8/21/2014 2:27 A.M. ET
Angels enjoying returns on trade for Freese, Salas
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
BOSTON -- The Angels caught some heat on Nov. 22, 2013, when they sent center fielder Peter Bourjos and prospect outfielder Randal Grichuk to the Cardinals in exchange for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas. They were giving up three years of control with Bourjos and a multi-skilled young player in Grichuk, while taking on nearly $5 million in salary for two players coming off tough seasons.
The immediate returns have been quite favorable, however.
While Grichuk has been stuck in Triple-A and Bourjos has struggled through inconsistent playing time in the big leagues, the Angels have been reaping the benefits from Freese and Salas lately.
Freese has batted .292/.363/.421 since the start of June, displaying enough power to prompt Mike Scioscia to move him to the No. 6 spot in the lineup for Wednesday's game against the Red Sox. Salas has retired 27 of 29 batters in August, striking out 12 to drop his ERA to 2.49.
"We knew the importance of what those guys needed to bring when the trade was made," Scioscia said. "We've seen David Freese get more and more comfortable. He's making the routine plays on the defensive end, and on the offensive end, especially the last month, it looks like he's attacking the ball the way he can. … Over the long haul, if you look at what Fernando has done, he's been a really key component to our 'pen."
Salas, 29 and with a contract under the control of the Angels for three more years, had a 2.28 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP and a 3.57 strikeout-to-walk rate in 68 appearances for the Cardinals in 2011. The following year, his ERA jumped to 4.30, his WHIP rose to 1.42 and his strikeout-to-walk rate fell to 2.22. And in 2013, Salas basically split time between the Majors and the Minors, posting a 1.90 ERA in 22 appearances in Triple-A and a 4.50 ERA in 27 appearances with St. Louis.
"I stopped believing in myself a bit during that time, simply because the results weren't there [in the big leagues]," Salas said in Spanish. "But I just kept working. Every game gives you a little more confidence. It just comes to a point where you have to stop thinking about what went wrong and just try to do the best you can moving forward, and just go day by day. I think that's been key for me."
Freese has had experience with that method of thinking the last couple of years.
In 2013, he batted .209 through his first 27 games, then went on a 20-game hitting streak that lifted his batting average by 78 points and somewhat salvaged his season. In 2014, Freese ended May with a .203/.262/.273 slash line, but now finds himself hitting a more respectable .259/.326/.366 -- a mark that may be trending upward and could save him from being non-tendered this offseason.
Asked if changing leagues played a factor in his early struggles, Freese said, "I don't even really know. It was probably just a bunch of things. Who knows? But now, I'm just able to relax. You have that confidence. And just play the game hard. If you're healthy, things will work out. I don't know exactly what was going on the first couple of months."
Iannetta continues to show skill for getting on base
BOSTON -- Angels catcher Chris Iannetta entered Wednesday's game against the Red Sox with a .270 batting average, which is 45 points higher than where he finished last year and on pace for a career high.
That's new. His on-base ability isn't.
Iannetta is second only to Mike Trout for the team lead in on-base percentage at .369. It's a mark that would lead Major League catchers -- one point better than Brewers standout Jonathan Lucroy -- if Iannetta had enough at-bats to qualify, and a mark that is slightly higher than his career rate of .356.
Among those with at least 2,500 plate appearances since 2006, Iannetta ranks 13th in plate appearances per walk and 18th in pitches seen per plate appearance.
"It's hard enough for me to be successful, even on my own," Iannetta said. "If I was getting myself out, it became almost impossible. So I had to take away the one thing that I could control, and that was limiting the things I can get myself out by chasing pitches and falling behind in counts. If I got into a 1-1 or 2-1 count, kind of making sure the count fell back in my favor instead of going 1-1 to 1-2."
Angels' outfield continues flare for robbing homers
BOSTON -- The Angels don't necessarily practice robbing home runs -- it just seems that way.
Kole Calhoun's improbable catch on Brock Holt's potential three-run homer on Tuesday night was the 12th robbed homer by the Angels since the start of the 2012 season, according to ESPN Stats and Info. No other team has more.
For fear of injury, the Angels don't practice robbing home runs. But on the final days of Spring Training, they'll go over the proper technique in a meeting -- one that used to be led by notorious home-run robber Torii Hunter -- and do a walk-through near the fence.
"We don't set the defense up to rob home runs," said Angels bench coach Dino Ebel, who works with the outfielders. "We just have good athletes that have good instincts, get good jumps on the ball. Kole last night, [Mike] Trout, [Peter] Bourjos [now with the Cardinals]. To me, they're good-enough athletes to make the play over the wall. The key is to get a good jump off the bat. That's the key. Those guys, they're so gifted and talented, they can make those plays."
• Trout started Wednesday's game at designated hitter, with Josh Hamilton shifting to center field and Efren Navarro starting in left. It was Trout's seventh start at DH this year, and third this month. Scioscia said it was "a good day for Mike to catch his breath a little bit," adding, "I don't think there's anything that's physically bothering him."
• Utility man Grant Green (lumbar strain) is slated to undergo a rehab assignment with Triple-A Salt Lake by Friday, which would put him on track to be activated off the disabled list at some point next week. Scioscia said Green "did really well" during recent workouts and is "into an aggressive baseball routine" while rehabbing in Arizona.
• After Wednesday's 8-3 win, the Angels optioned outfielder Brennan Boesch (1-for-18 since being called up) back to Triple-A Salt Lake. The club is expected to call up two pitchers before Thursday's game, with the other roster spot opening up when Garrett Richards (left knee) gets placed on the disabled list. The Angels need extra arms after six relievers combined to throw 7 1/3 innings.
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.