5/29/2014 11:23 P.M. ET
Butcher voices opinion on Tommy John surgery influx
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- The amount of pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery has become almost an epidemic, one that continues to rattle the brains of doctors, coaches and front office members throughout the industry. According to Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, 44 professional pitchers have or will undergo the invasive procedure so far this year, with Angels reliever Sean Burnett among the latest.
Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher has two theories on why ulnar collateral ligaments are tearing so much more often these days.
He's one of many who believes it's bad for kids to play only baseball year-round, which often results in them putting too much stress on arms that have not yet matured. And just as importantly, Butcher says too many professional pitchers are throwing from the opposite side of the rubber (meaning, a right-hander throwing from the first-base side and a left-hander throwing from the third-base side).
Butcher has found that more than 30 of the pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery this year fit that description.
"Some guys do it because they feel like they'll be in the strike zone more, they'll have better command that way -- there's all sorts of different philosophies about it," Butcher said. "But for me, if you're on the opposite side of your throwing arm on the rubber, you are constantly pronating your arm at a higher rate than if you are on the other side. There's no leverage behind the baseball.
"There's guys who have been very successful doing it, who have maintained their health. But I think for the most part, the guys that are on their throwing-arm side of the rubber are less prone to injury because there's less stress on the arm."
Garrett Richards is among the Angels pitchers who throw from the opposite side of the rubber, but Butcher said he isn't overthrowing or pronating because Richards' delivery has him coming way across his body.
"You try not to think about it," Richards, 26, said of so many pitchers being subject to a torn UCL. "As a player, you can't think about the possibility of getting injured. You play the game as hard as you can until it happens and then you move on from there."
Pujols begrudgingly gets first day off of year
SEATTLE -- Albert Pujols won't be starting 162 games this season. Angels manager Mike Scioscia made sure of that on Wednesday, when he told his superstar first baseman he'd be sitting for the first time in Thursday's series finale at Safeco Field and didn't let Pujols talk his way out of the day off.
He tried, though.
"Yeah, but they said no," Pujols admitted, laughing. "They don't even want me to hit. I'm just going to go to the cage just to get loose. I'm not taking batting practice, either."
The primary goal -- more so than having him in the lineup for every single game -- is to make sure Pujols stays as fresh as possible throughout the season, especially after he missed the last two months of 2013 with a partial tear of his left plantar fascia.
Pujols said his lower half is "good" and "better than it was on the last road trip," when the hard turf at Rogers Centre in Toronto took its toll on the 34-year-old. But Scioscia wanted to give Pujols the day off "just to get him to recharge."
"Albert will go out and play till the cows come home," Scioscia added. "It's time for him to take a day."
Pujols is batting .262 with a team-leading 14 homers, but his production has dipped over the last month or so, with a .236/.298/.445 slash line, five homers and 19 strikeouts in his last 28 games. In his last at-bat against Felix Hernandez on Wednesday night, though, Pujols stayed back on a 93-mph fastball and drove it to right field for a two-out RBI double in the ninth.
"It was middle-out, and that was a ball I was pulling a little bit," said Pujols, who has started at designated hitter 11 times this year. "I was able to stay through it. Hopefully I can take it to the next series, and hopefully I get an opportunity to play tonight."
Hamilton ready to restart Triple-A rehab stint
SEATTLE -- Barring an unforeseen setback, Josh Hamilton is slated to restart his rehab assignment with Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia is confident his cleanup hitter will return to the lineup before the club's road trip ends in Houston on June 5.
Hamilton was jammed badly in his first rehab game on May 22, then was scratched from the lineup on Friday and Saturday and was diagnosed with a bone bruise on his surgically repaired left thumb on Monday.
By Wednesday, he was hitting in the cage again. Prior to Thursday's game, he hit on the field in Seattle without the protective splint that was bothering him upon contact. And on Friday, he'll be in nearby Tacoma, Wash., playing for the Salt Lake Bees again.
Ex-Angel Morales still searching for work
SEATTLE -- Longtime Angels first baseman and one-time Mariners slugger Kendrys Morales is still looking for work, the last one standing among free agents who rejected a qualifying offer and are thus tied to Draft pick compensation.
"I want to see him playing," Angels shortstop Erick Aybar, Morales' good friend, said in Spanish. "He's a great guy, great person, great teammate. The season's gone on a while already and he hasn't signed. And [Stephen] Drew already signed. Let's see what happens these next few days."
Drew joined the Red Sox, a team that doesn't have to surrender its first-round Draft pick to sign him because he finished the previous season with them. The Mariners could do the same with Morales, who rejected their $14.1 million qualifying offer in October, but have seemingly shown little to no interest.
That means the 30-year-old switch-hitter will have to wait until after next week's First-Year Player Draft, so teams don't have to give up a Draft pick to sign him.
Aybar has kept in touch with Morales, who's currently with his family in Miami and is "working out, trying to stay in shape."
Signed out of Cuba in 2005, Morales -- represented by Scott Boras -- finished fifth in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting in '09, suffered a devastating leg injury while celebrating a walk-off homer the following year and missed nearly two full seasons before being productive again from 2012-13, posting a .275/.329/.457 slash line with 45 homers and 153 RBIs with the Angels and Mariners.
"It's gotta be very difficult for him, especially a guy who takes as much pride in his work as he does," said Raul Ibanez, who played with Morales last year. "I feel for Kendrys because he's a really good hitter."
• Asked about trading for a lefty reliever in the wake of Sean Burnett tearing his ulnar collateral ligament, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said: "If the chance at acquiring somebody who helps us in that role is there, we're certainly going to be open to the idea."
• Relief-pitching prospect R.J. Alvarez was placed on the seven-day Minor League disabled list because of elbow tenderness on May 21, but an MRI revealed that his UCL is fine. Alvarez, ranked No. 7 in the Angels' system, is rehabbing in Tempe, Ariz., and has responded well to treatment. He should return to Double-A Arkansas shortly.
• Dane De La Rosa (right s/c joint irritation) appeared in back-to-back outings for Triple-A Salt Lake for the first time on Tuesday and Wednesday, giving up a run in each one-inning outing. He isn't ready to join the Angels just yet, though. Scioscia said his "stuff looked good," but "to get the confidence where he needs it to be might take a couple more outings."
• Grant Green started over Collin Cowgill in left field and Kole Calhoun batted leadoff for the first time since coming off the disabled list against Mariners right-hander Brandon Maurer on Thursday. Scioscia wants to keep Green in the lineup since he's riding a .388/.404/.510 slash line. With Pujols out, he wanted Mike Trout to bat third and Howie Kendrick to hit in the middle of the order (fifth).
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.