Reports: Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz will accept Biogenesis-related suspension.

Nelson Cruz

Nelson Cruz (sliding) is one of 12 major-league players connected to the shuttered Biogenesis clinic who will accept suspensions today, according to multiple reports. The Angels play the Texas Rangers tonight. (Getty Images)

According to multiple reports Monday morning, Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz is among the players who will be suspended today by Major League Baseball for using banned substances obtained through the shuttered Biogenesis clinic. Cruz is reportedly facing – and will accept – a 50-game suspension.

According to USA Today,

Rangers officials were blindsided by the news, only learning of Cruz’s decision Monday morning, hours before MLB was set to announce its discipline in the Biogenesis matter. They struggled to land a potential replacement for Cruz at the July 31 non-waivers trade deadline, and now will attempt to add depth by making a waiver trade before Aug. 31, a process that guarantees little.

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Angels sign relief pitcher Jason Urquidez from the Atlantic League.

The Angels signed another former Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Monday, their second in the last two weeks. Right-hander pitcher Jason Urquidez also became the second Atlantic League pitcher to sign a minor-league contract with the Angels the last two days.

Urquidez, who had been pitching for the Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers, agreed to a minor-league contract and will be assigned to Triple-A Salt Lake. The 30-year-old appeared in 136 games (all in relief) for the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate between 2006 and 2011 without reaching the majors.

This season Urquidez made 39 relief appearances for the Barnstormers, posting a 3-1 record with 24 saves and a 0.25 earned-run average. The Tarzana native allowed 19 hits and seven walks while striking out 48. His one loss and both of his blown saves came as the result of unearned runs.

On July 24, the Angels claimed former D-Backs middle reliever J.C. Gutierrez off waivers.

On Sunday, the Angels signed veteran left-hander Dontrelle Willis out of the Atlantic League.

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Angels sign Dontrelle Willis to a minor-league contract.

The Angels have signed left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis, a 9-year major league veteran, to a minor-league contract. He will report to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Willis, 31, was pitching for the independent Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League. He had a 2.56 earned-run average, with a 5-4 record and 52 strikeouts in 87 ⅔ innings, and started the Atlantic League All-Star game.

The signing was first reported by Newsday.

Willis hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2011, when he went 1-6 with a 5.00 ERA in 13 starts for the Cincinnati Reds. He split the 2011 season between Cincinnati and Triple-A Louisville, and became a free agent at the end of the season. His transactions log since reads like a set of Bob Dylan lyrics.

He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in December 2011 but was released March 16 the following year, in the middle of spring training. Four days later he showed up in Baltimore and was assigned to the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate after recovering from a sore forearm. Willis made just four appearances in Triple-A, going 0-3 with an 8.53 earned-run average, before announcing his retirement in July.

But in January he signed with the Chicago Cubs only to be released March 30, having made one start in spring training and leaving with a stiff left shoulder. He signed with the Long Island Ducks in April.

Willis won the 2003 National League Rookie of the Year award with the Florida Marlins. He’s also pitched for the Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Reds in his major-league career, combining for a 72-69 record and a 4.17 ERA with 896 strikeouts in 205 games (202 starts).

Willis was originally drafted by the Cubs in the eighth round of the 2000 amateur draft.

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Angels request unconditional release waivers on Brad Hawpe.

The Angels requested unconditional release waivers on Brad Hawpe for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release Sunday. Hawpe had been designated for assignment on July 29.

If Hawpe isn’t claimed by another team, the Angels are responsible for paying the remainder of his 2013 salary.

Hawpe batted .185 (5 for 27) as an Angel after his contract was purchased from Triple-A Salt Lake on June 8.

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Angels schedule Jason Vargas for Thursday rehabilitation assignment.

Jason VargasJason Vargas was feeling well one day after throwing a three-inning simulated game at Angel Stadium. Manager Mike Scioscia said that the left-hander is “tentatively” scheduled to throw a 5-inning or 75-pitch rehabilitation assignment Thursday for a to-be-determined minor league affiliate.

All three of the Angels’ top minor-league affiliates — the Salt Lake Bees (AAA), Arkansas Travelers (AA) and Inland Empire 66ers (A) — are on the road that day. Inland Empire has a nearby road game against the High Desert Mavericks, where line drives routinely go for home runs. Injured Angels pitchers have rehabbed there in the past, so it’s a possibility.

Vargas has been on the disabled list since June 21, when he was diagnosed with a blood clot near his left armpit. Saturday’s sim game was his first since undergoing surgery in June.

In his first season with the Angels, Vargas is 6-4 with a 3.65 earned-run average in 14 starts.

In other injury news, Peter Bourjos (fractured wrist) took part in batting practice for the fourth straight day. Scioscia said that the center fielder is also on track for a rehabilitation assignment later in the week.

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Kentucky is a small world for Angels pitchers.

Nick Maronde

Angels pitcher Nick Maronde counts Scott Downs as a mentor — and a neighbor to his parents. (Associated Press)

When Nick Maronde took Scott Downs‘ spot on the Angels’ roster Monday, there was a neighborly vibe to the transaction. Not just because the two left-handed pitchers had lockers tucked into the same corner of the Angels’ clubhouse the last two seasons; Downs lives about five minutes away from Maronde’s parents in Lexington, Kentucky.

Maronde, 24, said the 37-year-old Downs was a mentor to him, sometimes in the off-season as well.

When he learned that Downs had been traded Monday, Maronde said, “I texted him and thanked him for all he’s done for me. I want to keep in touch. He’s a wealth of knowledge.”
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How Angels manager Mike Scioscia defines Joe Blanton’s new role.

Joe Blanton

Associated Press photo

Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked Friday what situations he’s comfortable using Joe Blanton in, now that Blanton has been demoted to the Angels’ bullpen.

“He still works in between. He’s working hard,” Scioscia said. “He’s probably going to be coming in a little earlier in the game, or having to pitch extra innings. Carry a game that goes into the 10th inning at times. There’s going to be — we’ll see what situations come up and how he’s used, but he’s definitely one of the few guys who can give us length if we need to.”

Blanton appeared in back-to-back games last Saturday and Sunday in Oakland, but hasn’t appeared in a game since.

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Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus dishes on brother Cory, the Angels’ newest prospect.

Colby Rasmus

Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus batted against his brother in a major-league game for the first time in May and hit a double. (Getty Images)

New Angels pitcher Cory Rasmus, acquired Monday in the Scott Downs trade with Atlanta, has an advance scout in the visitor’s clubhouse this weekend. A really-far-out-in-advance scout.

Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus is older than Cory by about 15 months. Cory isn’t with the Angels yet — he’s at Triple-A Salt Lake — but Colby has decent idea of what Angels fans can expect from his younger brother once he arrives.

“We played together from the time we was little bitty,” Colby Rasmus said.
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Angels back to a three-man bench, for now.

Tommy Hanson

Tommy Hanson starts for the Angels tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Angels are carrying 13 pitchers and only three position players on their bench. The unusual configuration began 10 days ago, when pitcher Tommy Hanson was activated from the disabled list and infielder Brendan Harris was designated for assignment.

The Angels carried one extra pitcher for parts of the first half too, particularly when the bullpen was being overused by manager Mike Scioscia‘s standards. It was out of necessity — the Angels’ starting pitchers rarely lasted beyond six innings — and that’s the case again.
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Semi-demoted Angels closer Ernesto Frieri: ‘I’m gonna die standing up like a warrior.’

Ernesto Frieri

Ernesto Frieri is 0-3 with a 4.20 earned-run average this season. (Getty Images)

Ernesto Frieri was brimming with strong emotions Thursday.

The Angels’ closer was sitting at his locker for the first time since blowing saves on consecutive nights Monday and Tuesday in Texas, a series of events that clearly hit the 28-year-old pitcher hard.

On Monday he allowed a pair of solo home runs in the ninth inning, turning a 3-2 Angels lead into a 4-3 loss. On Tuesday he allowed a walk, stolen base and RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning with the Angels ahead 11-10. Frieri was pulled from that game, which the Angels lost 14-11 in the 10th inning.

Frieri never got a chance to atone for his mistakes on Wednesday. Michael Kohn pitched the ninth inning and served up the game-winning home run in a 1-1 game — the Angels’ third consecutive walk-off loss.

“Just keep fighting,” said Frieri, whose earned-run average rose to 4.20 in Texas. “It’s gonna pass sooner or later.”
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