04/12/2013 3:33 AM ET
To spark offense, Trout batting second
By Alden Gonzalez and William Boor / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- It was only a matter of time, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has often said, before Mike Trout's impact bat would move closer to the middle of the order so he can have more opportunities to drive in runs.
That time, apparently, is eight games into the 2013 season.
Prior to Thursday's series finale against the A's -- with his team losing six of its first eight games and sporting a Major League-worst .120 batting average with runners in scoring position -- Scioscia moved Trout down to the No. 2 spot, directly connecting him with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton while making Alberto Callaspo the new leadoff hitter.
It doesn't appear to be a temporary move, either.
"I think these three guys second, third and fourth is something we hopefully ride out for a long time," Scioscia said. "It condenses some things and fills some holes. Everybody should be able to get their pitches. Everybody will protect the guy in front of him."
When shortstop Erick Aybar returns from his left heel contusion -- and he's made progress recently -- he'll probably be the new leadoff hitter. But the most important thing, to Scioscia, is to have his three biggest bats connected in the lineup, calling it "a common-sense move" because Trout is "a guy you really need to set the table for."
Trout hit solely leadoff during his historic rookie season last year, posting a .326/.399/.564 slash line, and continued to bat first in Spring Training. In 32 starts in 2011, he spent 30 games taking up the last three spots in the batting order, plus one at leadoff and one in the No. 2 spot (going 2-for-6 in the latter).
"I'm going to keep the same approach," said Trout, who's batting .278 with 10 strikeouts in 36 at-bats this year. "I'm not going to change anything."
Callaspo doesn't have the speed of your prototypical leadoff hitter, with only 22 stolen bases in 741 career games. But, as Scioscia added, "he's only leading off one time." What's more important is that he has a .349 on-base percentage the past couple of years and can take his walks.
"It's not the first time I hit first," said Callaspo, who posted a .148/.179/.204 slash line in 56 plate appearances leading off in 2010. "I'm going to do what I've been doing. Let's see how it goes."
Of course, a lot of the Angels' early issues on offense are solved if Hamilton is right from the cleanup spot. So far, though, he has struck out 13 times in 32 at-bats, with five hits and no home runs. Some believe batting Hamilton second, between Trout and Pujols, could get the lefty slugger more pitches to hit. But Scioscia doesn't believe it'll have that much of an impact and said keeping Hamilton fourth is "critical to us right now."
As for why he didn't move Trout down sooner?
"Because we wanted to see if [the leadoff spot] was such a comfort zone for Mike and the team that maybe that hole of [former No. 2 hitter] Torii [Hunter] leaving could just be rolled over," Scioscia explained. "But I think there's just a lot of pluses to having Mike connected to Albert and Josh that we definitely want to see. I think it's better sooner than to do it a month from now. And it was something we were probably moving towards eventually."
Callaspo strains calf, limiting depth on Angels' infield
ANAHEIM -- Third baseman Alberto Callaspo left Thursday's 8-1 loss to the A's after seven innings because of tightness in his right calf. The Angels listed him as day to day, but manager Mike Scioscia said the injury is "a tough one to absorb" considering shortstop Erick Aybar has been out since Tuesday with a bruised left heel.
Aybar has been feeling better and could avoid a trip to the disabled list, but he won't play Friday and Callaspo may not be able to play either. The Angels may have to dip into the Triple-A roster, perhaps by bringing up Luis Rodriguez to get more infield coverage while Aybar and Callaspo heal.
But without a DL move, it could be difficult to create the roster spot -- especially given the amount of work the bullpen has put in recently.
"We have a lot of things that we're working on right now," Scioscia said, adding that Callaspo hurt himself while fielding a grounder. "I think we want to get a little bit more information on Alberto before there's some sort of a decision, but in some form, there's no doubt we need a little bit of depth for tomorrow."
Aybar's ailing heel improving, DL stint less likely
ANAHEIM -- Prior to Wednesday's game, it looked like a near-certainty that Erick Aybar's injured left heel would eventually send him to the disabled list. Prior to Thursday's game, it looked like Aybar's return to the lineup could be only a matter of days away.
"He's done a total turnaround," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Yesterday, he really could put no weight on it at all. By the time the game was over, he had treatment all night on it and he was walking around. It was very encouraging. He even feels better today. Hopefully it's just a matter of days with him getting back into the lineup."
X-rays on Aybar's injury, which occurred when he landed on first base to beat out an infield single in Tuesday's third inning, came back negative. And a steady stream of ice and anti-inflammatory cream made "a big difference," the switch-hitting shortstop said.
"Yesterday when I woke up, it bothered me a lot," Aybar said in Spanish. "Today, not really. It bothered me a little; nothing close to yesterday."
Aybar still isn't taking part in any pregame activities, but when asked if he feels he may need to go on the DL, he said: "If I keep progressing like I am, I don't think so."
Madson pleased with progress in bullpen sessions
ANAHEIM -- Ryan Madson's recovery from Tommy John surgery continues to progress and the reliever feels his return is on the horizon.
"It's gotten progressively better in the last week," Madson said.
For the second time in three days, Madson threw a bullpen session Thursday and all reports were positive. It was the first time he took only one day off between sessions. Previously he had been throwing every three days.
The right-hander threw 30 pitches -- mixing in fastballs and changeups -- at 100 percent intensity, then took a breather to simulate the gap between warming up and getting in the game before finishing with five more pitches.
"Velocity is coming and [he] really felt good through it," manager Mike Scioscia said. "As important as it is for Ryan to feel good through his workouts, I think how he rebounds is equally as important. He seems to be bouncing back a little better each time he has a workout and that's encouraging."
The Angels are still anticipating a return in late April or early May.
"I threw 100 percent off the mound in Arizona, but the next five days were terrible," Madson said. "That's been my problem, I couldn't recover, but now that's the highlight. It's been able to react better."
Although Madson is happy with the way his elbow has been responding, he knows there is work to do. He still seeks consistency with his mechanics and knows throwing off the mound as often as possible will help him regain his form.
"I still want a lot more out of it," Madson said. "I'm not excited. I'm happy that I can go out there and throw, but I'm not excited."
• Jered Weaver, walking around without a sling on his broken left elbow, expects to start playing catch by the end of the week. The Angels' ace was told he can activate the arm in five to seven days, with someone catching the throws for him so he doesn't have to move his non-pitching arm.
• Albert Pujols became the 35th player in history to amass 1,000 career extra-base hits on Wednesday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 6,994 at-bats it took him to get there were the fifth-fewest ever. Only Babe Ruth (5,818), Lou Gehrig (6,567), Ted Williams (6,754) and Jimmie Foxx (6,929) needed fewer.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.