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Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The league is preying on the young Angels

By Mark Saxon

ANAHEIM -- Opposing teams have been mercilessly attacking the weaknesses of the Angels' youngest hitters, sending three of the team's regulars into slumps and forcing them to scramble to find counter-adjustments. The result has been one of the coldest stretches of the season for the Angels' offense.

Here is what opposing pitchers have been doing to Peter Bourjos, Hank Conger and Mark Trumbo:

Bourjos. He's a fastball hitter who likes the ball up, so -- not surprisingly -- he's been seeing a steady diet of sliders below the knees and swinging over the top of them. Bourjos is in the deepest cold streak of the three players, 4 for his last 46 with 17 strikeouts. He's trying to counter the opponents' strategy by bunting for base hits and laying off sliders that aren't strikes. He feels he's gradually making progress.

"Every year, I've had this happen to me," Bourjos said.

Conger. The young catcher has been "out in front," meaning he's susceptible to anything slow. As a result, pitchers have been throwing him a steady diet of changeups and breaking balls away. Conger, who is 0 for his last 14, has been taking batting practice off a curveball machine and working with hitting coach Mickey Hatcher on keeping his weight back.

"Up here, they'll stick with the scouting report all game long," Conger said. "At Triple-A, with most pitchers, you get your share of mistakes."

Trumbo. He's a power hitter with an upper-cut swing, so he likes the ball up and in. Not surprisingly, he's seeing a lot of fastballs away and he's struggled with the plate discipline to lay off them. Trumbo's slump hasn't been as deep and he's shown some signs of being able to go the other way with pitches. Still, he's batting .222 on this homestand.

This Angels' lineup isn't going to improve until the young guys adjust their approaches. The Angels swam behind their young hitters earlier this season, but lately they've been sinking with them.

"You could get 10,000 at-bats in the minor leagues and you’re still going to have to come up here and be faced with what these guys are faced with," manager Mike Scioscia said.

Here are Wednesday's lineups, with Ervin Santana opposing Trevor Cahill:

Oakland

1. Coco Crisp CF

2. Daric Barton 1B

3. David DeJesus RF

4. Josh Willingham DH

5. Ryan Sweeney LF

6. Landon Powell C

7. Mark Ellis 2B

8. Andy LaRoche 3B

9. Cliff Pennington SS

Angels

1. Bourjos CF

2. Erick Aybar SS

3. Bobby Abreu DH

4. Torii Hunter RF

5. Alberto Callaspo 3B

6. Mark Trumbo 1B

7. Hank Conger

8. Alexi Amarista 2B

9. Reggie Willits LF