Struggling Speier is released

The Angels would rather pay reliever Justin Speier $6.5 million not to pitch for them the rest of this season and all of next, giving the veteran right-hander his unconditional release before Tuesday's game with the Tampa Bay Rays.

"We felt it was appropriate, not only [for] the organization, but for the player, to make the move now as opposed to getting down the road in the season and making the move at some point later," General Manager Tony Reagins said.

By releasing him unconditionally, the Angels essentially granted Speier free agency, allowing him to sign with any club that wants him. However the Angels are responsible for the money left on the four-year, $18-million contract Speier signed with them after the 2006 season.

"We just felt, from a baseball standpoint, that this decision at this point, this time, was the right decision to make," Reagins said. "It was something that we talked about for a couple of days now, and we just felt this was the appropriate time."

Speier, 35, signed a free-agent deal with the Angels after two good seasons in Toronto in which he was 5-2 with a 2.75 earned-run average in 123 games. But after a solid debut season in 2007, Speier struggled, going 2-8 with a 5.03 ERA last year and posting a 5.18 ERA in 40 innings this year.

After getting off to a rough start Speier appeared to have figured things out, going 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA in 10 games in June. Since then, however, he has given up 10 runs and 20 hits in 11 innings. In his last outing Friday against Texas, he gave up three home runs in the span of five outs.

The high-spirited Speier also had some minor run-ins with teammates and coaches while with the Angels, but Reagins said those incidents played no factor in Tuesday's decision and said the pitcher took the news "professionally."

"[I] walked out of the room with a lot of respect for Justin Speier," Reagins said.

Speier was not available for comment. His spot on the roster will be taken by rookie pitcher Trevor Bell, who is scheduled to make his major league debut this afternoon.

Hunter rehab

Torii Hunter, on the disabled list a month because of a groin strain, made his first rehabilitation appearance for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday, playing five innings in center field and going 0 for 2 with a walk and a stolen base.

Hunter is expected to play at least two more minor league games, and if there are no setbacks he could rejoin the Angels this weekend in Baltimore.

Spiezio returns

Scott Spiezio, whose three-run homer in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series remains the biggest hit in franchise history, is playing baseball in Orange County again. Not at Angel Stadium, but a few miles up the road at Cal State Fullerton, where Spiezio debuted at third base Tuesday with the OC Flyers of the independent Golden Baseball League, singling and scoring in his first at-bat and hitting a solo home run his third time up.

Spiezio, 36, who also won a World Series with St. Louis in 2006, was plagued by substance abuse problems the last two years, with both the Cardinals and Atlanta Braves releasing him. He hasn't appeared in a big league game since 2007.

Heady company

With his two home runs Monday, Vladimir Guerrero joined a short list of six players with 400 homers and a career batting average better than .320, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And Guerrero, who began Tuesday's game batting .322 lifetime, is the first to join the list since Stan Musial retired in 1963.

The others are Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.


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