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Angels try to stay loose despite struggles

Angels try to stay loose despite struggles
Yunel Escobar (6) celebrates with his teammates after hitting a walk-off single against the Indians on June 11. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

A half-hour before batting practice on Saturday, center fielder Mike Trout, sporting a U.S. national soccer team jersey, and reserve infielder Brendan Ryan grabbed a couple of golf clubs and started chipping balls all over the Angels clubhouse, much to the delight and encouragement of their teammates.

The Angels have plenty of issues. Their rotation has been ravaged by injuries, their bullpen work has been spotty, their lineup drops off after the first four spots, and they entered Saturday night's game against Cleveland, with a five-game losing streak.

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They do not, however, seem uptight.

"We're staying loose," Trout said. "Obviously, we want to play better on the field, but it starts in here. If we're uptight in the clubhouse, then we're going to play uptight on the field. So we have to stay loose and try to take some positive energy into the game."

There were very few positives last week. The Angels won two of three in Pittsburgh last weekend to remain four games under .500, where they hovered for much of May. But they were swept by the Yankees in a four-game series in New York and lost the opener of a three-game series to the Indians Friday night.

That dropped the Angels to 26-35 and 11 games behind Texas in the American League West, a deficit that has definitely raised the level of concern in the team's clubhouse and front office.

"No doubt, we've had a tough go of it recently," General Manager Billy Eppler said. "We're not getting the results that everybody in this organization wants. You go through periods like this throughout the season.

"You try to figure out what's real and what's an anomaly, and we're in the mode of evaluating that. We'd also like to see how things look when we get the full cast of regulars back, to give it a real fair assessment before drawing any conclusions."

The Angels have 10 players, including their two best starting pitchers, Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney, who both suffered potential season-ending elbow injuries, on the disabled list. They have already used 39 players—20 position players and 19 pitchers—several of whom weren't with the team this spring.

"We're not trying to set any records for roster moves," Eppler said, "but we're also not afraid to rearrange things to give the club the best opportunity to win."

The Angels have received positive contributions from several fill-ins, including shortstop Gregorio Petit, who hit .267 in 27 games through Friday, corner infielder Jefry Marte (.333, three homers in 12 games) and pitchers Nick Tropeano (3-2, 3.25 earned-run average) and Jhoulys Chacin (1-2, 4.42).

"But when you lose the top end of your rotation, it's hard to absorb that," Eppler said. "We've fixed some holes with Band-Aids instead of permanet cement."

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons (left-thumb surgery) is expected back this week, and left fielder Daniel Nava (left groin strain), catcher Geovany Soto (right-knee injury), setup man Joe Smith and Tropeano (right shoulder tightness) should be back soon.

Former two-time Cy Young Award Tim Lincecum, signed on May 20, is expected join the rotation this week.

"We keep telling ourselves there's a lot of baseball left," Trout said. "It feels like we go through a stretch where we're struggling, we turn things around, and then go through another tough stretch. We have to put some quality games together and stay positive. It's too early to hang our heads."

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna

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