7/30/2014 7:30 P.M. ET
Cowart concentrating on batting from left side
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- In an effort to get their former top prospect back on track, the Angels have told third baseman Kaleb Cowart to scrap switch-hitting and focus solely on batting from the left side of the plate.
Cowart, taken 18th overall out of high school in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, went into the 2013 season as the Angels' top-ranked prospect by MLB.com. But the 22-year-old has struggled in Double-A, posting a .221/.279/.301 slash line last year and batting .226/.298/.325 through his first 101 games this year.
During a breakout season in 2012, Cowart fared better from the left side (.828 OPS) than the right side (.764). His splits flipped in 2013 (.539 OPS from the left side, .705 from the right side), and they're pretty even in 2014 (.627 OPS from the left side, .613 from the right side).
There's still a possibility Cowart could eventually transition to a pitcher, which he excelled at for Cook High School in Adel, Ga., but the Angels want to see if he can turn it around at the plate by focusing only on being a left-handed hitter.
"We're trying to simplify things for him a little bit," assistant general manager Scott Servais said of Cowart, who's currently deemed the Angels' No. 4 prospect. "He's done that I think for like the last week. We'll see if that helps."
A similar move helped former Gold Glove Award first baseman J.T. Snow, who came up as a switch-hitter and transitioned to batting only left-handed near the middle of what ended up being a successful 16-year Major League career.
After bullpen session, Wilson set to return
BALTIMORE -- The Angels probably won't be adding a starting pitcher prior to Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline at 1 p.m. PT, but they could be getting back one of their own shortly thereafter.
C.J. Wilson completed his normal between-starts bullpen session on Wednesday, two days after an 81-pitch rehab start for Double-A Arkansas, and looks lined up to return from the disabled list to start Saturday's game against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
If the veteran left-hander gets right, and rebounds from a 10.26 ERA from June 24 to July 9, Wilson could be the biggest rotation upgrade the Angels make.
"I just want to step back in and be a winning piece," Wilson said on Tuesday. "If I had been pitching well, I'd have like 13 wins by now. I have to get back on that train."
While teams like the A's, Orioles, Dodgers, Pirates and Cardinals spent the day linked to a host of available starting pitchers, from Jon Lester to John Lackey to David Price, most of the Angels' front office was back in Anaheim, doing its due diligence but also not sweating as the Deadline nears.
The Angels already addressed their most pressing need, adding three relievers in 22 days to turn a beleaguered bullpen into a strength, and aren't expected to swing another deal before the Deadline.
"No chance," one source said, while cautioning that things can always change quickly this time of year.
If the Angels are to add starting pitching, August -- when players can only be traded if they clear waivers -- may be the more likely time of year.
The club still has money to spend, but has very few prospects to give up. The Angels won't part ways with any of them for a starter who wouldn't be a clear upgrade over any of the six they have on the roster, and that's basically all their farm system can afford them nonetheless.
Waiting until August gives the Angels time to assess their situation -- to see how Wilson bounces back from a right ankle sprain, where they stand against the A's in the American League West, how the market changes -- and is more favorable to where they are as an organization.
As one source put it, "It's the time when money talks and prospects stay put."
Angels' pickoffs tough on opposing runners
BALTIMORE -- The Angels are controlling the running game a lot better this season, and the success of the pickoff play has played a major factor.
When Jered Weaver flipped quickly to throw out the Orioles' Manny Machado at second in Tuesday's second inning, it went for the Angels' 12th out recorded via pickoff this season, representing the second-highest total in the Majors. Last year, the Halos finished with only 10, the diminished threat paving the way for a stolen-base rate -- 79 percent -- that was the third-highest in baseball.
This year's total has dropped to 69 percent, good enough to put the Angels in the top 10.
"When you have so many left-handed starters, there's going to be some first moves that go against you, and you're going to pick some guys off on first moves because of the nature of what guys are trying to do," manager Mike Scioscia said on Wednesday. "That part doesn't surprise me. But in controlling the whole running game, I think we're doing a much better job this year."
• Asked which prospects have made big impressions on him this summer, Servais, who's in charge of scouting and player development, named lefty Nate Smith (2.89 ERA in 11 starts in Double-A), second baseman Alex Yarbrough (.284/.314/.413 in Double-A), third baseman Zach Houchins (.379/.432/.621 in rookie ball) and center fielder Bo Way (.358/.405/.575 in rookie ball).
• Right-handed hitter C.J. Cron started at designated hitter against Orioles' righty Kevin Gausman, with lefty Efren Navarro off the bench on Wednesday. Cron and Navarro continue to split time, but their playing time is based more on matchups and whether Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton need to start at DH. Right-handed hitters have hit for a better average against Gausman this year.
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.