07/23/12 12:27 AM ET
Pitching remains Angels' biggest area of concern
By Alden Gonzalez and Joe McIntyre / MLB.com
But are games the only thing at which they need to beat them?
It turns out the Rangers have pretty similar rotation issues as the Angels. And with the non-waiver Trade Deadline only nine days away, both of them could be competing for outside starting pitching help.
But Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, speaking to reporters prior to Sunday's series finale against Texas, says his team's Deadline strategy will not be influenced "in any way" by the division rivals.
"We have to tend to our own garden, and we have our own set of dynamics to manage, whether that be the 25-man roster or the organizational players that exist beyond the Major League club, payroll dynamics, etc.," Dipoto said. "The Angels are the Angels, the Rangers are the Rangers. We have to figure out how to catch them, but at the end of the day, we're managing our own club and this organization, not theirs."
The Rangers have received solid contributions from Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison, but Neftali Feliz has been out since mid-May, Colby Lewis is hurt again, Derek Holland has struggled and Roy Oswalt was just scratched from his Monday start with tightness in his lower back.
For the Angels, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson have been solid, but Dan Haren has been hurt, Ervin Santana is having a rough year, and Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards have been inconsistent.
Dipoto said pitching "will be available" before the Deadline, but, as always, "You're going to pay a premium for it." And this year, with the extra Wild Card and diminishing Draft-pick compensation under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the price may be steeper than ever.
That's why -- despite actively seeking pitching upgrades for the rotation and bullpen -- Dipoto continues to stress that the best option may be to fix those issues internally.
"The focus for us is, 'How do we get these guys where they need to be?" Dipoto said. "When you have pitchers that are as accomplished as these guys, essentially the rest of the league is going out trying to scout guys like that, who are playing for teams who might not be contenders, to try to essentially buy low and get a guy who can make a difference for them in the second half. Here we are, we've got those guys -- we just have to get them back on track."
Santana to be limited to 15 outs in next start
ANAHEIM -- Short on explanations, limited with alternatives and lacking in patience, the Angels have an idea -- perhaps one last idea -- that they hope will get Ervin Santana back on track as a starting pitcher.
No, Santana's next turn in the rotation will not be skipped. He'll start on Friday against the light-hitting Rays, but will be limited. Not on a pitch count, but with an out count, per se. Manager Mike Scioscia wants to limit him to only 15 outs, a strategy he's previously deployed with the struggling Aaron Sele and Scott Kazmir.
The theory is that Santana can be more aggressive and use his best stuff on hitters if he doesn't have to worry about facing them a fourth time through the order. And it's that early aggressiveness that may help his confidence -- something that tends to waiver when battered for a 6.00 ERA and 23 homers in 19 starts.
Santana has been a hindrance for the Angels most of the year. But with Dan Haren recently fighting ongoing lower-back stiffness, Jerome Williams' struggles sending him to the bullpen and no starter being acquired before the non-waiver Trade Deadline just yet, the Angels need an effective Santana.
And that's why they're not giving up just yet.
"I think we're in a position right now that we need production from our rotation and we need Ervin to pitch like he can," Scioscia said, "and hopefully peeling him back to 15 outs will be something that'll be a positive for him and try to get him back on track.
"I think this is more of a tool just to get him to not worry about saving anything for later in the game, and right now we're in a position where we need him to move forward."
The Angels can afford Santana to not pitch past five innings because they have an off-day on Thursday and will thus have a fresher bullpen.
Of course, there's a chance Santana won't even get 15 outs.
In two of his last three starts, he didn't even get six. He was tagged for eight runs on six hits in 1 1/3 innings against the Indians on July 4. Then, against the Rangers on Saturday, he gave up six runs on eight hits (three of them homers) in 1 2/3 innings.
"If you tell me, I'd probably make the adjustment," Santana said when asked why he just can't seem to figure it out. "I just do the best I can right now, and every bullpen I throw is getting better and better, but [I'm] just not getting the results yet."
Is this his last chance?
"We're not there yet," Scioscia said. "We need production, but Ervin's a guy that has pitched very well for us previously, and obviously if a pitcher continues to go in the wrong direction, you're faced with those decisions you are. But we'll take this one step at a time."
Trout sets club, AL rookie mark for scoring
ANAHEIM -- When Mike Trout saw that his first-inning hit was headed to the right-field corner on Sunday, there wasn't much doubt in his mind that he was going to end up on third.
He made it as easy as he could on his teammates to get him into the record books quickly.
Two batters after Trout tripled, Albert Pujols knocked him in with a double, scoring the rookie for a franchise and American League rookie record 14th consecutive game.
Trout passed Jim Edmonds, who scored a run in 13 straight games for the Angels in 1995 and topped Don Lenhardt (1950 St. Louis Browns) and Jake Powell (1935 Washington Senators), who scored runs in 13 straight games as rookies.
The overall AL record is 18 consecutive games with a run, set by Red Rolfe with the Yankees in 1939 and Kenny Lofton with the Indians in 2000, and the Major League record is 24 consecutive games, set by Billy Hamilton of the Phillies in 1894.
The 20-year-old leads the American League with a .357 average and leads the Majors with 31 stolen bases. He is also third on the Angels with 15 home runs and 47 RBIs.
Though there were chants of "M-V-P" emanating from the Anaheim crowd, it isn't just the fans who are noticing Trout's presence at the plate. Rangers starter Matt Harrison brushed him back twice in three at-bats against the lefty.
"Sometimes it's surreal because I'm so young," Trout said of his season. "You've got to be confident in what you do. I'm very confident."
Since 1957, the first year under the current standards that define a rookie, Trout is the only one to hit .345 with 15-plus home runs and 30 stolen bases before Aug. 1.
Trout has made the jump from top prospect to Rookie of the Year candidate to Most Valuable Player candidate in fewer than four months. Each night at Angel Stadium, there are Mike Trout fish hats and "I love Mike Trout" signs.
And on Sunday, a fan was so eager to meet the outfielder that he ran onto the field in the eighth inning and asked Trout for his autograph.
"He told me it was his 18th birthday and he wanted an autograph," Trout said with a laugh. "It was weird because it was the first time it's ever happened to me. I just said, 'Not right now. Maybe after the game, I guess.'"
Angels reliever Jordan Walden is officially on the disabled list with a strained right bicep, but that's a result of compensating for pain in his neck and shoulder area. A recent MRI on his neck showed no structural damage. Walden is still taking anti-inflammatories, but said he should be throwing "soon."
He believes taking care of the issue will get him back to throwing in the 98-99 mph range he consistently pitched at last year, rather than the 96-97 range he's been at this season."It'll come back," Walden said. "I have a feeling my velo will be back."
Vernon Wells (right thumb) went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and a stolen base during his rehab assignment for Triple-A Salt Lake on Sunday, making him 5-for-11 in three games with the Bees. Chris Iannetta (right forearm) went 0-for-4 with a walk as the designated hitter. He caught five innings on Saturday and threw out a would-be basestealer.
Heading into Sunday's action, Torii Hunter (107.5 mph), Mark Trumbo (107.3 mph) and the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton (107.1) had the fastest average home run velocity in the Majors. Albert Pujols' two-run homer in Sunday's 7-4 win over the Rangers gave him 18 on the year and 463 for his career, which is tied with Chipper Jones for 32nd on the all-time list. Pujols has five homers in his last 11 games.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and 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.