4/17/2013 10:34 P.M. ET
Butcher seeks answers for starting staff
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Although it's early, and their track records suggest they will be better and pitch deeper, nobody is taking the Angels' starting pitching troubles lightly -- especially not pitching coach Mike Butcher.
"I live every pitch," Butcher said. "Every single pitch. You want to see the groundball double play, you want to see a punch out, you want to see guys have efficient innings, and right now we haven't really put any of that together."
The Angels came into Wednesday's postponed game against the Twins with a 6.07 rotation ERA, which ranked last in the Majors and is perceived as the biggest reason they're 4-10 -- though hitting with runners in scoring position and bridging the gap to the late-inning relievers has also been a factor.
Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson, the three new additions, are a combined 1-6 with a 7.37 ERA. And only once in their first 14 games has a starting pitcher -- Garrett Richards -- taken the ball for the seventh inning.
"Obviously the stats speak for themselves," Butcher said. "I think the biggest thing is trying to keep these guys positive, more than anything else. That's the biggest thing -- stay positive, get focused, go out there and do what you're capable of doing."
Each starter has his own individual issues to iron out, but across the board, Butcher believes the staff is struggling to control counts and put hitters away. He referenced Tuesday night, when the Twins got 10 hits on two-strike counts, as a perfect example.
As for how he's handling the pressure of being a pitching coach for a struggling staff?
"I have zero stress, man -- none," Butcher said. "I come here, do my job, and I sleep like a baby at night. My family's good, I feel good. Do I want to see our guys play better? One-hundred percent. But as far as what I can do, I'm doing what I do. My job is to keep these guys focused, keep it positive, and that's what I'm doing.
"When we go out there, we need to make better pitches, we have to control counts, we have to stay aggressive. When you're pitching passive, when you're working behind, it's a little more difficult to get outs. But when you're on the attack, and you're controlling counts, it's a different ballgame."
Harris' homer a reversal in fortune
MINNEAPOLIS -- Brendan Harris' home run on Monday night at Target Field carried some irony, simply because the last time he had gone deep was against the Angels while playing for the Twins, and this time it was reversed.
The fact that the home runs were nearly three years apart -- from April 8, 2010, to April 15, 2013 -- showed how fickle this game can be.
Harris, getting plenty of playing time now that shortstop Erick Aybar is on the disabled list, established himself as a full-time big leaguer with the Rays and Twins from 2007-09, posting a .272/.328/.400 slash line while appearing in 130 games per season. Then he got sent down in June 2010 by Minnesota, and it took him two and a half seasons before returning to the big leagues.
"You don't lose faith in yourself, even though maybe some other people do," said Harris, who made the Angels as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training and is one of two backup infielders, along with Andrew Romine.
"You keep believing in yourself and working hard and trying to put yourself in a position to be successful. A lot of times, it's one thing after another, where it's the right spot at the right time or the wrong spot at the wrong time. Sometimes, different guys aren't fits in certain places, and that was the case in the last two places I went."
Harris struggled with the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate in 2011, posting a .225/.282/.331 slash line, but played well with the Rockies in Colorado Springs, with a .317/.407/.507 line, and was surprised to not get a callup.
It was a period made up of "a lot of frustrations and tough times," according to Harris, but there was never a time when the 32-year-old doubted whether he'd ever make it back to the big leagues. Just, as he called it, "general malaise of being in the Minors."
"You can tear yourself up, keep fretting and worrying about it, but it's the type of thing where you just keep believing and don't lose faith, and you believe good things are going to happen and it's going to turn around," Harris said. "That's what brought me to this opportunity with the Angels."
• Kevin Jepsen's MRI confirmed a strained right lat. Jepsen, placed on the disabled list on Saturday, will be shut down for a week, then be re-evaluated. The Angels don't believe it'll be a long-term injury, but the recovery time for a strained lat varies considerably by pitcher.
• Outfielder Scott Cousins, who was designated for assignment on Saturday in order to create room for lefty Michael Roth on the 40-man roster, cleared waivers on Wednesday and will report to Triple-A Salt Lake.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.