C.J. Cron continues to sit …

Stephen Vogt, C.J. CronThe National League rules of Atlanta kept him out of the lineup this past weekend, the constant stream of Indians right-handed starters have prompted Mike Scioscia to go with the left-handed-hitting Raul Ibanez on a daily basis, and suddenly the still-developing C.J. Cron is adjusting to life as a part-time player.

“It’s how it works,” Cron said. “Obviously, I want to be in there as much as possible. But I’m not in the lineup, so I’ll be ready in case a pinch-hit comes or whatever.”

Scioscia has continued to go with a strict platoon at designated hitter, starting Ibanez three straight times against righties even though the 42-year-old carries a .153/.257/.258 slash line on the season and is 3-for-18 lifetime against the Indians’ Wednesday starter, Justin Masterson.

The Angels’ manager pointed out that one of those hits was a two-run triple on April 28, brought up the fact that Masterson has limited righties to a .630 OPS this season and said Ibanez “has had some good at-bats in this series,” going 2-for-5 with a couple of walks and no strikeouts.

“I don’t think you’re going to look up tomorrow and see Raul hitting what he should with the production you would expect,” Scioscia said. “But there’s no doubt that he’s making some strides in the batter’s box and you’re seeing better swings. The bottom line is production. Nobody understands that better than Raul. He knows that he needs to contribute and have better at-bats. Nobody is working harder at it than Raul, and we’re very confident that he’s going to contribute for us.”

The question is: When will the right-handed-hitting Cron get playing time?

The 24-year-old had a .305/.329/.524 slash line as of June 4, but has three hits and seven strikeouts in his last 20 at-bats, hasn’t started since last Wednesday and is rotting during a stretch in which the Angels are mostly seeing righty starters. The Indians are throwing four in a row this series, the Rangers will only have one lefty – Joe Saunders on Friday – in Anaheim this coming weekend, and the Twins, who play at Angel Stadium from next Tuesday to Thursday, have only righties in their rotation.

Scioscia said “there’s a chance Cron will get some at-bats against righties, too.”

But for now, he waits, and the Angels face the dilemma of keeping Cron in the big leagues or sending him down to Triple-A so he can get consistent at-bats and continue to develop.

“Ever since I’ve been up here I have kind of platooned,” Cron said. “It hasn’t switched yet. I come to the field every day as if I’m going to play. If I’m not in the lineup, I’ll help the team later in the game.”

Angels (38-32)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Raul Ibanez, DH
David Freese, 3B
Hank Conger, C

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (7-6, 3.50 ERA)

Indians (36-36)

Michael Bourn, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Carlos Santana, 1B
Ryan Raburn, RF
Nick Swisher, DH
Yan Gomes, C
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
Mike Aviles, LF

SP: RH Justin Masterson (4-5, 5.05 ERA)

Alden

Shoemaker makes a statement …

Matt ShoemakerMatt Shoemaker certainly isn’t making the Angels’ forthcoming rotation decision an easy one, and that’s certainly a good thing for the organization.

In Tuesday’s 9-3 win, the 27-year-old right-hander got “real aggressive” and tossed a career-high eight innings, giving up only two runs, scattering five hits, walking one batter and striking out a career-high 10. He could’ve had a complete game, but the tarp came onto the field as he warmed up in the bottom of the ninth with 94 pitches, prompting an 11-minute rain delay that forced Mike Scioscia to use Ernesto Frieri (his only rested reliever).

“I was thinking if it’s a real quick one I have a chance to go back out there,” Shoemaker said. “A lot of times, it’s like a 20-, 30-minute delay, and once that happens, hopefully I get a chance to go back out there. It’s unfortunate, but I understand.”

Shoemaker will settle for the win, and continued success. In six starts since initially replacing Hector Santiago in the rotation, he’s 4-0 with a 3.41 ERA.

Asked what he feels like he’s shown the Angels since arriving from Triple-A, Shoemaker said: “That I can definitely compete at this level and be a good attribute to this team. Just keep taking that mental approach of being aggressive, and do whatever I can to help this team win.”

Tyler Skaggs could be activated early next week, at which point the Angels will seemingly have to make a decision between Santiago and Shoemaker. Santiago has stated his case, too, pitching six shutout innings against the A’s on June 10 and throwing five scoreless against the Braves on Sunday before getting hit around a bit in the sixth — and he’d probably have the upper-hand given how much the Angels were counting on him at the start of the year.

But Shoemaker has shown he deserves to stay in the big leagues, either as a starter or a swingman in the bullpen.

The latter, however, would cut into the Angels’ organizationally starting-pitching depth.

“You never try to think about that,” Shoemaker said of pending roster decisions. “Sometimes you might think about some of that. But you say, ‘OK, let’s not think about that. Let’s think about what we’ve got today.’”

Alden

Skaggs won’t be activated when eligible …

Tyler SkaggsIt turns out Tyler Skaggs won’t be activated when eligible on Saturday.

Skaggs, on the disabled list since June 10 because of a strained right hamstring, didn’t throw his scheduled simulated game at Progressive Field on Tuesday. Instead, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, the 22-year-old left-hander will “probably throw a bullpen in the next couple days.”

Scioscia said Skaggs didn’t suffer a setback; the Angels are just “going on his pace.”

“He’s feeling good,” Scioscia added, “but not quite enough to do what you need him to do in a sim game.”

The Angels can afford to wait a little longer, with Hector Santiago (six shutout innings against the A’s, followed by five scoreless against the Braves before a rough sixth inning) and Matt Shoemaker (3-0 with a 3.76 ERA in five starts heading into his Tuesday outing) throwing the ball well.

Skaggs would have to see hitters before getting activated, either in a sim game or, if his recovery stalls a little longer, a Minor League rehab assignment.

“I think it’s just getting back to where he wants his mechanics, his motions, everything,” Scioscia said of Skaggs, who’s 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 12 starts. “He was down for like nine days, so it’s going to take a little bit of work to get him where he wants to be.”

Angels (37-32)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, DH
Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Hank Conger, C

SP: RH Matt Shoemaker (3-1, 4.19 ERA)

Indians (36-35)

Michael Bourn, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Carlos Santana, 1B
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
David Murphy, RF
Nick Swisher, DH
Yan Gomes, C
Ryan Raburn, LF

SP: RH Josh Tomlin (4-3, 3.33 ERA)

Alden

Home runs ‘killing’ Jered Weaver …

Jered WeaverJered Weaver gave up two home runs in Monday’s 4-3 loss — a two-run shot to Asdrubal Cabrera in the first, a solo shot to Carlos Santana in the fourth — and has now given up 14 in 95 2/3 innings this season, giving him the second-highest total in the American League.

Last year, the Angels’ ace gave up 17 homers in 154 1/3 innings.

“It’s no secret, I just can’t stay away from the home-run ball,” said Weaver, now 7-6 with a 3.67 ERA. “It’s been killing me lately, and that was the difference in the game again tonight. I don’t think I’ve thrown the ball terribly, but when I’m making mistakes, they’re hitting home runs. It’s definitely frustrating.”

Weaver’s velocity has continually eroded over the last few years, and he entered Monday averaging a career-low 86.2 mph on his fastball. That could explain the higher home-run rate, or at the very least his shrinking margin for error, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia believes Weaver’s “stuff right now is batter than it was last year.”

So, why all the homers — particularly eight in his last seven starts?

“I don’t know,” Weaver said. “Wish I had an answer. When I have an answer, I’ll let you know.”

From 2006-13, Weaver’s homers-per-nine-innings rate was 0.96, tied for 45th in the Majors. This year, it’s 1.32.

“Just can’t stay away from the home-run ball,” Weaver said. “That contributes to losses. Nothing else to be said. I think my stuff is good. Take away the home-run balls [on Monday], it’s not a bad outing. But those home-run balls are not taken away, and that has led to us losing games.”

Alden

Early on, Pujols learned from Gwynn …

gwynnAlbert Pujols used to have this videotape of Tony Gwynn conducting a hitting clinic in the late 1990s. The Angels’ first baseman was at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City then, still striving to be the hitter who would establish himself as one of the greatest ever, and Gwynn was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. So Pujols popped that tape in frequently, hoping to learn as much as he could from a master at his craft.

“I took a lot of notes off that,” Pujols said Monday, the day Gwynn lost his multiyear battle to salivary gland cancer at the age of 54.

“It’s a sad day,” Pujols added. “Not just for myself, because I got to know him over the years, but for baseball. We lost a great man at a young age.”

Pujols’ first year with the Cardinals – 2001 – was Gwynn’s last with the Padres, and Pujols got to be Gwynn’s teammate during his final All-Star Game at Safeco Field in Seattle that summer. Nearly two months later, when the Padres and Cardinals met for their first regular-season meeting, Pujols finally struck up the nerve to tell Gwynn about those videotapes.

But he never really talked to him about hitting.

“I wasn’t that comfortable my first year in the league,” Pujols said. “But he was always open to help all the young players.”

Gwynn went down as one of the greatest hitters of all time, a guy who compiled 3,141 hits, sported a lifetime batting average of .338, won eight National League batting titles and never struck out more than 40 times in one season.

“A legend,” Pujols said. “Just an unbelievable hitter. But I think for me, he was a better person, with everything that he accomplished in the game versus off the field. What he’s done, and what he did through his career in San Diego, it speaks for itself.”

Angels (37-31)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
John McDonald, SS

SP: RH Jered Weaver (7-5, 3.51 ERA)

Indians (35-35)

Michael Bourn, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Michael Brantley, LF
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Carlos Santana, DH
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
Nick Swisher, 1B
David Murphy, RF
George Kottaras, C

SP: RH Trevor Bauer (1-3, 4.24 ERA)

Alden

Takeaways from a 14-inning thriller …

Collin CowgillTuesday night’s game will be remembered mostly for Collin Cowgill‘s walk-off homer, which set up the Angels’ fifth straight win and put them 2 1/2 games back in the American League West, and for Yoenis Cespdes‘ throw, one of the best anybody has ever seen. But here are some other takeaways from one of the most interesting games of the season …

  • This was the Angels’ best pitching performance of the year. Hector Santiago provided six scoreless innings in his return from Triple-A Salt Lake, scattering three hits while walking one and striking out eight. Then, six relievers (Kevin Jepsen, Mike Morin, Joe Smith, Cam Bedrosian, Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus) combined to give up one run in eight innings, scattering five hits, walking two and striking out six, going toe-to-toe with an A’s bullpen that ranks third in the Majors in relief-pitcher WHIP.
  • The Angels, as Mike Scioscia said, “were fortunate tonight.” They made two critical baserunning blunders, with Albert Pujols running through a Gary DiSarcina stop sign in the sixth to easily get thrown out at home by Brandon Moss, and Kole Calhoun trying to advance to third in the 11th on a ground ball to shortstop Jed Lowrie, who flipped to Josh Donaldson for the easy out.
  • Scioscia made a questionable decision to have Calhoun bunt in the 13th, after Mike Trout drew a leadoff walk. Calhoun did his job, which meant Trout advanced to second, but with first base open, the A’s opted to walk Josh Hamilton (even though they had a lefty, Jeff Francis, pitching). The sac bunt took the bat out of the hands of one of the Angels’ best players, and paved the way for an inning-ending double play from David Freese.
  • The Angels and A’s play a lot of extra innings. In five matchups between the two at Angel Stadium, they’ve now gone to extra innings three times. That, in addition to the 19-inning game played in Oakland on April 29 of last year.

Alden

Skaggs headed to DL; Santiago coming back up …

Tyler SkaggsAngels lefty Tyler Skaggs has been scratched from his Tuesday start against the A’s because of a strained right hamstring, prompting Hector Santiago to come back up from Triple-A Salt Lake and start in his place.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Skaggs, who will be placed on the 15-day disabled list, “felt it a little bit” during his Thursday outing in Houston and “came out of the start a little bit sore.”

The 22-year-old Skaggs – 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 12 starts – can be activated as early as June 21, which would have him missing two or three starts. And Scioscia doesn’t anticipate this being a prolonged injury.

“We’re doing this more as a precaution to make sure it gets behind him,” Scioscia said. “Hamstrings, they have a life of their own. You never know. But we don’t anticipate it being longer than [the extent of the DL stint].”

Santiago was optioned to the Minor Leagues shortly after going 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA in his first seven starts with the Angels. The 26-year-old left-hander had a 6.43 ERA, a 2.14 WHIP and a 1.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the three starts that spanned 14 innings during his time in the Pacific Coast League. Santiago last pitched Thursday – he gave up six runs (four earned) on 11 hits in six innings – and will take the mound on his normal four days’ rest.

“He’s making progress with his command,” Scioscia said of Santiago. “He feels much better about what he needs to do on the mound, so hopefully he’ll bring it into the game tomorrow.”

Athletics (39-24)

Coco Crisp, CF
John Jaso, DH
Josh Donaldson, 3B
Brandon Moss, RF
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Stephen Vogt, C
Alberto Callaspo, 1B
Eric Sogard, 2B

SP: RH Jesse Chavez (5-3, 3.04 ERA)

Angels (34-28)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Raul Ibanez, DH
Hank Conger, C

SP: RH Garrett Richards (5-2, 3.25 ERA)

Alden

Angels select LH Sean Newcomb at No. 15 …

The Angels selected Sean Newcomb, a left-hander from the University of Hartford in Connecticut, with the 15th overall pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft on Thursday night.

Newcomb, who turns 21 next Thursday, is listed at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, with a fastball that can sit at 97 mph, a strong slider and the potential to have an effective four-pitch mix. For the Angels, he potentially fills their glaring need for high-upside starting pitching in their farm system (Newcomb video here).

Newcomb went 8-2 with a 1.25 ERA in 14 starts for the Hartford Hawks during his junior season, striking out 106 batters and walking 38 in 93 1/3 innings. He’s been compared to Red Sox ace Jon Lester, and his selection marks the earliest a Hartford product has ever been drafted (previously Jeff Bagwell, in the fourth round by the Red Sox in 1989).

The Angels will also select 53rd overall on Thursday, and the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10 on Friday. The MLB.com pregame show will begin at 9:30 a.m. PT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 10 a.m.

The Angels’ Draft allotment this year is $5,774,000, which is 20th in the Majors but nearly double that of last year. They’ll get $2,475,600 for their first-round pick and $1,050,600 for their second-round pick.

The Angels had their first first-round pick since 2011, when they took first baseman C.J. Cron 17th overall, and they’re selecting in the top half of the Draft for the first time since they went with current ace Jered Weaver 12th overall in ’04. Their farm system has been ranked last in the Majors by Baseball America heading into each of the previous two seasons.

Alden

Garrett Richards’ second inning: Immaculate …

nolanNolan Ryan and Garrett Richards.

That’s it.

Those are the only two guys in Angels history to record an immaculate inning, which consists of nine pitches and three strikeouts. Ryan did it on June 9, 1972, in the second inning against the Red Sox. Richards did it on Wednesday, in the second inning of a 4-0 win over the Astros.

“That was my guy growing up,” Richards said after eight shutout innings. “It’s cool. It’s cool to be put in a group with a guy like that. I didn’t even realize it until after the game. It was fun. It was a fun game to be a part of.”

Yes, Richards is way too young to grow up idolizing Ryan. He’s 26, which means he was 5 years old during the Hall of Famer’s final season with the Rangers in 1993. But his father was a big fan of Ryan, and that made Richards, raised in Southern California, a fan, too.

“I met him one time in Texas,” Richards said. “It was awesome.”

Here’s how the bottom of the second went (video here) …

Jon Singleton: 96-mph fastball (foul), 88-mph slider (swinging), 79-mph curveball (swinging).
Matt Dominguez: 95-mph cutter (looking), 97-mph fastball (swinging), 97-mph cutter (looking).
Chris Carter: 97-mph cutter (swinging), 79-mph curveball (swinging), 88-mph slider (swinging).

Three others have thrown an immaculate inning this season (Justin Masterson of the Indians on June 2, Cole Hamels of the Phillies on May 17 and Brad Boxberger of the Rays on May 8), and Richards’ is the 55th in Major League history. Thirty-three have come in the National League, twenty-two have come in the American League. Ryan also accomplished it with the Mets in 1968, and Lefty Grove did it twice in one season (1928, with the A’s). Nobody has ever done it more than once in the same game (here’s the full list).

“That’s just the type of stuff you rarely ever see,” catcher Hank Conger said. “But with a guy like Garrett, that’s the type of things that can happen, especially with his type of stuff.”

Alden

MRI on Mike Trout’s back is clean …

The genesis of Mike Trout’s back ailment is still a mystery, but a serious injury can now be ruled out.

Prior to Wednesday’s game, Trout got a clean MRI on his back, which forced him to miss games on Saturday and Sunday and then get removed from the lineup after just one inning during the following game on Tuesday. The Angels’ center fielder was told he merely has inflammation in his mid-left back, an ailment that isn’t expected to land him on the disabled list.

Said Trout: “It’s definitely good news.”

Trout was out of the lineup on Wednesday and said he’s “not going to do much today, probably just go throw and see if I can hit in the cage.”

“I’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” Trout said. “Maybe I’ll go tomorrow.”

Trout was scratched from the lineup on Saturday, after initially being listed as the designated hitter, then missed the Sunday afternoon game, got treatment during the team’s off day on Monday and felt good during pregame batting practice on Tuesday, prompting him to be inserted in that day’s lineup – then get removed after a first-inning strikeout.

But the 22-year-old admitted that “yesterday before the game I still felt it.”

Now, he won’t play until he knows for sure that he can go.

“If I don’t feel it at all, I’ll play,” Trout said. “I just have to be smart about it.

“It was bothering me yesterday during the game, and I was pretty happy I woke up and it wasn’t worse. That’s always a good thing.”

– Alden

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