8/25/2013 9:15 P.M. ET
Angels have opportunity to evaluate young players
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- The rare, positive byproduct of a losing season is the opportunity to evaluate.
The Angels -- 57-71 and 17 1/2 games out of first heading into Sunday's series finale at Safeco Field -- can essentially use these final five weeks to get a real sense for which of their young, unproven players can be counted on in 2014.
On a team with a payroll so top-heavy -- where Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson absorb a vast majority of the funds -- it's crucial to get production from guys in the service-time range of zero to three years, particularly with Ernesto Frieri, Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason.
With raw and athletic infielder Grant Green, acquired from the A's for Alberto Callaspo, the Angels can gauge how expendable second baseman Howie Kendrick truly is. With Chris Nelson, picked up off waivers, they can see how much emphasis needs to be placed on third base. And with Cory Rasmus, acquired from the Braves for Scott Downs, they hope to find a reliable bullpen weapon.
"Sometimes it's important to see what a player can't do as opposed to seeing what they can do," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "When guys are out there playing in the Major Leagues, no matter what the situation is, you should be able to get a read on them to see how their skill set plays and evaluate where they need to be in your future plans. A lot of these young guys are getting a chance. They're going to continue to get a chance to see what they can do."
In that regard, the 2013 season has provided a couple of positives: J.B. Shuck and Garrett Richards.
Shuck is less than 400 plate appearances into his rookie season, but he's proven to be a scrappy contact hitter while making an outside case for the American League Rookie of the Year Award, with a .292 batting average and .331 on-base percentage. His production could give the Angels' front office some flexibility with their outfield this offseason.
And in Richards, who has a 2.75 ERA in six starts since taking Joe Blanton's spot in the rotation, the Angels may finally have what they most covet -- a young, effective, cost-controlled starting pitcher.
"I've learned different things as I've gone along," Richards said recently, "and I'm starting to put stuff together and feeling more comfortable in my delivery, more consistent, which is something I've really been working towards."
Streaking Hamilton finds his groove at plate
SEATTLE -- Josh Hamilton was sitting in the dugout when he heard an announcement at Safeco Field saying they had turned his eighth-inning fielder's choice into an infield hit.
He couldn't help but pump his fist.
"I was really excited," Hamilton said, somewhat sarcastically, after the Angels' series-clinching 7-1 win.
That hit was his second of the game, giving him three straight multihit games for the first time since Aug. 25-27, 2012, and putting his batting average at a season-high .235.
"Oh trust me, I know," Hamilton said. "I looked at it in the teens for a long time -- 'Let's get to .230; .230, let's get to .240."
Hamilton's mini-surge dates back a little further than the weekend series in Seattle. Over his last 15 games, he's batting .344 (22-for-64) with a couple of homers and four walks -- albeit 15 strikeouts -- to raise his batting average ever so slightly.
"I'm starting to feel better," Hamilton said. "It's just one of those things where you finally say, 'OK, I know how to hit. I've done it for a long time. Try to eliminate a lot of people and go watch video and make sure you try to start doing the things you need to do.'"
And when did he finally figure that out?
"About a month ago," Hamilton said. "I had tried everything else. I just got overloaded with too much information. I know my swing. I know what it looks like when it's working and when it's not."
Williams to miss turn in rotation after off-day
SEATTLE -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia will use the Monday off-day to essentially skip Jerome Williams' turn through the rotation.
Williams, with a 7.61 ERA since the start of July, will start Saturday's game against the Brewers on nine days' rest. C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards and Jason Vargas, respectively, will pitch in the three-game series in Tampa Bay, and Jered Weaver will start Friday's series opener in Milwaukee. Wilson will have six days off between starts, while the other three will be on the normal four days' rest.
Williams bounced back his last time out, limiting the Indians to two runs in 6 1/3 innings, but he is winless since June 12.
"I think he's feeling better about some of the adjustments he made with [pitching coach Mike Butcher]," Scioscia said. "Hopefully he'll get a second wind and be able to finish strong."
• Kendrick (sprained left knee) spent Sunday morning doing calisthenics with team physical therapist Bernard Li, but he has not been able to sprint yet and there's still no timetable for his return.
• Hank Conger started behind the plate on Sunday afternoon, marking only his second set of back-to-back starts all month. Scioscia said he wanted to take advantage of the matchup with Mariners right-hander Aaron Harang.
• Right-hander Cory Rasmus, acquired from the Braves for Scott Downs on July 29, made his Angels debut on Sunday and pitched a scoreless ninth inning, striking out Justin Smoak with the bases loaded to cap a 7-1 win.
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.