5/25/2014 4:12 P.M. ET
To refresh 'pen, Halos send Shoemaker down
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Having handled every challenge as a starter with poise and confidence, it was no surprise that Matt Shoemaker accepted his return to Triple-A Salt Lake on Sunday with a calm, reasoned attitude.
His performance, notably as a starter, gave the 27-year-old Michigan native a feeling that he belongs in the big time and will be back very soon to resume his solid work for manager Mike Scioscia and the Angels.
"I completely feel confident I can pitch well here and help the team win," Shoemaker said. "I know I can do that -- compete. It's definitely a little confidence boost, being able to compete and pitch at this level."
Shoemaker is 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA in six appearances for the Angels. In his three starts, the right-hander pounded the strike zone with a complete repertoire and flourished, going 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA. He racked up 15 strikeouts against just five walks in 16 innings with an impressive 1.125 WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning).
"Hopefully, it's a short stint down there to help us get through these next couple days," Scioscia said, expressing a need for the fresh arm lefty Wade LeBlanc will provide for the taxed bullpen.
Shoemaker went five innings on Saturday night against the Royals and was touched for three runs, two earned.
"I felt Shoe did a good job," Scioscia said. "As the game went on, his stuff didn't look like it had the same life. That's what Shoe does -- he mixed and matched, changed speeds, got out of trouble."
LeBlanc looking forward to big league opportunity
ANAHEIM -- Wade LeBlanc, a versatile lefty with 96 games worth of Major League experience for the Padres, Marlins and Astros, was delighted to learn Saturday night that he'd be riding the Salt Lake shuttle to the big time with the Angels.
To make room for LeBlanc, who is capable of starting or relieving, the Angels dispatched Matt Shoemaker, one of their most productive starters of late, to Triple-A Salt Lake. The right-hander can rejoin the Angels after 10 days unless an injury allows for an earlier return.
A bullpen depleted by a heavy workload in a 7-4 loss in 13 innings needed a fresh arm, and LeBlanc, 29, was more than eager to fill that or any other role for manager Mike Scioscia.
"I've been throwing the ball well," said LeBlanc, whose most recent start was on Wednesday for the Pacific Coast League Bees. He was 5-1 with a 3.69 ERA in nine games, all as a starter, in the hitter-friendly league, notching 43 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings.
"I can be a swing man," LeBlanc said. "I have some experience throwing out of the bullpen. I had done that for a couple of years. I'm comfortable doing anything. You learn as you go."
LeBlanc, from Lake Charles, La., was taken by the Padres in the second round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. He had tastes of the Majors in '08 and '09 as a starter, and he produced his best season in '10, going 8-12 with a 4.25 ERA in 26 appearances, all but one as a starter. He had 110 strikeouts in 146 innings, both career highs.
He joined the Marlins' organization in 2012 and divided time between Miami and Houston last season. LeBlanc is 20-32 in the Majors with a 4.51 ERA.
"LeBlanc has length in him," Scioscia said. "We're going to have to evaluate where we are. We need him [in the bullpen Sunday] and probably [Monday]. This is a reaction to the game that we played [Saturday] night and the eight innings the bullpen had."
Scioscia described LeBlanc, at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, as "a lefty who spots his fastball, has offspeed stuff and gives us a combination of length and functionality." He gives the manager a second southpaw option out of the bullpen along with Sean Burnett.
Shoemaker's vacated rotation spot comes up Thursday when the Angels will be wrapping up a four-game series in Seattle. Scioscia indicated that he has options, and how LeBlanc is used in the next four games would determine his availability for a Thursday start.
Signed as a Minor League free agent in November, LeBlanc spent Spring Training getting comfortable with his new teammates and doing everything he could to impress Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher with his skills and his attitude.
"Obviously, you're trying to make the team at some point," LeBlanc said. "I'm really happy to have this opportunity."
Scioscia hoping Hamilton can return during road trip
ANAHEIM -- The daily Josh Hamilton report was pretty much status quo. He did not play for the second game in a row for Triple-A Salt Lake on Saturday night after taking batting practice and determining that his surgically repaired left thumb was not quite ready for the challenge.
The hope is that Hamilton will rejoin the Angels on the upcoming trip, perhaps late in the opening series in Seattle or in Oakland next weekend.
"He's getting better, but he's not where he needs to be," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of his slugging outfielder. "He's coming off surgery, and no doubt you have to keep that in mind. He's going to get there. He's in shape; he's been running for five weeks. He just needs to get his timing at the plate.
"We've got to evaluate him. We're going to give it a couple days. The original plan was [Monday], but that's obviously not going to happen. It could happen possibly later in that series or at the latest in Oakland."
The Angels have been going with Collin Cowgill and Grant Green in left field primarily in Hamilton's absence, and both have been productive. Cowgill is batting .278 with a .371 on-base percentage in 108 at-bats, with the sizzling Green hitting .391 and slugging .522 in 46 at-bats entering Sunday's action.
• The Angels on Sunday observed the one-year anniversary of the loss of Dr. Lewis Yocum, who passed away on May 25, 2013.
"Dr. Yocum was a great man," ace Jered Weaver said. "He did so much for all of us. He is missed."
• Albert Pujols' double in the fifth inning on Saturday was his 2,400th career hit. With 1,057 extra-base hits, Pujols has displaced Chipper Jones and moved to No. 24 on the all-time list. Next is the legendary Mel Ott, with 1,071. With 505 home runs, Pujols is four away from Gary Sheffield, who ranks 24th all-time.
• Angel Stadium is traditionally pitcher-friendly, but it's not been that way for the Angels this season. The team has a 4.15 ERA at home compared to 2.88 on the road through 48 games. Offensively, one area in need of improvement is producing with runners in scoring position. Their .238 average is lower than all but eight teams in the Majors entering play Sunday, including three in the American League.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.