05/15/11 5:08 PM ET
Mathis making positive strides on offense
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Some offense is nice to see, of course, but what Angels manager Mike Scioscia likes most is the way Mathis is handling a pitching staff that has been among the Majors' best. The Angels are 11-8 in his starts. They're 10-9 when Hank Conger starts and 1-1 when Bobby Wilson is behind the plate.
"There's a lot that goes into it," said Scioscia, who is clearly weary of defending how he deploys his catchers. "Jeff doesn't have his head buried in the sand; he knows he needs to hit better, and he has made adjustments and improvements. He's hitting the ball harder than his numbers show. He's probably not going to hit .300, but he shouldn't hit .200.
"Behind the plate, he's as good as there is. You can absorb some soft spots with hitters. I think we're in good shape. Hank is taking advantage of his opportunities. He's earning playing time with what he's doing on the defensive side. I think we're in good shape with our catching."
Callaspo impressing at third for Angels
ARLINGTON -- He doesn't live in Adrian Beltre's financial neighborhood -- they're not even in the same zip code -- but Alberto Callaspo is doing a pretty decent job at third base for the Angels.
Beltre, a big fish who got away in free agency, landed in Texas and is playing his familiar great defense and providing power for the Rangers. But Callaspo is holding his own, hitting .314 with a team-high 19 RBIs while playing solid defense with only four errors in 93 chances at third.
He came into Sunday's series finale with Texas batting .441 with 10 RBIs in his past nine games.
"I'm just trying to do my job and see what happens," Callaspo said, coming off a two-double, two-RBI effort in Saturday's 3-2 win over the Rangers. "I just started feeling good, and I've had some good pitches to hit.
"I'm just trying to give 100 percent for the team and see what happens. We try to be together, play all nine innings and get the win."
Callaspo is batting .342 with runners in scoring position and is the third-hardest player in the American League to strike out, with only one whiff in every 13.5 at-bats. He's batting .351 on the road, tied for fourth in the AL.
"He can hit," said fellow Venezuelan Maicer Izturis. "He knows what he's doing up there. He hits the ball hard all over the field."
Abreu out of starting lineup against Wilson
ARLINGTON -- Bobby Abreu was out of the starting lineup on Sunday with the Rangers sending another southpaw, C.J. Wilson, out to face Ervin Santana in the series finale. Abreu struck out as a pinch-hitter for Reggie Willits against reliever Brett Tomko in the sixth inning.
Abreu, the Angels' primary designated hitter, is batting .264 with a .388 on-base percentage. His two-out walk preceding Maicer Izturis' go-ahead RBI single on Saturday was typical Abreu, going from 1-2 in the count to 3-2 and then taking the free pass. Izturis replaced Abreu in the DH role against Wilson.
He missed only one of the club's first 40 games and is in position to set a Major League record by appearing in at least 150 games for the 14th consecutive season. He shares the record now with Willie Mays -- nice company.
"Bobby's been playing a lot, and we're seeing a lot more lefties this week," Scioscia said, anticipating three southpaws starting for the Athletics and Mariners in the next four games. "He's having great at-bats, like yesterday. His numbers aren't in line with how he's hitting."
Scioscia likes to give Izturis an occasional day off from the defensive end. The No. 3 hitter is riding a 10-game hitting streak and leads the AL with a .397 road batting average. According to STATS, only one hitter in the Majors has a higher frequency of line drives per balls put in play than Izturis at 37 percent.
"It's good for Izzy to DH now and then so he doesn't have to take a pounding on the field," Scioscia said. "This guy plays hard."
Wells still weeks away from returning
ARLINGTON -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn't sound overly optimistic about left fielder Vernon Wells returning to the lineup any time soon.
Wells, who went on the 15-day disabled list on May 10 with a strained right groin, figures to be sidelined for at least three more weeks.
"We're not going to get a good read on this thing for a couple weeks," Scioscia said before Sunday's series finale against the Rangers in Wells' hometown. "The soreness has diminished, but until he gets in active rehab we're not going to know yet."
As for Scott Kazmir, he pitched in a camp game in Arizona on Saturday, but "it was not a real positive outing," Scioscia said. "He's going to stay back and try one more.
"I think he's slowly figuring some things out. We just reviewed some film and his delivery looks fine. Only he can feel the right balance. His health is OK."
Kazmir made one start in Kansas City and has been on the disabled list with lower back soreness since April 4.
Willits has fond memories of Rangers Ballpark
ARLINGTON -- Reggie Willits has not hit a home run in 829 Major League at-bats, but he knows what it feels like to hit one out of Rangers Ballpark -- in a big game, at that. He did it in 2002 while playing for the University of Oklahoma against arch-rival Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament. A year later, he was drafted and signed by the Angels.
"I've gone deep here before, believe it or not," Willits was saying before Sunday's game. He was in the lineup in left field, and seated next to him, eyes wide, was center fielder Peter Bourjos. "It was my junior year, which wasn't actually one of my better years. But I had a good day here in the Big 12 Tournament.
"It was a big game. We were basically playing for a shot at the NCAA Regionals. There were about 18,000 people in the stands. I went deep to left, and I had a nice trip around the bases. I really enjoyed that one. We went on and won the game."
Willits, the Angels' all-purpose backup, specializes in small ball in the big leagues. But he occasionally would swing from the heels -- as on that occasion -- and launch one in college.
"I didn't hit a lot of them," he said, smiling, "but I had a few." He looked over at a grinning Bourjos. "Believe it or not, Pete."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.