7/3/2014 8:14 P.M. ET
Dipoto still looking to improve the bullpen
By Alden Gonzalez and Matthew DeFranks / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Jerry Dipoto rejoined his team Friday, with the Angels fresh off a six-game road trip and their general manager back from a stop at the organization's Minor League complex in Tempe, Ariz. Since Dipoto last saw them, the Angels had passed the halfway point of their season, with Game No. 81 occurring in the opener of Tuesday's doubleheader in Chicago, and the calendar had flipped to July.
The Angels are still in position to return to the playoffs for the first time in four years, and Dipoto is still eager to acquire pieces that can help get them over the hump.
"We've been able to identify what our weaknesses are," Dipoto said. "Now it's a matter of how many we can answer in a short period of time."
Those weaknesses still reside in the bullpen, a department that underwent some tweaking over the last seven days when veteran closer Jason Grilli was acquired from the Pirates for Ernesto Frieri and lefty Rich Hill was plucked from the Red Sox's Triple-A affiliate for cash considerations.
Industry sources have said the Angels are still targeting a situational lefty (the D-backs' Joe Thatcher is a popular name) and another potential closer (ditto for the Padres' Huston Street). Dipoto wouldn't comment on specifics, but he did acknowledge that the bullpen is still a focal point.
"We understand it's not a finished product," said Dipoto, who nonetheless feels good about the current foundation of Joe Smith, Mike Morin, Fernando Salas, Cory Rasmus, Kevin Jepsen and Grilli. "We're going to give them every chance to get better. They've all done a nice job. The best we can do is give them a little bit of help."
The Angels are last in the Majors in platoon advantages, which means they've had a right-handed pitcher face a left-handed hitter, and vice-versa, more than any other team. A matchup lefty can surely help that, and Dipoto reiterated on Friday that he doesn't want to put Santiago in that role because it would squash his versatility and length.
"He's on our 12-man staff," Dipoto said. "Is he going to be the fifth starter, is he going to be the swing man, is he going to be the second lefty? I don't know. But the one thing we can't do is allow Hector to become our go-get-a-lefty guy, because you don't want to shorten him."
As eager as he is to address the bullpen, Dipoto didn't sound like someone who expects, or is altogether willing, to swing a deal for a superstar that will cost a handful of premium prospects. Dipoto also doesn't feel like the starting rotation -- a staff that has posted a 3.71 ERA, which ranks 11th in the Majors -- needs much help.
"I really feel thrilled with the six guys we have," Dipoto said. "I think they've done a great job; they've pitched extraordinarily well in the first half. I don't see any reason why that would change. I don't think there's any single guy in that group that's outperforming his physical ability or his career norm. It's a good group. We're not prioritizing going out and trying to provide something to add to them.
"We will continue to do our diligence and pay attention to what's out there in the market, but right now our primary focus is going out and trying to add as many flexible and accessible pieces for our bullpen. Otherwise, the team has performed so well. If it's not broke, don't fix it."
Calhoun excelling as platoon player
ANAHEIM -- The only thing stopping Kole Calhoun recently has been the lineup card.
Calhoun, despite platooning with Collin Cowgill in right field, has been on a tear recently, hitting .364/.436/.697 with nine RBIs in his last 10 games. But manager Mike Scioscia has only been starting Calhoun against right-handed starters while Cowgill gets the nod against left-handers.
Cowgill, a right-handed hitter, got the start on both Wednesday and Thursday against left-handers and figures to start Friday with Houston lefty Dallas Keuchel on the mound. But the lefty Calhoun has actually hit southpaws (.287) better than right-handers (.273) in his career. Cowgill has hit left-handers at a .288 clip in his career.
Calhoun has thrived in the leadoff spot as well, going 5-for-6 with two walks in his last at-bats to lead off the game. In 2014, he is hitting .480/.581/.800 in 31 leadoff at-bats. Calhoun said hitting in front of superstar Mike Trout helps him see better pitches.
"They want to pitch to you more than they want to pitch to him so you get some good pitches to hit, try not to do too much, things start falling, you get a little groove," Calhoun said. "It definitely helps having him behind you in that leadoff spot is a huge help."
Trout has been great at picking guys up, as well, hitting .323 with men on base.
"If I can get on base in front of those three, we're going to have a good chance to score so I get to see a few more pitches," Calhoun said. "You know that they'd rather face you than face Trout. You gotta be a little bit more selective and pick your pitches to swing at, and you do that and it's a pretty fun spot to hit in."
Calhoun has made it fun by hitting .314 with 34 runs scored in 35 games as the No. 1 hitter. In any other spot in the order, he is hitting just .179.
Since June 17, Calhoun leads the Majors with 16 runs scored.
Salas may do rehab assignment before return
ANAHEIM -- Fernando Salas was expected to be activated off the disabled list by Thursday, but he remains on the mend, and now the Angels are pondering whether the veteran reliever needs to briefly go out on a rehab assignment to get acclimated.
Salas, on the DL since June 15 because of inflammation in his right shoulder, threw a bullpen session at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday that was supposed to be his final step. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it was "not quite as crisp."
"But he's close," Scioscia cautioned. "Nothing major."
Salas, 29, has a 2.96 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP and a 2.55 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
• David Freese did something Wednesday that he had not done in 66 days -- hit a home run.
Freese's opposite-field shot in the seventh inning was just his third homer of the season. In his last eight games, Freese has gone hitless just once while posting a .357 average and five RBIs from the No. 8 hole in the lineup.
"I think he's hit a lot of hard outs over the last 15 at-bats but we need David's production to be there," Scioscia said. "That's important for us."
• Scioscia's next win would tie him with Whitey Herzog at 34th with 1,281 career wins.
• The Angels have won their last seven home series.
• Outfielder Brennan Boesch will be the only Angels prospect to represent the Pacific Coast League in the Triple-A All-Star Game, it was announced Thursday.
Boesch has played seven games with the Angels this season, hitting .231 in 13 at-bats. At Triple-A Salt Lake, Boesch has hit .335 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs. The Pacific Coast League All-Stars will face the International League All-Stars on July 16 in Durham, N.C.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. Matthew DeFranks is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MDeFranks. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.