ANAHEIM -- Angels closer Ernesto Frieri is regressing toward the mean. That's not necessarily a bad thing, per se. It just means that Frieri is now, well, human, as he continued to remind everyone through the first half of the season.
"I never got too high or too low," Frieri said in Spanish. "I stayed the same the entire time. I kept saying, 'There are going to be times when I get hit, there are going to be times when it doesn't go my way.' That's been happening a little bit lately, but you see me the same. You never see me with my head down or anything like that. I keep working hard, trying to get better each day. I know what I can do."
In the first half, after being acquired from the Padres on May 3, Frieri tossed 26 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, striking out 45 batters and going 11-for-11 in saves in the process. In the second half, though, Frieri has given up nine runs (eight earned) in 10 innings, putting his ERA for the season at a mortal 1.98 mark.
Frieri has closer potential because of his electric fastball and deceptive delivery. But he's prone to giving up runs because of his walk rate, which is at 4.9 throughout his four-year career.
The 27-year-old right-hander has talked about mixing it up by throwing his slider more occasionally to keep hitters off balance, but he'll mostly stick to his strengths. The key is better location, and keeping that leadoff hitter off the basepaths.
"When I don't get that first hitter out, with a walk or hit by pitch or whatever, it just gives them more of a chance because three guys now have a shot of driving him in," Frieri said. "I think that's what hurts me more than anything."
Trumbo taking his slump harder than most
ANAHEIM -- Sure, all athletes care. But you'd be hard-pressed to find one who cares more than Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo, a diligent worker who has a very tough time dealing with failure. It's what helped him go from an 18th-round Draft pick in 2004 to one of this game's mightiest sluggers in 2012.
But it's times like these, while riding a slump that has now extended a month, when over-thinking and over-working can prove to be quite the hindrance.
It's times like these when it's possible to try too hard.
"Of course," Trumbo said. "Of course, because you care. And everyone who enjoys what they're doing, and wants to be good at it and be good at it for a long time, you're going to spin the wheels a lot. That's just the nature of what we do."
Trumbo, an All-Star and the American League leader in slugging percentage as recently as July 26, had just nine hits in his previous 55 at-bats heading into Wednesday's game. Over his last 24 contests, he's gone 19-for-92 (a .207 batting average), hit three home runs, lost his place as the full-time cleanup hitter and seen his batting average drop from .311 to .287.
"What I am always concerned about is whether I'm driving the ball, and that I haven't been doing a very good job of," said Trumbo, starting at first base in place of Albert Pujols for the series finale against the Indians. "In that regard, that's why it's been kind of hard for me."
Slump or not, Trumbo has already taken major strides since last season -- a year that nonetheless placed him second in American League Rookie of the Year voting. In 138 fewer plate appearances, he's already matched his home run total (29), surpassed his walk total (25 to 29) and currently sports an on-base percentage that's 49 points higher (.291 to .340).
These are the times when Trumbo wants to remind himself of things like that.
"I go out there with a positive mindset," Trumbo said. "I understand that I've done it before, and I'm going to do it again. How soon I'm going to start producing again like I know I'm capable of, I don't know. But everything that I could possibly do to give myself a chance for success, I've been doing."
'A little tired,' Pujols not in starting lineup
ANAHEIM -- Coming off a two-game stretch that saw him notch four hits, hit two homers and drive in six runs, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols was out of the starting lineup for Wednesday's series finale against the Indians.
Pujols said the absence wasn't injury-related, just a regular day off. He'd had only two all year, with his last one coming three weeks ago.
"Last night he was a little tired after the game," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who wasn't originally planning on giving Pujols a day off in this homestand. "I'm just trying to give his legs a recharge day, and hopefully he'll be ready to go tomorrow. That's what we anticipate."
Pujols, batting .280 with 26 homers and 82 RBIs on the year, had days off on May 5 (to clear his head from an early season slump) and July 25 (after being hit in the elbow the night before). Of his 115 starts, 103 have come at first base, with 10 at designated hitter and two at the hot corner.
As part of their week-long celebration of the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Series championship, the Angels invited former outfielder Garret Anderson to throw out the first pitch before Wednesday's game. Ex-third baseman Troy Glaus will go on Thursday.
The Angels are one of the few teams that have actually done well this season against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who just hurled a perfect game against a Rays team the Angels will face in a four-game series beginning on Thursday. In two starts against them this year, Hernandez has posted a 6.23 ERA (nine earned runs in 13 innings).
"It's just the intangibles of the game," outfielder Mark Trumbo said. "Sometimes we won't do anything against guys that other teams kill, and sometimes we'll have success against guys, like him, who was flat-out dominating [on Wednesday]. That was impressive."
Asked about Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, who was suspended 50 games on Wednesday for violating Major League Baseball's Drug Policy, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said: "It's unfortunate. It's a policy that's there for a reason, it's something that needs to be enforced and I think that as well as Melky has played, when you read something like this, it knocks the wind out of you. It's very disappointing."
Scioscia serves on Commissioner Bud Selig's Special Committee for On-Field Matters.
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.