After another loss, Angels shake things up
CLEVELAND — The Angels made two dramatic moves Friday night, but neither involved a battered bullpen that suffered another meltdown in a 3-2 walk-off loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
Two days after Manager Mike Scioscia said Mike Trout wouldn’t be called up from triple-A Salt Lake unless there was a “significant” role for him, the Angels promoted the dynamic 20-year-old outfielder to the big leagues and said he will play regularly, beginning Saturday.
“We want to get Mike in the lineup, see if we can add a little energy, some spice,” General Manager Jerry Dipoto, who joined the team Friday night, said after the Angels suffered their fifth consecutive loss and fell to 6-14. “He’s off to a great start. We’re trying to shake it up a little bit.”
To clear a roster spot for Trout, the Angels released seldom-used veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu, swallowing the remainder of his $9-million contract.
“It’s not comfortable forArte [Moreno, Angels owner] or for us as an organization — that’s a lot of money,” Dipoto said. “But this was the right thing to do for the team.”
The speedy Trout, considered one of the top prospects in baseball, was hitting .403 with a .467 on-base percentage, 10 extra-base hits, 13 runs batted in, 21 runs and six stolen bases in 20 games at Salt Lake.
Trout, who hit .220 with five homers in 40 games with the Angels last season, will play plenty of center field in place of the struggling Peter Bourjos (.178, .245 OBP), but he can also play left field and right.
With Angels leadoff batters ranking 13th in the American League in average (.195) and last in OBP (.250), Trout could be inserted into the leadoff spot.
“There are parts of the club we need to get moving forward,” Scioscia said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a cure-all, because other things definitely need to come into play. But this is a young, exciting player who is going to come up and hopefully contribute.”
Trout could provide a spark, but the Angels will need the rest of their sluggish lineup to produce if they’re to rebound from a dreadful start that matches the worst in franchise history, in 2002.
The Angels rank 11th in the AL in hitting (.245), 12th in OBP (.299), 12th in slugging (.368) and 13th in home runs (14). Torii Hunter’s solo homer in the fourth inning Friday night was his first of the season.
Albert Pujols is hitting .225 with four RBIs and hasn’t homered in 80 at-bats this season. Kendrys Morales is batting .268 with one homer, and Vernon Wells is hitting .230 with four homers.
“The comments about it being early in the season are far gone,” Angels ace Jered Weaver said. “We need to turn things around. It’s a bitter taste in our mouths. Expectations were high, and we’re not doing what we’re capable of.”
Weaver did Friday, holding the Indians scoreless through six innings despite giving up seven hits, walking four and throwing 115 pitches. He left with a 2-0 lead, but that was gone within a span of four batters in the seventh.
Casey Kotchman singled off left-hander Hisanori Takahashi and scored on Michael Brantley’s double to make it 2-1, and Jason Kipnis greeted right-hander Kevin Jepsen with an RBI single that made it 2-2.
The Indians won in the ninth when Aaron Cunningham doubled off David Carpenter, took third on Kipnis’ single and scored on Asdrubal Cabrera’s single, marking the sixth time this season the Angels have had a lead in the seventh inning and lost.
LaTroy Hawkins pitched a scoreless eighth. Demoted closer Jordan Walden was not available because he threw an aggressive bullpen session Friday afternoon.
“These guys are going to have to dig down and do the job,” Dipoto said of his relievers, “because there are not a lot of alternatives right now.”
Dipoto is scouring the trade market but called the prices for impact arms “prohibitive.” The GM tried to trade Abreu this spring, but there wasn’t much demand for a 38-year-old whose skills are in decline.
So the Angels had little choice but to release Abreu, bringing to $46 million the amount Moreno has swallowed in the contracts of Gary Matthews Jr., Scott Kazmir, Justin Speier and Abreu.
“It’s sad because I had a great time with my teammates and I enjoyed being here,” said Abreu, who hopes to catch on with another club. “But this is a business. They did what they had to do.”
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