Angels try to talk out their problems

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Angels held a lengthy players-only meeting before Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, hardly a surprise considering the friction and frustration in the clubhouse after Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss.

“We talked about some stuff; I think it helped, but it’s hard to say,” utility player Mark Trumbo said after Thursday’s 4-3 walk-off loss. “One of the things that’s kind of going through our head is that, going back to spring training, everyone on the opposing teams said, ‘You guys are stacked.’

“We put up some good numbers and were hitting well [in Arizona]. We’ve been scuffling [since the season started], but it’s the same cast of characters that was there in spring. I really do believe we’re very close to breaking out, and we’re capable of so, so much more than what you’re seeing now.”

Every player except Trumbo in a highly touted lineup has underachieved, and the stagnant offense has provided little or no margin of error for a pitching staff that has often cracked under pressure.

Manager Mike Scioscia speaks often about the need for offensive “continuity” but has used 17 lineups in 19 games, and many of his moves involving the bullpen and offense have backfired.

Outfielder Torii Hunter questioned the heart and leadership of the club Wednesday night when he said, “You have to dig deep. We have to fight a little harder. I don’t think we believe we’re trying that hard. We’re just going through the motions. We have to do what we’re capable of doing. That’s everybody, not just the players.”

Hunter’s remark seemed to be a veiled criticism of some of Scioscia’s moves, but when asked about Hunter’s comments Thursday, Scioscia said, “Torii has no issue with any strategies. He didn’t come to me with anything.”

Middle-of-the-order hitters Albert Pujols, Hunter and Kendrys Morales have combined for one home run. The Angels rank 12th in the league in runs (72), 11th in on-base percentage (.301), 12th in slugging (.374) and last in homers (13).

Are the Angels, predicted by many to reach the World Series, playing tight?

“If there’s anything, it’s that guys are maybe trying to get out of an 0-for-20 with a 510-foot home run,” Scioscia said. “Or with a guy on third base and less than two outs, a guy expands his zone because he wants to get the guy in so bad. I don’t consider that tight. I just think that’s trying to do too much.”

Short hops

Top catching prospect Hank Conger, who was batting .357 in 13 games at triple-A Salt Lake, was recently put on the disabled list because of a right elbow sprain, an injury that is expected to sideline him for several weeks.