Willits fills in for Hunter on Saturday
Reserve center fielder has had limited opportunities thus far
DETROIT -- It was a short spring for reserve outfielder Reggie Willits, who was limited for most of spring with a right hamstring injury. But Willits is feeling better and manager Mike Scioscia elected to give Torii Hunter a day off on Saturday.
Willits isn't worried about trying to get multiple hits when he is in the game given that his at-bats are likely to be limited in the future. But he does want quality at-bats, to put the ball in play and play superior defense.
"When you don't get to start on a regular basis you can get into a game, go 0-for-3 and feel like you had three good at-bats," Willits said. "You can't look at everything from a hit standpoint."
Scioscia admits that Willits hasn't had enough time to get locked in offensively yet this year but feels that his reserve center fielder is 100 percent healthy.
"Reggie has seen pitches and is ready to go," Scioscia said. "He's a very good situational hitter for us. We like what he can do."
Scioscia expects 12-man staff to stick
DETROIT -- Major League Baseball has certainly evolved over the years and one of the best examples is the liberal use of relief pitchers.
In an ideal world Angels manager Mike Scioscia would have the ability to carry more position players, but currently the Angels, like most teams in the Majors, carry 12 pitchers, including seven relievers. That could change from time to time, Scioscia admits, but he agrees that a 12-man staff is what fans will see predominantly this season.
"We'll have to see where [Scott] Kazmir's length is and how long [Joe] Saunders can go for us as we get into May," Scioscia said. "If we see some of our starting pitchers going deeper into games, then we may look at an 11-man staff for a period of time as some of those guys get stretched out."
However Scioscia likes the potential of his bullpen to perform at a high level, with a combination of power arms and relievers like Fernando Rodney, Brian Fuentes and Scot Shields, who have significant eighth- and ninth-inning experience.
"We have an ability to hold leads with our veterans and guys like Kevin [Jepsen] and others," Scioscia said. "I think every team wants to have as much depth at every position as possible, but I don't feel handcuffed. We have some good versatility with our [position] players."
For his part, Rodney doesn't care how many pitchers there are in the Angels' bullpen. He just goes out and pitches.
"I know my role so whatever [Scioscia] says I just go out and do it," he said.
The Angels' starting pitchers did rank first in the American League heading into Friday's series opener in Detroit. In total innings pitched. The Halos finished the month with 141 2/3 innings thrown, an average of roughly six innings per game. Their starting pitchers had a collective ERA of 5.02 and their relievers finished April with a 5.77 ERA.
Offense heating up, but lacks consistency
DETROIT -- The Angels' offense hasn't hit its stride quite yet despite some improvement in recent games, according to manager Mike Scioscia. The Halos batted .261 with 24 home runs in April, averaging 4.1 runs per game. The team batted just .244 with runners in scoring position.
"The chemistry hasn't quite been there but we have some guys starting to drive the ball," Scioscia said. "I don't think we're quite there yet, but we've scored enough runs and made some comebacks to allow us to get back [above .500]."
Reliever Scot Shields has noticed an uptick in the offensive production recently, including six- and eight-run games in victories over the Yankees. He admits that production collectively helps the bullpen.
"When we come into the game and know that our offense can take control that really gives us some confidence," Shields said. "You don't feel like you have to be too fine with your pitches."
Center fielder Torii Hunter is batting .314 and has reached base safely in 20 of 23 games. He batted .500 with five extra-base hits in his past four games and sees his own offensive production and that from his teammates starting to pick up. Hunter was given the day off on Saturday.
"We've been swinging pretty well and having better at-bats," Hunter said. "But we still need to get better at driving guys in when we get men on base. We have to get more clutch hits."
In the Angels' 12 wins, their batters have hit .306 (37-for-121) with runners in scoring position. In the 12 losses they hit .195 (17-for-87).
DETROIT -- While the Halos' team ERA was over five for the month of April, they gave up just 14 earned runs in the past 37 innings played, good for a 3.41 ERA. ... Bobby Abreu is doing what he does -- getting on base. Abreu has 26 total bases in his last eight games. For his career Abreu is eight doubles shy of 500 and once he reaches that milestone, he will become one of just five players all-time with 2,000 hits, 500 doubles, 250 home runs, 350 stolen bases and 1,000 walks. The other players on that list: Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson and Craig Biggio. ... The Angels have yet to win a game (0-11) when trailing after seven innings and are 10-1 when leading after seven innings. ... The Angels finished below .500 in April 2009, going 9-12.
Mike Scott is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.