05/01/2013 9:27 PM ET
Maronde sent to Double-A amid struggles
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Late last year, it seemed like the Angels found a future bullpen force in Nick Maronde, who gave up only one earned run in six innings -- spanning 12 outings -- and struck out each of the first four batters he faced in the Major Leagues.
Fast forward to 2013, and Maronde is struggling mightily with his release point.
On Tuesday night, he came out of the bullpen in the sixth inning, threw four straight balls to the lefty hitter he was brought in to face, John Jaso, then threw a wild pitch, exited the game and was sent back down to Double-A Arkansas later that night.
"That was rough," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We had high hopes for Nick coming out of last season. I thought he presented himself very well and pitched well for us last year. [He] had great mound presence. He had a rough Spring Training where he struggled with a lot of things, as far as his command and his breaking ball, and he just hasn't put it together."
If you combine Maronde's Cactus League appearances in Spring Training with his numbers from Double-A and what he did in three appearances with the Angels, the 23-year-old left-hander has given up 20 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings, walking 18 batters and striking out 24 batters.
Observers believe Maronde fell in love too much with his slider and changeup, causing him to lose command of his fastball and frequently fall behind in counts.
"I think I've been falling behind in counts, starting from Spring Training," Maronde said recently. "As long as you get ahead in counts, you get away with more pitches. That's what I need to get back to doing -- jumping ahead, staying ahead."
Downs' status uncertain after leaving with rib pain
OAKLAND -- Scott Downs left Wednesday's game in the eighth inning with pain in his right rib cage area. He doesn't know how serious it is or how much time he'll miss -- if any -- or even what the next step will be.
He only knows one thing.
"It's frustrating," the Angels' sage southpaw repeatedly said after Wednesday's hard-fought, 5-4 win over the A's.
Downs checked in with one one and the Angels leading by three in the eighth, then gave up a one-out, RBI double to Luke Montz. The next batter, Adam Rosales, lined a run-scoring single back up the middle. Downs hurt himself while trying to snare it and exited the game, paving the way for Ernesto Frieri's five-out save.
Downs was involved in a similar situation in Colorado last year, when a comebacker on June 10 prompted him to go eight days without an appearance. The 37-year-old said the current ailment is "not to the extent" of the one he suffered in 2012, calling it "one of those fluke, freak things that always seem to find me."
The Angels' bullpen can ill-afford another loss, with Kevin Jepsen (strained lat), Mark Lowe (left neck strain) and Sean Burnett (left forearm tightness) already on the DL, Ryan Madson still recovering from Tommy John surgery and 18 pitchers -- the most in one month since 2000 -- being used in April.
"That's the frustrating part, because you want to be out there," said Downs, who will get checked out in Anaheim on Thursday. "But we don't have one hero. We have seven, eight guys down there that want the ball and are going to have to contribute. It's just frustrating to have to come out of a situation like that, and to put Ernie in a tougher situation that he didn't deserve."
Angels add Brasier after injury-plagued April
OAKLAND -- You can call Ryan Brasier by his real name, or you can simply call him by what he represents for the Angels: No. 19.
Brasier was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake on Wednesday morning, a few hours after lefty Nick Maronde was sent back to Double-A. If he takes the mound for the Angels -- and given their dire bullpen situation, it's a good bet he will -- Brasier will become the 19th pitcher used by this team since Opening Day.
In April, 18 pitchers took the mound for the Angels -- the most in any month for the franchise since August 2000.
"Is that all?" Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, with tongue firmly in cheek after calling up his seventh pitcher from the Minor Leagues since Opening Day.
It's a lot, but it's no excuse. Injuries aside, this is a team that's more talented than its 9-17 record, which is currently better than only two other teams -- the Marlins and the Astros, whose payrolls don't even add up to half of what the Angels are spending on their roster in 2013.
"Nobody's going to feel sorry for you," Scioscia added. "We certainly don't feel sorry for ourselves. This is something that organizations in Major League Baseball have to deal with. The season keeps coming, the games keep coming."
The Angels' current record is one loss worse than where they were through 26 games last year. At about this point in 2012, they surged, going a Major League-best 41-23 from April 30 to July 8 to put them 10 games above .500 heading into the All-Star break.
Three major differences stick out when comparing the two seasons, though.
1. There's no Mike Trout in the Minors to come up and provide another major boost. He's already here.
2. Can they trade for another Ernesto Frieri, who came over from the Padres in early May and shored up the bullpen? Chances are they can't find lightning in a bottle twice, especially given the relative lack of trade chips at their disposal.
3. They essentially had their roster intact through the first month of 2012. Through one month, the Angels used the disabled list seven times -- one more than they used it through the first three months of 2012. Brasier, with a 6.00 ERA in 12 innings at Triple-A, was the last healthy pitcher available on their 40-man roster.
The Angels got Erick Aybar back on Tuesday, but still have four relievers (Sean Burnett, Ryan Madson, Mark Lowe and Kevin Jepsen), one ace (Jered Weaver), a center fielder (Peter Bourjos) and a third baseman (Alberto Callaspo) on the disabled list.
"When we put a guy in, we have the confidence that he's going to do the job," Scioscia said. "It hasn't happened with the frequency that we know it can happen, but we're going to keep moving forward and keep playing hard."
• Three and a half weeks removed from landing on the disabled list with a broken left elbow -- an injury with an initial recovery time of four to six weeks -- Weaver is throwing from flat ground on a nearly daily basis, and he backed up to more than 100 feet on Wednesday morning. There's still no date for when he can return to the mound -- which would be followed by a rehab stint -- but Scioscia said Weaver is "very excited" with how his elbow feels.
• Hank Conger was behind the plate for his fourth straight C.J. Wilson start on Wednesday afternoon despite also catching Tuesday night. But Scioscia said it had more to do with Chris Iannetta still being "a little stiff" from catching 18 2/3 innings on Monday, not because he's pairing Wilson and Conger exclusively.
• Alberto Callaspo, out since April 11 with a right calf strain, went 2-for-4 with a homer while starting for the second straight day at third base for Class A Inland Empire on Wednesday. Callaspo could be activated off the disabled list for Thursday's series opener against the Orioles.
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.