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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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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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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Albert Pujols won’t have plantar fascia surgery, hopes to return this season.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols could miss the remainder of the 2013 season after suffering a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot Friday. (Associated Press)

Albert Pujols is counting on faith, his personal injury history, and a nearly pain-free left foot to carry his optimism for the next 6 to 8 weeks, or however long it takes to recover from a partially torn plantar fascia.

Pujols wouldn’t rule out returning to the Angels this season after being told by a team physician that the injury might need 6 to 8 weeks to heal. There are eight weeks and three days left in the regular season.

Pujols had been dealing with plantar fasciitis all season until he suffered the partial tear last Friday in Oakland.

“If it takes two months or three weeks or four weeks, great,” Pujols said. “I’m not going to try to rush anything.”
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Angels stand pat at deadline; Houston Astros don’t.

The Angels did not consummate any deals in the final hours before baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline, but one of their division rivals made a significant move.

The Houston Astros traded starting pitcher Bud Norris to the Baltimore Orioles, reportedly receiving a pair of minor-leaguers, L.J. Hoes and Josh Hader, and a 2014 draft pick, in return.

That’s of significance to the Angels, who faced Norris four times this season and scored one run in 28 innings. Norris’ 0.36 earned-run average against the Angels was his best against any team he faced at least twice. The Angels are scheduled to play Houston six more times this year, but won’t face Norris’ Orioles until next season.

Yesterday, the Angels traded Alberto Callaspo to the Oakland A’s for minor-league infielder Grant Green. While they were rumored to have made infielders Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick available to other teams, both players remained Angels through the non-waiver trade deadline at 1 p.m.

Teams can still make trades through August 31 if the players involved pass through the waiver system unclaimed.

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Angels designate Brad Hawpe for assignment.

The Angels have designated first baseman/outfielder Brad Hawpe for assignment and added Triple-A pitcher Daniel Stange to their 40-man roster.

Hawpe was an All-Star with the Colorado Rockies five years ago, and one of several veteran reclamation projects the Angels used to fill out the bottom of their 40-man roster. After a good showing at Triple-A, he never got hot in the majors, batting .185 (5 for 27) in 17 games with the Angels.

Stange, a 27-year-old right-hander, was 3-0 with a 3.60 earned-run average in 15 games, all in relief, for Salt Lake. He was released by the San Diego Padres on June 16 and signed a minor-league contract with the Angels five days later. He was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of UC Riverside in 2006, when current Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto was the D-Backs’ director of scouting and player personnel.

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Angels trade Scott Downs to Atlanta for Cory Rasmus.

Scott  Downs

Scott Downs’ 1.84 earned-run average was the lowest among Angels relievers. (Getty Images)

The Angels traded Scott Downs to the Atlanta Braves for Triple-A pitcher Cory Rasmus on Monday, two days before baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline.

Rasmus, who made his major-league debut in May, is the brother of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus. He’ll go straight to Triple-A Salt Lake. The Angels recalled left-handed reliever Nick Maronde from Double-A Arkansas and activated him for tonight’s game in Texas (4 p.m. PST, ESPN).
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