6/29/2014 8:55 P.M. ET
Angels' bats starting to turn corner with RISP
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- The Angels are progressing towards the mean with regards to their success with runners in scoring position.
Over a four-game stretch heading into Sunday's series finale at Kauffman Stadium, the Angels were 19-for-42 with runners in scoring position, raising their season average from .246 (tied for 17th in the Majors) to .258 (11th).
Albert Pujols -- a career .328 hitter with runners in scoring position who's batting .207 in that situation this year -- had 14 RBIs in his previous 13 games after tallying six in his prior 21. David Freese - a .279 career hitter with runners in scoring position and .196 this year -- was coming off a three-RBI game on Saturday.
And slowly but surely, the Angels' OPS with runners in scoring position (.733, ranked 12th in the Majors) is catching up to their overall OPS (.746, ranked fourth).
"We've talked a lot about early on not cashing in those opportunities," manager Mike Scioscia said. "This week, we're cashing them in and you can see how that's reflected in our record."
Grilli's role still being defined in Halos' bullpen
KANSAS CITY -- Jason Grilli's Angels debut occurred in what would've been a setup role had it not been for a four-run cushion. The former Pirates closer pitched after Kevin Jepsen and just before Joe Smith, notching a 1-2-3 eighth inning with a lineout, strikeout and groundout in Saturday's 6-2 win over the Royals.
The bullpen roles, however, remain fluid.
And ideally, the Angels would love nothing more than for Grilli to find his All-Star ways of 2013 and take over the ninth, a turn of events that would allow manager Mike Scioscia to use the sidearm-throwing Smith more freely.
"They know I'm capable of doing that," said Grilli, who gave up a walk-off single to Omar Infante in the ninth inning of Sunday's 5-4 loss after second baseman Howie Kendrick booted an inning-ending double-play ball. "If that's the desire, I'm sure it'll all be worked out. But just to be able to contribute to this group of guys, I'm really excited."
The Angels aren't done trying to acquire arms for a bullpen that entered Sunday with 12 blown saves -- tied for second-most in the American League -- and a 1.35 WHIP that ranked 22nd in the Majors. They still covet a situational lefty, and they'll continue to keep their ears open for any closers who can be had before July's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
As general manager Jerry Dipoto said upon swapping Ernesto Frieri for Grilli on Friday, "We're not even to the end of June."
The calendar gives the Angels some time to evaluate what Grilli may provide, to get an indication of how stable their ninth inning can be and a sense for how aggressively they have to go after the likes of Huston Street and Jonathan Papelbon.
"We're trying to get everything settled in our bullpen," Scioscia said after Saturday's contest, which provided a rough blueprint for what he'd like to see out of his ever-evolving relief corps.
"This was kind of a unique game because you needed five innings from your 'pen to hold a lead, which you don't anticipate most nights. But the fact that you saw Jason back there and you saw Joe Smith, having them strong in the back end, let you bring Kevin Jepsen in earlier, let you bring Mike Morin to stretch it two innings. The back end is critical for us, and having Jason in there is going to be big."
The 37-year-old Grilli joined the Angels with a 4.87 ERA, a 1.62 WHIP and a 2.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio, after posting a 2.70 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and a 5.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first full season as a closer in 2013.
"I cut myself and I bled a little bit," Grilli said, adding that he's recently made some adjustments to get himself back on track.
What kind of adjustments?
"I hate to talk mechanics, but it's a minor adjustment," Grilli said. "How minor it was is if your radio station is 95.7, I was on 95.9. So, just a little off base."
Aybar warranting support on All-Star ballot
KANSAS CITY -- The Angels lost to the Royals in walk-off fashion on Sunday, but shortstop Erick Aybar continued to make a case for his first All-Star Game appearance with a sixth-inning game-tying homer.
Aybar, 30 and in his ninth season, ranks fourth among American League shortstops in batting average (.283), fifth in on-base percentage (.323), first in slugging (.430) and second to White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez in Wins Above Replacement (2.1).
The switch-hitting speedster is batting .300 with runners in scoring position, giving him 41 RBIs -- third most on the Angels -- and prompting manager Mike Scioscia to bat Aybar fifth.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 8:59 p.m. PT. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15 on FOX.
• Tyler Skaggs (right hamstring strain) threw a 45-pitch bullpen session prior to Sunday's game and felt good coming out of it, pronouncing himself "ready to go." The 22-year-old left-hander will likely start Wednesday's series finale in Chicago, but the Angels haven't decided if it'll be Matt Shoemaker or Hector Santiago staying in the rotation.
• Fernando Salas (right shoulder irritation) took part in his first bullpen session since landing on the 15-day disabled list on June 15, throwing 25 pitches and mixing in breaking balls. Salas didn't have any soreness and expects to throw another 'pen on Tuesday, which could lead to him facing hitters shortly thereafter.
• The Angels signed their third-round Draft pick, Ole Miss right-hander Chris Ellis, on Saturday and assigned him to rookie-level Orem. The organization has signed nine of its top 10 picks and 33 of 40 overall. Left-hander Sean Newcomb, taken 15th overall, remains unsigned, but the Angels are confident an agreement will be made before the July 18 deadline.
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.