Angels GM hopes for 'spark'

Updated: May 17, 2012, 8:26 AM ET
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Angels are hoping to begin a greater offensive era after hiring new hitting coach Jim Eppard to replace the fired Mickey Hatcher.

General manager Jerry Dipoto made the decision to fire Hatcher after Tuesday night's 4-0 win over the Oakland Athletics. Dipoto said before Wednesday's game against the Chicago White Sox that the team's poor early-season performance was the primary reason Hatcher was axed midway through his 13th season with the Angels.

"Offensively, we feel like we've underachieved," Dipoto said. "We have high expectations for the club and we're all judged by our results. That being said, there's no one person that can be isolated as the sole reason for the struggle."

The Angels (16-21) are seven games behind the first-place Texas Rangers in the AL West after entering 2012 with World Series aspirations. Through 37 games, they're 12th in the AL in runs and on-base percentage and seventh in batting average.

Key offseason signing Albert Pujols is hitting a measly .212 with nine extra-base hits in 146 at-bats.

"I hope this is a spark, but I don't have a crystal ball and I can't tell you that it's going to be in 48 or 72 hours," Dipoto said. "But I believe over time that it should help."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia, also in his 13th season with the club, declined to discuss what role he played in the decision to fire Hatcher, a longtime friend. But Scioscia did indicate he wouldn't have come to the same decision if it were solely up to him.

"I'm not going to get into any of that," Scioscia said. "Obviously, the GM's position is to try to make changes -- whether it's personnel or staffing -- that he believes is going to help us get better, and we have to respect that."

Scioscia added that the Angels "were not in an offensive funk because of Mickey."

Hatcher's reputation, dating back to his playing days in the 1980's, involves an aggressive approach at the place. He hit .280 in his career but had a lifetime on-base percentage of a paltry .313.

Dipoto, a former major league pitcher, has emphasized on-base percentage in his brief career as an executive, and the Angels were clearly underperforming in that category this season.

"Sometimes shift is good for a team and an organization," Dipoto said. "I believe that it, in some ways, relieves tension and creates a new direction.

"Those are my only expectations: That we see a tangible result between now and the end of the year."

Eppard, 52, played for the Angels for parts of three big league seasons. He was in his 10th season as the hitting coach for the Salt Lake Bees, the Angels' Triple-A affiliate.

In that position, he worked with a number of the Angels' young hitters over the years, including outfielder Peter Bourjos, infielder Mark Trumbo and second baseman Howie Kendrick.

Eppard also had come in contact with other Angel hitters during recent Septembers and in spring training.

"He knew the right things as a player, he teaches the right things and he talks about the right things," Dipoto said of Eppard, who is not being given an interim tag on his job title. "I think any time you're making a change, you want to have someone internally that can run with it and give them an opportunity to sink their teeth into a job.

"That's what Jim's being given, that opportunity."

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