Signing of Russell Branyan will shake up Angels’ lineup
The signing of Russell Branyan on Thursday will cut into rookie first baseman Mark Trumbo’s playing time, but it will also mean more time on the bench for center fielder Peter Bourjos.
When General Manager Tony Reagins addressed reporters during the second inning of Thursday’s game, he said the left-handed-hitting Branyan would most likely split time with the right-handed-hitting Trumbo at first.
“We’ve had some discussions over the last two weeks about the offense and being able to match up Trumbo better against left-handed pitching,” Reagins said. “We thought Russell was a viable option to give Mark some breaks against right-handed pitching.”
Trumbo is batting .245 with a team-leading eight home runs and 24 runs batted in overall. He’s hitting .278 (15 for 54) with three homers and seven RBIs against lefties and .229 (25 for 109) with five homers and 17 RBIs against right-handers.
He couldn’t have timed his latest homer, a three-run shot against Oakland Athletics right-handed reliever Grant Balfour in the ninth inning Thursday, much better.
After the game, Manager Mike Scioscia said he could envision a lineup with Torii Hunter in center, Bobby Abreu in left, Trumbo in right and Branyan at first. Or one with Trumbo at first, Branyan at designated hitter, Abreu in left, Hunter in right and Bourjos in center.
When Howie Kendrick, who was placed on the disabled list because of a right hamstring strain Thursday, returns, it could push Bourjos to the bench and add more depth to a lineup that featured the light-hitting Bourjos, Jeff Mathis and Reggie Willits in the bottom three spots Thursday.
“This gives us an opportunity to match up a little better, and I think it’s going to freshen guys up,” Scioscia said. “That will definitely work in our favor.”
Reagins had “no concerns” about the move affecting Trumbo’s confidence, and Trumbo didn’t seem fazed by the signing.
“I’m going to battle and do the best I can, and if some of my chances get cut down, so be it,” Trumbo said. “I’ve always felt I could hit right-handers. Coming up, I never platooned.”
Angels right-hander Joel Pineiro was tagged for four runs and 11 hits in 61/3 innings Thursday, striking out three and walking none, almost an exact replica of his previous start against Atlanta, when he gave up four runs and 11 hits in 61/3 innings, struck out two and walked none.
Oakland used two singles, a sacrifice bunt and Andy LaRoche’s run-scoring groundout to score in the second. The A’s bunched four hits in a three-run fourth, LaRoche (two-run double to left) and Cliff Pennington (RBI single to right) providing the big blows.
“My two-seamer was going more side to side instead of getting sinking action,” Pineiro said. “I fixed it later on, but it was too late.”
The Angels threatened in the sixth, when Willits walked with one out and took third on Maicer Izturis’ double to left, but Erick Aybar flied to shallow left, Willits holding, and Abreu grounded to third to end the inning.
Hunter walked, and Alberto Callaspo singled to open the seventh, but Trumbo hit into a double play, and Bourjos struck out to end the inning.
“We had a chance to make a push,” Trumbo said, “but I hit a rally-killer by chopping that ball to third.”
Kendrick, who leads the team with a .322 average, ran before Thursday’s game. Scioscia said Kendrick was feeling better but not good enough to play this weekend, so Kendrick was placed on the DL, retroactive to May 20. “It was more of a precaution,” Scioscia said. “He’ll probably be 100% by mid-week, but there’s no sense in rushing it.” … First baseman Kendrys Morales underwent a second surgery on his left ankle Thursday in Colorado, but as of late Thursday, the Angels had not received word on how the procedure went. Morales will be out for the entire season.
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