ANAHEIM -- Mike Trout isn't the only New Jersey native who could have a positive imprint on the Angels' future. Southpaw Trevor Reckling remains very much in the team's plans as a potential starter.
The Angels' 2009 organization Pitcher of the Year after a strong season at Double-A Arkansas, Reckling struggled with his command at Triple-A Salt Lake last year and was returned to Arkansas, where he seemed to put things back together with a solid finish. Turning 22 on May 22, Reckling has been better than his 1-6 record indicates with Arkansas.
Consistently in the strike zone with his plus fastball, 11-to-5 curveball and quality changeup, Reckling has kept the walks down (18 in 52 1/3 innings) while racking up 38 strikeouts and assembling a 3.78 ERA. Key stat: only three times in nine starts has he walked more than two hitters.
"Trevor has the stuff and the makeup to be a quality Major League pitcher," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had some issues with his delivery last year, and it looks like he's throwing well now. We're high on him."
Another highly regarded prospect, Garrett Richards, is 5-1 with a 3.90 ERA in 57 2/3 innings. His 1.23 WHIP is slightly better than Reckling's 1.30. Another Arkansas starter, Matt Shoemaker, is 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.
Hunter's protege Span full of admiration
MINNEAPOLIS -- This weekend has brought a bonus for Twins center fielder Denard Span. He has been back in contact with the Angels' Torii Hunter, who has been profoundly influential on his career.
"I'll always consider him a big brother," Span said of the man who tutored him before leaving Minnesota for the Angels after the 2007 season for $90 million spread over five years.
"Torii, ever since he met me, gave me advice about the game, life, everything," added Span. "It was almost like he wanted me to take his spot. I'm not saying he knew he wasn't going to be in Minnesota a long time or in center field a long time; he just wanted me to be as good as I could be.
""When I was 18, 19 years old, the things he told me didn't make as much of an impact as they did later. It's like when a parent [disciplines] you, and you don't realize until years later it was out of love. It tells you a lot about his character that he wasn't worried about a young guy who could take his position someday. He just always wanted to help you and better you. Most people might get intimidated by people coming up behind them. Not Torii. That's why he's as good a person as he is a player."
Span has flourished in Hunter's absence. He's a .289 career hitter with a .293 average this season. He runs the bases intelligently and effectively (26 steals last year) and plays superb center field -- very much in the image of his mentor.
"I'm really proud of Denard," Hunter said before Sunday's series finale. "He plays the game right and treats people right."
Haren lauds Angels' defense
MINNEAPOLIS -- Having pitched for less athletic defenses, Dan Haren is developing a full appreciation for what he has behind him with the Angels. Their defense has been superior, with only Tampa Bay in the American League owning a higher fielding percentage (.989 to .987) with half of its games on artificial turf.
Haren, fifth in the AL in ERA at 2.13, first in innings pitched with 80 1/3 and fourth in strikeouts with 72, has marveled at the work of a swift and athletic defense featuring Rawlings Gold Glove candidates at multiple positions.
"Our starting pitchers have been really doing a good job almost every time out," Haren said. "Our defense has a lot to do with that. Some of the double plays we've turned, it's so fast a turn you can barely see it."
Haren and the other starters have benefited from spectacular plays by Peter Bourjos in center field and Torii Hunter in right and by middle infielders Erick Aybar, Howard Kendrick (now on the disabled list) and Maicer Izturis, while Mark Trumbo and Alberto Callaspo have been capable at the corners. The catching has been first-rate, whether it's Jeff Mathis, Hank Conger or Bobby Wilson behind the plate.
"Our defense has been good," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "but there's potential to play at a higher level. We have a chance to be a real special defensive team, and I think we'll get there.
"The infield defense has been solid, and the outfield has great range and throws well to all bases. The defensive side of catching has been terrific. We're strong [up the middle]. I think we'll be more of an impact team defensively as we move on."
Angels at .500 after first third of season
MINNEAPOLIS -- Fifty-four games into a 162-game season, the Angels aren't half bad. Which means, of course, they're only half good with their 27-27 record, trailing first-place Texas by one game and surprising second-place Seattle by a half-game in the wild, wild American League West.
"First and foremost," manager Mike Scioscia said before Sunday's series finale with the Twins, "this team has to get better. We're not a finished product. Some ways we've played baseball in the first third are far short of what we want to do. Some ways are better.
"Some things we're trying to address. Some are with guys getting back in the lineup [Vernon Wells and Howard Kendrick most notably] and getting productive. We're obviously not where we want to be and we're all a little frustrated. Three weeks ago we talked about how we were leading the American League in batting average but it wasn't translating into production."
That remains the highest priority, finding continuity and production in a lineup that has featured many moving parts and constant shuffling.
Wells is running close to full strength and is about to start hitting for the first time since straining his right groin on May 9. Kendrick (hamstring) is close to ready and is expected to be back in the lineup on Saturday against the Yankees when he's eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list. Wells is pointing toward the end of the homestand on June 12, but that might be optimistic.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.