6/22/2014 3:03 A.M. ET
Skaggs throws sim game, eyes return to rotation
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Tyler Skaggs, sidelined since June 6 with a right hamstring strain, took a big stride toward returning to the Angels rotation by throwing the equivalent of four innings in a simulated game on Saturday afternoon at Angel Stadium.
Facing teammates Collin Cowgill, John McDonald and Grant Green, Skaggs threw his full repertoire of pitches "as hard as I could," and felt no pain in the hamstring. He is unsure how he sustained the strain while facing the Astros on June 5 in Houston, taking a loss to put his record at 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 12 starts.
"Everything felt good," Skaggs said. "The last 25 [pitches] I spotted up. The ball was coming out of my hand the way I wanted. It was good to get in with hitters."
Skaggs hopes he can reclaim his rotation spot next weekend in Kansas City after missing three starts.
"Everything's fine," he said. "I took five days off after I got hurt, because I couldn't move the leg. I didn't pick up a ball. But we worked hard to get back to 100 percent, and I'm looking forward to getting back out there."
Skaggs, acquired in the winter deal sending Mark Trumbo to the D-backs, has held hitters to a .247 batting average, striking out 58 in 76 2/3 innings.
"He looked good," manager Mike Scioscia said. "The last 10 [pitches] were what you'd expect. There's a start [available] in Kansas City. We'll see how he comes out of this, how [pitching coach Mike Butcher] feels."
Angels part ways with veteran Ibanez
ANAHEIM -- The Angels released veteran designated hitter and outfielder Raul Ibanez on Saturday, clearing the way for rookie C.J. Cron to take the majority of the team's at-bats as the DH.
The Angels signed Ibanez during the offseason to a one-year, $2.75 million contract that included another $2.25 million in incentives. The second oldest player in the Majors, Ibanez, 42, hit .157 with three homers and 21 RBIs in 190 plate appearances for the Angels.
"Like anybody, there was disappointment," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said when asked how Ibanez reacted to the news. "He's very accountable. He knows he didn't do what he wanted for us. He took it with what you'd expect for a guy with his class.
"Raul's going to be tough to replace in the clubhouse. He brings so many intangibles. We've got some young kids [to replace him], but it's a tough day for us. Raul's a great competitor and a terrific person, and we'll definitely miss him."
Albert Pujols said he spoke with Ibanez, but chose to keep his thoughts to himself.
"That's not my territory to talk about that," Pujols said. "I shared with him my thoughts. He's a great guy in the clubhouse, and obviously he's going to be missed."
Ibanez departed before the media had access to the clubhouse. He occupied the locker next to Mike Trout and often was seen in conversation with the young superstar.
"From the day he got here," Trout said, "I never heard one negative word from Raul. He's one of the most positive people I've ever been around. He's such a great teammate. I've really enjoyed having him next to me here, being his teammate."
In Seattle last season, Ibanez had a line of .242/.306/.487 with 29 homers and 65 RBIs.
Ibanez has played in 19 seasons for the Mariners, Royals, Phillies, Yankees and Angels. He's a .273 career hitter with 303 homers and 1,202 RBIs.
After playing some left field and first base, Ibanez become part of a strict platoon at designated hitter, sharing time with Cron.
Entering Saturday, Cron has a slash line of .283/.309/.491 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 110 plate appearances this season. He homered on Friday night in a 7-3 victory over the Rangers and is batting .371 in 35 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
"No doubt C.J.'s going to get opportunities to get at-bats," Scioscia said. "We'll get Grant Green opportunities. Albert and Josh [Hamilton] at times will get days off [in the field] to DH."
Ibanez recently attributed his longevity to staying open to fresh ideas.
"It's about learning constantly, being open-minded enough to reinvent yourself when you need to change things you've done in the past," Ibanez said. "Not accepting the status quo is part of it."
Pujols out of lineup with sore back
ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols was out of the Angels' lineup on Saturday night against the Rangers with pain in his lower back. He felt it as he approached home plate on Friday night, scoring a run on Erick Aybar's single during a 7-3 victory.
"I kind of tweaked my back -- I don't know how," Pujols said. "I was three-fourths of the way [down the line] to the plate, two steps from home plate, when it kind of locked on me. I grabbed it. I feel a little sore today.
"I think I can get in the game today, but I don't want to take two or three steps back to take one step forward."
Slick-fielding Efren Navarro, summoned from Triple-A Salt Lake, was at first base and batting ninth in the lineup against Rangers right-hander Nick Martinez.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it was day to day with Pujols, who has 16 homers and 44 RBIs with a .255/.315/.479 slash line. Pujols came out of the game after five innings Friday night.
"It's a little stiff today," Scioscia said of Pujols' back. "We'll give him another day and evaluate him tomorrow."
Navarro, Carpenter return to Angels clubhouse
ANAHEIM -- The Angels welcomed a couple of familiar faces to the clubhouse on Saturday. First baseman/outfielder Efren Navarro was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake, and the contract of reliever David Carpenter, who has pitched for Salt Lake and Double-A Arkansas this season, was purchased.
Cam Bedrosian was optioned to Arkansas. Navarro takes the roster spot created with the release of Raul Ibanez.
Navarro, who got the start at first base on Saturday night against the Rangers, with Albert Pujols nursing a stiff back, was batting .310 for the Angels with several clutch hits when he was sent down. He played exceptionally well in left and right field, new positions, as well as first base, his natural position.
"Efren is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of the 28-year-old native of Lynwood, Calif., who attended the University of Nevada-Las Vegas when he was taken in the 50th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. "He got some key hits for us in Toronto."
Navarro made the decision to expand his versatility by learning to play the outfield in winter ball in Mexico after the 2013 season. He took to it more quickly than he had imagined.
"My agent and I talked about it," Navarro said. "Knowing the situation I'm in -- the Angels are stacked at first base and in the outfield -- it was the right thing to do. I amazed myself with how athletic I really am. I can improve in the outfield every day, learning the stadiums and lighting and how different the ball looks coming at you in left and right. It just goes back to work ethic."
Carpenter, 26, is a Texas native, taken in the ninth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He is 1-2 with a 5.63 ERA in 29 Major League appearances, all but one of those in 2012 for the Angels when he was 1-2 with a 4.76 ERA.
Carpenter was 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA and six saves in 21 appearances for Arkansas and 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA in four games for Salt Lake.
"Carp will fit in," Scioscia said when asked about his role. "Everybody down there [in the bullpen], young or veterans, we're going to need you to get outs."
• Since May 20, Mike Trout leads the Majors in batting average (.393), slugging (.787) and on-base percentage (.473). His 13-game hitting streak ended Friday, but he had at least one hit in 24 of his past 26 games entering Saturday, when he went 0-for-4.
According to FanGraphs, Trout leads the Majors in WAR since the start of 2012 with 26 wins above replacement, followed by Andrew McCutchen (19), Miguel Cabrera (18) and Robinson Cano (17).
• Kevin Jepsen pushed his streak of consecutive scoreless outings to a career-best 19 on Friday. He registered 15 strikeouts in 14 innings with six walks during the stretch. Jepsen's streak ended Saturday with a leadoff home run by Texas' Shin-Soo Choo in the ninth inning of the Angel's 3-2, 10-inning victory.
• Angels opponents are batting just .233, tied for the second lowest mark in the American League. The Angels starting rotation owns a 3.61 ERA, third in the AL, and are fifth in innings pitched with 446. Garrett Richards is second among starters in the AL in holding hitters to a .206 average.
Lyle Spencer is a columnist for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.