DETROIT -- The Angels could have a difficult situation on their hands with outfielder Vernon Wells, whose recovery from right thumb surgery could have him back with the club by late July.With Wells in the lineup, the Angels ranked 27th in the Majors in runs per game (3.64) and tied for 22nd with a .686 OPS (on-base plus slugging). Since he went on the disabled list May 21, they're tied for first in runs per game (5.35) and rank second in OPS (.821). A lot of other things went into that improvement, of course. Like Mike Trout having a bigger imprint on the offense and Albert Pujols getting going. But it was Wells' injury that created an everyday role for Mark Trumbo and stabilized their outfield. And as Wells' return draws near -- he'll begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday -- it's clear the Angels have very little need or room for him. On one hand, there's Wells' .223/.255/.414 slash line in 169 games with the Angels. But then there's that immovable contract, which will pay him $21 million each of the next two seasons. What role will Wells be coming back to? Barring a trade over the next couple of weeks, it's hard to see it being any more prominent than a limited bench role -- where he'd get a start on the days Kendrys Morales sits against left-handers and perhaps spell Torii Hunter once or twice per week. The playing time of Trout and Trumbo, at least, will not be compromised. Manager Mike Scioscia will admit that much. "We're going to look at the situation presented when Vernon's healthy and back and ready to go, but I think Vernon understands the situation," Scioscia said. "With the way Mike and Mark are playing, they're going to be out there every day, and we'll see how everything else folds in."
Haren hopes to return to mound this weekend
DETROIT -- Dan Haren has heard all the talk -- about how unreliable he's been this season, how concerning his struggles are, given his age and workload, and how his first half may have prompted the Angels to desire another starting pitcher before the Trade Deadline.His response? "I think people kind of forget how good I can be," said Haren, who feels he's over the lower-back stiffness that has bothered him for most of the season. "It's been kind of frustrating hearing all that stuff. I went on the [disabled list] to try and help this team, to get better for the last 12 starts I'll make because I know those are going to be very important. I kind of had to swallow my pride and just get better." Going on the DL and missing a start for the first time in his 10-year career wasn't an easy decision, but after posting a 4.86 ERA and giving up 16 homers through his first 17 starts, Haren felt he had little choice. Now he believes he's ready to return against the Rangers this weekend, preferably Sunday. "That would obviously give me an extra day, being that I pitched on Monday," said Haren, who was placed on the DL July 5. "It would enable me to throw the two bullpens [Wednesday and Friday] and make sure my mechanics are in sync. But I wouldn't come back if I didn't think I could help this team out." Haren felt "off" with his mechanics during his rehab outing with Class A Inland Empire on Monday, when he gave up two runs in five innings, but his back didn't flare up and he felt really good with an intense 40-pitch bullpen session he threw at Comerica Park on Wednesday. "Today I felt great," he said. "It's not necessarily that I'm going to come back throwing 95 mph -- but the quality of the pitch, the angle on my fastball, the angle on my cutter, being able to finish better. Last year, I didn't throw it especially harder than I did this year, but I was able to locate. That's my game." Haren has been taking some stronger medication to combat the inflammation in his lower back, which had been uncommonly stiff since the beginning of the season. Before, his back was "stuck," and now, he says, it feels "night and day." "The only issue for me has been getting mechanically back to where I wanted to be," Haren added, mostly regarding his landing foot. "I think that short term we're very comfortable with the fact that a lot of this back issue cleared up," manager Mike Scioscia said. "No one has a crystal ball to see what's going to happen 10 starts, 100 starts down the road, but right now, we're pretty confident that at least those back issues are behind him."
Angels sign outfielder Crowe to Minors deal
DETROIT -- Back in late March, the Angels were painstakingly close to sending Bobby Abreu to the Indians, and one player who could've gone to the Angels in that proposed deal was outfielder Trevor Crowe. The trade, of course, didn't happen.But 3 1/2 months later, it's almost like it did. Abreu is gone from the roster -- playing for the Dodgers -- and on Tuesday, the Angels signed Trevor Crowe to a Minor League deal, shortly after he was released by Cleveland. Crowe is currently playing out of Triple-A Salt Lake. He's 28, a switch-hitter, can play all three outfield spots -- though most of his experience comes in center -- and has compiled a .245/.295/.329 slash line in 205 games in the big leagues, spanning three seasons. Crowe was taken 14th overall in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, underwent shoulder surgery early in 2011 and hit .250 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 38 games for Triple-A Columbus this season. On the Angels, he'll provide some organizational depth -- and perhaps insurance, in case they end up trading one of their outfielders. "He's kind of a speed-oriented, multi-position outfielder who we hope goes into Salt Lake and clicks," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "He swung the bat really well this spring, when we saw him for Cleveland. His playing time was intermittent. He's had some battles with injuries. But at the end of the day, we felt like it was an opportunity to add some depth."
Chris Iannetta (right forearm strain) threw to second base for a second time on Wednesday and Scioscia said it was "the best he's thrown in a couple of weeks." If all goes according to plan, Iannetta will start playing in rehab games this weekend. Jordan Walden (right biceps strain) is still a couple of days away from resuming his throwing, as he waits for some anti-inflammatory medication to set in. Angels starter Ervin Santana has switched agents, from Bean Stringfellow to Adam Katz, Katz's agency confirmed. If the Angels don't exercise Santana's $13 million club option for next season, he'll become a free agent. At 7 p.m. PT on Thursday, MLB Network will air a special feature on Angels center fielder Mike Trout during their "MLB Tonight" show, which follows the White Sox-Red Sox game. Taped at Yankee Stadium and in his hometown of Millville, N.J., the feature discusses Trout's upbringing and rise to All-Star status as a 20-year-old. It'll re-air on Friday during "The Rundown," which begins at 11 a.m.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.