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Angels' Collin Cowgill sees only upside in return of Calhoun, Hamilton

Los Angeles AngelsSportsBaseball
Angels benefit from having Cowgill in reserve via @MikeDiGiovanna
With Cowgill, Angels have plenty in reserve via @MikeDiGiovanna

Right fielder Kole Calhoun came off the disabled list Wednesday, and left fielder Josh Hamilton is expected to join the Angels on Monday, which means Collin Cowgill's extended — and quite successful — run as the team's starting right fielder will come to an abrupt end.

And Cowgill says he couldn't be happier.

"I can't wait until Kole and Josh get back," Cowgill said this week. "They're both one-of-a-kind players, and the sooner they get back the better for all of us."

Cowgill, 28, who has spent most of his four-year big-league career as a reserve, is not a one-of-a-kind player — he's a solid defender with a strong arm, good plate discipline and speed — but he is the consummate team player.

The return of Calhoun, out since April 16 because of a sprained right ankle, and Hamilton, out since April 9 because of a torn left-thumb ligament, will greatly reduce Cowgill's playing time, but he knows the Angels will be a better team with their leadoff and cleanup batters.

"No one was happy when Josh and Kole went down," Cowgill said. "We've sustained without them with guys like Grant Green and Efren Navarro stepping up and some great pitching. But with the firepower those guys bring, we're going to be even better."

Cowgill made the most of his opportunity, starting in 25 of 30 games since Calhoun got hurt and hitting .287 (25 for 87) with a .395 on-base percentage, three doubles, 16 runs and 13 walks. He is batting .293 with two homers, eight runs batted in and 19 runs on the season.

Cowgill provided a spark from the leadoff spot, starting nine games there, and added depth at the bottom of the order, hitting eighth or ninth 14 times. Playing center field Wednesday while Mike Trout rested a tight hamstring muscle, he made a superb diving catch after a long run in the first inning of a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros.

Cowgill has had only two other stretches in which he got regular playing time, hitting .239 with a homer and nine RBIs in 92 at-bats for Arizona in August and September 2011, and .286 with one homer and nine RBIs in 91 at-bats for Oakland from mid-May to mid-June of 2012.

"He's always had good tools but has never really had the opportunity to get out there and get after it like he has these last few weeks," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's shown very well in all aspects, whether it's defense, leading off, hitting at bottom of order. He's been really big in helping us keep some offensive continuity while some guys are out."

A conversation he had with Scioscia about hitting with two strikes, especially when he was leading off with Trout and Albert Pujols hitting behind him, helped Cowgill.

"He talked about shortening up my swing and focusing on getting on base rather than trying to damage, because I have the best players in the world behind me who can do damage," Cowgill said.

Pumped up

Since he began to incorporate more free weights into his workout regimen in mid-April, Jered Weaver has a 5-1 record with a 1.72 earned run average in seven starts, including Wednesday night's complete-game gem over the Astros in which he allowed one run and two hits, struck out five and walked one.

Weaver's velocity has jumped from the 86-87-mph range to 88-89-mph, and he has maintained it with good command deeper into games.

"His endurance, his stamina looks great from 80-100 pitches," catcher Hank Conger said. "He knows he can locate without having to hump up to get anything extra on his pitches."

Weaver pitched well with diminished velocity because he kept hitters off-balance with an array of off-speed and breaking pitches, but even a little uptick can make a big difference.

"That's certainly going to help a pitcher like Jered, who depends on hitters respecting a certain amount of velocity to bring his off-speed stuff into the game," Scioscia said. "I saw him get some fastballs by some hitters [Wednesday] night. He's opening up some zones with his fastball, and that is really good to see."

Up next

Left-hander C.J. Wilson (5-3, 3.16 ERA) will oppose Kansas City left-hander Danny Duffy (2-3, 1.42 ERA) at Angel Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m. On the air: FS West. Radio: 830 AM.

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