ANAHEIM -- Jose Oquendo was the first one to come over. The longtime Cardinals third-base coach, and the person Albert Pujols often credits for making him a Gold Glove first baseman, emerged from the visitors' dugout at Angel Stadium, made his way onto the blue tarp that surrounds the home-plate area during batting practice, and gave his former pupil a hug.
Shortly after that came a warm embrace from Adam Wainwright, some jabs from Jake Westbrook, and soon Pujols was hosting a small gathering with Yadier Molina, Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran, who essentially became Pujols' replacement in the middle of the Cardinals' lineup.
It was, even if for a few brief minutes, as if he had never left.
But, as you know, he has.
"I was telling Yadier yesterday, it's weird," Pujols said as the Cardinals visited Anaheim for the first time ever. "These are three days that I won't be able to root for them, because any time that I have an opportunity and I watch, I root for them. Some of them are my good friends."
Pujols was an icon during his 11 years in St. Louis, posting a .328/.420/.617 slash line, belting 445 home runs, winning three National League Most Valuable Player Awards and leading the franchise to two World Series titles. On Dec. 8, 2011, he officially closed that chapter in his life, signing a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Angels.
Asked if he has any regrets over his time in St. Louis, Pujols said: "I don't really want to open those doors."
"I think we need to talk about our organization," he added. "I'm an Angel now, we're playing really good over the last week or so, and I think my main focus is that, to think about what I can try to do today to help this ballclub win and not to open those doors of what happened two years ago. Because that's over. There's nothing I can do to flip the page and go back. I just need to move forward. They moved forward, and I moved forward."
The Cardinals moved forward in a way few would've expected, being one win away from a World Series appearance last season and arriving to Orange County 17 games over .500 as the NL Wild Card leaders -- all without Pujols or iconic manager Tony La Russa.
The Angels, meanwhile, are four games below .500 and nine games out of first despite a six-game winning streak. And Pujols entered batting .249 with a .752 OPS, still hindered by the plantar fasciitis on his left foot and the soreness of his surgically repaired right knee.
"I just think it's a tough game," said Mike Matheny, the Cardinals' manager and Pujols' former teammate. "People go through stretches where the game is difficult for anybody. There were a number of times where he had years of .300/30/100 and everybody at the end of April thought the sky was falling because he was hitting .240. It's a tough game, but he has made a career out of being pretty consistent and very mentally tough."
At 7:21 p.m. PT, Pujols -- serving as the designated hitter for the 50th time in 81 games -- strolled to the batter's box with a generous applause from his current fans, who are still patiently waiting to see the same Pujols from St. Louis.
"I'm going to do my routine," Pujols said of coming to the plate with Molina crouching behind it. Then he paused, and jokingly recalled a St. Louis moment he'll never forget -- when a brawl ensued at Great American Ball Park after Brandon Phillips tapped the shins of the longtime Cardinals catcher.
"I'm probably going to hit the umpire [with the tip of my bat] and I'm going to hit [Molina] on the shin," Pujols added. "Hopefully he tells me not to do it and maybe we can start a fight."
Instead, Molina gave his buddy a gentle tap on the helmet.
Hamilton back in cleanup spot; Trumbo to six-hole
ANAHEIM -- A surging Josh Hamilton was back in the cleanup spot and a slumping Mark Trumbo was dropped to sixth for Tuesday's series opener against Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn.
"Josh is moving towards what we hope will be the normal production we expect from a player of his caliber, and he's been swinging the bat much better," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Mark, on the other hand, has been maybe in a little bit of a rough patch. Just take a little pressure off him."
Hamilton, who batted fourth when Mike Trout was out of the lineup on Sunday, hit safely in all six games of an undefeated road trip through Houston and Detroit, going 9-for-21 to raise his batting average from .207 to .223.
Asked if he felt he's turned a corner, Hamilton smiled, mindful of how often that has been the sentiment throughout this struggle-filled season.
"I wouldn't say that," he said. "Give me a month and I'll have a better answer to that question. Right now it's just about coming in and continuing to do the things I've done over the last three or four weeks to feel better at the plate. Keep doing that on a daily basis, and hopefully the pitch recognition will stay and I'll have better at-bats. That's all you want to do, have better on-base and do anything you can to help the team win. That aspect of it feels a lot better."
Trumbo's batting average has dropped 30 points over the last 33 games, a span in which he's batted .200 with a .289 on-base percentage and 29 strikeouts. He entered Tuesday with a .251/.321/.470 slash line, while easily leading the team with 18 home runs.
"I think more than anything, it's just been timing," Trumbo said. "The timing's gotten off. I know it's cliche, but it is enough to set everything else."
Madson resumes throwing off mound in Arizona
ANAHEIM -- Ryan Madson didn't just sit around while getting treatment in Arizona last week.
For the first time since mid-May, he progressed far enough in his throwing program to get on the mound.
Madson, confined to throwing off flat ground for about a month, threw three bullpen sessions in Tempe, Ariz., while the Angels were on a six-game road trip last week. The 32-year-old right-hander is throwing off the mound once every three days, with his next turn coming Thursday, and hopes to appear in rehab games again in a couple of weeks.
It's pretty much Spring Training mode for him, "but it's gathering quicker without having to push it," Madson said. He's throwing at only 60- to 70-percent intensity, and the late stages of his rehab have been littered with multiple setbacks, but he's encouraged nonetheless.
"It could be a lot worse -- I could be having pain at 60 or 70 percent," said Madson, who previously got as far as a rehab game for Class A Inland Empire on May 13. "I think I'm just going to be a little smarter, when I feel 100 percent healthy, to not go out there and throw 100 percent for a while. That's what I'm going to try and do. It's hard … but I'm going to try to stay under 100 percent. Even when I get there, even when I say, 'Oh, I can rip on it,' I'm going to conserve it more this time."
Cowgill called up with Bourjos landing on DL
ANAHEIM -- Collin Cowgill broke camp with the Mets, started on Opening Day and hit a grand slam. He was on his way, he thought. Then, one month later, he was optioned back to the Minor Leagues. And two months later, he was exposed to the waiver wire, where he joined his fourth team in three years -- the Angels.
"It's obviously a crazy game," Cowgill said. "You never know where you're going to be. It's fun. It's the best game in the world. You can be coast to coast in less than a week."
Cowgill was back in the Majors with the Angels on Tuesday because Peter Bourjos landed on the disabled list with a fractured right wrist -- and because Cowgill had a pretty good three days with Triple-A Salt Lake, going 7-for-12 with a couple of homers.
The 27-year-old right-handed hitter can play all three outfield positions and may be an option to start against left-handers, which would sit the lefty-hitting J.B. Shuck.
"I'm excited about it," said Cowgill, who posted a .237/.294/.311 slash line while appearing in 97 games for the D-backs, A's and Mets from 2011-13. "Triple-A was short lived with these guys, which is what you want. Happy to be here and happy to do anything I can to help."
Pujols stars in 'I Am Second' short film series
ANAHEIM -- Angels superstar Albert Pujols appeared in a short film Tuesday in partnership with I Am Second, a movement meant to inspire others through the life stories of athletes, actors, models, musicians, pastors, politicians, etc.
The short film consists of Pujols sitting on a white couch, with a black T-shirt and a black background, while talking about his life -- his move from the Dominican Republic, his marriage, his daughter with Down syndrome and, mostly, his faith.
The film can be seen on iamsecond.com. Other professional sports figures including Josh Hamilton, Matt Barkley, Joe Gibbs, Clayton Kershaw and Jason Witten have also appeared in videos.
Pujols was approached about the idea four or five years ago.
"The most important thing in my life is to be able to share my testimony with everybody," Pujols said. "I think this is a great opportunity, to see what's the most important thing in my life, which is my relationship with Jesus Christ. It was an easy yes for me."
• Sean Burnett, shut down for a month by Dr. James Andrews, hopes to start throwing again next week. He hasn't felt any pain in his left elbow or forearm, but he won't know if he's completely healed until he ramps up his throwing.
• Angels starter Tommy Hanson, placed on the disabled list Thursday with a right forearm strain, hasn't begun throwing.
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.