7/24/2013 3:18 A.M. ET
Shuck making case for Rookie of the Year honor
By Alden Gonzalez and William Boor / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- In less than nine months, J.B. Shuck has gone from being cut from a last-place team to being a legit American League Rookie of the Year candidate.
Yes, Red Sox infielder Jose Iglesias is looking like a favorite among position players for the award -- with a .351 batting average and a .399 on-base percentage in 56 games -- but Shuck has quietly put himself in the conversation, batting .291 with a .335 on-base percentage.
"I don't think about that," said Shuck, who has maintained rookie status despite playing in 37 Major League games in 2011. "I guess the most important thing for me is to try to get wins. I'd much rather get to the playoffs, go to the World Series than just try to think about winning individual awards."
Last fall, not even the Astros -- 32 games below .500 and with a Major League-worst .337 winning percentage -- felt Shuck was good enough to play for them. General manager Jeff Luhnow called Shuck on Nov. 3 to inform him he had been released, and shortly after that, Jerry Dipoto swooped him up on a Minor League contract.
Shuck -- a left-handed, slap-hitting speedster with little pop and plenty of grit -- went to Spring Training, battled with four others for the fifth outfield spot, won a job and has made the most of his opportunity while Peter Bourjos has been limited to 40 games. He ranks first among AL rookies in doubles (13) and second in hits (62), is batting .364 with runners on base and has somehow batted .365 against lefties.
Yes, he's prone to the occasional head-scratching error in left field -- but he's been more than the Angels could've ever imagined.
"I wasn't surprised by Shuck's success," Astros first baseman and good friend Brett Wallace said. "He's a hard worker, he plays the game really hard and we're all really happy for him that he's doing well. We're excited that he got that opportunity. Shuck did everything he could; he worked really hard. He's a great teammate, a great guy in the clubhouse and he hustled on the field. You love seeing guys like that take those opportunities and take full advantage of them."
Prospect Calhoun launches three homers in Triple-A
ANAHEIM -- Kole Calhoun got the pitch he was looking for when he came to bat for the fourth time in the seventh inning in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday night. It was a 1-0 splitter that stayed up in the zone, but he fouled it off. Later in the at-bat, he had to settle for only a single.
At the end of the night, he had to settle for only three home runs.
"It was something I've never done," said Calhoun, who recalled one other instance in his pro career when he's even hit two home runs. "I just put some good swings on some pitches and got good results. Last night, I was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, so that's kind of both ends of the spectrum right there."
Calhoun, the No. 5 prospect in the Angels system according to MLB.com, went deep in each of his first three plate appearances for Triple-A Salt Lake, on a night when Spring Mobile Ballpark shot fireworks and more than 14,000 people showed up. He hit a two-run shot to left field in the first and a solo shot to right field in the third. Then, to lead off the fifth, he lofted a high fly ball that just cleared the right-field fence.
The Pacific Coast League is a fun place to hit, but Calhoun didn't notice the wind blowing out more than usual and he didn't do anything different pregame.
"I didn't eat anything special today or nothing like that," he said. "I just had a good game."
And then he shrugged it off. Calhoun, 25 and in his fourth pro season, didn't keep a baseball, a lineup card -- nothing.
"It's a pretty cool accomplishment, but not something I'm going to live the rest of my life by," the left-handed-hitting outfielder said. "It was a lucky night."
Despite missing nearly six weeks with a broken hamate bone in his right hand, Calhoun has been tearing it up in Triple-A, now batting .349 with 12 homers and 48 RBIs in 57 games. But the Angels are hesitant to call him up, mainly because he wouldn't get much playing time.
"I'm just trying to do me, man -- trying to swing the bat well and walk a little bit and strike out less and try to help the team win," Calhoun said. "That's what we're trying to do here. It's been real fun playing on this ballclub. It's been fun coming to the park playing with these guys and going out and competing."
Angels exploring options to replace Blanton
ANAHEIM -- The Angels may not have a lot of options to replace Joe Blanton in the starting rotation, but that does not mean they aren't considering making a change.
"We're working on a couple things now," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're going to see where we are and we'll have a decision."
After lasting just 3 2/3 innings during Monday's loss to the Twins, Blanton -- in the first year of a two-year $15 million deal -- has a 2-13 record and a 5.66 ERA.
The right-hander has allowed home runs in 10 consecutive starts and is tied for the league lead with 73 earned runs allowed.
"Joe has put every effort into trying to be the pitcher he can be," Scioscia said. "Right now, it's very clear he is struggling with some of the basic things he needs to do to be that pitcher."
While Blanton's struggles may be clear, his future in the rotation is not as Scioscia was noncommittal following Monday's game and remained so prior to Tuesday's contest.
Simply put, Scioscia said "a lot of factors," will go into the decision of whether Blanton starts Saturday in Oakland, which would be the next time his turn comes up.
If the Angels do decide to remove Blanton from the rotation, Billy Buckner would likely get the start. However, Buckner has pitched just one inning since July 3.
Aside from Buckner, the Angels do not have a lot of options. Michael Roth, who Scioscia believes will be a starter long-term, was optioned to Double-A Arkansas following Monday's game and needs to remain in the Minors for 10 days. Garrett Richards, who has spent time in the Angels' rotation, has not started a game since April 30 and would need some time to build strength in order to go deeper into games.
MRI reveals inflammation in Hamilton's right ankle
ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton's sore right ankle kept him out of the lineup for a second straight day on Tuesday and a follow-up MRI revealed that the Angels outfielder has some inflammation that could keep him out for one or two more games.
Hamilton doesn't believe he'll be out any longer than that, though.
"I don't have any concern," he said when asked if this could be a long-term injury. "Usually you know when something is wrong, and I don't have any inclination that it is. It should be good in a couple of days."
Hamilton, who says he mysteriously hurt the ankle when he got out of bed on Monday morning, saw an orthopedist later on Tuesday and was given a cortisone shot that will keep him out of action for the next couple of days.
Hamilton, batting .223 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs, has started 87 of the Angels' 98 games, also missing time due to minor injuries in his right wrist and lower back, plus a bout with sinus congestion.
"He is feeling a little better than he did yesterday," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Hamilton's ankle, "so hopefully it'll be day to day."
• Infielder Brendan Harris cleared waivers on Tuesday, three days after being designated for assignment, and opted for free agency rather than report to the Angels' Triple-A affiliate.
• With a solo homer to straightaway center field in the fourth inning, Albert Pujols launched his 492nd career home run -- one away from Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for 26th on the all-time list. He's also seven shy of 1,500 RBIs for his career.
• With a leadoff single on Tuesday, Angels outfielder Mike Trout extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games. Trout, 2-for-5 in the Angels' 10-3 loss to the Twins, is batting .400 during his hitting streak.
• Left-handers Jason Vargas (blood clot in left armpit area) and Sean Burnett (left elbow impingement) each got back on the mound on Tuesday. Burnett threw about 20 pitches and Vargas threw roughly 30, with both eyeing a return in two weeks.
• Peter Bourjos, out since June 29 with a fractured right wrist, hopes to be cleared to start swinging a bat again on Saturday. Once he is, he'll be wearing a guard that's padded in the area where he was initially hit.
• With a leadoff single on Tuesday, Angels outfielder Mike Trout extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games. Trout was batting .400 over his previous 14 games, giving him a .323/.402/.565 slash line entering Tuesday.
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.