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Speier’s lingering absence still an issue

Times Staff Writer

It’s becoming more disconcerting as each day passes and there is no indication that Justin Speier is any closer to a return than he was 10 days ago, when he terminated a minor league rehabilitation assignment.

The Angels’ need for the late-inning specialist, who hasn’t pitched since April 30 because of an intestinal infection, has grown considerably given the struggles of nearly every reliever except for Francisco Rodriguez and Scot Shields.

Hector Carrasco has been scored on in 12 of his last 20 outings. Opponents are hitting .312 against left-hander Darren Oliver and he was removed from the Angels’ 9-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday at Great American Ball Park with the left-handed-hitting Adam Dunn coming to the plate.

Even Dustin Moseley, who filled in so capably for Speier after he landed on the disabled list early last month, has struggled recently, giving up at least one run in three of his last five appearances.

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“Of course we miss him, but there’s nothing we can do about it right now,” said Shields, who was forced to pitch multiple innings Thursday for the second straight game. “We’ve got to go out and do our job.”

Speier had to abort his rehabilitation assignment with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga earlier this month after suffering a recurrence of the nausea and lack of appetite that have plagued him the last six weeks. There is no timetable for when he might pitch again.

“Obviously, as his strength is taking a little more time to return you might get a little more concerned, but we know he’s eventually going to be ... ready to go,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.

The Angels hoped that Oliver could get them through the seventh inning Thursday, and he quickly retired the first two batters. But after Brandon Phillips singled to left field and Ken Griffey Jr. walked, Scioscia brought in Shields instead of letting Oliver face Dunn.

Shields gave up a run-scoring single to Dunn but retired Edwin Encarnacion to end the inning.

“Needless to say, there’s a role for Justin that’s very important and we haven’t been able to see it for the last month or so,” Scioscia said. “He was a big part of our bullpen early in the season and projected to be a big part for the whole season, so there is a void there.”

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The Angels had preliminary discussions with Cincinnati about acquiring Dunn, according to a baseball source, but those talks quickly ended when the Reds requested a proven major league starting pitcher, a major league infielder -- preferably a second baseman -- and a top prospect.

Those demands were considered too hefty for a player whose $13-million option for 2008 would be voided if he’s traded, meaning he could become a free agent after this season. The Angels probably wouldn’t even trade second baseman Howie Kendrick for Dunn straight up, according to the source.

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Infielder Maicer Izturis experienced some discomfort in his side while running the bases Wednesday for triple-A Salt Lake and returned to Southern California to be examined by a physician. He is not expected to play in the Freeway Series this weekend.... With a seventh-inning single, Chone Figgins extended his hitting streak to 13 games, matching his career high. He is hitting .466 during the streak.... Garret Anderson was scheduled to receive the day off before pinch-hitting in the ninth inning and grounding out on the first pitch.

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Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.

ben.bolch@latimes.com


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