochevar, Sanchez and Danny Duffy while Brayan Pena catches Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza.

"I don't want anybody catching more than two days in a row," Yost said. "You try to keep them balanced, you try to keep them both in there. I like Quintero with guys like Hoch, Sanchez and Duffy because he's more of a veteran presence with those guys. I like Pena with Bruce because he's got a really good idea what he wants to do and so does Mendoza."

• Yost said earlier this week that he'll be making a gameday decision of whether Chris Getz will start at second base Sunday instead of Yuniesky Betancourt. But there's a good likelihood it will be Getz, in part because he is 9-for-21 against Santana compared to Betancourt's 14-for-51.

Angels: Scioscia sees little DH time for Pujols
Knowing that Pujols has been able to play in the field for more than 150 games in the past, Angels manager Mike Scioscia indicated Saturday that if all goes well, he'll have that many again this year.

Scioscia said he'll remain flexible, giving Pujols an occasional day at DH to keep him fresh. But he expects to write 1B next to Pujols' name the vast majority of the time this year.

"If DH was available, he would've hit in 162 games in St. Louis. I guarantee you that," Scioscia said. "He's such a presence at first base that you want him out there every day. But we're going to take advantage of the DH days to at least get him swinging the bat 162 games. And as needed, he'll DH. I don't think DH days are going to more than 10 or 12, if that 150 number holds up."

That said, Scioscia added, "it's tough just to put a number on it. He's going to play defense a lot."

• One way or the other, there's a chance the Angels will go with a different designated hitter in Sunday's finale. After Saturday's game, Kendrys Morales has played in back-to-back contests -- his first official game action since a devastating ankle injury in 2010 -- and he's most likely to rest against lefties.

Worth noting
• Friday's shutout at the hands of the Angels marked the first time the Royals were shut out on Opening Day since 1974, when Wilbur Wood and the White Sox beat Paul Splittorff and the Royals, 4-0.

• Following Sunday's finale, the Royals travel up the California coast to Oakland to face the A's for three games. The Angels head on the road following their three-game homestand to begin a six-game road trip.

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