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Angels' Chris Iannetta hasn't had it easy at the plate and on Twitter

Angels' Chris Iannetta hasn't had it easy at the plate and on Twitter
Angels catcherChris Iannettacelebrates after hitting a two-run double againt the Orioles during a game Aug. 7 in Anaheim. Iannetta has only 29 RBIs in 79 games this season. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

It takes thick skin for a major league player to be on Twitter, especially when you're in a four-for-47 (.085) slump like Angels catcher Chris Iannetta is after going one for four Thursday.

"When you're locked in and playing well, it's OK, but when you're struggling, it makes it tougher," Iannetta said. "If I listened to half the people on my Twitter who told me I should go kill myself …"

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Iannetta's voice trails off. Asked if fans have really been that harsh, Iannetta nods his head, yes. Yet he remains on Twitter.

"You can highlight charities and causes, bring positive attention to people doing good things," Iannetta said. "But like everything, there's a flip side, a subset of society that uses it for the wrong reasons. There are people who take pleasure in the misfortune of others. What's that word for it?"

Schadenfreude?

"Nailed it," Iannetta said.

Iannetta has given such critics far too much ammunition. A career .236 hitter with a .357 on-base percentage entering 2015, Iannetta hit .091 in his first 22 games through May 7. He recovered to hit .269 with a .385 OBP, seven homers and 24 runs batted in in 40 games from May 10 to July 22, pushing his average over .200.

But Iannetta has struggled so much since July 24 that Manager Mike Scioscia benched him for three games in Kansas City last week so he could work one-on-one with hitting coaches Don Baylor and Dave Hansen.

Iannetta also sat out the first three games against the White Sox this week before starting Thursday. After a pop out and a strikeout, Iannetta singled in the sixth inning to snap an 0-for-17 skid.

"In April, I knew what it was — I wasn't seeing the ball well, I wasn't giving myself a chance to get good pitches to hit," Iannetta said. "Once I figured that out, I took off and did pretty well for a few months.

"This last stretch, I feel good at the plate, I do, but I have zero results to show for it. When I hit the ball hard, it's right at someone. I'm swinging through a ton of pitches, mis-hitting balls. The only thing I can think of is I'm expanding the zone."

Though he is struggling at the plate, Iannetta has improved behind it, thanks to the emphasis he placed on pitch framing in spring training.

Iannetta, according to Baseball Prospectus, was one of the worst pitch framers in baseball last season, ranking 87th among 105 catchers with minus-17.9 "extra strikes," the difference between actual and predicted strikes received by the catcher. He entered Thursday ranked 11th with 43.3 extra strikes.

The difference? Iannetta has adjusted his "relaxation point," his glove position as the pitch is coming in, to help him catch balls on the way up instead of down.

"I'm not trying to deceive anybody or gain more strikes," Iannetta said. "I'm just trying to get strikes called strikes. I said I wanted to be in the top five or 10. I'm still striving to get there."

Short hops

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Third baseman David Freese (broken right index finger) threw at 100 feet without pain for a second straight day Thursday, calling it a "huge" step. "I was going kind of backward," he said. "I feel like I'm moving forward now." Freese, who has been hitting with no discomfort, could begin a minor league stint this weekend. … Left-hander C.J. Wilson underwent surgery to remove bone spurs and chips from his elbow.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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