Can Halos keep the pressure on Rangers?
Most teams prefer playing at home, but when it comes to interleague games, the Angels feel comfortable almost anywhere.
Despite losing two of three games to the San Diego Padres three weeks ago, the Angels thrive on interleague play, going a major-league-best 63-30 since 2007. They play six games on the road beginning Friday night — three each at Colorado and the Dodgers — after winning five of nine on their just-completed homestand.
After going 18-11 in May and climbing into second place in the American League West, the Angels have been just so-so in June, taking two of three from the Texas Rangers but losing two of three to the Seattle Mariners. They proved they’re capable of competing on even terms with the Rangers, but their record hasn’t been more than two games over .500 and they haven’t been closer than 3½ games to first place since April 12.
Keeping pressure on the Rangers and making a move on the division lead will depend on how well they find answers to these three questions:
1. Will starter Jered Weaver be able to return to the starting rotation as soon as his time on the disabled list ends?
Weaver (6-1, 2.61 ERA) is eligible to come off the DL next Tuesday, and the signs are encouraging that he’ll be back around that time. He’s been long tossing the ball more than 200 feet and could attempt to throw off a mound next week. If he continues to show no recurrence of the lower back strain that put him down May 28, it’s possible he could be back in the starting rotation by the time the Angels return home June 15.
2. If Weaver does return, will Garrett Richards stay or go back to the minors?
Richards had an impressive outing Tuesday night against the Mariners, but even if he throws well again in his next start Monday against the Dodgers, he might not stick around when Weaver returns. Manager Mike Scioscia said he isn’t inclined to let veteran starter Ervin Santana (2-7, 5.33) work out his troubles in the bullpen, despite the fact Santana has allowed 18 hits and 14 walks in his past 14 2/3 innings.
“We’re not contemplating anything like that,” Scioscia said. “It’s great to have depth in the rotation and great to see what Garrett did, (but) Ervin is a guy we’re counting heavily on. We have a lot of confidence he’s going to pitch more to his ability than what we saw the last couple of starts.”
Scioscia would prefer to have Richards start in the minors than work in the bullpen with the Angels, but regardless of what happens, fans haven’t seen the last of the young right-hander.
3. Why doesn’t Scioscia put Mark Trumbo at third base instead of using the weak-hitting combination of Alberto Callaspo (.234) and Maicer Izturis (.230)?
The plan to give Trumbo some playing time at third is on hold, at least for now. Torii Hunter’s recent absence for family reasons and Vernon Wells’ thumb injury opened a spot in the outfield for Trumbo, who has been the Angels’ best hitter and biggest power threat (.337 average, 12 home runs, 31 RBIs).
If neither Hunter nor Wells had missed time, it’s possible Trumbo would be playing at third more often, perhaps even regularly. Callaspo and Izturis are more reliable defensively but their contributions on offense have been sporadic. The need to keep Trumbo’s bat in the lineup probably means less time in the outfield for Wells (and perhaps right fielder Hunter), although it’s still possible Trumbo could attempt another transition to third base at some point.