They have managed to patch the back of their rotation together with a few older journeymen and some kids who probably wouldn’t be anywhere near the big leagues had the Angels not suffered so many injuries and the death of Nick Adenhart.
But the Angels appear to be at a breaking point with their No. 5 starter after Sunday’s 8-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in the Rogers Centre trimmed their American League West lead over Texas to 5 1/2 games.
Trevor Bell, the 13th pitcher -- and fifth rookie -- to start for the Angels this season, was rocked for six runs and six hits in 1 2/3 innings, throwing the back of the rotation into a state of uncertainty.
“Right now,” Manager Mike Scioscia said, “we need someone in the fifth spot who will give us a chance to win.”
They’ve exhausted their minor league options. Sean O’Sullivan appeared to be an answer, going 3-0 with a 3.72 earned-run average in his first five starts. But the 21-year-old had a 12.27 ERA in his last four games and was sent Saturday to triple-A Salt Lake.
Bell pitched adequately in his first two starts, giving up seven runs in 10 2/3 innings against Tampa Bay and Cleveland.
But after the 22-year-old right-hander failed to get out of the second inning Sunday, the Angels will probably turn to 30-year-old rookie Matt Palmer, who was 7-1 as a starter from late April to late June and has played a valuable relief role since early July.
“We’ll give consideration to that,” Scioscia said. “We’ll evaluate it in the next couple of days.”
The rotation should receive a boost with this week’s return of Joe Saunders from the disabled list, but with only two more days off, both in September, the Angels will be unable to skip the fifth spot for the rest of the season. The No. 5 pitcher will need to make seven more starts.
If the Angels are to hold off the Rangers, they can’t afford many more games like Sunday’s.
Bell retired the first two batters in the first but allowed the next six to reach base. Adam Lind singled, Lyle Overbay hit a run-scoring double and Vernon Wells hit a run-scoring single.
Randy Ruiz walked, Jose Bautista singled in a run, and Travis Snider walked to load the bases. Bell struck out Raul Chavez with his 40th pitch of the inning, but he failed to escape another jam in the second.
The Blue Jays loaded the bases with two out, and Ruiz lofted a three-run double down the right-field line, prompting Scioscia to pull Bell in favor of Rafael Rodriguez.
“I felt fine physically -- it was just the small things today,” Bell said. “Leaving the ball up and getting behind in counts, the two things I talked about a couple of days ago that you can’t do up here. That’s exactly what I did today.”
Bell, the Angels’ first pick in the 2005 draft, has thrown 152 1/3 innings this season for double-A Arkansas, Salt Lake and the Angels, 35 more than his 117 1/3 innings in 2008.
Asked whether Bell’s workload could be taking a toll, Scioscia said, “Absolutely. More so than anything, his stamina might be affected as he gets into a game, but he’s been bouncing back well.
“If he gets tired during a game, that’s one thing, but we need Trevor to keep us in the game early and make pitches, even if he only goes five innings. It’s something we’ve talked about and will continue to look at.”
Bell said fatigue is not a factor.
“My arm feels good, my legs feel strong,” he said. “From that side, I haven’t even thought about it at all.”
Neither Bell nor O’Sullivan said he felt any more pressure pitching in the big leagues, in the heat of a division race, but Scioscia acknowledged it has been “a challenge” trying to integrate two young starters into a rotation while Saunders was injured.
“These guys don’t get flustered, and we have confidence in their ability,” Scioscia said. “But they have to match that with production, which comes from making pitches and executing a game plan. When they have, they’ve been successful. When they haven’t, they’ve struggled.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
The Angels have used 13 starting pitchers this season, with Trevor Bell being the most recent addition to the starting rotation. The Angels starters and the number of starts this season:
Jered Weaver: 25
Joe Saunders: 23
John Lackey: 19
Ervin Santana: 16
Matt Palmer: 12
Sean O’Sullivan: 9
Shane Loux: 6
Trevor Bell: 3
Dustin Moseley: 3
Anthony Ortega: 3
Nick Adenhart: 1
Kelvim Escobar: 1
Darren Oliver: 1