Three aging Angels sluggers struggle to figure it out
Reporting from Baltimore —
While rookies Tyler Chatwood and Mike Trout were teaming up to beat the Orioles on Sunday, aging sluggers Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells remained on pace for career-worst seasons in more than one major offensive category this year.
But Angels Manager Mike Scioscia isn’t ready to blame the decline on age.
“These guys are going through rough stretches now, but they’re athletic, they’re still in great shape. Their bat speed’s there,” Scioscia said. “At times in a hitters’ career you have to come to a point where you have to make some adjustments.”
That time has definitely come for the 37-year-old Abreu, a .295 lifetime hitter who is on pace to hit .265 with career lows for homers (five) and runs batted in (62). Abreu has never hit fewer than 15 homers or driven in less than 74 runs in a full season.
“It’s not the same. It’s not me,” Abreu said.
Abreu, hitting .159 in July, has been working with hitting coach Mickey Hatcher on moving closer to the plate to improve his coverage. That appeared to work Sunday when he walked, drove in the Angels’ first run by squirting a ground ball through the infield, then lined out to third on an outside pitch.
“When you’re not swinging well and you’re not comfortable in the box, everything from your slugging percentage to your batting average, everything’s going to start to wither,” Scioscia said.
Hunter, who turned 36 last week, is hitting a career-low .236 and is on pace to strike out a career-high 130 times. He too showed signs of breaking out Sunday, drilling a ball off the top of the center-field wall for a double in the third, then driving a ball over the wall for his 13th home run of the season in the eighth, giving him a team-high 49 RBIs.
Wells, 32, who homered twice in the series, is batting .246 in July and .219 for the season — 61 points below his career average. His on-base percentage of .250 is more than 50 points lower than his previous worst.
“There’s different reasons for everybody,” Scioscia said. “I don’t think we view the decline in Torii and Bobby as much age as it is just really getting into some bad mechanics at times.
“These guys both have a lot of baseball left. We need that production now.”
The Angels gave Trout the silent treatment in the dugout after his first big-league homer Sunday.
“I was figuring on something,” said Trout, who showered and dressed quickly after the game so he could visit with his parents.
But with so many young players on the Angels roster, the prank proved difficult to pull off. Peter Bourjos, who has less than a year of major league experience, was among the first to crack.
“It lasted longer than I thought it would,” he said of the cold shoulder Trout got in the dugout. “I was just so happy for him I had to go over.”
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