4/23/2013 12:37 A.M. ET
Hamilton dropped to fifth in lineup against lefty
By Alden Gonzalez and William Boor / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton's early-season struggles have dropped him in the Angels' lineup, even if for only a day. With lefty Derek Holland taking the ball in the series opener against the Rangers, and Hamilton posting a .176/.247/.324 slash line, Angels manager Mike Scioscia put his right fielder in the No. 5 spot and made the hot-hitting Mark Trumbo his cleanup hitter behind Albert Pujols.
"If I was hitting ninth, I'd be OK with it," Hamilton said. "I'll be happy not getting a hit ever again as long as we keep winning. I'm that guy."
But Hamilton continues to feel like the hits will come soon. His swing, he said, is just fine. His recent cage work was "great." And he's seeing 4.05 pitches per plate appearance, which is well above his career high of 3.75.
That hasn't stopped Hamilton from striking out 23 times in 68 at-bats, however.
"Things are moving in the right direction," Hamilton said Monday. "Obviously, at this level, it's about consistency. It'll come. Everybody wants it to be sooner than later. Obviously I do, too, but I can't get frustrated and go backwards in the process. I'm just going to keep diving for balls in the outfield, do whatever I can -- cheer for my teammates, that sort of stuff."
The switch from cleanup to fifth comes a day after Tigers manager Jim Leyland intentionally walked Pujols twice to bring up Hamilton, who hit two hard lineouts to the outfield but also struck out twice with the winning run on base. Against the Rangers on April 6, Pujols was walked three times in front of Hamilton.
Scioscia indicated that Hamilton's spot in the lineup could be a platoon situation, where he's batting fifth against lefties -- he's 1-for-19 against southpaws this season -- and fourth against righties. After Monday, the Angels will see at least six consecutive right-handed starters, with Alexi Ogando and Yu Darvish starting the next two games of this series.
Scioscia didn't give much thought to giving Hamilton a day off.
"Josh wants to work through things, and the only way, really, to find your stroke is to be out there, seeing the ball and hitting," he said. "I don't think we're at a dead end yet with Josh, as far as him trying to get going. Definitely the alternative to give somebody a day off is there, but right now, Josh feels good physically, and I do think his at-bats have improved."
Hamilton, at the very least, is keeping his spirits up in the midst of a slump that may date back as far as last season's second half (he's batting .242 with 109 strikeouts in 331 at-bats since then). Trumbo, who hit a walk-off homer Sunday and has a hit in 15 of 17 games, said Hamilton's attitude has been "exceptional."
"A lot of guys might let some of the anger spill over, but he's been extremely even-keeled and comes with a great attitude every day," Trumbo added. "You really wouldn't have any idea what his numbers are at this point."
Aybar takes part in pregame drills, eyes return from DL
ANAHEIM -- Angels shortstop Erick Aybar ran on the field for the first time on Monday and is eyeing a return to the lineup as early as Thursday, the first day he's eligible to come off the disabled list.
"We're going to keep working," said Aybar, out since April 9 with a left heel contusion. "The bruise is going to be there. I have to try to play through it. Any time you step, it's going to be bothering you. But the good thing is I ran today."
Aybar, reduced to aqua therapy in Arizona early last week, did some wind sprints and agility drills prior to the start of a three-game series against the Rangers at Angel Stadium.
The heel, he said, is "still bothering me a little bit," but it's manageable. One thing the switch-hitter still can't do is bat from the right side because the injury is on his landing foot. But he's just fine from the left side of the plate, and the Angels will face only right-handed starters in their upcoming four-game series in Seattle.
Now that Mike Trout bats second, Aybar figures to lead off upon returning to the lineup -- though Peter Bourjos has performed well there of late.
More than anything, he's just antsy to return.
"I don't like to sit," Aybar said. "I want to help my team win."
Pujols says DH is best option for plantar fasciitis
ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols started at designated hitter for the fifth straight game on Monday and the seventh time in the Angels' past eight contests, with Mark Trumbo getting yet another nod at first base. The plantar fasciitis affecting his left foot feels really bad some days, a little better on others.
But it's ever present.
"It's fine," Pujols told MLB.com's Ben Platt in an on-camera interview on Monday. "I'm able to play first base, too, if I wanted to. It just gets to a point sometimes during the game, by the fifth or sixth inning, it starts getting real sore. I think being the DH as of right now is the best thing to do to try to stay away from planting it as much. It's nothing different than what I went through and what I have gone through in my career. It's something that I know how to handle."
Plantar fasciitis manifests when the ligament that supports the arch of the foot is strained, causing pain when walking or standing. It never really goes away, though WebMD reports that 95 percent of people with the issue don't require the surgical procedure to cut the ligament.
Pujols dealt with it early in his career, but it never caused him to miss any games. It isn't expected to this time, either. But he still isn't running close to full speed yet, and he can expect to get plenty of starts at DH moving forward.
"I'm not a big fan [of being the DH], but it doesn't bother me," said Pujols, batting .317 with a couple homers to start the year. "It's not like I get mad about it or anything like that. I have to go out there and get myself ready. The part that I don't like about DH'ing is waiting and waiting, sitting down or having to jump on a bike or having to stretch in between innings."
Angels place Hanson on bereavement list
ANAHEIM -- Tommy Hanson was placed on the bereavement list on Monday following a death in his family. To fill Hanson's spot on the roster, reliever David Carpenter was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake. And to take his turn in the rotation, the Angels are leaning toward long reliever Jerome Williams.
Hanson was scheduled to start Wednesday's series finale against Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers, but the right-hander will be required to miss three to seven games while on the bereavement list.
The Angels could call up someone from Triple-A to make Wednesday's start, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia feels Williams can fill in after throwing 36 pitches in three innings of relief on Sunday.
"We're going to wait and see how Jerome comes out of it, but he felt good after his outing yesterday," Scioscia said.
The earliest Hanson could rejoin the Angels rotation is Thursday in Seattle, but the Angels are still unsure of Hanson's schedule and when the services will be held.
After shutting out the Tigers in the final three frames of Sunday's 4-3 walk-off win, the 31-year-old Williams has a 3.18 ERA in 11 1/3 innings this season. In 30 2/3 career innings against Texas, Williams has allowed 43 hits and has an ERA of 7.34.
Carpenter, a sinkerballer, was 3-0 with a 6.48 ERA in 8 1/3 innings this season for Triple-A Salt Lake.
• Albert Pujols' two-run double in Sunday's third inning, on a ball that bounced off the glove of Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, was changed to an error on Monday. That dropped Pujols to 11 RBIs and five doubles on the year.
• Ryan Madson, who felt "sore and tight" after facing hitters for the first time in a simulated game on Friday, was scheduled to throw off flat ground on Monday, and manager Mike Scioscia said he could get in another sim game before the Angels wrap up their homestand Wednesday.
• Kevin Jepsen hasn't picked up a baseball since landing on the disabled list on April 13 with a strain in the "quadrangular space" near his right triceps, but he said Monday that he "can definitely tell the difference" in how much better the general area feels. There's no date for when he'll start throwing again, but Jepsen would anticipate that coming within the next week to 10 days.
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.