Notes: Santana trying to regroup
Scioscia: Pitcher faces mechanical and mental adjustments
ANAHEIM -- Ervin Santana is quietly toiling away in the bullpen in search of an elusive remedy.His recent struggles, which include a four-game skid over his last five starts, graduated from visible to glaring after a bludgeoning administered by the Bronx Bombers in his final start before the All-Star break. The right-hander survived just three innings during last Sunday's start at Yankee Stadium, surrendering nine runs on seven hits, with a double-fisted death blow coming in the form of three-run blasts by Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano in an eventual 12-0 loss. Since picking up his last win at St. Louis on June 9, Santana has surrendered 24 runs on 37 hits through 27 innings, spawning both physical and psychological harm for the talented right-hander. "There are certainly some mechanical adjustments," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "As much as there is that, there is the mental approach that is going to be just as important. We're trying to get him to feel more comfortable. "When any player struggles, it's natural to wonder what it's going to take to get back when you struggle for as long as Ervin has. I think inside, he knows his talent. He trusts his talent. I don't know if it's a confidence thing as much as it is the frustration that he knows he's better than he's pitched and wants to get there." Mechanically, Scioscia said his No. 4 starter has to resolve command issues, particularly the consistency of his breaking ball. The "great life on his fastball" is being wasted because he's "trying to manipulate [his fastball] too much." He attributes the compulsion to a pitcher's "tendency to try to expand their repertoire" as the number of hitters faced increases. "I think it's a return to basics," Scioscia said of his plans for the young starter. "It's just trying to get back to his natural stuff. What he was trying to do took him away from some basic strengths that are important to him." Scioscia maintained that, in spite of Santana's well-documented struggles, there is no looming specter of a replacement in the rotation. "I don't think you're ever going to put a date on to say a guy has to pitch here or say a guy has one more start or two more starts or five more starts [before he's replaced]," Scioscia said. "You're not putting any timetable on it. "We need production. We're going to look for Ervin to give it to us and, obviously with any player, if there are options that come up that are going to make you a better team, you consider them at that time." Welcome back: Infielder Brandon Wood returned to Anaheim on Saturday, recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake after Howie Kendrick was placed on the 15-day DL with a fractured left index finger. A menace in the Minor Leagues, Wood smashed 58 home runs and 199 RBIs in his last two seasons, while setting an Angels franchise and Class A California League single-season record for round-trippers (43) in 2005. He also holds Angels single-season Minor League records in doubles (53), extra-base hits (101) and total bases (370). "If there's some things that match up, we're not going to hesitate playing him," Scioscia said. "We know Izzy [Maicer Izturis] can play a lot, but we're going to monitor his legs because of his history this year."
Izturis was sidelined with a hamstring strain for much of the first half. Scioscia said Orlando Cabrera and Chone Figgins will get some time off, so Wood will "get some starts, too."Been a long time: John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar mark the first Angels twosome with at least 10 wins each at the break since Mark Langston and Chuck Finley won 12 each in 1991. Minor League monsters: Third baseman Matt Sweeney and second baseman Wil Ortiz cracked three hits and a double each in a 13-hit effort for the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels during a 10-7 win over the Fort Wayne Wizards on Friday. Sweeney also slugged a pair of home runs, while pushing four runs across the plate. Ortiz added a solo blast. Up next: Jered Weaver (6-5, 3.67 ERA) looks to avenge a July 4 loss he absorbed at Texas when he closes out a three-game series with the Rangers, this time on his home field, against Brandon McCarthy (4-6. 5.70) on Sunday at 12:35 p.m. PT.
Larry Santana is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.