Los Angeles Angels: Vernon Wells
If there really is to be a Freeway Series in 2013, a lot of things have to go right for both teams. But the team that made -- and makes -- the best personnel decisions likely will go further into October.
Let's break down the key areas of both rosters to try to decipher which team is better constructed to play longer into 2013.
This is the part of the discussion in which Dodgers fans get to gloat and Angels fans have to just sit there and marinate. You could argue -- in fact, you don't really even have to -- that the Dodgers have better pitchers in all five spots.
We know this because one of the Angels starters, Joe Blanton, couldn't have cracked the Dodgers' seven deep. We also know this because one of the Dodgers' starters, Zack Greinke, almost helped the Angels make the playoffs.
Jered Weaver is perfectly ace-like. About 25 teams would put him at the top of their rotation. He has finished in the top five in Cy Young voting three years running and even got a couple of MVP votes last year -- always a cool accomplishment for a pitcher. He won 20 games, had a sub-3.00 ERA for the second season in a row and usually gives you more than 200 innings. And we won't even hold the .250 and .241 BABIPs from the past two seasons against him. Weaver is a fly ball pitcher and he relies on mishits to pitch deep into games. He gets strikeouts when he needs them, which is quite often, actually.
The only reason he doesn't get the edge is that Clayton Kershaw might be the best pitcher in baseball. We don't need SABR to tell us that. It's not that scientific. For the past two seasons he led baseball in ERA and was in the top three in WAR for pitchers. If he's not the most dominant pitcher in baseball, he's in the team photo and it's a small team (probably Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander).
So, the Dodgers get an edge in the No. 1 department, though it's a fairly slight edge because of Weaver's competitiveness and consistency. "Slight" isn't the right word for the rest of the Dodgers' edge in starting pitching.
Greinke has never come close to touching his 2009 Cy Young season, but neither has just about any other active pitcher. Greinke flirted with a sub-2.00 ERA, led the league in ERA+ and WHIP. Nobody could square him up. He gave up 0.4 home runs per nine innings. He was mediocre the following season, probably in part because of a personal crisis, but has gone 31-11 with a 3.63 ERA the past two years. Is he worth $147 million? Is any pitcher? He's as good a No. 2 starter as there is out there.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Los Angeles Angels’ season is slowly slipping away.
Actually, at the pace they’re going now, it might not be so slowly anymore. The Angels lost 4-1 to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night, their third loss to the A’s in as many days. The Angels are now 8.5 games from the top of the American League West and 3.5 games out of a wild-card spot.
Santana: You couldn’t ask for much more from Ervin Santana. The right-hander, who had won four of his previous five decisions and thrown quality starts in six of his previous seven starts heading into Wednesday’s game, pitched six innings, giving up one earned run on four hits and striking out six. Santana got out of a two-on, two-out jam to end the first inning by striking out Josh Donaldson and later played on after getting hit by a comeback by Brandon Moss in the fourth inning. On that play, he threw to second for the forceout before getting checked by doctors on the mound.
Kendrick: It might not have been Howie Kendrick’s best day from the plate; then again, none of the Angels had a day worth remembering. But the second baseman did make the Angels’ defensive play of the game. In the top of the fifth inning, he dove left to smother a Coco Crisp grounder and threw to first base for an out.
Pujols: Before the game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia had somewhat encouraging news on Albert Pujols’ tight right calf, which has prevented him from playing first base since Aug. 22. “He’s been taking some ground balls, but he’s still not quite to that level,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully he’s feeling comfortable enough at some point to get out there, but right now it’s something you can’t push.” While the Angels wait for him to return to first base, Pujols has been a consistent hitter as a DH. On Wednesday he hit a home run, and he now has a hit in 18 of his past 20 games.
Hunter: Torii Hunter admitted he didn’t know much about A’s pitcher A.J. Griffin before Wednesday’s game and looked especially confused by the right-hander at the plate. Hunter struck out twice, popped out once and broke his bat on a groundout in the eighth inning. It seemed Hunter was almost as frustrated by umpire Mike Everett’s strike zone. He struck out on a couple of pitches that were down and out after an earlier exchange with Everett.
Wells: The biggest reason Vernon Wells has been playing for the Angels recently is he has been a far more productive hitter than Mark Trumbo. Wells homered Tuesday night and has five homers in his past 15 games with an at-bat. Trumbo, however, likely will see the field again Thursday after Wells went 0-for-3 and flied out to left field to end the fourth inning, when the Angels had runners on first and third. To be fair, it’s not entirely Wells’ fault they didn’t score. In the past 13 innings, the Angels have had four runners at third base with fewer than two outs and have failed to score.
Iannetta: The good news was Angels catcher Chris Iannetta snapped his 0-for-15 skid with an infield single in the bottom of the third inning. The bad news was he tried to get from first to third on a Mike Trout single and was easily thrown out. Scioscia loves aggressive baserunning, but that was simply a bad decision by Iannetta.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angels Angels got all they could've hoped for out of spot starter Jerome Williams and four relievers, another spectacular night from rookie sensation Mike Trout, clutch hits from Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols in the bottom of the ninth ... and they still lost.
The surprising Oakland Athletics continue to be a team of destiny, this time holding on for a hard-fought 6-5 win over the Angels to strengthen their grip in the American League wild-card race.
The Angels trailed 6-3 going into the final inning but seemed to be on the verge of a dramatic comeback as catcher Chris Ianetta and Trout drew walks, then came home to score on RBI singles from Hunter and Pujols. But Kendrys Morales struck out and Howie Kendrick hit into a inning-ending double play to end the threat and the game.
The Angels now trail the A's by 4 1/2 games in the AL wild-card chase and the Yankees and Orioles by 2 1/2 games.
The Hunter for a Playoff October: If this is the final month of Hunter's Angels career, he's making it memorable. Hunter hit a solo homer in the seventh inning and drove in a run in the bottom of the ninth to give him 27 RBIs in August and September.
Wells Bells: Don't look now, but Vernon Wells is about to take Mark Trumbo's job. The veteran outfielder has been on a bit of a power surge lately, blasting a two-run homer in the second inning Tuesday to give him five home runs in his last 15 games. Trumbo, who had been the Angels' most reliable slugger early in the season, remains mired in an awful second-half slump (he's hitting .182 in August and September). He sat for the third time in a week Tuesday.
Troutatious: It's getting to the point that you're surprised when he doesn't make the spectacular catch or drive in a critical run every night. Heck, it's even a little jarring when the kid records an out. Tuesday night Trout was his typically fantastic self, going 3-for-4, drawing a key walk and making a spectacular diving catch in the outfield to rob Yoenis Cespedes of a base hit.
Failure to capitalize: The Angels had runners at first and third with less than two outs in each of the first two innings against A's righty Dan Straily but couldn't plate any of them and ended up allowing Straily to settle in and grow stronger throughout the game. Pujols flied to right with runners on in both the first and second innings, Morales and Kendrick struck out swinging with Trout on third in the first inning and Hunter struck out to end a scoring threat in the second.
Bullpen holds, and then it doesn't: Angels manager Mike Scioscia wasn't expecting much out of starting pitcher Williams and he certainly wasn't going to leave him in too long. Not with as much riding on it as this game. Williams worked a solid three innings but ran into trouble in the fourth and Scioscia turned to the bullpen, which came through in a big way. Nick Maronde, Garrett Richards, Scott Downs and Jordan Walden combined to hold the A's to scoreless on one hit over the next four innings until Kevin Jepsen gave up two runs in the top of the ninth on an RBI-triple by Coco Crisp that played as an inside-the-park home run when Hunter couldn't field it cleanly. It proved to be the winning run.
Losing ground: The Angels came into this series on a tear, winning 11 of their past 12 games, but could barely gain any ground in the wild-card race. And now, like a classic yo-yo dieter, they've fallen 2 1/2 games back of the Baltimore Orioles, who beat the Rays 9-2, and the Yankees, who lost to the Red Sox, for the second wild-card berth.
"He's obviously in a bit of a downturn," Scioscia said of his powerful left fielder, who is hitting just .182 in August and September. "But he's working hard to find himself."
For his part, Trumbo says his swing has been feeling better in the last week or so.
"The last couple days I've felt closer to where I want to be, the results notwithstanding," he said. "But the feeling of my swing feels a lot closer to what I want it to be."
Scioscia said the days off he has given Trumbo of late (Sept. 4, 8 and 11) have been as much to give him a chance to "clear his head" as to play Wells, who hit his 10th home run on Monday and now has hit four homers in his last 14 games with an at-bat.
While Trumbo says he understands the rationale, he wasn't exactly enthusiastic about the pattern.
"Call it what you want. They're just days I'm not in there," he said. "Whether it's a breath of fresh air or not, the bottom line is they're just days I'm not in there."
Here's a look at tonight's lineup:
- Coco Crisp CF
- Seth Smith LF
- Josh Reddick RF
- Yoenis Cespedes DH
- Brandon Moss 1B
- Josh Donaldson 3B
- George Kottaras C
- Stephen Drew SS
- Cliff Pennington 2B
- Mike Trout CF
- Torii Hunter RF
- Albert Pujols DH
- Kendrys Morales 1B
- Howie Kendrick 2B
- Erick Aybar SS
- Vernon Wells LF
- Alberto Callaspo 3B
- Chris Iannetta C
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- When a team is fighting for a wild-card spot in mid-August, any loss is, by definition, bad news. But a 7-0 loss to Rays, whom the Angels happen to be chasing in that race, on a night when the A’s -- a divisional rival also being chased -- won, cranks up the “bummer” factor threefold. Plus, that whole “can barely reach base, much less score” thing leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. And while everyone is certainly happy for pitcher Steven Geltz making his big league debut, that’s likely not enough to offset the bigger picture.
Alberto Callaspo: Remember that movie “Multiplicity,” in which Michael Keaton clones four versions of himself to keep up with the responsibilities of a hectic work life and home life? Well, the Angels needed to give Callaspo the same treatment, but nine times over, since he was among the only guys capable of hitting Rays lefty David Price.
The lone multihit Halo, his first of two hits was a two-out double to briefly extend the second inning. Unfortunately, Vernon Wells proceeded to strand Callaspo with a fly out to right. I’d say this was the story of the Angels’ life tonight, except they didn’t have enough baserunners for the metaphor to work.
Scattered defense: At the top of the broadcast, it was noted that upon his 38th start in left field, Vernon Wells has yet to make an error. Immediately, you’re thinking “jinx!!!” Instead, Wells upped the ante in the third inning with a sliding backhanded grab, robbing Carlos Pena of a perhaps a multiple-base hit.
Later, Howie Kendrick stretched high for a backhanded grab to snag a shallow-center bloop and rob poor Pena of yet another hit.
Jerome Williams: Yeah, a fifth-frame breaking pitch clearly didn’t fool Evan Longoria and resulted in a two-run homer to center. But the game was already out of hand and that one pitch accounted for the only hit surrendered over 4.1 innings. Factor in the six strikeouts, and the hurler did a very nice job in long relief.
Dan Haren: The starter’s first frame featured three batters faced, but also 18 pitches, which isn’t the most efficient pace. In other words, there were signs his night could move in two directions. Unfortunately, the answer was: south.
Small problems began in the second inning with a solo shot surrendered to Ben Zobrist on a 2-2 meatball served right up the middle. The third baseman couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity, nor did he waste it. Still, Haren shook off the mistake well enough to avoid damage for the remainder of that frame and the next.
But the fourth inning was a killer.
Another solo shot kicked off the proceedings, this time a fastball left up for B.J. Upton to crush into left field. Four additional singles in succession, followed by a sacrifice to center resulted in a quartet of runs added to Haren’s résumé. Throughout the stretch, Haren continually left pitches where he shouldn’t, and Rays batters might as well have been playing T-ball. After Jose Molina -- the eighth batter of the inning -- singled to right and put men on the corners, Mike Scioscia decided he’d seen enough. Jerome Williams was summoned to clean up the mess, and Haren was left to sit in the dugout to ponder his second consecutive start torched by the inability to finish the fourth inning.
No runs/five hits: Coming into tonight’s game, the 17 combined runs Tuesday and Wednesday against Cleveland felt like a cause for celebration. Now they serve as a cautionary tale about the failure to pace oneself.
David Price: As in, David Price was a bad, bad man this evening.
His appearance Saturday night was supposed to be for just one game but he essentially forced Angels manager Mike Scioscia to find a spot for him again Sunday.
Wells was 0-for-16 with three strikeouts in his first six games back from the disabled list but went 3-for-3 with 3 RBIs and a home run on Saturday. He hit his first home run since May 16 in the eighth inning. It was also Wells’ first three-hit game since July 22 of last season.
“That was the most comfortable we’ve seen him in the box since he put on an Angels uniform,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully it is something he can build on. If a guy is performing, you’re going to play more. Hopefully Vernon can carry it over.”
Wells, who received a back-loaded seven-year, $126 million contract from the Toronto Blue Jays after the 2006 season, hasn’t been a factor with the emergence on Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout this season. He batted .218 last season with 25 home runs and 66 RBI. This season, he is batting .234 with 7 home runs and 15 RBI.
Scioscia is still unsure why a player as talented as Wells was in Toronto has been unable to have any kind of sustained success with the Angels.
Wells, who missed 55 games because of a right thumb injury before being instated on July 27, found himself in the lineup on Saturday as Trumbo took the day off and tried to break out of the 8-for-50 slump he is in. On Sunday he replaced Kendry Morales. As long as he keep hitting, Scioscia said he will find a way for him to play.
“Last night Vernon had it and hopefully it’s something he can bottle,” Scioscia said. “He’s definitely underperformed and it’s good to see him contribute.”
Here are lineups for Sunday:
Dustin Ackley 2B
Michael Saunders CF
Kyle Seager 3B
John Jaso DH
Jesus Montero C
Mike Carp 1B
Eric Thames RF
Trayvon Robinson LF
Brendan Ryan SS
Mike Trout CF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols DH
Mark Trumbo 1B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Erick Aybar SS
Vernon Wells LF
Maicer Izturis 3B
Bobby Wilson C
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The question had nothing to do with pitching. In fact, the words "pitching" or "pitcher" were never uttered when I simply asked Angels outfielder Torii Hunter why the team has struggled to find any kind of consistency this month.
"I can't talk about that," Hunter said. "I will never talk about my pitchers."
Fair enough, but I never said anything about pitchers. So pitchers aside, why hasn't the team been able to win back-to-back games in August?
"I don't want to talk about that one," Hunter said. "I can't do that."
It was one of the few times the gregarious and outspoken Hunter was left speechless and forced into the unfamiliar territory of giving a no-comment not once, but twice.
Hunter is the one of the few players in the Angels' clubhouse who sidesteps the regular canned quotes and clichés and speaks his mind. And even though I never asked him about pitching, he simply could not answer why the Angels have struggled this month because he knew that would force him to talk about something he promised himself early in his career he never would.
His smile, however, said it all. The answer is so clearly on the field and in the box scores that there is no real need for him to point it out.
The Angels' pitching this month hasn't just been bad, it has been historically horrendous.
The staff ERA in August is 6.67, which is easily the worst in all of baseball. Next up is the Colorado Rockies at 5.93, and they are currently in a heated race with Houston for the worst record in baseball this season.
During the Angels’ 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 and 41 hits in 27.1 innings, including 11 home runs.
During Saturday’s 7-4 loss to Seattle, Dan Haren had his shortest start since his rookie year in 2003. Haren’s line was cringe-worthy: 3.1 innings pitched, 5 hits, 7 runs (5 earned), 3 walks, 0 strike outs, 1 home run and a 4.68 ERA.
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.
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.
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.”
Greinke's 19-game home winning streak ended in his first start in Anaheim. Greinke pitched seven strong innings Sunday in his Angels debut, but took the loss in a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Angels managed just four hits off Jeremy Hellickson and three Tampa relievers.
The Angels go into their biggest series of the year -- four games in Texas -- in a sudden cold spell. They managed just nine hits in the past two games against the Rays, both shutout losses.
Fast start. Greinke looked like the guy the Angels thought they were getting. He combined a lively, 93 mph fastball with tough breaking stuff and the ability to get ground balls in key spots. From the end of the second through the sixth inning, he didn't allow a base runner. He struck out eight batters in seven innings and walked just one batter. A little fatigue and the burden of pitching without run support seemed to catch up to him at the end. The sixth and seventh innings got messy, with some bunched hits and a run-scoring wild pitch. Otherwise, it was an encouraging start to Greinke's Angels career, however long it lasts.
Possible upgrade. For a guy hitting .203, Chris Iannetta looks like he could be a significant boost to the bottom of the Angels' order. He takes pitches and works walks, unlike most Angels hitters, and he has more pop than virtually anyone who will hit in the bottom third of the lineup. After missing 10 weeks with a wrist injury, Iannetta had some encouraging at-bats in his return. He hit a deep fly ball to center, a towering shot to left and singled sharply off the second baseman's glove. It wasn't all that much, but did you see the rest of the hitters' lines?
Salty relief. If Jason Isringhausen and LaTroy Hawkins had known as much about pitching when they were younger -- and still had mid-90s fastballs -- they might have given Mariano Rivera a run for his money. The Angels' two 39-year-old relievers are putting up impressive numbers even though they're closer in age to the coaches than to most of their teammates. They each pitched a stress-free, scoreless inning to keep the Angels in range for a rally that never came. Both relievers have sub-3.00 ERAS.
Trout's knee. The Texas Rangers must feel a little bit of relief knowing they open their crucial four-game series against the Angels on Monday against the Angels' worst starter, Ervin Santana, and with their best hitter, Mike Trout, questionable because of a left knee bruise. Trout, the league's leading hitter, slammed his knee into the center-field wall Saturday and, while he figures to play soon, the Angels will see how he feels Monday before making a determination.
Flashbacks. These guys looked a lot like the April Angels. Vernon Wells started his second straight game, Albert Pujols struggled and hitter after hitter went down feebly against 2011 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson. For most of July, the Angels were the hottest offense in baseball, but the past two games they have hit the skids dramatically. They managed just seven hits in the two games. Maybe Tampa's good young pitching was the reason. But without Trout, the Sunday lineup looked susceptible even before the game started.
Wells. With Trout out and Torii Hunter getting a scheduled day off, Mike Scioscia gave Wells a second straight start. Wells hit a sharp grounder that Ryan Roberts made a nice play on, but he went hitless again and still looks a lot like the guy who batted .218 -- with a historically awful on-base percentage -- in 2011. Absent Trout and Hunter, the Angels' lineup lacked energy and nothing about Wells' play suggests he's going to inject much life into things.
The Angels scratched Mike Trout from the lineup shortly before Sunday afternoon's game with the Tampa Bay Rays with a left knee contusion. Trout hurt his knee colliding with the center-field wall trying to catch Ben Zobrist's home run Saturday night.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it was even possible Trout could pinch hit late in Sunday's game and he figures to be back in the lineup Monday night in Texas.
The injury does raise the question of whether Trout's aggressive style could make him injury-prone in the long run. The Angels saw that for years with Darin Erstad, who played with a reckless style and spent his last few years on and off the disabled list. Last week, Trout made a diving attempt at a ball down the left field line in a game with two outs in the ninth inning and the Angels leading comfortably.
Here are lineups for Sunday:
Desmond Jennings CF
Sam Fuld LF
Ben Zobrist 2B
Matt Joyce RF
Jeff Keppinger DH
Carlos Pena 1B
Ryan Roberts 3B
Jose Lobaton C
Elliot Johnson SS
Maicer Izturis SS
Howie Kendrick 2B
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo RF
Kendrys Morales DH
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Vernon Wells LF
Chris Iannetta C
Peter Bourjos CF
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.
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.
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.
Haren will throw another bullpen Saturday, Scioscia added. The Angels will then make a determination on whether Haren is ready to make a rehab start or throw a simulated game.
“We’re gonna take it one step at a time, but we’re very encouraged by the way he threw his ‘pen,” Scioscia said.
Haren is 6-8 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts for the Angels this season.
Catcher Chris Iannetta (right wrist surgery) will tentatively throw to the bases early next week in Detroit, Scoiscia said.
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.
He's aware his role might be different when he comes off the DL, probably some time in mid- to late-July.
"I think there's still a spot for me in left. Trout can go back to center and we'll just rotate and I'll be a cheerleader half the time and play some nights," Wells said. "I think that's the thing, once everybody gets a chance to be in the lineup, it's just a matter of going out and helping the team win. It'll all play itself out. I can't predict what's going to happen two months from now."
It will be a tricky proposition when Wells returns. He was batting .244 in 38 games before he tore a ligament in his right thumb, though some of his most productive weeks as an Angel preceded the injury. The Angels acquired him in a trade from the Toronto Blue Jays 16 months ago and he batted .218 with a .245 on-base percentage and 25 home runs last season. The team still owes him $56 million through 2014.
That would make for an expensive bench player.
On Friday night, Trumbo shifted to left field, where he was making just his fifth start of the season. Trumbo played right field while Torii Hunter was on the restricted list for two weeks.
Here are lineups for the opener of a three-game series against first-place Texas:
Ian Kinsler 2B
Elvis Andrus SS
Josh Hamilton CF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Michael Young DH
David Murphy LF
Nelson Cruz RF
Mike Napoli C
Mitch Moreland 1B
Mike Trout CF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Albert Pujols 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Mark Trumbo LF
Torii Hunter RF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Erick Aybar SS
John Hester C
This team's outfield has gone from having a glut of available players to being devoid of healthy, present bodies. Vernon Wells is out 8-10 weeks after thumb surgery. Torii Hunter remains on the restricted list while he deals with sexual-assault charges against his son, Darius, back in Texas. Bobby Abreu is batting .341 for the Dodgers.
And, at least for the moment, the rapid attrition seems to be roughly Reason No. 94 to worry about this team. It's miles behind Albert Pujols' slump, furlongs back of the bullpen's struggles and probably even stuck behind the Chris Iannetta injury and the lack of catching depth.
In fact, is it wrong to suggest this could actually help this team win some more games in the next few weeks? Bourjos is the best defensive outfielder in the organization, Trumbo's bat the most dangerous on the team for now and Trout perhaps a burgeoning superstar. Angels fans have been clamoring for this look since spring training and it's hard to fault them. If anything, it's the veterans who have held the Angels back, not the young players.
In 640 at-bats as an Angel, Wells is batting .223 with a .255 on-base percentage and 78 RBIs. Trout figures to be just as steady in the outfield and his performance the past three weeks suggest he's a massive upgrade offensively. Before Hunter left, he was doing his usual thing, producing steadily at the plate, playing Gold Glove-caliber outfield and holding the clubhouse together. But Trumbo has far more power, an equally strong arm and -- you have to say it -- won't have as much off-field stuff to worry about.
The center-field situation isn't quite as easy to shrug off, because Bourjos (.203) hasn't produced much with his bat. But over the same sample-size as Wells', all of Bourjos' offensive numbers are better, aside from power, and he can make nearly as much impact on the defensive side as Erick Aybar, another struggling hitter, can make from the shortstop position.
Time will tell how long this trio stays together -- and manager Mike Scioscia told reporters in San Diego he expects Hunter back by the end of the weekend -- but for now, it may be the most interesting thing this team has going for it. And, besides, who doesn't like a glimpse into the future?