Salt Lake shuffle: Ryan Madson, Luis Jimenez, Kole Calhoun, Barry Enright in; Bill Hall out.

If you’ve flown between John Wayne airport and Salt Lake City at any point this season, your odds of bumping into an Angels player are pretty high. The Angels have been busy burning a path from Anaheim to their Triple-A affiliate, having used 36 batters and 20 pitchers this season — both tied for second in the league.

Sunday might have been the busiest day of them all.
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Daily Distractions: Fishing for answers in Salt Lake.

Mark Trumbo

Mark Trumbo’s power is unquestioned. Who can save the Angels’ sinking ship remains to be seen. (Keith Birmingham/Staff Photographer)

Many comparisons have been made between the 2013 Angels and the 2012 Angels, with both teams beginning the season with high expectations and underachieving badly in the first month. Here’s another point to consider: The Angels’ answer a year ago didn’t come from their major-league ranks.

Rather, it came from Triple-A Salt Lake in the form of Mike Trout. Trout was batting .403/.467/1.091 when he bid the Pacific Coast League adieu, likely for a long time. The biggest problem facing the Angels now is health, with Ryan Madson, Kevin Jepsen, Mark Lowe, Sean Burnett and Jered Weaver forming a potent disabled list. If the five are healthy, 2013 is a different story already.

Since they’re not, it’s tempting – but disappointing – to peek at who’s waiting in the wings at Triple-A. There is no Mike Trout.

If you’re looking for pitching help, the Bees’ top five starters are 6-12 with a 6.43 earned-run average. That doesn’t include recent signee Kip Wells, who allowed two runs in seven innings in his debut Sunday. And it’s not as if the Angels aren’t already auditioning arms — they’ve used 18 pitchers already this season with a 19th, Ryan Brasier, on the 25-man roster waiting to make his debut. No major-league team has used more than 19 pitchers this season.

As position players go, Luis Jimenez has been a nice lift in the lineup and on the field since being recalled. But a number-nine hitter can only do so much; his three singles in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position (.273, two RBIs) are sadly above average for this team (.225).

Bill Hall and Matt Young, two veterans who vied for major-league jobs in spring training, are hitting .206 and .241, respectively. Brad Hawpe is batting .237 with one home run to show for his first 38 at-bats.

So it’s probably not a question of who is ready to step up from Triple-A. It’s who will start pitching, who will start hitting, and who is available on the trade market?

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Angels unconditionally release Bill Hall.

Bill HallBill Hall couldn’t stay healthy.

That might have been the only thing the multi-positional veteran couldn’t do for the Angels, but it was enough to earn his unconditional release on Friday.

The Angels had until Tuesday to decide whether to keep Hall in the organization at a cost of $100,000 or release him. They didn’t need that much time.

Hall had not appeared in a spring game since Feb. 27, when he injured his right quadriceps muscle. He hadn’t done any baseball activities since pulling his left calf muscle March 13 doing infield drills. Hall made only nine plate appearances this spring and the Angels simply couldn’t make the commitment.

The Angels still have an opening on the 40-man roster, and still could use a multi-positional infielder to replace Maicer Izturis. They have the option of re-signing Hall to a minor-league deal.

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Bill Hall leaves Angels to get an MRI on calf, status to be determined.

Bill HallBill Hall was in street clothes a little after 9:30 a.m. today, while the rest of his Angels teammates were getting ready for pregame drills.

Hall was off to get an MRI on his left calf, which tightened up on him during infield drills on Wednesday. Hall believes he may have been overcompensating for a previous injury to his right quadriceps when he hurt his calf. Angels manager Mike Scioscia noted that Hall injured his left calf last year.

“It’s real frustrating,” Hall said. “I was playing well. I did a lot of work this off-season to try and prevent things like that.”

Both Hall and Scioscia said it’s too early to project an exact timetable for Hall, but the MRI will go a long way toward determining when he can return. Regardless, he’s running out of time. The annual preseason Angels-Dodgers “Freeway Series” begins two weeks from today.

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Angels’ Bill Hall suffers another injury setback.

Veteran utilityman Bill Hall, who is trying to make the Angels as a non-roster invitee to spring training, suffered another injury setback Wednesday morning.Bill Hall

The 33-year-old “felt his calf tighten up on him in infield (drills),” manager Mike Scioscia said after the Angels lost 8-6 to the San Diego Padres in Peoria, Arizona. “We’ll evaluate him day to day.”

Hall, who hasn’t played in a Cactus League game since Feb. 27, was attempting to come back from an injured right quadriceps muscle when he suffered the calf injury. He had three hits, all doubles, in nine Cactus League at-bats.

If he’s able to rediscover the hitting stroke that allowed him to play no fewer than 110 games in a season from 2004-10, Hall would give the Angels an intriguing option as a multi-position backup — but only if he’s healthy. If infielders Luis Rodriguez (.375 BA/.760 OPS), Andrew Romine (.323 OBP, four steals) and Luis Jimenez (.308/.886) perform well, Hall’s chances of making the Angels’ opening-day roster will only diminish the longer he sits.

He had the following message for fans on Twitter Wednesday afternoon:

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A’s 7, Angels 5: Postgame thoughts.

Kole Calhoun catch

Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun (56) crashes into the right field wall while leaping to catch a fly ball hit by Oakland Athletics’ Derek Norris (36) in the fifth inning of their Cactus League game at Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

There’s a pretty sweet photo gallery (albeit a little A’s-centric) from today’s 7-5 loss to the A’s in Tempe live on the website of our brother paper*, the San Jose Mercury News. Check it out here.
Of note from today’s 7-5 loss to the A’s in Tempe:

• Bill Hall played the game’s final five innings at first base. Hall has played seven different positions, including pitcher, in a pro career that began in 1998. He’s never played first base or caught. As a non-roster invitee, playing out of position is simply part of life — even for Hall. He only had two chances in the field Sunday, both routine putouts, but maintained a perfect 1.000 career fielding percentage as a first baseman.

• An educated guess: Assuming Hall can hit the ball, which hasn’t always been a safe assumption in recent years, he might only have to field the position better than Mark Trumbo to make the team.
• Mike Trout will play tomorrow, but you probably retweeted that already.  
• Non-roster invitee Matt Young went 2 for 3 against the A’s with a double. In two games he is batting 5 for 6 with a 1.833 OPS that would put him in contention for Cactus League MVP if voting began today. Fun Matt Young fact: He’s one of 512 men listed at 5 feet, 8 inches to have appeared in a major-league game between 1876 and 2012.
• From the AP: Mike Scioscia said many of his top players, specifically newcomer Josh Hamilton, would begin playing toward the middle of this week. “(Hamilton) doesn’t need 70 or 80 at-bats to be ready,” Scioscia said. “They’ll (all) be on schedule.”
• Good game for Kole Calhoun. In addition to the catch pictured above, he smacked an RBI double for his first Cactus League hit.
• View the box score here.

*I have no problem with the term “sister paper,” “sister city,” “sister company,” etc., but I’d like to submit that “brother paper” works just as well.

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Daily Distractions: Angels report to spring training.

We’re driving to Arizona today in advance of spring training. Perhaps it’s the calm before the storm, but there wasn’t much Angels news over the weekend, though Bill Hall did make an Illuminati joke. In Phoenix, it’s 57 and cloudy. No haboobs lie on the horizon (yet).

If I could sum up the sentiment using emoticons, I’d quote C.J. Wilson. Now, some links to tide you over until Indio:

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