The Angels optioned first baseman/outfielder Efren Navarro to Triple-A Salt Lake prior to Friday’s game, selecting the contract of veteran reliever Ryan Mattheus to put them at 13 pitchers and 12 position players.
The Angels needed the extra bullpen arm because setup man Joe Smith has pitched in three straight games and closer Huston Street has appeared in two in a row, which probably makes them unavailable for the second of a four-game series against the Astros.
Mattheus was signed to a Minor League contract in the offseason and is out of options, which means he’ll have to slip through waivers in order to be sent back to Triple-A.
The 31-year-old right-hander appeared in 145 games for the Nationals from 2011-14, posting a 3.60 ERA, a 1.37 WHIP and a 1.49 strikeout-to-walk ratio. For the Salt Lake Bees this year, he had a 2.84 ERA in 12 2/3 innings, issuing two walks and striking out 12 batters. The Angels’ 40-man roster is now at 39.
Not surprisingly, Carlos Perez was back in the starting lineup on Wednesday, one day after capping his Major League debut with a walk-off home run. Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn’t declaring him the everyday catcher, though. He said once again that Chris Iannetta — batting .094 — will continue to get playing time.
But it’s hard to have a platoon with two right-handed-hitting catchers.
So basically, Scioscia will ride the hot bat. And though it’s only been one game for Perez, his bat is nonetheless hotter than Iannetta’s has been all year.
“The best way I can say it is if you play well you always earn more playing time, both ways,” Scioscia said. “If both those guys are playing well, it makes us better.”
Wednesday’s lineup also excluded the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce, who sat for a second straight day because the Angels faced a second straight lefty. Joyce was seemingly starting to turn the corner, hitting several balls hard in a weekend series in San Francisco and homering against Felix Hernandez on Monday.
“I talked to Matt,” Scioscia said. “Just because a lefty’s pitching doesn’t mean he’s not going to play. But right now, you’re trying to jump-start an offense with every little bit of offense you can, against lefties especially. … We just haven’t seen Matt get into his game yet. And when he does, you’re not going to want to sit him just because there’s a lefty in there. But right now, we’re just trying to get as much depth to our lineup as we can.”
Albert Pujols, who exited last Wednesday’s game with a tight left hamstring, made his fourth start of the year at designated hitter. Scioscia said it was precautionary.
Albert Pujols’ tight left hamstring was “no worse” on Thursday morning, which Angels manager Mike Scioscia considered a good sign. But there’s still no telling how long the veteran first baseman will be out.
Pujols only got treatment Thursday, hours after his hamstring grabbed on him while jogging down the first-base line on a sixth-inning single on Wednesday night. The Angels transition to a National League park in San Francisco for the weekend set, eliminating the designated hitter and potentially ruling Pujols out until Monday, at the earliest.
“It’s obviously sore,” Scioscia said of Pujols’ hamstring. “We’re going to take it day-by-day for now.”
Pujols’ absence had a pretty sizeable impact on Scioscia’s lineup, which was struggling to score runs even while he was in there. Mike Trout settled into the No. 3 spot, Erick Aybar moved from fifth to first, Johnny Giavotella went from ninth to second and Kole Calhoun – 13-for-32 in his last eight games heading into Thursday’s series finale – moved from leadoff to cleanup.
“Out of all the guys you’d want to hit behind Mike, right now it’s Kole,” Scioscia said. “… It’s a deviation from what we really want to do in our lineup, but I think the circumstances are very clear. Right now, there’s a lot of guys trying to find their game. And with Albert out of the lineup, we have to make some adjustments.”
Fernando Salas was initially credited with the win on Wednesday, but the official scorer and Elias Sports Bureau decided Thursday morning to instead give the win to Mike Morin, who retired the final batter in the bottom of the sixth before the Angels took a three-run lead in the top of the seventh. Salas kept the A’s scoreless in the bottom of the seventh of the Angels’ eventual 6-3 victory.
Albert Pujols’ left hamstring grabbed on him after a sixth-inning single on Wednesday night, prompting the first baseman to exit early in the Angels’ eventual 6-3 win over the A’s.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t anticipate the hamstring injury to send Pujols to the disabled list, but said, “There’s some soreness in there, definitely.” Pujols isn’t expected to start Thursday’s day game and there’s a decent chance he won’t play the rest of this week, with the following three games coming in a National League venue – AT&T Park in San Francisco – that eliminates the designated hitter.
“It feels more like a cramp, but it’s really sore right now,” Pujols said after the game. “We’ll see tomorrow.”
Pujols screamed in pain while jogging halfway down the first-base line after a bloop single off Dan Otero and was immediately checked on by the Angels’ training staff. The 35-year-old felt a little better after loosening his left leg, but Grant Green took over as a pinch-runner nonetheless.
Initial tests checked out fine and Pujols probably won’t require an MRI – but he will need to sit out a little while.
“It’s weird,” said Pujols, batting .208 through the Angels’ first 21 games. “I don’t have that much history on the hamstring.”
For the Angels, it’s coming at a tough time.
Their offense has been slow out of the gate, Wednesday’s three-run seventh inning notwithstanding. They scored three runs or less in 12 of their first 20 games and entered Wednesday ranked 22nd in the Majors in runs and 25th in OPS.
With Pujols out, Mike Trout is expected to slide into the No. 3 spot and Erick Aybar could bat second, behind leadoff man Kole Calhoun.
“It’s tough losing Albert, one of our big guys,” Trout said. “Hopefully it’s just a cramp.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, like owner Arte Moreno, wanted more “accountability” from Josh Hamilton.
Speaking Tuesday, a day after Hamilton’s introductory press conference at Globe Life Park, Scioscia made it a point to say he was disappointed Hamilton didn’t show “at least a little remorse towards his teammates” in his first public comments this season.
“The one thing that I think is sad and I’m a little bit disappointed in is the fact that there wasn’t any accountability, most importantly to his teammates,” Scioscia said prior to the start of a three-game series against the A’s at O.co Coliseum. “If you look at how much support he got in that clubhouse, when he was struggling, whatever was happening – no one ever questioned Josh’s work ethic and him wanting to play well. He played hard. Nobody ever questioned that. I know he got a lot of support from the guys that are in that clubhouse. For him not to show at least a little remorse towards his teammates I just think is wrong.”
Asked to clarify what he wanted to hear from Hamilton, Scioscia said: “I’m just leaving it at that. I think I said it all.”
The Angels ended what became an awkward, contentious relationship with Hamilton on Monday, by sending him to the Rangers for roughly $20 million in savings over the life of his contract. Moreno didn’t want Hamilton playing for the team any longer and Hamilton himself had made it clear to the Angels for quite a while that he wanted to return to the Rangers.
While the process was unfolding, Scioscia continually expressed concern that Hamilton wasn’t getting the help and support he needed.
Apparently those concerns are still there.
“First and foremost, I’m still concerned about Josh the person,” Scioscia said. “We had a bunch of tests and counseling ready to support him, and make sure that he had the tools to come back and meet the rigors of playing baseball. And obviously with the trade, that has fallen on whatever Texas is going to do. But I’m concerned with Josh the person. I think that he needs to get that help and support, and hopefully he’ll find that peace.”
Asked why it didn’t work out for Hamilton with the Angels, Scioscia brought up many of the popular theories. Like the fact that he went on cleansing juice diet heading into his first spring with the team, prompting him to shed 30 pounds over the offseason.
“He just didn’t seem like he had the same thunder in his swing,” Scioscia said.
He also brought up the thumb injury that sidelined Hamilton for 10 weeks early in the 2014 season, after a hot start, and the logistics of moving to Southern California.
“There were spots when he looked like he was comfortable and playing well,” Scioscia said, “but at times it seemed like there was turmoil in his life.”
Through it all, Scioscia wanted to make one thing clear: The Angels gave Hamilton all the support he needed.
“It’s unfortunate that he had his relapse,” Scioscia said, “but I know we supported him in every aspect, of whatever his needs were.”
Scioscia doesn’t believe the situation became a distraction in his clubhouse.
“There’s a strong bond in our clubhouse, and guys support each other,” Scioscia said. “That’s the same support they gave Josh. That’s why I was disturbed when he never addressed that or said anything about the players.”
Josh Hamilton‘s tumultuous stint in Southern California is over.
On Monday afternoon, the Angels and Rangers completed a trade that sent Hamilton back to Arlington and gave his most recent employers some salary relief. The deal was first reported on Friday, but the financial complexities that came with it — the Rangers sent money to the Angels and Hamilton agreed to give up some of his earnings — created a lag.
In the trade, a source said the Rangers will pay the Angels $2 million to $3 million in each of the remaining three years of Hamilton’s contract, which owed him $90.2 million through the 2017 season, including the signing bonus that was spread out over the course of the deal. Hamilton will reportedly sacrifice $6 million of his own, made up for by the fact Texas has no state income tax.
The release said the Angels received “a player to be named later or cash considerations,” but Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said that has yet to be determined.
“The best interest in the Angels’ organization,” Dipoto added, “was to move on.”
The Angels next play the Rangers on July 3-5, in Arlington.
“If I could put my finger on why Josh had a tough time here, we may have been able to help him solve those issues,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said on a conference call. “And I’m sure if he could put a finger on why it was such a struggle for him here, I’m sure he would’ve been able to contribute more than he did. But at the end of the day, this decision is about our 25-man roster, our organization, the health of this group as we move forward. We’re going to part ways with Josh Hamilton, let him rejoin the Texas Rangers, and we’re going to focus on Angels baseball as we move forward.”
Hamilton — the No. 1 overall Draft pick out of high school in 1999, before drug and alcohol addiction kept him out of baseball for three years — tapped into his potential with the Rangers, who initially acquired him from the Reds in December 2007.
From 2008-12 in Texas, Hamilton started five straight All-Star Games, played in back-to-back World Series and won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award. He batted .305/.363/.549 in that five-year span, averaging 28 homers and 101 RBIs per season. But his production slipped considerably after a signing a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels in December 2012.
During his introductory press conference at Globe Life Park, Hamilton said if he had to do it over again, “I probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere; I probably would’ve stayed here.”
“When it was made aware to me that the Angels wanted to move me, my first choice was the Rangers,” Hamilton said. “I’ve had a lot of good memories here.”
The 33-year-old outfielder batted .255/.316/.426 over the last two years, averaging 16 homers and 62 RBIs per season. He went 0-for-13 in the 2014 AL Division Series, generating boos from Angels fans.
Hamilton has been rehabbing from Feb. 4 surgery to his right shoulder in Houston all year, away from the team. His relationship with the Angels’ front office became contentious after he had a drug relapse late in the offseason.
An arbitrator ruled on April 3 that Hamilton did not violate the terms of his treatment program, mainly because he self-reported the relapse to Major League Baseball before a failed test; the Angels were openly upset by the decision. President John Carpino said the ruling “defies logic” and general manager Jerry Dipoto expressed the club’s “disappointment” in Hamilton’s actions with a statement.
The team did not issue Hamilton a locker at its Spring Training facility or at Angel Stadium, and promptly pulled all of his merchandise and likeness from the ballpark. Prior to the home opener on April 10, Angels owner Arte Moreno declined to say Hamilton would play for his team again and added that he hasn’t spoken to Hamilton since the end of the 2014 season.
Asked why, Moreno said, “Probably disappointment.”
Asked his reaction for those comments on Monday, Hamilton said, “I have no clue what he’s talking about.”
“Going into this season, I hadn’t been the player that they wanted me to be,” Hamilton continued. “I know I hadn’t been. But I worked my butt off to be that guy, this year, going into the season for the Angels. They just didn’t want that to happen for some reason. It doesn’t hurt my feelings, it doesn’t make me mad or anything like that. But I prepared. He knew what the deal was when he signed me. Hands down. He knew what he was getting, he knew what the risks were, he knew all those things. Under the [Joint Drug Agreement], it is what it is.”
Later in the press conference, Hamilton had asked if he’d still be with the Angels if they had been more accepting of his relapse.
“I would be,” he said. “I would’ve been in Spring Training, I would’ve rehabbed in Spring Training, and I would’ve been back [on the field] probably a month ago.”
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels expects Hamilton to be back on the field by the middle or end of May. Hamilton has been hitting and taking fly balls, but said he needs to get used to running around with spikes for an extended period of time.
He also said he has gone back to his support group from before 2012, which means, among other things, hiring Shayne Kelley back as his accountability partner. Hamilton is now getting tested five times a week, up from three.
Dipoto was asked on the conference call if this is a move that can come back to haunt the Angels.
“Why would it come back to haunt us?” Dipoto asked, then was told he was trading Hamilton to a division rival and he may have some good years ahead of him.
“Again,” Dipoto said, “we’re comfortable with the decision here.”
Nick Tropeano was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake and will start Thursday’s series finale against the A’s, with C.J. Wilson getting pushed back to Saturday’s start against the Rangers. Wilson came out of his last start with stiffness in his left (pitching) elbow, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it’s nothing serious and he could’ve taken his normal turn on Thursday if needed.
Pushing Wilson back also buys extra time for Matt Shoemaker, who was placed on the bereavement list to deal with the death of his grandfather. Shoemaker was originally slated to make that Saturday start, but is now tentatively slated for next Wednesday’s game in Oakland, putting him on extended rest a second straight time. Shoemaker pitched on six days’ rest Monday, giving up five runs in three innings, and would be on eight days’ rest Wednesday.
Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Jered Weaver will keep their normal turns. So, here’s the order …
Tuesday: Weaver (starting tonight)
Tropeano has given up five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 11 innings during his first two starts for Triple-A Salt Lake, striking out 12.
“I think I just need to keep working hard and showing consistency,” Tropeano said. “Going down to Triple-A, getting those innings in and getting that work in kind of matured me and sent me into this spot now.”
Some additional notes …
- Scioscia said the date of Josh Hamilton‘s arrival in Arizona for extended spring is “really fluid.” “It could happen this weekend, it could happen next week. But the process is there. He’s going to be evaluated. The process is starting.”
- Cam Bedrosian pitched two scoreless innings of mop-up duty on Tuesday and has been used as a multi-inning reliever since going down to Minor League camp midway through Spring Training, compiling eight innings in four appearances. Scioscia said Bedrosian has “the potential to be in the back end of the bullpen, but right now he needs a little bit of length to do the kind of things he did last night.”
- C.J. Cron had only his second multi-hit game of the season on Tuesday, then found himself out of the lineup on Wednesday. Scioscia opted to go with Collin Cowgill as his right-handed hitter against Sonny Gray — with the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce at DH, but dropped from fourth to sixth against a right-hander — to get better defense in left field for Weaver, a fly-ball pitcher.
The Angels claimed center fielder Gary Brown off waivers from the Cardinals on Wednesday, then subsequently optioned him to Triple-A Salt Lake.
Brown was born and raised in Diamond Bar, Calif. — about 15 miles away from Angel Stadium — attended Cal State Fullerton and was the 24th overall pick by the Giants in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The 26-year-old right-handed hitter has posted a .276/.340/.412 slash line in 559 career games in the Minors, adding 44 homers and 141 steals.
Brown played in seven games for the Giants last year and was selected off waivers by the Cardinals on April 3.
The Angels also transferred Cory Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, which means the right-handed reliever won’t be eligible to be activated off the disabled list until early June, at the earliest. Rasmus learned he needed surgery for a core injury on March 21 and the initial hope was that he’d return sometimes around May.
Josh Hamilton was recently cleared for baseball activities and the Angels are putting together a plan that would involve him working out in their Arizona-based extended spring program “in the not-too-distant future,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said.
The team is still sorting through details and has yet to communicate them with Hamilton, who has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery in Houston since early February. An announcement is expected by the end of the week.
“Josh is now to the point where we’re beginning the process of preparing to return him to the field, and that’s going to begin at some point in the not-too-distant future in Tempe,” Dipoto said in a phone conversation on Tuesday morning.
“We don’t have a specific date for that, and we haven’t talked through the detail with Josh at this point. We’re still very much in the planning zone. Like any other player, he’s going to begin an on-field rehab process, and that will begin sooner rather than later. But we still don’t have any defined dates.”
Hamilton could work out there for a couple of weeks, then take part in a rehab assignment at one of their affiliates for up to 20 days – that’s the maximum amount of time allowed for position players on the disabled list – and perhaps be ready to return to the Majors around June.
The Angels still have to determine where Hamilton is in terms of his overall preparedness to play, particularly what kind of running exercises he’s been doing. They know he’s been hitting a lot, taking 200-plus swings a day since March, and teammates who recently saw him raved about his physical condition.
“He’s all of 250 pounds,” said Angels third baseman David Freese, who joined Collin Cowgill and Kole Calhoun for lunch with Hamilton on Thursday, while the team was in Houston. “But I think there’s a lot of things going on between him and the Angels that nobody knows about. That’s between them, and it’s really going on behind closed doors.”
Every option is still at play for Hamilton, who’s owed $83 million through the 2017 season and has a full no-trade clause. The Angels could look to trade him, could release him – which means they assume his entire remaining salary – or could eventually fold him back into the team.
Angels owner Arte Moreno said on April 10 that Hamilton’s contract contains language that gives the team recourse in the event of a drug- or alcohol-related relapse, a point the Major League Baseball Players Association quickly refuted. Moreno could try to act on those provisions, which would undoubtedly lead to an arbitration hearing between the MLBPA and the Commissioner’s Office, but has yet to decide on that, a source said.
The Angels didn’t issue Hamilton a locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Angel Stadium, where any merchandise or images depicting the five-time All-Star have been taken down. Asked if Hamilton will return to the team at some point, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”
If the Angels’ offense continues to struggle – they ranked 21st in runs and 26th in OPS after Monday’s 6-3 loss to the A’s – perhaps there will be more willingness to bring Hamilton back.
For now, all they can do is take the next step in his rehabilitation from Feb. 4 surgery to his right AC joint.
“We are prepared to begin the rehabilitation process on the field sooner rather than later,” said Dipoto, who wouldn’t comment further. “We don’t have a specific date that we’ve coordinated yet, but we’re getting to that.”
UPDATE: Angels manager Mike Scioscia made it official prior to Saturday’s game, saying Garrett Richards will start Sunday’s series finale against the Astros. The Angels wanted to keep Richards on an every-five-days schedule in large part so that he doesn’t pitch in a National League park and, thus, have to bat.
Richards is slated to start on April 19, 24 and 29, then May 4, which means he’d skip the three-game series in San Francisco, against the Giants, May 1-3.
It looks like Richards will indeed be making his long-awaited return from knee surgery on Sunday, the series finale against the Astros from Minute Maid Park.
The decision hasn’t been announced yet, but the Angels have Matt Shoemaker listed for Monday’s series opener against the A’s at home — on six days’ rest — and there’s strong indication that Richards will be the one taking the ball on Sunday. Richards gave up five runs in five innings at Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, then threw a between-starts bullpen session in Houston on Friday and said he feels ready to return to the big leagues.
Adam Wilk, temporarily serving as a long reliever, is expected to be sent back to the Minors when Richards is activated.
Richards’ return would be a big boost to the club.
“When teams play us, they wonder if they’re going to miss G-Rich or not,” Angels third baseman David Freese said in a recent story. “He’s that type of pitcher. He’s big to our rotation. What he did last year, hopefully he can build on that. From the looks of it, he’s ready to go.”