8/31/2014 5:10 P.M. ET
Bullpen arms top need for Halos in September
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Rosters officially expand on Monday, which means anybody on the 40-man roster can be activated for the regular season's final month. The Angels are off that day but will have a new crop of players when they arrive in Houston to begin a 10-game, four-city road trip on Tuesday.
Here's a look at what the Angels could gain for September callups:
Fresh bullpen arms: That will be the biggest key for a bullpen that easily leads the Majors in innings since the All-Star break. Hard-throwing right-handers Michael Kohn and Cam Bedrosian are expected to be called up, as is veteran sidearmer Vinnie Pestano.
Third catcher: Every team calls up a third catcher in September, and for the Angels, that guy figures to be John Buck, the 11-year veteran who was signed to a Minor League deal on July 21. Buck has hit .292/.372/.416 in the Pacific Coast League. His presence could free up some time at designated hitter for Chris Iannetta. The Angels cleared up a 40-man spot for Buck when they outrighted reliever Dane De La Rosa on Friday.
Speed and power off the bench: Left-handed-hitting outfielders Tony Campana and J.B. Shuck can give Scioscia a couple of options for pinch-running late in games. Right-handed-hitting first baseman C.J. Cron and left-handed-hitting outfielder Brennan Boesch can provide some thump and could get some starts at DH. The Angels will probably also recall left-handed-hitting first baseman Efren Navarro, who was sent down on Saturday.
Length: Triple-A starters Wade LeBlanc, Randy Wolf and Drew Rucinski can be called up to give the Angels some innings out of the bullpen or be candidates to start on the days Garrett Richards' rotation spot comes up. LeBlanc and Wolf are lefties, but the Angels would have to create space on the 40-man roster to activate them. Rucinski, a right-hander, is already on the 40-man.
No relief down stretch for dependable bullpen
ANAHEIM -- The Angels' bullpen has been working hard in the second half, and there's no let-up in sight.
The month of September may be even more taxing.
"It's all hands on deck," veteran reliever Jason Grilli said. "You can pace yourself from April to August. Once September hits, redline it, man. Put the gas pedal to the floor, go as hard as you can and don't look back."
That's the mentality the Angels' bullpen has to take on, because Garrett Richards won't be back this season, no starting pitcher is expected to be added to fill his rotation spot and manager Mike Scioscia will have to patch together nine innings every time a fifth starter is needed.
Since the All-Star break, Angels relievers easily lead the Majors in innings with 152 1/3 heading into Sunday's series finale (8 1/3 innings ahead of the Cubs). The Angels will get some much-needed depth starting Tuesday -- their first game after rosters expand for September -- with relievers like Michael Kohn, Vinnie Pestano and Cam Bedrosian expected to be added, but that won't change who Scioscia's go-to guys are on the back end.
Kevin Jepsen, who has primarily been pitching the seventh inning, is two appearances shy of his career high (68, in 2010). Setup man Joe Smith is 5 1/3 innings away from his career high (70 2/3 innings, in 2011). And much-relied-upon rookie Mike Morin will be pitching into September for the first time, already surpassing his career high in appearances.
"We look at ourselves as a unit, as a team within a team and we're all just trying to pitch our inning," said closer Huston Street, who appeared in a fourth straight game for the first time since 2010 on Saturday. "As you can see, in this type of baseball, every pitch, every inning matters."
But that workload, coupled with the fact that the Angels will finish the season playing 43 games in 45 days and that it'll take an assortment of relievers to make it past each of Richards' starts, is a troubling sign for the bullpen.
In Grilli's mind, honesty is key.
"We just all have to be smart," he said. "We all know how we feel; we have to communicate. That's a big part of it.
"It's self-evaluation, more than us being overused. There's self-accountability. There's also the hope that they understand what we're being asked to do, and if they're calling upon us, they know that we may need a day. They'll tell us."
Freese seeing time as DH with Beckham at 3B
ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia has gone from subbing David Freese out for defense late in games to removing him from the field entirely. Sunday marked the third time in four days that Scioscia has opted to go with Gordon Beckham at third and thus insert Freese -- a longtime National League player -- at designated hitter.
Scioscia said Freese is still "our primary third baseman," but the skipper likes starting Beckham at third "from a maneuverability standpoint."
Beckham brings more athleticism to the position, and when he's in the game, Scioscia doesn't have to burn John McDonald -- sometimes used as a pinch-runner -- for late-game defensive purposes like he often does when Freese starts. That is especially key given the short bench Scioscia has had recently.
It's the logical choice. But it's also a delicate one when it comes to cutting into the playing time of an established veteran like Freese, who has been on the team a lot longer than Beckham. Scioscia had that conversation with Freese, and said the 31-year-old "understands."
"He's comfortable playing defense and wants to play out there," Scioscia said. "But whatever is going to help us, he's into. He wants to win. He understands it."
• Hector Santiago was listed on the bullpen sheet prior to Sunday's game, because Monday's off-day would allow Scioscia to push him back. Santiago is tentatively slated to start on Thursday, putting him on seven days' rest. C.J. Wilson would pitch Tuesday and Jered Weaver would take the ball on Wednesday, in Houston.
• Infielder Grant Green was called up on Sunday, with right-hander Cory Rasmus optioned to the Minors after pitching the first three innings on Saturday. The move was a formality, because Rasmus wouldn't have been available for the series finale and will return when rosters expand in September.
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.