5/31/2013 1:54 A.M. ET
Scioscia defends decision to return Trout to left
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia reiterated what he's said all along on Thursday: When Peter Bourjos returns from the disabled list, he'll once again be the everyday center fielder, and Mike Trout will go back to left field.
The decision to move Trout to left field caught a lot of attention in the offseason, with outsiders wondering why the American League MVP runner-up would move from a position he excelled at. It was then brought back to the forefront in the spring, when agent Craig Landis mentioned Trout's "disappointment" over the position change in a statement regarding his compensation.
Now it's a hot-button issue again, because Bourjos is a couple weeks away from returning from a strained left hamstring -- he could start a rehab assignment Monday -- and because Trout has caught fire since moving back to center field.
Scioscia will tell you Trout's position is unrelated to his offensive production.
"Not at all," Scioscia said. "Mike's a center fielder. We've said that. At times, his versatility, we need to tap into it. Peter's just an incredible center fielder, and it takes a little pressure off of some guys if you're able to play a corner."
Trout had a .247/.327/.412 slash line in 98 plate appearances as a left fielder earlier in the year and sports a .331/.401/.654 line in 147 plate appearances during starts at center, which have come while Bourjos has been on the disabled list.
Scioscia believes Trout's surge at the plate -- he has four triples, eight homers and eight stolen bases in May, making him the first player to ever put up those numbers in any month -- has more to do with his batting-order position and the hype subsiding.
"I think it's a function of first of all getting some at-bats and getting comfortable, getting that Rookie of the Year mystique out of the way of where people were looking at what he was doing for the first two weeks of the season," Scioscia said. "And I don't know if anybody has connected the dots to say now he's hitting in front of Albert Pujols, where before he wasn't."
Scioscia points out that Trout leads the team in at-bats with runners in scoring position (55), which was the main intent of moving him down a spot. Trout's OPS has increased by 206 points in his last 29 games, from .724 to .930 -- though that came three weeks after he was moved from first to second in the order.
Trout has never publicly said he's unhappy about the move.
"It's not like he's a center fielder and we said, 'Hey Mike, we need you to catch,'" Scioscia said.
"There are moves for individual players that are made for the benefit of the team. I know Mike understands it. I can't say it any clearer -- we know Mike's a center fielder. You're putting lineups together with the whole team there, and I don't anticipate any significant drop-off because he's moved from center to left."
Back spasms keep Hamilton out of starting lineup
ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton didn't expect to still be dealing with back spasms.
"I've never had it last this long," Hamilton said Thursday night, after being scratched from the lineup for the second time in three days. "It's usually only like a few hours."
Hamilton was a late scratch from the Angels' lineup on Tuesday and Thursday, though he came in as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning of the Angels' 3-2 win in the Freeway Series finale.
Hamilton first experienced pain in the middle-right portion of his back after his last swing of batting practice on Tuesday, then spent the rest of the night in the trainer's room, took muscle relaxers before going to bed, saw a chiropractor on Wednesday morning, started that night's game and played all the way through despite experiencing tightness around the third inning.
He arrived to the ballpark early on Thursday, taking early batting practice and running on the field, but was scratched 90 minutes prior to game time. The back wasn't responding the way he expected it to.
Hamilton nonetheless doesn't anticipate missing any additional time with the back ailment -- then again, he said that Wednesday.
"It's nothing else," Hamilton said. "I've been checked out. As far as the back and everything, ribs, all that stuff is good."
"He's not 100 percent," Angels manager Mike Scioscia added, "but he can go out there and play defense."
Coming off DL, Weaver enjoys uptick in velocity
ANAHEIM -- The first batter Jered Weaver had faced in nearly two months on Wednesday, Carl Crawford, struck out on the ace pitcher's first 90-plus mph fastball since 2012.
"It's in there somewhere," Weaver said with a wry smile, after twirling six innings of one-run ball in his first start since breaking his left elbow on April 7. "It's just a matter of getting that arm strength back and maintaining it."
Weaver has constantly said he "doesn't really buy into velocity anymore" because he can offset it with good command, location and deception. But he also said Wednesday that the ball was "coming out a lot better than the radar gun was saying" and that his arm "hasn't felt this good in a while."
Weaver threw only one of his 87 pitches in the 90s, but sat comfortably between 86 to 88 mph with his fastball and ventured up to 89 on occasion, which is a couple ticks faster than where he was in his first two outings of the season and essentially on par with where he was in 2012.
"There's no doubt, the velocity was there," Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "That's plenty of fastball for him. With his command, and I think it's going to get better as it goes, if he can maintain the command of his fastball, move it around like he can, and he can incorporate his offspeed pitches, he's going to have success."
Asked why the velocity was up, Butcher pointed to all those weeks of long-tossing that helped Weaver build up additional arm strength while he waited for his left elbow to heal.
Catcher Chris Iannetta believes he never had time to work into his stuff before.
"He was just back to being Weaver," Iannetta said. "He didn't finish the year the way he wanted to the last couple starts, and then coming out of spring he was still building up, getting back into form, and obviously that was cut short by the elbow [injury]. But what I saw last night was awesome."
• Ryan Madson, still recovering from the inflammation he felt after a rehab outing for Class A Inland Empire on May 13, is expected to start throwing again within the next couple of days. But he'll have to build up to throw off a mound again and then begin another rehab assignment, so he's still far away from a return.
• Peter Bourjos (strained left hamstring) felt good one day after running the bases for the first time on Wednesday. He'll do it again Friday and Saturday and could begin a rehab assignment Monday.
• Angels scout Ralph Reyes was the recipient of the Angels' Nick Kamzic Scout of the Year Award, which was presented to him on the field by assistant general manager Scott Servais and director of scouting Ric Wilson.
• The Angels' wives and local Special Olympics athletes will host the third annual "Gold Ball Mystery Bag" event at the Home Plate Gate at Angel Stadium on Saturday, from 5 p.m. PT through the second inning. Each bag, sold for $40, will contain a baseball autographed by a member of the Angels. Twelve of them will include four tickets to an upcoming game and a chance to meet the player or coach who signed the ball.
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.