Los Angeles Angels: Bobby Wilson

3 up, 3 down: Rays 3, Angels 0

July, 28, 2012
7/28/12
9:12
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Angels say they're still focused on winning their division, but now they have two teams to get past.

The Angels managed just five hits against Matt Moore and three relievers, and lost 3-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night. The loss pushed them out of second place for the first time since May 25. The Oakland A's, 18-3 this month, won again and relegated the Angels to second-to-last in the four-team division. The Angels, with roughly three times the payroll of Oakland, trail first-place Texas by four games.

The Good:

More deserving. C.J. Wilson should not be 0-for-July. He has had only two bad starts since that rain-shortened clunker in Texas and has given the Angels quality starts in four of his past five outings. He fought through some awful fielding early Saturday and sidestepped some damage, managing to pitch into the seventh inning. For a guy with a sub-3.00 ERA to be stuck at 9-6 seems a little silly. The Angels don't seem to show up to play on some of the nights he pitches.

Who's this guy? Maybe he sensed the diminished playing time with Chris Iannetta coming from the disabled list or maybe it's a coincidence, but Bobby Wilson is hotter than he has ever been at this level. He had one of the few hard-hit balls off Moore all evening, a double to left field. At that point, he was 7-for-his-previous-14 with two doubles and two home runs. This from a guy who struggled to keep his batting average above .200 most of the season.

Tough man. Albert Pujols didn't do much Saturday. He went 0-for-3 and stranded four baserunners, but the guy deserves some credit just for staying on the field. In the past two weeks, he has endured a nasty-looking ankle injury and a badly bruised right forearm while missing just one game. Adding injury to injury, he took a mid-90 mph fastball to the upper rib cage in the fourth inning but stayed in the game.

The Bad:

Wells conundrum. Here we go again. Vernon Wells is back, he's getting booed again and he's causing a logjam of players hoping for at-bats. Manager Mike Scioscia said before the game that Wells wouldn't drastically affect youngster Peter Bourjos' playing time, but how is that possible? Bourjos typically has been playing against left-handed pitchers, and on Saturday, it was Wells supplanting him. Wells went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and played a first-inning double awkwardly. General manager Jerry Dipoto has shown a knack for acting decisively when something needs to be done, and you wonder whether Wells is in jeopardy of being released the next time the Angels need a roster spot.

Efficiency. Wilson deserves a share of the blame for his winless month. He has erratic control much of the time, and his high pitch counts tend to limit his innings. Wilson hasn't pitched more than seven innings since June 8, and he has done it just three times all year. He needed 121 pitches (and only 69 strikes) to get through 6 2/3 innings.

Early focus. The Angels are above average in the field, but early on, Wilson had a mess to contend with because of the Angels' sloppy fielding. Maicer Izturis just plain dropped a Matt Joyce pop-up, and Bobby Wilson sailed a throw into center field (although, it probably should have been caught). The misplays cost Wilson pitches, but more importantly, they cost the Angels an unearned run. Tampa doesn't score much, but it does pitch well, so playing poor defense is a good way to lose against the Rays.

Angels hope Greinke settles in fast

July, 28, 2012
7/28/12
5:23
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Zack Greinke will be riding a 19-game home unbeaten streak when he takes the mound at Angel Stadium on Sunday afternoon, but those came in a different home -- actually, two different homes.

Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young winner, has pitched once at Dodger Stadium and three times at Angel Stadium, though he estimates he has been to Southern California 20 or 30 times with the Kansas City Royals or Milwaukee Brewers.

You could look at the next two months as a feeling-out period for Greinke, who will be a free agent after this season and said the Angels are an organization that "just about anybody in baseball would want to be a part of, that's one way to put it."

The Angels acquired Greinke on Friday in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura and Double-A pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena. It could prove a hefty price to pay if Greinke leaves in November. A Florida native, Greinke knew virtually nobody on the Angels roster before he walked in the door Saturday afternoon, though he played some travel ball as a kid with catcher Bobby Wilson.

"I'd definitely get lost if I didn't have a map, but I know what direction to kind of head," Greinke said at his introductory media conference Saturday. "I don't know what roads to take, but I like to get a rental car because there's a lot of stuff to do around here."

The Angels say they think Greinke could give them the deepest rotation in the American League. He'll follow Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and C.J. Wilson. For now, Ervin Santana (4-10, 6.00 ERA) will remain as the Angels' No. 5 starter, but Garrett Richards will be standing by -- in the bullpen-- if Santana struggles again Monday night in Texas.

The Angels activated catcher Chris Iannetta from the 15-day disabled list Saturday and he will catch Greinke's Angels debut. The Angels optioned John Hester to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Iannetta has never caught Greinke, but he faced him last year in National League games and several times before that in spring training.

"He's a really tough at-bat," Iannetta said. "He doesn't give you a lot of pitches to hit and, when he does, they're not ideal. They're really tough breaking balls in the strike zone."

[UPDATE: The Angels optioned lefty reliever Hisanori Takahashi to make room on the 25-man roster for Greinke. It's a little surprising since Takahashi is a three-year veteran and is making $4.2 million this season. In 33 appearances, he had a 4.37 ERA and a 1.086 WHIP]

Here are lineups for Saturday's game vs. the Tampa Bay Rays:

Tampa Bay
Desmond Jennings LF
B.J. Upton CF
Ben Zobrist DH
Jeff Keppinger 1B
Ryan Roberts 3B
Sean Rodriguez SS
Matt Joyce RF
Brooks Conrad 2B
Jose Molina C

Angels
Mike Trout CF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Howie Kendrick 2B
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Vernon Wells LF
Maicer Izturis SS
Bobby Wilson C

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 7, Rangers 4

July, 22, 2012
7/22/12
8:32
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- The Los Angeles Angels have finally gained a little second-half momentum.

Behind six strong innings from returning starter Dan Haren and a 15-hit attack, the Angels beat the first-place Texas Rangers 7-4 Sunday night. The win gave the Angels two straight series wins over the Rangers and trimmed Texas' AL West lead to five games.

The Good:

Haren's hope. It's not that the Angels weren't winning any games. It's just that they were only winning games started by Jered Weaver, or at least that's how it seemed for more than three weeks while Haren was out. Haren's six more-than-solid innings were just what this beleaguered staff needed. His fastball was back where it needed to be -- in the 88- to 90-mph range -- and his secondary stuff was sharp. Nelson Cruz hit a long home run off him, but otherwise the Rangers looked baffled. Getting Haren back could soothe a lot of nerves around here as the Angels rev up for a pennant race.

Not backing down. Twice, Texas pitcher Matt Harrison backed Mike Trout off the plate with inside fastballs. A lot of young players would have tried to get even, swung harder and gotten themselves out. Yet another sign this kid is drastically ahead of the learning curve: He reacted calmly and worked walks off Harrison both times. Trout also had a leadoff triple -- on an automatic double for 85 percent of the league -- and scored a run for the 14th straight game. That set a new AL rookie record.

Machinelike. Remember back in early May when everybody who knew Albert Pujols was saying he'd get going and do what he always does when the season was over? Seemed kind of preposterous at the time. Not so much now. After batting .196 and going homerless in April, Pujols is again the guy he always has been. After smashing a deep home run off Alexi Ogando and driving in three, Pujols is on pace for 30 home runs and 101 RBIs. Amazing turnaround.

The Bad:

Short at short. Judging from Erick Aybar's pregame comments, the Angels could be without their Gold Glove shortstop for a while, maybe even 15 days or longer. Aybar fouled a ball off his right big toe Saturday and the Angels were awaiting the results of X-rays. If he is out for an extended period, Maicer Izturis is going to have to pick up his game. The Angels called up top prospect Jean Segura, but it sounds as if he will be a short-term backup until Andrew Romine is eligible to return from Triple-A.

Lefty issue. Scott Downs, we're finding out, is, indeed, human. On July 7, he had a 0.30 ERA and had been all but automatic in save chances. In three outings since, he has allowed 10 base runners and five runs. It's far from a major concern, but if he could return to near-perfection it certainly wouldn't hurt the Angels' chances of holding late leads.

Opportunity. Bobby Wilson was robbed of a chance to hit for the cycle because he was batting ninth and got just four at-bats. OK, so maybe it would take have taken the lumbering catcher about 700 at-bats to get a triple, but still. ... While we're on the subject, it's worth mentioning that Wilson's big night at the plate -- including his first home run -- may have saved his spot on the 25-man roster. Starter Chris Iannetta should be back within a week. Wilson went into Friday batting .197 and was feeling some competition for the backup role from John Hester.

3 up, 3 down: Angels 3, Orioles 0

July, 7, 2012
7/07/12
9:37
PM PT


ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver continued to pad his case to start Tuesday's All-Star Game and the Angels rode it to a 3-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night at Angel Stadium.

The Angels seemed to be sleepwalking toward the All-Star break in recent games, losing three of the last four, but a lot of that was due to sub-par starting pitching. Weaver tidied things up with eight shutout innings, in which he allowed just three hits.

The Good:

Weaver's front yard. Beating Weaver in Anaheim isn't impossible, but then again neither is soloing K2 or circumnavigating the globe in a 16th century wooden ship. It isn't easy. Weaver has made seven starts here this season, including his no-hitter, and he is 6-0 with a 0.58 ERA. The Orioles put a little pressure on him in the first few innings, but after that, Weaver settled in and he just didn't look fallible. He's 10-1, has a 1.96 ERA and looks like a good bet to make his next start in Kansas City on Tuesday night.

Leather work. Suggestion for 41-year olds: Don't run on Torii Hunter. Jim Thome didn't get it and tried to reach second after smacking a line drive off the right-field wall in the seventh inning. Hunter made an on-target throw and Thome was out narrowly. Erick Aybar made a diving stop on Chris Davis' grounder up the middle, another play that should make Baseball Tonight's Web gems.

Unexpected source. Bobby Wilson has a strong, accurate arm and a knack for helping pitchers work their way through an opposing lineup. You don't, however, have to be a SABR-metrics professor to see that he's not the world's greatest hitter. Wilson came into Saturday batting .181. He picked up two hits (just his fourth multi-hit game of the season) and was on base three times to stoke what little offense the Angels mustered. Good step forward for a player who could be a very solid backup catcher if he can hit.

The Bad:

Decisions, decisions. On the one hand, you have to appreciate Aybar's hustle and aggressiveness. On the other hand, you have to wonder what he's thinking sometimes. Jason Hammel had walked a batter and hit a batter in the second inning right before Aybar swung at the first pitch he saw and popped it up to end the inning. Later, on a routine single to left field, he tried to go from first to third (with two outs). Xavier Avery made a terrible throw or Aybar would have been out easily. An old-school manager might have pulled Aybar from the game.

Main men. What are the odds Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo would combine to go 1-for-10 and the Angels would still win fairly easily? Not sure, but probably not great. Those three have been the fuel, the drive shaft and the piston of the Angels' offense this season, but they weren't firing in sync for one of the few times in recent weeks. It's a good sign that the rest of the lineup picked them up for one of the few times in 2012.

Matchups. You can't criticize Mike Scioscia for going with Scott Downs in the ninth inning, because Baltimore didn't sniff a rally, going down feebly on 10 pitches. But you can wonder why he didn't go with Ernesto Frieri with a couple of right-handed hitters leading things off (after Steve Pearce pinch-hit for Avery). Maybe the point of this is: How can you go wrong when two relievers are pitching this well? Those guys are better at thwarting second guessers than anything Scioscia can say.

3 up, 3 down: Angels 8, Dodgers 5

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
10:41
PM PT


ANAHEIM -- Perhaps the Angels simply wanted to give their rivals up the Interstate 5 freeway something to get excited about early in the game. After all, the Dodgers had only scored two runs in their last three games when they finally exploded for five in the first two innings against the Angels on Friday night to take an early 5-0 lead.

While the start of the game was a sight for sore eyes in the Dodgers’ dugout, the ending was a familiar one for the Angels and Dodgers, two teams going in opposite directions to begin the summer.

The Angels’ 8-5 win over the Dodgers on Friday was the Angels’ 21st win in their last 28 games as they now have an MLB-best 32-18 record since April 28. Meanwhile the loss was the Dodgers’ fourth straight, one off their season-high.

The Good:

The comeback. By the time many fans, who had been stuck in Friday afternoon traffic, made it to their seats in the bottom of the first inning, the Angels were already down 3-0 and would soon be down 5-0 in the top of the second inning before the Angels mounted a comeback. The Angels responded by scoring three runs in the second and three more in the third to take a 6-5 lead. The final two runs of the comeback came on a squeeze play by Bobby Wilson which scored Erick Aybar and was followed by a Mike Trout home run to left centerfield. Trout’s homer brought the 44,545 in attendance, the largest regular-season crowd in the reconfigured Angel Stadium, to their feet.

T&T. There is no question the reason the Angels have an MLB-best 33-18 record since April 28 is because of Trout. It is no coincidence the team’s turnaround began as soon as he was brought up on, you guessed it, April 28. Mark Trumbo, however, deserves some credit too. On Friday night Trout and Trumbo combined to go 2-for-7 with three runs and one homer.

Solid bullpen. Perhaps the unsung heroes of the Angels’ turnaround this season have been the relief pitchers in their bullpen. In their first 32 games the Angels’ bullpen was 1-6-5 with a 4.70 ERA. In their last 39 games they are 6-2-10 with a 1.99 ERA. On Friday night, the relief pitchers for the Angels took over for Dan Haren in the sixth inning and allowed only three hits and no runs to seal the Angels’ 21st win in their last 28 games.

The Bad:

Shaky start. To say Haren had a shaky start Friday night would be putting it mildly. Haren gave up five runs in the first two innings and finally took a seat after pitching five innings. Although he settled himself after the first two innings and was credited with the win, he still gave up five earned runs and nine hits and had a 4.24 ERA.

Not there yet. There is no question Albert Pujols, much like the Angels, is light years ahead of where he was at the start of the season. He is still, however, nowhere near where the team needs him to be and where it looked like he was headed two weeks ago. Pujols only has five hits in his last 28 at-bats and was 1-for-4 on Friday night with no runs. His current slump has to be especially disconcerting considering he has been facing National League pitching he is more familiar with.

Howie you doing? You won’t find this stat in the game notes but it is entirely possible that Howie Kendrick leads the league in having bats flying into the stands. It happened again Friday night as he has had made life far harder on fans sitting on the baselines than infielders over the past week. After going 0-for-3 on Friday he only has two hits in his last 13 at-bats.

3 Up, 3 Down: Giants 5, Angels 3

June, 18, 2012
6/18/12
10:40
PM PT

Cal Sport Media/AP Images
With their combination of speed and power, Mike Trout, who stole three bases, and Mark Trumbo, above, who homered on an otherwise off night for Angels batters, could be the team's top talents.

ANAHEIM -- Matt Cain wasn't perfect, but Monday night he didn't have to be.

The Angels hitters continued to struggle in the clutch and Jerome Williams got them off to a sloppy start in a 5-3 loss to Cain and the San Francisco Giants. It was Cain's first start since his perfect game against the Houston Astros and he struggled to get through five innings under constant pressure.

The Good:

T and T. Mike Trout nearly took over the game with his speed, Mark Trumbo nearly won it with his power. That's a phrase Angels fans could be reading for years to come. Trout was successful in all three of his stolen base attempts -- running on 2010 rookie of the year Buster Posey -- and Trumbo hit an impressive opposite-field home run to tie the game in the second, his team-high 16th of the year. If the first few months are any indication, these two guys might be the Angels' best players -- not in the future, now.

Late to the party. The bottom third of the Angels' order finally contributed, helping build steady offensive pressure that had been missing for a week. Maicer Izturis was on base twice, Erick Aybar is heating up and even Bobby Wilson -- fresh off the concussion list -- chipped in with a sacrifice fly that was nearly a grand slam. Even as the Angels have heated up over the last six weeks, the bottom of their lineup was a major cold front.

Real relief. The Angels have won four of their last seven games while batting .140 with runners in scoring position. The credit goes to pitching and not just the starters. Angels relievers had five saves and a 4.70 ERA in the first 32 games. In the next 35, they had 10 saves and a 2.14 ERA. Three Angels relievers tried to hold the line for the offense to rally, but it never happened.

The Bad:

Slippery slope. Is Jerome Williams' spot in the rotation safe? That's a reasonable question after a third straight sub-par outing. In fairness, Williams pitched well at Dodger Stadium and the three-run home run he gave up to Juan Rivera may have been the result of fatigue (and a managing blunder by Mike Scioscia). By no measure did he pitch well Monday, giving up seven hits and three walks in less than four innings. With Garrett Richards pitching as well as anyone in an Angels uniform and Jered Weaver back Wednesday, Williams might have reason to be nervous this week.

Mini-funk. Compared to the first six weeks of the season, Albert Pujols' current stretch is a speed bump. But he clearly isn't quite as locked in as he was two weeks ago. Pujols had at-bats with runners in scoring position his first three times up and managed one RBI (though he was also hit by a pitch). Pujols has one hit in his last 14 at-bats, a bit concerning considering he's facing National League pitchers he knows well.

Not-so-mini slump. Kendry Morales' days as a cleanup hitter could be over, or at least they should be. Trumbo hits right-handers just as well as lefties (.321 to .319) and Morales isn't hitting anybody right now. He went hitless, struck out twice and is 1 for his last 14 with seven strikeouts. So far, Morales (seven home runs) hasn't been the same player he was before May 29, 2010 -- the day of his major ankle injury. Until he gets back to being that guy, he should hit fifth or lower.

Jered Weaver inching closer to return

June, 15, 2012
6/15/12
6:11
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- Angels ace Jered Weaver was able to throw 60 pitches of a simulated game Friday afternoon and appears close to returning to the Angels rotation. Weaver has been out since leaving his May 28 start against the Yankees because of a back injury.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia stopped short of pronouncing Weaver fit to return or even speculating when that might be, but the fact Weaver made it through the four-inning simulated game without pain or further incident is an encouraging sign. He's scheduled to throw a bullpen session Sunday and be reevaluated after that.

"Everything looked great, he looked really sharp," Scioscia said. "But we'll see how he feels tommorrow and how he comes out of his bullpen Sunday before thinking about fitting him back in."

All things considered, the Angels have come through this stretch without their ace relatively well. Including the 9-8 win over the Yankees in the game he left early, they are 10-5 in the 15 games since he went down. That's due mostly to a vastly improved bullpen and an awakening offense.

"It was certainly a void to fill," Scioscia said. "Some guys have stepped up and pitched well. But he's a guy you want to get back in the rotation for sure."

Also on the mend: Catcher Bobby Wilson (concussion) is scheduled to play in games this weekend at Triple-A Salt Lake City.

Dan Haren (4-6, 3.73 ERA) takes the mound tonight against the Arizona Diamonbacks for the first time since they traded him to the Angels nearly two years ago.

Here's tonight's lineups:

ANGELS

Mike Trout CF

Torii Hunter RF

Albert Pujols 1B

Kendrys Morales DH

Mark Trumbo LF

Alberto Callaspo 3B

Howie Kendrick 2B

Erick Aybar SS

Hank Conger C

Dan Haren P

DIAMONBACKS

Chris Young CF

Jason Kubel DH

Justin UPton RF

Miguel Montero C

Aaron Hill 2B

Lyle Overbay 1B

Ryan Roberts 3B

Gerardo Parra LF

John McDonald SS

Trevor Cahill P

A few tweaks to the roster

June, 12, 2012
6/12/12
4:21
PM PT
The Angels made their big moves -- releasing Bobby Abreu, promoting Mike Trout and trading for Ernesto Frieri -- when they were struggling about a month ago.

Now that they're hot, their roster moves are largely procedural. They announced Tuesday that outfielder Kole Calhoun has been optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake; reliever David Pauley was selected to the major-league roster; and Vernon Wells was placed on the 60-day disabled list, though it won't affect his return date (probably in early August).

Also, catcher Bobby Wilson, on the seven-day concussion disabled list, is playing a rehab game tonight for Single-A Inland Empire.

Catching switch: Conger recalled

June, 5, 2012
6/05/12
3:54
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- After taking a foul tip off the mask Monday night, Angels catcher Bobby Wilson was feeling woozy.

"After the second inning, I felt like I could fall asleep right there behind home plate," Wilson said.

The team decided not to take any chances and put Wilson on the seven-day concussion list Tuesday and recalled switch hitter Hank Conger from Triple-A Salt Lake. Conger was in the starting lineup catching minor-league teammate Garrett Richards.

Wilson's most recent concussion came in April of 2010, after he was barreled over in a violent collision with the New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira while making his first major-league start. Wilson said he's thinking of switching from the lightweight, titanium mask he's now wearing to a heavier mask that will absorb more of the impact of a foul tip. He said the ball hit him squarely between the highs.

Conger, a former first-round draft pick, had just come off the disabled list Thursday after missing six weeks with a sprained right elbow. He was batting .338 with two home runs, 11 RBIs and a .372 on-base percentage at Triple-A. Conger, 24, is a .204 lifetime hitter in 206 major-league at-bats.

Wilson, who assumed primary catching duties when Chris Iannetta went on the DL to undergo wrist surgery, was batting .171. Iannetta is expected back in about two weeks.

3 Up, 3 Down: Mariners 8, Angels 6

June, 4, 2012
6/04/12
10:35
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- The stage was set, but the stars bungled their lines.

Trailing by two runs in the eighth inning Monday night, the Angels had their two most powerful hitters coming to the plate with runners on second and third and just one out.

But with the crowd chanting, "Pujols! Pujols", Albert Pujols hit a weak grounder back to the pitcher and Mark Trumbo struck out for the fourth time in the game as the Angels lost 8-6 to the Seattle Mariners.

The Good:

Mr. Dynamo. Mike Trout has been working in a vacuum lately as the only hitter in this lineup consistently generating action. The rookie had only one sharply hit ball all night, but with his speed, he doesn't always have to crush it to get on base. Trout dropped a perfect bunt for a hit and blooped a couple to right, one of them for a hustle double, before smacking an RBI single to left. For the last few weeks, he has been the Angels' best player.

Second Dimension. It's not really fair to say Kendrys Morales hasn't shown any right-handed power this season, because he hasn't been given many chances. Entering Monday, the switch hitter had 154 at-bats from the left side and 28 from the right. But if he keeps doing what he did Monday, when he had the first multi-home run game of this Angels season (both hitting right-handed), that will change. Morales was batting .250 right-handed coming into the game.

Pride of place. It wasn't exactly dominant work from reliever Hisanori Takahashi, but he soaked up some innings in a game the Angels were unlikely to win. Plus, he got Japanese icon Ichiro Suzuki out twice, once by strikeout. Before Takahashi came to the Angels last year, the two had faced each other only in Japan. In 2000, Takahashi pitched for the Yomiuri Giants and Suzuki was with the Orix Blue Wave.

The Bad:

Swervin' Ervin. For a while, run support was the reason Ervin Santana couldn't get a win. Now, it's all him. Santana combined his usual bugaboo -- the home run -- with an occasional visitor -- walks -- in his shortest start of the year, just 4 2/3 innings. Santana heard plenty of boos when Mike Scioscia came out to get the ball. He walked six batters and gave up a mammoth home run to Kyle Seager. That was the 16th Santana has given up this season, most in the majors.

Newly slumping. For the first time this season, Trumbo is swinging at balls well outside the strike zone, part of the reason he has joined the long list of cold Angels hitters. Trumbo, who leads the Angels in virtually every offensive category, went down swinging four times and is now one for his last 16 with seven strikeouts.

Extensive risk. When Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar signed their four-year contract extensions recently, both were generally viewed as team-friendly deals. Kendrick got $33.5 million and Aybar got $35 million. Now, that's looking like a lot of money for two hitters generating scant offense. Aybar (.222) has been in a season-long funk and Kendrick (team-high 46 strikeouts) hasn't looked like himself for a month.

The void at catcher

June, 3, 2012
6/03/12
12:03
PM PT
It's not often a team is dying to get a .197 hitter back in the fold, but the absence of catcher Chris Iannetta has left a major hole in the bottom of the Angels' lineup.

Since Iannetta went on the disabled May 9, the Angels are still waiting for an RBI -- one RBI! -- from a catcher. Bobby Wilson is an above-average defender and John Hester has done fine since being recalled, but they have collectively batted .186 in Iannetta's absence. Wilson was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Saturday night.

The lack of production from the catcher's spot in the order is part of the reason virtually all of the Angels' offense lately has been generated in the top half of the order, often around Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo.

Iannetta is progressing in his rehab from a broken wrist, having been cleared to long toss and to do plate-blocking drills. Manager Mike Scioscia said he would be surprised if Iannetta doesn't return within the next two weeks.

"Even though his average wasn't that high, he was getting on base and there was definitely a threat in the bottom of the lineup," Scioscia said. "So, any time you can get a guy who has that kind of power and ability to get on base back in your lineup it makes you deeper and we'll welcome that back."

* Also, on Sunday Mike Trout was named the American League rookie of the month for May, when he batted .324 with six doubles, three triples and five home runs.

Here are lineups for Sunday's series finale, the Angels going for a three-game sweep behind Dan Haren:

Texas
Ian Kinsler 2B
Elvis Andrus SS
Josh Hamilton CF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Michael Young DH
Nelson Cruz RF
David Murphy LF
Mike Napoli C
Mitch Moreland 1B

Angels
Mike Trout LF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo RF
Torii Hunter DH
Howie Kendrick 2B
Erick Aybar SS
Peter Bourjos CF
John Hester C

3 up, 3 down: Angels 3, Rangers 2

June, 2, 2012
6/02/12
10:57
PM PT


ANAHEIM -- The Angels continued to put pressure on the first-place Texas Rangers, most of it applied by their youngest player.

Mike Trout was on base three times and scored the decisive run in a 3-2 win at Angel Stadium on Saturday night that trimmed Texas' lead to 3 1/2 games. The Angels, who have won 10 of their last 11 games, took a series from Texas for the first time since July 19-21 of last season. They had lost 10 of their previous 13 head-to-head matchups coming into this weekend's series.

The Good:

Guess who? Trout is already starting to get into opponents' heads. Team are well aware of his speed and it has been causing them to make mistakes. Elvis Andrus, perhaps speeding up unnecessarily, threw high for an error on a Trout grounder in the first and never even attempted a throw in the seventh on an infield hit. Nelson Cruz made a great throw to the plate, but Trout slid around Yorvit Torrealba's tag according to umpire Tim McClelland. There aren't many players with game-changing speed. Trout has it.

Crowd control. C.J. Wilson was as much a traffic cop as a pitcher Friday night. He kept crowds from gathering. Somehow, he got through six innings while allowing five hits and three walks. How? He got ground balls when he needed them and the Angels infield did the rest. They turned a couple of challenging double plays and one easy one in the first three innings. The law firm of Wilson and Wilson -- C.J. and Bobby -- took care of things in the fourth with a strike-'em-out, throw-'em out double play.

Still a relief. Scott Downs has made the most dangerous hitter in baseball, Josh Hamilton, look silly two nights in a row. Actually, he made him look dangerous in a different way. While striking out in the eighth inning, Hamilton lost hold of his bat and sent it helicoptering over Adrian Beltre's head in the on-deck circle. If not for an overly aggressive Torii Hunter throwing error, Downs and Ernesto Frieri would have combined for yet more scoreless work in the final two innings. It got dicey in the ninth, but Frieri picked up his fourth save.

The Bad:

Walden wobbles. If things continue this way, Jordan Walden might gain a reputation as a pitcher who thrives pitching in low-pressure roles and flounders under the bright lights. Since losing his closer job, Walden has pitched great. But thrust back into a pressure situation -- one-run lead in the seventh -- Walden walked two batters and gave up a hit to Cruz.

Texas 'D.' I thought the Cowboys were the Dallas-area team that couldn't stop the aerial game. Mike Napoli dropped a sinking liner and a routine pop-up. Andrus and Beltre booted grounders. An underrated part of this Texas team last year was its fielding, but lately it's been an issue. The Rangers were charged with three errors, but they made five bad plays in the field.

Balance. The Angels continue to make all their noise in the upper third of the lineup, followed by long lulls. The bottom five batters went 2-for-18 and one of the hits was on Erick Aybar's bunt. Howie Kendrick doesn't look like himself lately and Bobby Wilson, a very capable defensive catcher, is struggling to make contact.

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 4, Mariners 2

May, 27, 2012
5/27/12
4:22
PM PT


The Angels are on a serious roll heading into their most challenging homestand this season.

They beat the Seattle Mariners 4-2 Sunday to cap a four-game sweep and win their sixth in a row. They come home to face the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers now encamped in second place in the AL West.

The Good:

Power returns. Getting Albert Pujols going was Item No. 1 on the Angels' to-do list, but seeing more production out of Kendrys Morales wasn't far behind. The most exciting dynamic for this team is a possible 1-2-3 power punch in the middle of the lineup, with vintage Pujols backed up by Morales in 2010 form and an up-and-coming Mark Trumbo. Morales homered and doubled, snapping a two-week long drought in extra-base hits.

Power returns. When Trumbo hits a home run, you know it as soon as you hear it. If he makes solid contact, it tends to leave the stadium, any stadium. He caught a hanging changeup in the seventh inning -- on an 0-and-2 count -- and launched it off the facade of the second deck in left field. For both Morales and Trumbo, it was their first home run since May 13.

Speeding ticket. These days,a couple of batters in the top one-third of the Angels' order are practically in scoring position at the plate. Albert Pujols has been doing it with home runs. Mike Trout has been doing it by getting on base and creating havoc with his legs. In his first two plate appearances, he got on base and promptly stole second base. One of them set up the Angels' first run. Trout, who has only been up for a month, already has eight stolen bases.



The Bad:

Old habits. The Angels are facing such bad offenses lately, their pitchers can appear to cruise at about 80 percent and still dominate. C.J. Wilson continued his strong start with six innings of two-hit baseball, but he couldn't take it any further because he appeared to injure a finger on his pitching hand trying to stop a ground ball up the middle. When he did the same thing in spring training, Wilson called it a bad habit. It could prove costly if he has to miss a start or more.

The Angels have a good thing going. Their starting pitchers had a 2.38 ERA on this 10-game trip against three of the worst-hitting teams in recent memory.

0-fer Aybar. The Angels are hot without actually being hot. A few hitters in their lineup have turned it up, the pitching has been great and they've been playing bad teams. Voila, winning streak. But against the next two opponents, they'll need a little more offensive depth. Guys like Erick Aybar (one for his last 16) need to get into a better rhythm.

Figgins' fall. Remember how good Chone Figgins was for the Angels three years ago, when he had a .395 on-base percentage and stole 42 bases? What happened to that guy. Figgins struggled so badly last year (.188), he mostly sat on the bench in the final months. This year, he's worse (.180). Rumors have it he's soon to be released.

3 Up, 3 Down: A's 2, Angels 1

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
10:25
PM PT
The Angels can fail to score with the best of them.

After losing a series against the San Diego Padres, who have scored the second-fewest runs in baseball, the Angels traveled to play the team with the worst batting average in baseball. They lost again, this time to the Oakland A's by a score of 2-1.

The Angels' offense, well-hyped after an active winter, has scored more than two runs just once in the past five games.

The Good:

Mr. Solid. The decision to give Jerome Williams the final spot in the Angels' rotation is looking smarter by the week. Williams has been about as solid as a No. 5 starter can be lately. His ERA this month is under 3.00 and he has pitched at least into the seventh inning in every start this season other than his first in New York.

The 'pen is mighter than... we thought? The most-maligned part of the team -- fortified by the addition of hard-throwing Ernesto Frieri and by improved performances -- has given up just three earned runs in the past 23 innings. So, they've got that going for them, at least for now.

Trojan horse. OK, we've exhausted positive Angels news, so perhaps we should turn our praise to a Southern California native elsewhere. Tommy Milone, a Saugus native and ex-USC Trojan, has pitched brilliantly at the Oakland Coliseum and -- in 14 major-league starts -- has a 3.98 ERA. The A's acquired him from the Washington Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez trade and it looks like he could be a keeper.

The Bad:

Missing piece. With Vernon Wells out for at least the next two months after having surgery on his right thumb, Peter Bourjos is in for more playing time. That's good news when the Angels are in the field, but questionable news when they're hitting. The team needs Bourjos -- along with most of the other hitters -- to shake out of his early funk. Bourjos has been hovering around .200 most of the season.

Atrophy. Before Monday, Kendrys Morales had batted just 16 times against left-handed pitchers (and gotten three hits). It's no wonder he's a bit rusty from the right side. Morales went 0-for-4 Monday in a surprise start against the lefty and you wonder if it will be another month before Mike Scioscia gives him that chance again. If you're going to call this guy a switch-hitter, why not give him a chance to actually switch hit?

End game. It seems like a small thing, but the Angels have gotten virtually no offense from their catchers since Chris Iannetta got knocked out by a wrist injury. Bobby Wilson has one hit in his last 22 at-bats. With holes elsewhere in the lineup, the lack of production near the bottom of the order has become a bigger concern. It sounds a lot like last year, frankly.

Scioscia: Iannetta's injury 'a big loss'

May, 11, 2012
5/11/12
4:49
PM PT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Angels catcher Chris Iannetta is expected to miss six to eight weeks after undergoing a 40-minute surgical procedure Friday in Los Angeles to repair a broken bone in his right wrist. Iannetta’s wrist problem dates to the second inning of Jered Weaver’s no-hitter on May 2 when he was struck by a pitch thrown by Minnesota’s Liam Hendriks.

Iannetta finished that game and played in four more subsequent games, going hitless.

“It’s a big loss,’’ said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, “but it could have been worse. At least, we should get him back for the lion’s share of the season.

“We need to get him back behind the plate for our pitching.’’

Bobby Wilson will catch Friday’s opener of a three-game series with the Rangers.

“Wilson caught three straight games last week and it didn’t seem to be a problem,’’ Scioscia said.

Catcher John Hester, signed by the organization less than a month ago, has been promoted from Triple-A Salt Lake City to fill Iannetta’s roster spot.

Before the injury, Iannetta showed some pop with three home runs, just one off the team lead.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jered Weaver
WINS ERA SO IP
18 3.59 169 213
OTHER LEADERS
BAH. Kendrick .293
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169