HOUSTON — It was about this time last season that Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was fired, a move that seemed to shake up the team and wake up an offense that underachieved for the first six weeks of 2012.
While General Manager Jerry Dipoto wouldn’t directly answer a question about the possibility of a similar move in a season in which Manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher have come under fire because of the team’s 11-21 start, he did not sound like an ax-wielding executive Wednesday.
“There are a number of things that have gone wrong the first five weeks of the season, and to put the onus on one person is entirely unfair,” Dipoto said. “We all got ourselves in this position. We’re all going to find a way out.”
The Angels have been without injured ace Jered Weaver since April 8, and the right-hander is not expected to return from a fractured left elbow until late May at the earliest.
Three front-line relievers — Sean Burnett, Kevin Jepsen and Ryan Madson — and center fielder Peter Bourjos are on the disabled list, and the Angels played much of April without shortstop Erick Aybar and third baseman Alberto Callaspo, who have since returned.
But the struggles of two sluggers the Angels were relying heavily on have left gaping holes in the middle of the lineup, as Josh Hamilton is batting .202 with two home runs, nine runs batted in and 40 strikeouts, and Albert Pujols, slowed by plantar fasciitis in his left foot, is hitting .231 with five homers and 19 RBIs.
The Angels rank 13th in the American League with a 4.68 earned-run average, they have blown five of nine save opportunities and they have committed a league-high 26 errors.
“We have a very talented group of players that have shown histories, and right now we’ve struggled in every facet of the game,” Dipoto said. “We haven’t pitched well, we haven’t done what we’re capable of offensively, we haven’t played good defense or run the bases well.
“We’ve had a variety of issues, most of them self-inflicted, some we’ve had no control over. Whether it’s a lack of consistency on the field or an inability to stay healthy and on the field, we’ve found ways to make life difficult. We have a long road to claw back, but we’ve been in similar circumstances before.”
Indeed, the Angels were 18-25 last May 21 but were one of baseball’s best teams from that point on, finishing with an 89-73 record but out of the playoffs for a third straight year.
The 2012 team benefited from the late-April promotion of outfielder Mike Trout, who won AL rookie-of-the-year honors and finished second in most valuable player voting, and the early May trade for Ernesto Frieri, who emerged as the team’s closer.
Don’t expect a similar boost, from inside or outside the organization, this season. The Angels have the worst farm system in the game, according to Baseball America, leaving them with very few attractive trade chips, and there are no phenoms at triple-A.
“There is no move to make,” Dipoto said. “Our best talent, our best team, is here. There really isn’t a quick fix, a magic bullet, a singular player move you can make that would turn things around. The best thing we can do is show up today and play hard.”