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09/05/11 8:30 PM ET

Trout leaning on Hunter's wisdom

ANAHEIM -- Mike Trout's skill set and determination set him apart. In one area, however, the Angels' superlative young outfielder is like everyone else in his sphere. He leans on Torii Hunter on an everyday basis for wisdom and insights, about the game and life.

"Anything you need, he's always there," Trout said. "He'll do anything for you. Torii and Vernon [Wells] helped me get through the first couple weeks when I came up. I didn't know what to expect.

"Torii came right up and had a big talk with me. He said that anything I needed, just ask him -- anytime. It seems like every inning, almost every pitch, I'm next to him, asking questions. And he's giving me the right answers."

Former Lakers coach Pat Riley, talking about Magic Johnson, once said that a manager or coach's life is infinitely easier when his best player is his hardest worker. This is how it is with the Angels and Hunter, who has been their driving force since his arrival in 2008.

"He's a great leader," Trout said. "Anybody in here can come to him and know they're going to get the truth from Torii. He's made me feel more comfortable at the plate and in the field.

"He's a star, but he's always trying to get better, learn new things. He's in here before the game going over video, trying to find something in the pitcher's delivery, see if he tips a pitch, that kind of thing. He's a real inspiration to a lot of guys. I can't tell you how much he means to me."

He just did.

Great Scott: Downs follows in Shields' footsteps

ANAHEIM -- For most of the decade that began with Mike Scioscia taking the Angels' reins in 2000, the premier setup reliever in the game was found in his bullpen.

Scot Shields was given the distinction of Setup Man of the Decade by a national magazine, and while he wasn't one to take bows, he certainly deserved the acclaim for his consistently superb work.

As Shields enjoys his retirement in Michigan, he stays in contact with former teammates and no doubt is pleased to see that his role is being capably filled by another Scott, whose last name is Downs and who has been among the team's Most Valuable Players in his first season in California.

"It seems every year you get one guy who really puts it together and becomes a keystone of your bullpen," Scioscia said. "This year it's Scott Downs. He's probably the most underrated reliever in baseball. His ability to pitch isn't matched by many people. He's going to be important down the stretch."

Despite two visits to the disabled list, Downs has made 52 game appearances and produced a microscopic 1.37 ERA, allowing 44 baserunners in 46 innings. Opponents are hitting .192 against him.

Like Shields, Downs usually surfaces in the seventh or eighth inning. While he's especially deadly against left-handed hitters, the southpaw is no specialist. He can go beyond an inning if necessary.

"Obviously, they are totally different pitchers," Scioscia said when asked to compare Downs and Shields. "[Shields] probably had a little more length. Where they are [similar] is in holding leads and getting to a closer."

Richards rejoins Angels' pitching staff

ANAHEIM -- The Angels added another strong arm to their pitching staff on Monday with the return of Garrett Richards, who was on the 15-day disabled list with a groin ailment.

Richards, who flourished this season at Double-A Arkansas, pitched two innings in a rehab assignment on Saturday and said he's ready to contribute in whatever role manager Mike Scioscia has in mind for him.

"Everything feels fine," Richards said. "I'm back to normal. I've never had a groin [ailment] before. It was kind of a freak thing that happened."

Richards was forced to leave his second start for the Angels on Aug. 15 against Texas at Angel Stadium after losing in his Major League debut five days earlier at Yankee Stadium.

At the University of Oklahoma, his family having left his native Riverside, Calif., for the Sooner state when he was in grammar school, Richards was a closer, middle reliever and starter, in that order. He has been strictly as starter in his three Minor League seasons, but his college background, he believes, will be of value now.

"Starting and relieving are two different things," he said. "I think my college experience is going to help me up here. I'm not going to change everything. Pitching is always the same: Get ahead of hitters, throw strikes."

Izturis back in suddenly deep Angels attack

ANAHEIM -- There were times this season when Angels manager Mike Scioscia was challenged to find nine healthy, productive bodies to form his lineup. These days, the offense having come alive, he has more qualified candidates than available roles.

The Angels' .303 batting average, .538 slugging mark and .413 average with runners in scoring position over the past 15 games lead the Majors. They've averaged 6.5 runs per game during the streak, compared with 4.1 for the season.

"On the offensive side, we're as deep as we've been in a few years," Scioscia said before the start of a three-game series against Seattle on Monday night at Angel Stadium. "We're finally at a stage where we have some bats on the bench that can contribute. It's a great feeling for a team."

Maicer Izturis, having missed the three games against the Twins with a bruised right knee, was back in the lineup against the Mariners against southpaw Anthony Vasquez.

Departing in the third inning on Thursday in Seattle after getting hit in the leg by a pitch, Izturis had a streak of five consecutive multihit games end. Seven of his past 13 starts have produced two or more hits, and he has a team-high 30 doubles.

Bobby Abreu, who clubbed a homer on Sunday against the Twins, was not in the lineup against Vasquez, who served two homers to Mike Trout in Seattle. Abreu, Russell Branyan (three homers, eight RBIs in his past 12 at-bats) and Alberto Callaspo are veteran options off the bench.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.