The Angels reluctantly traded Drew Butera on Thursday when it became apparent they couldn’t slip the veteran catcher unclaimed through the waivers process.
Instead of letting Butera go for nothing after he was designated for assignment on Monday to make room on the roster for Carlos Perez, the Angels traded him to the Royals for minor league infielder Ryan Jackson. A fifth-round pick out of the University of Miami in 2009, Jackson has played in 20 major league games and hit .269 over six minor league seasons with five different organizations.
Losing Butera in order to call up Perez, who hit a walk-off home run on Tuesday in his major league debut, was a risk that made sense for the Angels. Perez was hitting .361 in Triple-A this season. Angels starting catcher Chris Iannetta’s batting average was .094 entering Thursday.
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The same day Drew Butera wasa traded, another former Angels catcher who was essentially replaced by Carlos Perez was at Angel Stadium. Former Angels first-round pick Hank Conger, who was traded to Houston in November for Perez and pitcher Nick Tropeano, was in town as the Astros began a four-game series in Anaheim.
The five-year veteran totaled 464 at-bats his last two seasons in Anaheim and Conger likely would have received plenty more opportunity this season given the .094 batting average Angels starter Chris Iannetta’s entered Thursday with. Perez was hitting .361 in Triple-A this season and appears in line to challenge for the starting role.
Conger said he took notice when Perez punctuated his major league debut with a walk-off home run Tuesday, but doesn’t spend time thinking about scenarios had he remained with the Angels.
“You know who you’re traded for, so you see the name pop up,” Conger said. “You can’t take back what’s happened. If you do that, you’ll drive yourself nuts. You start playing the would’ve, could’ve game… (Angels manager Mike) Scioscia gave me every opportunity to play when I was there, but I’m here now. I’m happy with my situation and I’m trying to fit the role.”
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When Joe Smith says he isn’t worried, the Angels reliever is easy to believe. Despite two blown saves and a loss in his last five appearances, the set-up man rattled off a list of reasons on Wednesday why panic isn’t in his immediate future.
He took it so far as to spin his most disturbing outing, Tuesday night’s three runs on four hits in ⅓ of an inning, as a positive. Smith’s stint turned the Angels’ one-run lead in the eighth inning into a two-run deficit, but he argued rookie catcher Carlos Perez’s walk-off home run completed a comeback win over the Mariners that was more inspirational than a conventional victory would have been.
“The results obviously weren’t what I wanted,” Smith said of his performance, “But it was really cool seeing this team string together some great at-bats and come from behind. Sometimes that means more to a team than Garrett (Richards) goes seven, I go eight, (Huston Street) goes nine and we just win.”
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The Angels didn’t trade for Matt Joyce so he could replace Josh Hamilton. But that’s how the scenario played out.
An increased role from part-time outfielder and fill-in designated hitter to replacement for a five-time All-Star and former AL MVP was certainly to the detriment of the former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder, who admitted Monday night to feeling added pressure.
“For sure,” Joyce said. “I can’t sit here and say I didn’t feel a lot of pressure or put a lot of pressure on myself to do, or to fill his shoes.”
Joyce hit his first home run of the season Monday, 81 at-bats into his tenure with the Angels. The offseason acquisition in a trade that sent reliever Kevin Jepsen to Tampa Bay is hitting .148, but was out of the lineup on Wednesday for the second consecutive game despite signs he was turning a corner.
“You just want to be successful,” Joyce said. “You’re in a new place, a new environment with that kind of high expectations. It’s tough to go out there and relax sometimes because you want to do so well. I mean this is what you wait your whole life for.”