9/10/2013 12:44 A.M. ET
Angels begin longest road trip of season
By Patrick Donnelly / Special to MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Angels kicked off a 10-game road trip Monday that will take them to four cities, three time zones and two countries, starting with a one-night stop in Minnesota for a make-up game against the Twins.
The teams were officially rained out April 17, but after playing two straight nights in miserable spring weather -- game-time temperatures in the low 40s, dropping into the 30s throughout the night -- it felt more like an act of mercy when the series finale was postponed. Monday's playing conditions were a stark contrast to the first two games in the series -- humid with a temperature of 93 at the first pitch, as the late-arriving summer stubbornly refuses to release the Upper Midwest from its clutches.
From here, the Angels will play six straight games in domed stadiums -- three in Toronto and three in Houston -- before returning to California for a three-game set at Oakland starting next Monday. The tacked-on game against the Twins makes it the longest road trip of the season, edging the nine-game trek through Seattle, Tampa Bay and Milwaukee that concluded Sept. 1. At least the geography of this trip makes a little more sense.
"It could be worse -- we're on the way to Toronto, so it's like we're just stopping overnight," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "And the length of the road trip, at the end of the season, you just have to chop them up game to game and put your heart into every game and hopefully play well. All of a sudden you're halfway through the road trip, and then you're done."
The timing of the two longest road trips of the season actually works out pretty well for the Angels, who have been playing some of their best baseball of late, especially on the road. After a disappointing 1-5 homestand in mid-August, they went 8-1 on the nine-game trip, and this week they will catch three teams playing out the string before wrapping up their trek with a chance to play spoiler in Oakland.
Their 32-35 road record entering Monday's game was actually a few games better than their 35-40 mark at home. But at the end of the day, it's all baseball, and that is what Scioscia wants his players to focus on.
"I don't think we have to overthink this -- it's part of the baseball schedule," he said. "It's happened before, and it got us now, where we're going on a trip where we'll be in four cities. You just have to go out there and play well."
Shuck brings success vs. lefties to Majors
MINNEAPOLIS -- Outfielder J.B. Shuck got a rare day off Monday, but it was not because the Twins sent left-hander Pedro Hernandez to the mound. Rather, it came after a string of 11 starts in 12 days for Shuck, who is a career .327 hitter against lefties, including a .312 mark in 93 at-bats this year. It is a rare achievement for a left-handed hitter, especially one who is hitting .278 against right-handed pitching.
How well has Shuck handled the bat against lefties this year? If you take out his average this season, all other Angels left-handed hitters are 33-for-173 (.191) against southpaws. But the success has not been much of a surprise to Shuck, who hit well against lefties in the Minor Leagues and carried that approach with him to Anaheim.
"I've never felt like I've struggled that bad against them -- I guess I see them pretty well," Shuck said. "I think the big thing is I just try not to do too much. They've still got to throw it over the plate. I just focus on seeing the ball and trying to get a good pitch to hit.
"I think some lefties maybe try to do a bit too much. I just try to keep it simple when I'm facing a lefty."
Shuck ranks seventh in the Major Leagues this year in lefty-on-lefty batting average, one reason Angels manager Mike Scioscia has not batted an eye at leaving the rookie right fielder in the lineup against even the toughest lefties on the Angels' schedule.
"From early in Spring Training, we could see that he's a guy who's very comfortable in knowing what his talent was," Scioscia said. "He's not trying to hit the ball into the next stratosphere -- he's just trying to make contact, take what the pitcher's giving him and use the whole field. For a left-handed hitter, that should play well against lefties, and it has this year."
Shuck said he appreciated his manager's support, noting that consistent playing time had helped him stay productive throughout his rookie season.
"It's a good thing for me I guess, in building my confidence," Shuck said. "It's great to know the manager backs you and has the confidence to put you out there, so it just helps me go about my business and relax a little bit knowing I'll have those chances."
• The Angels optioned third baseman Tommy Field to Triple-A Salt Lake after Monday's game. With the Bees still playing in the PCL finals, the Angels did not make a corresponding move, but Scioscia said Howie Kendrick appeared close to coming off the disabled list, and Andrew Romine was also available to play third base if needed.
• The Angels recalled catcher John Hester from Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday.
Hester hit .212 with three home runs and four RBIs in 85 at-bats with the Angels last season. This year at Salt Lake the 29-year-old right-hander hit .237 with eight homers and 29 RBIs in 74 games.
Scioscia said the other two catchers on the Major League roster -- Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger -- were healthy and that Hester was selected to provide depth as the team began its 10-game road trip.
• Scioscia also said second baseman Kendrick had a "great workout" Monday and hoped to be available to play at some point during the Toronto series. Kendrick has been sidelined since Aug. 5 with a sore left knee.
• Infielder Luis Jimenez remains day to day with soreness in both of his thumbs and shoulders.
"He's just banged-up a bit," Scioscia said.
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.