6/1/2014 8:56 P.M. ET
Pujols' advice helps Aybar ratchet up RBIs
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Erick Aybar won't be confused for an RBI machine anytime soon, but the Angels shortstop has continued to evolve in his approach with runners in scoring position and has seen a drastic improvement recently.
From 2009 -- when he started getting consistent playing time -- to 2012, Aybar was a .253/.289/.376 hitter with runners in scoring position. Since then, he's bumped that slash line up to .285/.307/.448. And heading into Sunday, Aybar led the Angels with a .293 batting average in that situation, a mark that has already given him 29 RBIs this season -- just 30 shy of his career high.
It's all about approach, an approach he's gleaned from superstar teammate Albert Pujols.
"Albert helps me out a lot," Aybar said in Spanish. "He always tells me, 'When you have guys on base, you have to think up the middle or the other way.' When you have guys on base, pitchers are going to throw you a lot more breaking pitches to get you out in front or get you to roll over. When you think up the middle, you see the ball deeper and you can react a lot better. I used to try to pull the ball in those situations, but I've been staying back a lot better."
Angels expect Hamilton back for Houston opener
OAKLAND -- Josh Hamilton felt good during a workout with the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees in Albuquerque, N.M., on Sunday afternoon and will be activated off the disabled list for Tuesday's series opener against the Astros, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after a 6-3 loss to the A's at O.co Coliseum.
Hamilton will be taking the roster spot of 32-year-old right-hander Jarrett Grube, who was optioned back to the Minor Leagues three days after being called up for the first time.
That means the Angels will temporarily go with a six-man bullpen, with Matt Shoemaker pushed back to provide some length as a reliever until his next start (likely Saturday). Grant Green, C.J. Cron and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Raul Ibanez were all on the bubble with Hamilton on the verge of being activated, but all three will stay on the roster for now.
Hamilton, out since April 8, suffered a bone bruise in his surgically repaired left thumb during his first game with Triple-A Salt Lake on May 22, but returned to his rehab assignment Friday and Saturday and went a combined 4-for-9 with a double and two strikeouts.
The 33-year-old Hamilton was batting .444/.545/.741 in eight games before completely tearing the ulnar collateral ligament along with a torn capsule after he banged his left thumb on first base during a headfirst slide at Safeco Field.
"Hopefully he can pick up right where he left off when he got hurt," first baseman Albert Pujols said.
Trout out a second game with back stiffness
OAKLAND -- Back stiffness forced Mike Trout to miss his second straight game Sunday afternoon.
Trout woke up with the stiffness around the middle of his back Saturday morning, got scratched from the lineup after originally being slated to start at designated hitter, was laid up on the athletic trainer's table as the Angels went about an 11-3 loss and didn't feel quite good enough to play in the finale against the A's on Sunday morning.
Trout said the back is "a lot better than yesterday," but "I still feel a little bit in there."
"It [stinks]," Trout said about missing two games against the first-place team in the American League West. "I want to be out there. I just want to get it better."
Trout was hooked up to a handheld electrical stimulation machine pregame, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia was hopeful that he could be available to him off the bench -- though the situation ultimately never came up.
"If he can swing the bat, to start at DH, we would've considered it," Scioscia said before the Angels' 6-3 loss. "But right now, it's a little bit too stiff to do that four or five times. We'll see if he's got one [at-bat] in him. If not, hopefully he'll be ready on Tuesday."
Trout -- batting .294/.380/.549 with 11 homers and an AL-leading 63 strikeouts -- has now been out of the Angels' lineup three times, also missing the May 21 game against the Astros out of precaution over a tight left hamstring. The Angels have an off-day Monday before starting a three-game series in Houston, and Trout isn't concerned about the back issue lingering.
"It definitely feels better than yesterday," he said. "But it's still there. I don't want it to get worse."
'No excuses': Ibanez expects more from himself
OAKLAND -- Raul Ibanez squared some balls up during the Angels' 6-3 loss to the A's on Sunday, lifting a fly ball to center field and hitting a tailing liner to left, but he nonetheless finished 0-for-4 -- and he needs to start seeing some results.
"I'm better than that," Ibanez said. "I'm not going to make excuses for myself."
Josh Hamilton will be activated for Tuesday's series opener against the Astros, and though the corresponding move was to send down a pitcher (Jarrett Grube) and temporarily go with a shorthanded bullpen, youngsters Grant Green and C.J. Cron continue to thrive and Ibanez continues to slump, perceivably impacting the 41-year-old's job security.
"The time comes when you have to go out there and do it, just get it done," Ibanez said. "That's where I'm at. No excuses. Keep fighting, moving forward, and make it happen. Nobody's going to hand you anything. I'm just going to keep fighting."
Ibanez turns 42 on Monday, and he's batting .147/.259/.272 with 41 strikeouts through the first 46 games of this season -- and sporting a .143 batting average dating back to the start of last year's second half.
In a few days, when the Angels can no longer go on with a six-man bullpen, they'll likely send down either Green or Cron, because it's the best way for them to preserve depth and because Ibanez's track record over the previous 12 years -- .278/.340/.477 slash line -- should give him the benefit of the doubt.
But at some point, they'll have to see results from Ibanez.
And Ibanez feels the same way.
"We can talk all we want; this is not a game that rewards talking," Ibanez said. "You have to do it. That's where I'm at. I have to do it, get it done."
• Angels reliever Dane De La Rosa (right s/c joint irritation) has a 6.00 ERA in six one-inning appearances since rejoining his rehab assignment with Triple-A Salt Lake. De La Rosa gave up a run on two hits and a walk Saturday, but Scioscia said "the angle's reappearing" in his pitches and "it looks like the velocity is getting more consistent."
• Hitting coach Don Baylor (fractured right femur) watched early batting practice several times during the Angels' recent homestand, and Scioscia expects him to be around even more when the team returns Friday, saying, "He's getting better. In terms of the full reins of what he was doing before, we'll see where he is in the next couple weeks."
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.