8/17/2014 12:55 A.M. ET
Angels stick with slumping Hamilton in cleanup spot
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia has made a change to his lineup, but it wasn't the one anybody was anticipating.
He flipped Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar when the team arrived at Globe Life Park in Texas on Friday, with Kendrick (10 for his last 33) batting fifth and Aybar (seven for his last 39) batting sixth to, as Scioscia said, "maybe take a little pressure off Erick."
Josh Hamilton, however, remained in the cleanup spot Saturday.
One night earlier, the left-handed-hitting outfielder had gone 1-for-5 while striking out four times, dropping his batting average to .266. In Saturday's second straight 5-4 win, he went 1-for-4 with three more strikeouts. Hamilton now has six hits and 18 strikeouts in his last 38 at-bats, and eight homers in 72 games this year.
"Josh is not the same as he was when we were looking in the other dugout in Texas," Scioscia said pregame. "Right now, he's not in the batter's box with the confidence that we know he has. He's working hard to try to find it."
Last year, as he struggled through the first of a five-year, $125-million contract, Scioscia tried Hamilton at every spot in the lineup from second to seventh. But Scioscia said it's hard to move him now, because others -- including Mike Trout and Albert Pujols -- are scuffling, as well.
"I don't think any restructuring of our lineup is going to necessarily push us forward right now," Scioscia said.
Asked if he's reluctant to move Pujols to the cleanup spot, which would mean Trout bats third and Hamilton hits lower in the order, Scioscia said: "You move guys around if the whole product becomes better. If our whole lineup becomes better, you'd definitely consider it. But Mike and Albert connected -- even though Mike's maybe not as hot as he was -- their dynamic is important. It works.
"Mike gets his pitches. And Albert gets his pitches, and that's what you're looking for from the middle of your lineup."
Griffin admires Pujols' 'courage'
ARLINGTON -- Angels infield coach Alfredo Griffin knows Albert Pujols isn't healthy. He knows the left foot, the one stricken by plantar fasciitis in an injury-shortened 2013 season, isn't 100 percent and never will be -- even if the veteran first baseman won't say anything about it.
"He's not going to tell you it hurts him; he won't tell anybody," Griffin said in Spanish. "But he can't fool me."
In Griffin's mind, that's what makes Pujols' defensive work this season all the more impressive.
One year after spending 65 of his 99 games at designated hitter, Pujols is back to playing elite-level defense at first base, leading American Leaguers at his position in Ultimate Zone Rating while ranking second in Defensive Runs Saved and fielding percentage.
He doesn't play off the bag as much as he used to, and he doesn't cover as much ground, but he's making a case for his third Gold Glove nonetheless.
"That's why I respect him so much and I give him so much praise," Griffin said, "for the courage that he has."
Pujos, batting .271 with 22 homers and 73 RBIs entering Saturday, has started 88 of 119 games at first base, including Saturday -- his 14th start at first in the last 17 games.
"It's hard to take him out of the game," Griffin said. "He doesn't want to come out, he doesn't want a day off, he doesn't want to DH. He wants to play every day. He has a lot of pride, and that's very valuable in this game. Some people who make a lot of money don't think like that. But the money doesn't matter to him. He loves to play."
Calhoun doing leadoff things
ARLINGTON -- It took an acrobatic catch by Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin to deny Kole Calhoun of extra bases at the start of Saturday's game.
An out in those situations has become a rarity for the Angels' leadoff hitter.
Calhoun -- with five multi-hit games in his last six contests -- isn't your prototypical leadoff hitter, but he's doing leadoff things. He entered Saturday with a team-leading .294 batting average, and he's a tough out to start the game. Calhoun has 25 hits in 56 at-bats when leading off a game in front of Mike Trout, good for a .446 batting average.
"You know, I'm really starting to take it personally," Calhoun said of leading off. "I want so bad to get on base, do what a leadoff guy should do. I really enjoy it now. It was extremely new when I first started the year, but I'm having fun, getting on base and trying to spark these guys up."
Morin activated; Pestano optioned
ARLINGTON -- Right-hander Mike Morin (left foot laceration) was activated off the disabled list Saturday, as expected, and newly acquired reliever Vinnie Pestano drew the short straw.
Pestano, acquired from the Indians for Minor League pitcher Michael Clevinger on Aug. 7, was sent back to Triple-A Salt Lake as the corresponding move to keep the Angels' bullpen at seven relievers.
The 29-year-old sidearmer struck out the side and walked a batter in his only inning of work with the Angels, who promoted him three days after the trade. In the Indians' Triple-A affiliate, Pestano showed signs of returning to the form he displayed in the Majors from 2011-12, posting a 1.78 ERA while striking out 11 batters per nine innings in 32 appearances.
The Angels want more time to evaluate him.
"We'll get a chance to see that now," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He definitely showed enough in the one outing where we saw the life in his ball was there. It's going to be good for him to pitch regularly down there to clean things up and help us at the Major League level. We'll get another look at him at some point."
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.