05/02/11 6:30 PM ET
Thompson emerging as a force in bullpen
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
"It's definitely a good pitch," said Thompson, who has been one of the Angels' most consistent relievers. "It's been good to Mariano, that's for sure. His is so late and hard -- 90, 91 [mph]. It looks like a fastball and moves like a lefty's sinker. That makes it tough to read for a hitter. You see that four-seamer coming your way and you're thinking fastball, then it cuts on you.
"The truth is, I'm kind of falling in love with that pitch."
Facing the Rays on Sunday in St. Petersburg, Thompson threw all cutters and curveballs to strike out the side and claim the victory as the offense rallied from a five-run deficit to prevail. The one changeup he threw was turned into a base hit.
The win was the Aussie's first against one loss, and he shaved his ERA to 2.51. Thompson leads a strong bullpen with 17 strikeouts against just one walk in 14 1/3 innings, holding hitters to a .218 batting average.
"Rich has made as much of a turnaround the last two, 2 1/2 years of his career as any pitcher I've seen," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "His command has picked up, and [pitching coach] Mike Butcher introduced a cutter to his repertoire that has helped him get back in counts. He has three pitches that he has terrific command of now, and you see the results. The cutter has opened up some zones he couldn't get to before.
"If he keeps producing, he'll get an opportunity to pitch deeper in games."
Morales curtails hitting, will work on running
BOSTON -- One month into the season, and Kendrys Morales is still trying to get on track with his running game.
Recovering from surgery on his lower left leg, Morales has experienced ups and downs this spring, and he's apparently in a down cycle now. He'd hoped to be in the lineup by now, but the ankle simply has not cooperated. He's back in Arizona, at the Angels' Spring Training camp in Tempe, hoping to get started.
"We need to get him running," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before a four-game series with the Red Sox opened at Fenway Park on Monday night. "He's not hitting now. He might be [hitting] by the weekend. When that [running] program is feeling better, he can take a leap forward.
"When you hit, you're working your oblique. Fielding ground balls, you're getting your thighs and back in the shape they need to be. He needs to run."
Scioscia goes with lefty look
BOSTON -- The Angels' ongoing struggles with right-handed pitching had manager Mike Scioscia tweaking his lineup for Monday's series opener against Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox.
Howard Kendrick was at first base, batting third between Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter. This enabled Scioscia to deploy three left-handed bats -- switch-hitters Maicer Izturis, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo -- at second, third and shortstop, respectively. The odd man out was Mark Trumbo, who'd have to wait a day to take his first crack at the Green Monster. Southpaw Jon Lester starts the second game on Tuesday night for Boston.
"Mostly pitching matchups," Scioscia said when asked how he's deciding who goes where in the infield. "Some of the guys have been struggling against righties. This is a chance to get an extra lefty bat in there."
The Angels are hitting .236 against right-handers, compared to .309 against southpaws. The slugging percentages are just as pronounced: .369 against righties, .482 vs. lefties.
Aybar and Callaspo, both at .293, have been the Angels' best hitters against right-handed pitching. Hunter leads with four homers and 11 RBIs against righties. Catcher Hank Conger has three homers and eight RBIs in 46 at-bats against righties, giving him a team-high .500 slugging percentage.
Wilson idling as No. 3 catcher
BOSTON -- The Angels' three-man catching staff seems to be working out all right for Jeff Mathis and Hank Conger. Not so much for Bobby Wilson, who is No. 3 on the depth chart and rarely visible with only five game appearances -- two as a starter -- in the first 28 games.
Mathis was making his 14th start on Monday night. Conger has started 13 games.
"It's nothing new," manager Mike Scioscia said. "The position is the same. To keep three catchers on the roster, it's going to be difficult to keep them all in. Right now, Jeff and Hank are doing a terrific job behind the plate. Bobby hasn't gotten many looks. We'll try to get him in there. We still have confidence in him."
The Angels carried three catchers much of last season, but Mathis missed almost two months with a fractured wrist and Mike Napoli played a lot of first base in Kendrys Morales' absence.
Wilson is out of Minor League options, meaning he has to stay on the roster or be let go, as the club has done with Brandon Wood and Jason Bulger by designating them for assignment.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.