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Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Angels' rotation wobbles along

By Mark Saxon

Garrett Richards
Garrett Richards has been up and down this season with the Angels, who are trying to solve their pitching issues.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rumors swirl this time of year.

They also dart. They almost always die.

A couple of potentially marquee solutions to the Los Angeles Angels' pitching problem might have disappeared late Tuesday, as reports indicated Cole Hamels was nearing a contract extension to stay in Philadelphia and ESPN's Tim Kurkjian reported that the Angels' talks with the Tampa Bay Rays about James Shields had "fizzled."

So much for those big names, perhaps, but Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto still has until 1 p.m. next Tuesday to make the one move that could radically change the AL playoff picture in his team's favor. The Angels have been hoping for a while now that their rotation would heal itself, but that has been like watching paint dry in 80 percent humidity.

After rookie Garrett Richards put the Angels in an early hole they couldn't climb out of in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals, the evidence suggests Dipoto has little choice but to act. In the Angels' last 23 games, the starters' ERA is 5.81. Take Jered Weaver's five starts out of that mix and it's 6.95.

You know the players are pulling for Dipoto, just as he pulls for them night after night. Perhaps they could stand around and clap when he pulls out his cell phone? It can't be fun watching much of their work go for naught. Since the All-Star break, the Angels have averaged 5.2 runs per game and gone 5-7.

Lately, the offense has shown some signs of petering out and that's a truly frightening thought.

"It's always good if you go get somebody," Torii Hunter said. "If it's a veteran guy who's been around, that's fine. If you get him, you get him, but right now, it's not really a necessity. If we get him, we'll be thankful, we'll be happy. Other than that we're going to just go out there and keep doing what we do."

The Angels don't have much to barter in what figures to be a sellers' market for starting pitching. One of their primary competitors for the remarkably finite commodity also happens to be their division rival, the Texas Rangers.

But they might just have to overpay, maybe even part with a talent and personality as likeable as Peter Bourjos', because Ervin Santana hasn't given anyone reason to trust him, Richards and Jerome Williams have been up and down. Dan Haren looked good Sunday, but his return to form is far from a given. Weaver is good, but scientists are way behind on cloning pitchers.

Manager Mike Scioscia keeps waiting for a semblance of flow in his rotation. He has been waiting for more than a month. It's in Dipoto's court now, but until he finds a match, Scioscia just keeps putting pieces in holes that don't match, hoping they'll bend into place.

"It's very clear what needs to happen, but it's, 'Who's going to step up and get it done,'" Scioscia said. "Hopefully we're going to be more settled this next couple times around the rotation than we have the last 4-5 times."