Angels take a page out of the spring training playbook to shore up defense.

It looked like spring training in August.

The Angels gathered on the Angel Stadium infield for a short team meeting around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday. When that was done, players broke off to their separate positions and proceeded to perform a Cactus League staple: Pitchers’ fielding practice (PFP) drills. For the next half-hour, each pitcher peeled off from the pack standing along the third-base line, jogged to the mound, and practiced pickoff throws to each base, fielded bunts, and covered first base on ground balls to the right side.

Kevin Jepsen said it was the first time he’d done PFP drills in August in five full seasons with the Angels.
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Despite scoreless streak, Joe Blanton’s move to the bullpen isn’t permanent.

Joe Blanton

Joe Blanton has a 0.00 earned-run average out of the Angels’ bullpen this season. (Associated Press photo)

The Angels tried Joe Blanton as a starting pitcher when the season began. Can’t blame them — 228 of his 237 career appearances before this season came as a starter. He was even slotted third in the rotation.

That experiment ended after 20 starts. Blanton went 2-13, which remains the most losses in the American League. He allowed 24 home runs in those starts and opponents hit a collective .317/.356/.543 against him.

A funny thing happened when Blanton was bumped from the rotation last month: He started pitching really well. In six relief innings since, the right-hander has retired 18 of the 19 batters he faced. Unlike some relievers, Blanton wasn’t fazed by going seven days between appearances, pitching three perfect innings Monday night against the Texas Rangers.

Considering Blanton didn’t pitch a 1-2-3 inning in 2013 until May 2 — his sixth start of the season — that was no small feat. Blanton looks like he’s found his niche.

Not so fast, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
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Howie Kendrick leaves Angels’ game with hyperextended left knee.

Howie Kendrick left in the fifth inning the Angels’ game against the Texas Rangers on Monday with a hyperextended left knee and did not return. He’s listed as day-to-day.

Kendrick and right fielder Collin Cowgill converged in pursuit of a fly ball to shallow right field hit by Elvis Andrus. Kendrick’s knee collided with Cowgill’s arm as the two players dove for the ball, which bounced between them into right field. Two runs scored on the play, turning a 1-1 game into a 3-1 Rangers lead.

The Rangers led 5-1 in the seventh inning.

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Texas Rangers’ Nelson Cruz accepts 50-game ban, issues statement.

Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz issued a statement today after accepting a 50-game PED suspension from Major League Baseball. Here it is, courtesy of MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan:

“I have been notified by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball that I have been suspended for 50 games for violation of the Joint Drug Agreement,” Cruz said in a statement. “I have decided to accept this suspension and not exercise my rights under the Basic Agreement to appeal. From November, 2011 to January, 2012, I was seriously ill with a gastrointestinal infection, helicobacter pylori, which went undiagnosed for over a month. By the time I was properly diagnosed and treated, I had lost 40 pounds. Just weeks before I was to report to spring training in 2012, I was unsure whether I would be physically able to play. Faced with this situation, I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error. I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse. I am thankful for the unwavering support of my family, friends, and teammates during this difficult time. I look forward to regaining the trust and respect of the Rangers organization, my teammates, and the great Rangers’ fans, and I am grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the team for the playoffs.”

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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 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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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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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 trade Alberto Callaspo to the A’s for Grant Green.

The Angels have traded infielder Alberto Callaspo to the A’s for minor-league infielder Grant Green.

Green is playing for Triple-A Sacramento, where he is batting .325/.379/.500 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs in 87 games. He was hitless in his only 15 at-bats for the A’s this season.

Callaspo was hitting .253 with five home runs and 36 RBIs as the Angels’ everyday third baseman. Last year he batted .252, the lowest batting average he’s had in a full season in his career. He is under contract through 2014 and the Angels could use the money saved to make multiple deals before tomorrow’s 1 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline.

Callaspo originally came to the Angels in a July 2010 trade with the Kansas City Royals for Will Smith and Sean O’Sullivan.

Green attended Cal State Fullerton and Canyon High School in Anaheim. He was ranked as Baseball America’s 63rd-best prospect prior to the 2011 season.

Chris Nelson was pulled from the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees’ game against the Iowa Cubs, a strong indication that he will be recalled to take Callaspo’s spot on the 25-man roster.

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