7/24/2014 10:32 P.M. ET
Hamilton fighting urge to press for power
By Alden Gonzalez and Matthew DeFranks / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Angels cleanup hitter Josh Hamilton entered Thursday's series opener against the Tigers sporting a very respectable .292 batting average to go along with a .370 on-base percentage. But his slugging percentage is only .431 -- not much higher than the league average of .390 -- and he's managed only five home runs in 202 at-bats.
That's one home run every 40.4 at-bats. In five years in Texas, he hit one every 17.8 at-bats, the 16th-best ratio in the Majors from 2008-12. Last season, a tumultuous one until the very end, it was one every 27.4 at-bats.
"It's still there," Hamilton said of the prodigious power that once made him one of the game's most feared hitters. "In batting practice, early BP, it's there. It hasn't gone anywhere. I'm just trying to get it to translate to the game. But the worst thing you can do is try to do it in the game, try to create it."
That's when Hamilton's hips flare open, and he chases breaking balls in the dirt, and he gives away at-bats, and he starts guessing, and he abandons the middle of the field.
That's the Hamilton he's trying to keep away, even as the frustrations mount over his relative power outage.
"It's always the factor of less is more," Hamilton said. "And as a player, as a hitter, that's something you strive for your whole career. There's only a select few guys who get it and stick with it. But the majority of guys always seem like they want to get a little more, when they don't have to."
The questions surrounding Hamilton last year mostly centered on, "What's wrong?"
This year, it's more like, "Is he truly back?"
It's been a difficult one to answer, even after a scorching first week, because Hamilton missed nearly two months with a broken left thumb. But now the sample size has stretched out a little further, and the peripherals mean a little more. Here are a few key ones ...
• Hamilton's strikeout percentage (28.7) is on pace to be the highest of his career, slightly topping 2012 (25.5) and 2013 (24.8). But he's also on pace for a career-best walk percentage (10.9) and a career-best OPS against opposing left-handers (.903).
• His extra-base-hit percentage is 7.8, currently the lowest of his career and barely above the Major League average (7.7). His isolated power score - a stat that measures a hitter's raw power by looking at the frequency of his extra base hits - is 139, which would rank 89th in the Majors if Hamilton had enough at-bats to qualify.
• Hamilton is seeing only 35.5 percent fastballs, by far the lowest rate of his career, and has actually seen more breaking balls than fastballs in July. The 33-year-old will continue to sit fastball, though, because "when you get in the mode of looking for other stuff, that's when you get your fastball and you foul it off."
Hamilton admits he's getting a little antsy, and has caught himself abandoning his mechanics while searching for extra-base hits (his two flyouts to center on Wednesday were a prime example). But for the most part, he's staying within himself.
And because of that, he's confident the power will re-emerge.
"If you start a season with a drought in power," Hamilton said, "you have to know that if you continue to put good swings and think about staying up the middle, it'll come -- you'll start elevating it and getting the results you want."
Cron makes most of short stint in Minors
ANAHEIM -- Angels first baseman C.J. Cron's recent trip to the Minors only warranted a few nights in a Salt Lake hotel.
Cron normally stays with a college friend during extended stays in Triple-A, but he played just two games with Salt Lake before being recalled Wednesday to replace infielder Grant Green, whose lumbar strain landed him on the disabled list.
Cron was just 3-for-26 in his last six games with the Angels, which sent his average from .295 to .269. He only had one home run in his last 52 at-bats after thumping five in a six-game stretch in late June.
"When you're doing well, you feel really comfortable, and when you're struggling, something seems just a tick off," Cron said. "If we knew what it was, we would fix it overnight, but sometimes it doesn't work that quick."
For Cron, it almost worked that quickly. In two games with Salt Lake, Cron went 5-for-8 with a RBI and a walk.
"I know it was a little bit of a slump, but I didn't want to change much," Cron said. "In the past, my swing works, so I don't think it's anything mechanical, more just seeing some pitches I can hit and seeing some balls through some holes."
The 24-year-old rookie was sent down on Saturday to make room for Huston Street on the active roster. Players cannot be recalled within 10 days of being optioned unless someone goes on the DL.
Cron did not play on Wednesday but was back in the starting lineup on Thursday, hitting eighth and serving as the designated hitter.
Iannetta, Conger offer balance behind the plate
ANAHEIM -- Hank Conger and Chris Iannetta continue to split time behind the plate for the Angels, even though Iannetta's slash line of .265/.381/.410 trumps Conger's .242/.317/.358.
"There's more that goes into who's going to play than what's happening in the batter's box," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "especially at that position."
Most importantly to Scioscia -- and any manager, really -- is how his catchers handle a pitching staff. And though Scioscia is very cautious with sample size when it comes to catcher's ERA, numbers show that Angels pitchers have performed better with Conger.
Angels pitchers have a 4.12 ERA when throwing to Iannetta and a 3.39 ERA when throwing to Conger, even though both have basically split time with Jered Weaver and Iannetta has caught 14 of Garrett Richards' 20 starts. With Iannetta (52 starts) behind the plate, Angels pitchers have walked 189 batters in 472 1/3 innings. With Conger (48 starts), it's 129 walks in 443 1/3 innings -- a stat that points to Conger's above-average pitch-framing skills.
"I think Chris has really come on at that part; he's really been catching at a high level," Scioscia said. "And I think Hank, with some of our guys, has been off the charts. Both those guys know the primary thing they need to bring to our team is what they do behind the plate."
Wilson progressing, set for another 'pen session
ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia said left-hander C.J. Wilson's 60-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday went "really well."
Wilson, rehabbing from a right ankle sprain, threw around four innings in an up-and-down format (with breaks between "innings") and is expected to do another bullpen session on Friday or Saturday, according to Scioscia.
Scioscia hinted at a rehab start for Wilson but has yet to make a decision.
Wilson struggled in his last four starts before hitting the disabled list, throwing just 16 2/3 innings while posting a 10.26 ERA and .392 batting average against. He gave up five home runs and notched a 2.34 WHIP in that span.
"C.J. obviously wasn't getting the results he's accustomed to and we're accustomed to in the last handful of starts, but it's there," Scioscia said. "His arm is still working well. I think he's trying to find a little bit of consistency in some of his delivery on some pitches. It's in there and I think he'll get back to where he needs to be."
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.