Los Angeles Angels: Jordan Walden

Downs to be activated, Haren rested

August, 17, 2012
ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Angels got some good news and potentially good news on their much-maligned pitchers on Friday.

Barring an unforeseen setback, Scott Downs will be activated tomorrow and Jordan Walden will be activated this weekend.

While Downs seems ready to go, Walden still had to go through a bullpen session with pitching coach Mike Butcher on Friday and will be reevaluated on Saturday.

Walden, who was the opening day closer, has been on the disabled list since July 15 with a strained right biceps while Downs has been out since July 28 with a left shoulder strain.

“Scott looks like he will be activated tomorrow, he’ll just play some catch today,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Jordan is working with Mike Butcher today and we’ll evaluate him tomorrow. Downs looks ready so unless something happens today he’ll be activated tomorrow.”

As bad as the bullpen has been this month (and they’ve been the worst in baseball), Scioscia said the bullpen needs the starters to help them out as well. The Angels' bullpen isn’t set up for the starter to not go at least seven innings, which has been a rarity outside of Jered Weaver recently.

“It’s going to be huge for us (to get Downs and Walden back) but it has to be paired with more effective starting pitching if it’s going to work,” Scioscia said. “We hope those two things will come together.”

In an effort to fix one of their starters, Dan Haren will not take the mound for the Angels again until a week from Saturday in Detroit.

Haren will use the time to work with Butcher on his mechanics and to get more comfortable after failing to complete four innings in each of this last two starts. On Thursday night he gave up five runs on seven hits to Tampa Bay in a 7-0 loss.

“Dan reviewed some tape and feels there’s some things in his release point that are a little different from where he was throwing even last year,” Scioscia said. “He’s going to try to get those things tuned… He thinks his arm slot has changed a little bit, just slightly, and he just wants to try to get back to where it needs to be.”

Monday’s day off will allow Haren the extra time off without requiring any of the starters to pitch on short rest.

“This is a mechanical thing,” Scioscia said. “I think when Dan is on, he can pitch deep into a game. He’s going to throw some pens with Butch and hopefully find a release point that’s going to give him the consistency he needs and get him ready for next Saturday in Detroit.”

Here are Friday’s lineups:

Rays –

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

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
Chris Iannetta C

3 up, 3 down: Mariners 7, Angels 4

August, 11, 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- You’ll have to excuse the Angels if they weren’t quite sure what to do with a little bit of momentum.

After losing six of eight games on the road and failing to win back-to-back games since July, Friday’s five-run comeback win over the Seattle Mariners seemed to be a potential turning point. It may end up being nothing more than a short respite after the Angels’ 7-4 loss to Seattle on Saturday.

Looking about as inept as they have all season, the Angels fell to 12-16 since the All-Star break and seven games behind the Texas Rangers for first place in the American League West.

The good:

What a catch. There wasn’t much for Angels fans to cheer about on Saturday but once again Mike Trout made the play of the night and perhaps one of the better ones he has had this season, which is obviously saying a lot. In the eighth inning Trout stole a home run from Miguel Olivo when he leaped at the 400 sign in center field and reached over to snatch the ball. Trout then turned his leaping catch into a double play when Eric Thames, who had singled, was doubled off first. It was Trout’s third stolen home run of the season and easily the highlight of an otherwise forgettable game for the Angels.

Wells hello there. Vernon Wells was 0-for-16 with three strikeouts in his first six games back from the disabled list. That was a distant memory on Saturday as Wells went 3-for-3 with 3 RBIs and a home run. With Mark Trumbo getting the night off, Wells, who missed 55 games because of a right thumb injury before being instated on July 27, started in left field and batted eighth. He singled to left to score Erick Aybar in the fifth inning and then hit a two-run homer, his first home run since May 16, in the eighth inning to bring the Angels to within 7-3. It was Wells’ first three-hit game since July 22 of last season.

Bullpen recovers. The Angels' bullpen was absolutely horrid during the recent 10-game trip. The relievers posted a 10.54 ERA with five losses and five blown saves. During that time they also gave up 32 runs in 27.1 innings and 41 hits, including 11 home runs. The bullpen fared much better Saturday night after taking over for Dan Haren (although the damage had already been done by then). Jerome Williams finished the game, pitching 5.2 innings and giving up no runs and five hits and striking out two. The bullpen could also be getting some much needed help over the next few days as Jordan Walden and Scott Downs, who have been out since July, are expected to return.

The bad:

Haren’s outing. It was a nightmarish outing for Haren, who had his shortest start since Sept. 9, 2003 (his rookie season). Haren’s line was as bad as it looked in real time: 3.1 innings pitched, 5 hits, 7 runs (5 earned), 3 walks, 0 strike outs, 1 home run and a 4.68 ERA. Haren came undone during a brutal second inning when Trayvon Robinson singled to right to score Mike Carp and Dustin Ackley singled to right to score Olivo and Robinson. Before Saturday’s forgettable start, Haren had won two straight and four of his last five decisions despite posting a 5.67 ERA over that span.

Fourth inning. As bad as the second inning was for the Angels, the fourth inning was straight out of blooper reel. The Angels gave up three singles and one walk, threw one wild pitch, allowed one steal and had three fielding errors. The inning mercifully ended with Haren being pulled for Williams, and the Mariners scoring three more runs to push their lead to 7-0. While the Angels were able to come back from a five-run deficit for the second time this season on Friday, they have yet to come back from a seven-run deficit this year and that streak stayed intact on Saturday.

Trumbo benched. Trumbo was given the day off Saturday as he tried to work his way out of the 8-for-50 skid he is currently in. Trumbo looked as if he would turn things around last Wednesday when he had two hits to snap out of a 6-for-41 stretch. It was his first multi-hit game since July 25 but he hasn’t had much success since then. He was 0-for-4 Friday night against Seattle before he was given the night off by Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “Right now he’s just in a little bit of a slump,” Scioscia said. “We’re just gonna give him today to catch his breath, get him back out there tomorrow. We need Trumb, and he’ll be back. He’ll be there.”

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 6, Orioles 0

July, 8, 2012
ANAHEIM -- The Angels wrapped up a furious charge entering the All-Star break with a 6-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles Sunday, their 13th shutout of the season.

The Angels are 10 games over .500, the high-water mark of 2012, and have played .697 baseball in their last 43 games.

The Good:

Mills fills in. Brad Mills was operating under challenging circumstances, to say the least. He was pitching on three-days' rest and had been struggling at Triple-A. But with the Angels' rotation a bit tattered around the edges, he came up to give the Angels a big lift. The lefty, whose fastball barely touches 85 mph, breezed through five innings, allowing just three hits and striking out six batters. He should at least get some consideration for the fifth spot in the rotation in the second half.

Power play. For the Angels to be in the top five in the AL in slugging is impressive considering each of the teams ahead of them plays in a much smaller ballpark. And they've been coming on lately, sometimes overpowering teams. In their last 18 games, the Angels have hit 27 home runs. It's coming at a good time, with some issues starting to arise on the pitching side.

Albert. It still doesn't feel like the Angels have seen vintage Albert Pujols yet. He has been swinging a productive bat for two months, but a return to MVP form in the second half could make the Angels the team to beat in this league. He leads AL first basemen in home runs since May 15, so that's a good start. Pujols reached and eked a two-run shot over the left-field wall in the third inning, his 14th of the season. He still has some catching up to do to reach last year's home run total of 37, which was his lowest output since 2007.

The Bad:

Howie. The All-Star break probably comes at a good time for Howie Kendrick. He's been getting some hits to fall here and there, but he hasn't been driving the ball as he did in the past. He has two extra-base hits since June 20 and Sunday he reached another low point, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Kendrick is the epitome of the Angels' offensive depth. If he's swinging it well batting sixth or seventh, the Angels can slug with anybody.

Walden. Is Jordan Walden trade bait? Teams would figure to line up to acquire a 24-year old with a 95-mph-and-up fastball. Meanwhile, his career with the Angels appears to be drifting sideways. The Orioles seemed to be thinking about the All-Star break before Walden got into a jam in the eighth inning, walking a batter and giving up a hit. He got out of it, but he has been scored on in three of his past five outings.

Focus. There was an entertaining moment in the second inning after Peter Bourjos popped out to end the inning. The Orioles stayed on the field, all nine guys. It was probably entertaining to just about everybody in the stadium with the possible exception of Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

Garrett Richards optioned to Triple-A

July, 5, 2012
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The long line of encouragement began with reliever Jordan Walden, who walked over to a broken Garrett Richards in one dark corner of the Angels clubhouse Thursday night. Then it was 39-year-old veteran Jason Isringhausen who dropped by to offer his words of wisdom, followed by All-Star C.J. Wilson and pitching coach Mike Butcher.

Richards, 24, had just been optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake City, the roster move acting as one last dagger in his worst night as a big leaguer. He's still young, though, and highly regarded in the organization. The outpouring of support from fellow pitchers proved it.

"I have to start throwing strikes more consistently," Richards said after cleaning out his locker. "I have to go back to the drawing board."

The Angels came from behind to beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-7, but Richards was battered for a career-high seven earned runs, 10 hits and three home runs, failing to make it out of the fifth inning. He gave up 15 earned runs over his past three starts after giving up only two in his previous three. The potential is undoubtedly there, but the Angels couldn't wait for him to figure things out.

"Garrett's starts have been a little short recently," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It became apparent tonight that we needed another arm this weekend."

On a day when right-hander Dan Haren went on the disabled list for the first time in his 10-year career, the Angels rotation was dealt another blow. Ervin Santana (4-9, 5.75 ERA) has been unable to snap out of his funk and fifth starter Jerome Williams (chest) won't be back until after the All-Star break. Sunday's starter has yet to be named. A corresponding move to Richards' optioning will be announced Friday.

Scioscia said Richards will get at least one start at Triple-A next week and, depending on the team's needs, could be back fairly soon.

"I still feel like the same pitcher. Pitchers are going to go through streaks just like hitters are," Richards said. "I'm not discouraged. I'm motivated. It's back to work."

3 up, 3 down: Blue Jays 7, Angels 5

June, 29, 2012

Even after a 17-8 June, the Angels have gotten no closer to catching the first-place Texas Rangers.

The Angels lost 7-5 to the Toronto Blue Jays north of the border, snapping a four-game winning streak and pushing them to 5 1/2 games behind the Rangers, exactly where they started the month.

The Good:

Trout's June. Mike Trout had an unremarkable game, going 1-for-5 with three strikeouts and a stolen base. But it was a remarkable 29 days of baseball for one of the brightest young talents the game has seen in a while. Trout had 42 hits, 11 for extra bases and stole 14 bags. The only other rookies to go over 40, 10 and 10 in those categories in one calendar month were Ichiro Suzuki and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. Those are just cool analogues.

Table service. The explanations for the Angels' offensive revival typically involve three hitters -- Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo. The fact that Torii Hunter has been nearly as hot as anybody hitting in the No. 2 hole rarely gets mentioned or, if it does, it's explained by his spot in the lineup. If hitting second were so easy, why wasn't Howie Kendrick doing this when he had the chance. Hunter had three hits, a good bounceback from Thursday's 0-for-5.

Still producing. Is Albert Pujols an All-Star? Probably not, given his brutal April. But there is some thought the players will rally to vote him in so he can play in his hometown of Kansas City. The fact he's batting .273 with 47 RBIs after Friday is a good lesson in perseverance after the start he had.

The Bad:

Struggling Santana. You just never know what you're going to get from Ervin Santana this season. For a guy with a 5.12 ERA, he's actually pitched some brilliant games. Of course, he's also had some clunkers and a few like Friday's that are just kind of there. Santana cruised through the first three innings and imploded in the fourth. The big shot was Adam Lind's home run. Nothing can deflate a team like a three-run home run. Santana has allowed 19 home runs this season, second-most in the AL.

Walden pound. Jordan Walden remains an extremely useful pitcher. He generally has pitched well since losing the closer role and, with his stuff, he could prove lights-out if things come together for him. Right now, however, he doesn't inspire confidence in tight situations. Walden came into a tied game and got two quick outs in the seventh before a lightning barrage and, soon, Toronto had a lead.

Here's the story on Hisanori. You could say a lot of the same things about Hisanori Takahashi. He'll get on a roll every once in a while that makes you think he's rounding into a fairly useful bullpen piece. But then, rarely does he go a month of inspiring confidence. It tells you something that the Angels have explored acquiring a left-handed specialist. He's not getting it done in important moments.

Are they inventing a new bullpen model?

June, 25, 2012
In the late 1990s, relief pitcher Jose Mesa saw veteran sports writer Jerome Holtzman in the Cleveland Indians clubhouse and ran across the room to embrace Holtzman in a bear hug.

That’s not the typical behavior of major-league baseball players toward journalists, but 30 years earlier, Holtzman had invented the save rule, a statistic that had made Mesa -- and hundreds of other pitchers of his ilk -- millions of dollars.

Holtzman, a member of the Hall of Fame who died four years ago, had no idea that he was creating a monster.

After the save rule, baseball gradually settled into the era of specialization. Every team has to have a closer, who can earn a 10-figure salary, a setup man or two and specialists, usually left-handed but sometimes right-handed, who often face only one batter.

For nearly two months now, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has tried a different approach, a more democratic use of his late-inning pitchers that has achieved stunning results. Shortly after Scioscia pulled Jordan Walden from the closer’s role -- and after the arrival of hard thrower Ernesto Frieri -- the Angels bullpen has taken off while spreading the credit liberally.

In the Angels’ first 32 games, the bullpen was 1-6 with a 4.70 ERA and four saves.

In the last 41 games, it is 7-2 with a 1.87 ERA and 13 saves. Angels relievers haven’t allowed a run in nearly a week.

They just have to stay ready from the sixth or seventh inning through the end of the game. There’s not a lot of time to lounge and enjoy a game.

“As soon as the phone rings, four of us get up to take our coats off,” Angels reliever Jason Isringhausen said.

So far in June, lefty Scott Downs has pitched twice in the seventh inning, four times in the eighth and twice in the ninth. He has six saves. Since he arrived in a trade from the San Diego Padres in early May, Frieri has pitched the ninth inning 12 times, the eighth inning nine times and the 11th inning once. He has nine saves.

On any given night, Walden, Isringhausen, Hisanori Takahashi or LaTroy Hawkins could pitch in a crucial point in the latter innings of a game. And nobody seems to be complaining. You almost get the impression that general manager Jerry Dipoto, who acquired about half the members of the bullpen, planned it this way.

Dipoto knows a few things about relief pitching because he did it as a job for eight major-league seasons. He showed little appetite for spending millions on a closer even though several were available in free agency over the winter.

“It’s one of the beauties of having a group that has risen to an occasion. There are no previous positions, there’s very little in the way of egos that get in the way of a job to do,” Dipoto said. “It’s almost like a tag team the way the bullpen works. You’re just passing the baton to the next guy.”

Scioscia isn’t willing to commit to the practice long-term and, lately, Frieri has settled into something resembling a traditional closer’s role. Downs has been the X-factor, being deployed in one of the final three innings depending when the other team’s best left-handed hitters are due up.

“We’re going to continue to match up until we get some roles that are in concrete,” Scioscia said. “The ability to be flexible makes your bullpen better.”

If it’s not broken, why fix it?

Angels hopes fade into the West

June, 12, 2012
Dodgers/AngelsGary A. Vasquez/US PresswireDee Gordon, left, was ruled safe on this steal in the eighth inning, but Maicer Izturis and the Angels thought otherwise.

LOS ANGELES -- The Angels were left stewing Tuesday night about a call they thought an umpire blew, but most fans will probably be lamenting a call manager Mike Scioscia didn't make until it was too late.

Scioscia let pitcher Jerome Williams face left-handed slugger Andre Ethier with the tying run at second in the eighth inning. Ethier ripped an RBI single to right field to tie it. Scioscia has a viable explanation for that one. His best left-handed reliever, Scott Downs, was unavailable because of a mildly strained muscle in the left side of his rib cage. His other lefty was on the shelf after pitching 1 2/3 innings the night before.

But what about the next batter, righty Juan Rivera? He let Williams stay out there for that one, too, and Rivera ripped a high fastball over the left-field wall on Williams' 102nd pitch for a three-run shot to give the Dodgers a dramatic finish and a 5-2 win at home. Apparently, Scioscia's faith in Jordan Walden isn't equal to his faith in Downs, because Walden was loose.

"We all felt [Williams] had enough stuff to get out of that inning and he did get out of the inning," Scioscia said.

The reference was to a safe call made by umpire Joe West on Dee Gordon's two-out stolen base earlier in that inning. Williams, by the way, agreed. He was standing 40 feet away and didn't hesitate when asked his opinion of the play.

"Out," Williams said.

(Read full post)

3 up, 3 down: Angels 7, Rockies 2

June, 8, 2012

A couple of newcomers to Coors Field found it to their liking, pulling the Angels to a 7-2 win over the Colorado Rockies that kept their interleague roll going.

Neither Torii Hunter or C.J. Wilson had ever played in Denver before Friday, but they both had dominant performances. The Angels are 64-30 vs. the National League since the start of 2007, best interleague record in the majors.

The Good:

Veteran leadership. Hunter hasn't exactly been hot, but he pretty much was the offense Friday night. Hunter hit two deep two-run home runs and then added a two-run single in the ninth. Judging by his night, manager Mike Scioscia might want to leave him in the No. 2 spot for a while. It makes the Angels awfully right-handed at the top of the lineup, but if it works, who cares?

Ace-like. How absurd does it look in retrospect that Ervin Santana broke camp as the No. 3 starter ahead of Wilson? Wilson out-performed Santana last year and this season it hasn't even been close. While Santana has struggled with walks and home runs (and losses), Wilson has been the Angels' most consistent healthy starter. At one of the worst places to pitch on earth, he gave the Angels eight strong innings, allowing a run on five hits and striking out nine. He's 7-4 with a 2.39 ERA, giving the Angels that steadying, ace-like performance while Jered Weaver is out.

Kid consistent. Mike Trout does it at every level. He arrives, struggles for a little while as he learns the lay of the land, and then takes off. He has been making the major leagues look a lot like he made Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A after a while: like his own personal playground. He got on base four times, scored three times and is batting .340. It's been a remarkable run for a 20-year-old rookie.

The Bad:

Thumb hunting. Rockies reliever Esmil Rogers is a hard thrower who looks like he has only a vague notion of where his pitches are headed. The Angels can only hope he didn't do much damage when he hit Trout with an upper-90s fastball in the ninth inning. The ball glanced off Trout's left shoulder and then thwacked off his right thumb.It wouldn't be surprising to see Trout miss Saturday's game after inflammation sets in.

Sophomore slump. Jordan Walden isn't going to regain his closer job any time soon, though that has as much to do with the dominant work of Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs as with his own struggles. Walden just doesn't inspire great confidence. He got two quick strikeouts before allowing a single and a Jordan Pacheco RBI triple. No major damage after that, but also not a smooth inning for the hard thrower.

Lopsided. The Angels still aren't displaying the kind of offensive depth you see from the bigger offenses in the American League. The Nos. 6 through 9 spots in their lineup went 3-for-15. Often, pitchers can cruise once they get past Mark Trumbo. Until Howie Kendrick gets back in a groove and Erick Aybar can stop his tailspin, that isn't going to change.

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 9, Yankees 8

May, 28, 2012
ANAHEIM -- The Angels' evening started on an ominous note when Jered Weaver had to exit the game in the first inning with a back injury, but -- nearly four hours later -- it ended in jubilation with Mark Trumbo's walk-off home run that gave the Angels a 9-8 win over the New York Yankees.

The win was the Angels' seventh in a row and got them back to .500 for the first time since they were 2-2 on April 9.

The Good:

Mr. May. The Angels wouldn't be .500 today without Trumbo's torrid bat carrying them back to this point. He leads the Angels in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs (eight). Trumbo finished a single shy of the cycle while going 3-for-5, driving in two runs and scoring two. When Torii Hunter returns (probably Tuesday), the Angels will be forced to find a position for Trumbo once again, but he's not here for his glove.

Productive again. Before Sunday, Kendrys Morales had driven in one run in his last 12 games. Now, he's driven in five in the last two. Especially if Albert Pujols (2-for-4, walk) is going to continue getting on base, Morales is a key figure in this lineup. He jumped on David Phelps' first pitch and drove it into the left-center gap to drive in two runs in the sixth.

Rookie presence. It's hard to tell that Mike Trout is the youngest player on the field every game the Angels play. He has been the steadiest producer all month. Since those first few shaky days after he was recalled from Triple-A, Trout has been machine-like, batting .333 this month with five home runs, 20 runs scored and 15 RBIs.

The Bad:

Big blow. To pitch well, you've got to stay healthy and, despite some minor ailments over the years, Weaver generally has done that. His one trip to the disabled list came at the start of the 2007 season for biceps tendinitis. If the Angels lose Weaver for more than a couple of weeks, they could lose much of the momentum they've built up over this little stretch.

Alternatives. Losing one of the best pitchers in the game is always a huge blow, but Jered Weaver's back injury is a little harder to absorb because of scant options at hand. The next starter on the Angels' depth chart, Garrett Richards, is in a bit of a slump after a strong start to his season at Triple-A. Richards, who nearly won the Angels' fifth starter job in spring training, has given up four runs or more in four of his last six starts.

Aybar's slump. The lack of offensive production isn't the most worrisome thing about Erick Aybar's early-season funk. The Angels' Gold Glove shortstop hasn't been playing like one. He booted a sharply hit grounder by Alex Rodriguez for his fifth error (he had 13 all of last year) and made a high throw in the fourth that went down as an error on Albert Pujols. The Angels (three errors) played brutally bad defense in general Monday night. The shortstop set the tone.

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 3, A's 1

May, 23, 2012

The Angels finally managed to win one of these low-scoring nail biters, a skill they may have to perfect if there's to be any hope for this season.

Alberto Callaspo doubled into the left-field corner in the 11th inning to drive in two runs as the Angels beat the Oakland A's 3-1 Wednesday at Network Associates Coliseum. The Angels improved to 4-9 in one-run games.

The Good:

Weaver cruises. This is what it's like to pitch for the Angels this season. Jered Weaver made one mistake -- he hung a changeup in the middle of the plate to Seth Smith -- and it meant he wouldn't be the first AL pitcher to seven wins. Weaver absolutely dominated Oakland for eight innings, but -- as Ervin Santana and Dan Haren could have told him -- it's not easy pitching for this offense.

Rookie moment. Kole Calhoun slashed a double to left field and Angels first-base coach Alfredo Griffin made a point of asking the A's for the ball. It was Calhoun's first major-league hit. Things have happened quickly for the former eighth-round pick out of Arizona State. Calhoun forced his way onto the Angels' prospect watch by hitting .324 at Single-A last season and he spent only 43 games at Triple-A before injuries prompted the Angels to call him up. How far will this story go?

Bullpen dominates. Between the addition of Ernesto Frieri, who picked up his first save, the rebound of Jordan Walden and the steadiness of Scott Downs, the back end of the Angels' bullpen suddenly looks bankable for the first time. Those three managed to take over for Weaver without letting Oakland's offense get any hope of awakening. Frieri throws 93 mph, but it looks like he is throwing 100 because of lateral movement. He has struck out 19 batters in 8 2/3 innings as an Angel. Not even Francisco Rodriguez when he first arrived could match that pace.

The Bad:

Missing, inaction. Howie Kendrick has apparently altered his approach in the last couple of seasons, sacrificing some contact for power. His strikeouts surged in tandem with his home run total last season, but so far this season the former is out-pacing the latter. Kendrick has already struck out 40 times, putting him on pace for more than 150. For a guy who has never hit 20 home runs in a season, that would be way too high.

Running nowhere. It is a part of Albert Pujols' game that fits in easily around a Mike Scioscia team: aggressive base running. But when you try to catalyze an offense by taking ridiculous risks, you only exacerbate the problem. Pujols decided to try for third on Kendrys Morales' single to center field in the sixth inning and was out easily. When you give a team outs on the bases, especially easy ones, you're only speeding up the game clock on yourself.

Cooling off. For a supposedly veteran team, the Angels have been uncommonly reliant on two young players lately. And, now that Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo have cooled off, the offense has practically ground to a standstill. Trout and Trumbo have combined for three hits in their past 27 at-bats.

Holes spring up in the bullpen (Updated)

May, 7, 2012
Did the Angels lose their two most-reliable relievers in the final three pitches of yesterday's game?

They said they'll know more after the pitchers are evaluated in Minnesota later today, but it appears they could be without closer Scott Downs and setup guy LaTroy Hawkins for several games, if not weeks.

Downs had to limp off the field after ducking J.P. Arencibia's line drive and injuring his left knee. Hawkins broke his right pinkie catching Omar Vizquel's line drive that turned into a game-ending double play. Hawkins announced he had broken the finger on his Twitter feed along with this photo.

UPDATE: The Angels announced Monday that Hawkins will be placed on the 15-day disabled list and replaced by David Pauley, who was recalled from Triple-A.

The Angels would really be in trouble if they hadn't traded a couple of prospects for San Diego Padres right-hander Ernesto Frieri three days earlier. Frieri looks like the prime candidate to take over the closer role temporarily with David Carpenter and Jordan Walden likely serving as the primary setup men.

3 Up, 3 Down: Blue Jays 5, Angels 0

May, 3, 2012
ANAHEIM -- So much for momentum.

The Angels, fresh off their first three-game winning streak of the year, played one of their worst games of the season in a 5-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday night. Brandon Morrow only needed 102 pitches to polish off the shutout, making it three straight games one of those has been pitched at Angel Stadium.

The Good:

Catalyzing. Mike Trout had two of the Angels' three hits off Morrow. The 21-and-over crowd practically whiffed. Trout, 20, hit a couple of line-drive singles and has looked much more comfortable in his last two games. If he can settle into the leadoff spot, it could help jump-start the Angels offense, but it won't mean much if the middle of the lineup stays soft.

Innings 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Dan Haren only gave up five hits in seven innings and this actually qualified as a quality start, even if it wasn't up to Haren's usual standards. The problem is that Haren gave up four of those hits in a row and one of them was J.P. Arencibia's line-drive three-run home run. Before that, Angels pitchers had thrown more than 17 straight scoreless innings.

Defensive specialist. When the Angels signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract, did they realize they were actually signing Doug Mientkeiwicz? OK, so a great defender at first base probably isn't worth that kind of money, but at least give Pujols credit for keeping his head in the game on defense while he continues to be lost at the plate. He started and finished a brilliant 3-6-3 double play on a hard one-hopper to help Haren get out of the seventh.

The Bad:

Deep, deep funk. It's astonishing how many groundballs Pujols is hitting to the left side of the infield. Teams are pitching him hard inside and you wonder whether he no longer has the bat speed to exploit balls on the inner half. The scouting report isn't going to change until he does. The latest tally of carnage: 104 at-bats without a home run, one short of his career-long power drought. A .202 batting average. Angst all over Orange County, especially in Arte Moreno's suite.

Deeper, deep funk. Vernon Wells was in Pujols' shoes a year ago. Come to think of it, he still is. Wells, who batted .218 a year ago, is stuck in a 6-for-31 slump and has hit into double plays in back-to-back games. There was some talk in spring training that he looked like a different guy. So far, he looks like exactly the same guy.

Just a bit wide. Mike Scioscia spoke in glowing terms about his newfound confidence in Mark Trumbo at third base. Given a little time, Trumbo probably could become a good fielder at that spot. But it's been awfully tough for him to get comfortable there in his second season in the major leagues. Trumbo had been making strides, but made a brutal two-run throwing error, sailing it about 10 feet from Pujols and past the runner into the Toronto dugout. It was Trumbo's fourth error, but first since the third game of the season.

Frantic Friday just what the Angels need

April, 27, 2012
When a team with a $151 million payroll and World Series aspirations starts the season eight games under .500 after 20 games, it's only a matter of time before something like this happens. Yeah, you can preach patience for a while, trust in your players' track records, but at some point you're obligated to step in.

Friday, it was general manager Jerry Dipoto who had seen enough.

In conjunction with manager Mike Scioscia, Dipoto made two bold moves, acting more quickly -- but no less decisively -- than you would have expected after a start this absurdly bad.

The bombshell came after Friday's 3-2 loss in Cleveland, the team's second walk-off defeat in a row, when the Angels promoted speedy outfield prospect Mike Trout and bid goodbye to veteran Bobby Abreu, swallowing more than $8 million in the process.

Before that, the Angels shuffled a couple of key roles in the bullpen, swapping youngster Jordan Walden for veteran lefty Scott Downs at closer. We still don't know how that will work out, because other members of the Angels' bullpen blew yet another game before their roles arose.

We'll begin to learn Saturday how the bolder move plays out. Last year, the Angels waited until June to swallow a bitter, multi-million-dollar pill, releasing pitcher Scott Kazmir after getting virtually nothing for the $12 million it paid him.

The fact they waited only three weeks to part with Abreu tells you a little something about expectation levels around this team.

You rarely see shake-ups of this magnitude in April, but you rarely see teams with this kind of talent play this poorly for this long.

Was Abreu the reason the Angels couldn't get on base or move a runner to save their lives? After just 24 at-bats, he had virtually nothing to do with it. Angels fans have long since turned on Abreu, but let's not forget, he was a good -- borderline great -- player and was one of the few Angels willing to take a walk for years. Will Trout resurrect this team's hopes all by himself? This team had better hope the 20-year-old doesn't think that's his role.

The Angels were so upset at Albert Pujols' slump, they released one player and demoted another.

But sometimes the journey from 1,000 games back -- or, at least, it feels like it -- begins with a single step.

Add up the Kazmir and Abreu moves and former general manager Tony Reagins effectively burned more than $20 million of Arte Moreno's money in less than a year, but Moreno has no one but himself to blame. It was his decision four years ago to go with a two-party system in which he and manager Mike Scioscia shared power while the GM, Reagins, served largely as a figurehead.

Dipoto didn't create this situation, but he's charged with cleaning it up. The task might prove more difficult than he originally thought.

3 Up, 3 Down: Rays 4, Angels 3

April, 26, 2012
Every time it seems things can't get much worse for this team, they do.

The Angels' offense, otherwise known as Mark Trumbo, finally managed to eke out a small lead, but closer Jordan Walden blew it by allowing a two-run, walk-off home run to pinch-hitter Brandon Allen as the Angels were swept out of Tampa Bay.

After Thursday's 4-3 loss, the Angels have lost four in a row and seven of their last nine.

The Good:

Big bat. How can Mike Scioscia continue to justify periodically benching Trumbo when he's the only catalyst right now? When the Angels were doing nothing against hard-throwing young lefty Matt Moore, Trumbo broke the ice with a solo home run and he had the key, an RBI double, during their two-run rally in the sixth. It doesn't matter where Trumbo plays, only that he plays.

By example. Torii Hunter probably ruffled a few feathers with his postgame comments Wednesday when he told reporters the Angels were "going through the motions." He also said his comments applied to "not just the players," which could be taken as a swipe at Scioscia. The comments seemed well timed, but even more important was Hunter's single through the right side to spark the go-ahead rally in the sixth.

Solid start. Jerome Williams did a little spin move, leaving the mound after his inning-ending strikeout of B.J. Upton in the sixth. After a shaky start to his season at Yankee Stadium, Williams has given the Angels some stability at the back of their rotation. Now, if Ervin Santana can stop giving up all those home runs, the Angels might have the dominating rotation everybody figured they would.

The Bad:

Bullpen blues. You can put it on the offense all you want, but at some point this bullpen needs to prove it can protect a slim lead. Walden has had spotty work all season and maybe that was the reason he left a fastball in a bad spot, low and inside to a power-hitting lefty. Either that, or maybe Walden just isn't ready for this role? Considering Scott Downs had gotten four quick outs and has been the only reliable reliever two years in a row, is he a candidate to close?

Still slumping. Who knows, maybe the little jam-shot single Albert Pujols hit will get his bat going. But -- indicative of the way things are going -- Pujols was out trying to stretch it into a double. And by the way, he's now gone 76 at-bats without a home run, rapidly approaching Willie McCovey's record for 400-homer hitters who went to a new team. It took McCovey 87 at-bats to hit his first one for the San Diego Padres.

Slow going. People seem to assume that either Torii Hunter or Vernon Wells will have to give ground if the Angels call up their top prospect, Mike Trout. But right now, it looks like the most likely candidate to lose his job is center fielder Peter Bourjos, who is batting .178 in 45 at-bats. Bourjos did draw a walk, but it was only his second all season. Would the Angels be better off optioning Bourjos to Triple-A and seeing if Trout can spark them from the leadoff spot? They might lose a bit of defense, but it's not like Trout is a slouch in center field.

3 up, 3 down: Angels 6, Orioles 3

April, 20, 2012

ANAHEIM -- The Angels snapped a three-game skid with a 6-3 win Friday night against the Baltimore Orioles in the opener of a weekend series at Angel Stadium. They're now a victory away from taking their first series of the season, but the Angels have yet to win two straight games.

Starting pitcher Jerome Williams did enough in 6 2/3 innings, second baseman Howie Kendrick had three hits and three RBIs and closer Jordan Walden picked up the save in his first opportunity.

The Good:

High socks. Baseball players try funny things to snap out of funks. Infielders Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo, for instance, went old school Friday, pulling up their pant legs for a synchronized knee-high look. Each reached base three times and the trio combined to score four runs, so don't be surprised if the socks come out again this weekend.

Same face, new place. Mark Trumbo, making his first outfield start of the season, had another two hits, including an RBI double in the first, and manager Mike Scioscia's job isn't getting any easier. "Mark looked comfortable in left field," Scioscia said. "Wherever we can fit him in, he will play."

Rebound. There's reason to be optimistic about the back end of the Angels' rotation after the outing Williams turned in. He bounced back from his poor season debut against the Yankees, limiting the Orioles to three runs in 6 2/3 innings. Williams struck out six and allowed only five hits heading into the seventh but was pulled after giving up a towering homer to Nolan Reimold.

The Bad:

Stranded. Scioscia pointed to struggles with situational hitting as a reason for the team's awful start, and the Angels were at it again Friday. They could have pulled away early but left seven runners on base through the first four innings. Albert Pujols flied out to the wall with two runners on in the second, Chris Iannetta struck out with two on in the third and Torii Hunter lined into a double play with the bases loaded in the fourth.

False alarm. Fans are ready to erupt. The tension inside Angel Stadium keeps building with every Pujols fly ball and will keep doing so until one leaves the yard. He was closer to his first home run as an Angel, flying out to the 387-foot sign in left-center field with two runners on in the second inning.

Throwing. Errant throws by Aybar and Callaspo to first base must have had general manager Jerry Dipoto holding his breath. Pujols pulled them down and managed to tag out the base runners, but the sequence was cringe worthy. Pujols, as you may recall, missed some time last season after spraining his wrist on a tag.



Mike Trout
.307 5 13 14
HRA. Pujols 6
RBIA. Pujols 14
RM. Trout 14
OPSM. Trout .987
WC. Wilson 2
ERAG. Richards 2.84
SOC. Wilson 28