Angels send Tommy Hanson to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Tommy Hanson

Tommy Hanson went 4-3 in 13 starts for the Angels this season. He was sent to Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday.

The Angels optioned Tommy Hanson to Triple-A Salt Lake after losing 2-1 to the New York Yankees on Monday, making room for Jason Vargas to be activated from the disabled list so he can start tomorrow.

Hanson is 4-3 with a 5.59 earned-run average in 13 starts for the Angels. He missed time early in the season while on the bereavement list and nearly a month — from June 20 to July 23 — on the disabled list with a forearm injury.
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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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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 left-hander Jason Vargas hasn’t had any setbacks since surgery, isn’t rushing back.

Jason VargasIt’s been exactly three weeks since Jason Vargas had surgery to repair a blood clot in his left armpit area. He still hasn’t thrown off a mound.

Neither has the left-hander had any setbacks since he began throwing from flat ground, and Vargas said he could have his first bullpen session next week.

“If everything goes well, yeah, I would think so,” he said.

Vargas said he would likely meet with a team doctor next Monday or Tuesday to determine the next step.

“There’s no pain. There was never any pain. There’s an incision in my armpit. If I try to throw as hard as I can, I could damage the incision.”

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The Angels will temporarily employ a six-man rotation. Then what?

Jered Weaver C.J. Wilson

Jered Weaver (left) and C.J. Wilson (center) are assured of spots when the Angels go back to a five-man rotation (Getty Images).

Save the date: June 7.

That’s when the Angels will begin a six-game road trip through Boston and Baltimore. It’s also the next time the Angels will employ a five-man rotation.
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Daily Distractions: How bad is the Angels’ pitching?

Jerome Williams

Spot starter Jerome Williams allowed two home runs in the Angels’ 8-4 loss Sunday. (Associated Press photo)

“Terrible” and “absolutely awful” are two ways to describe the Angels’ pitching staff. And those were suggested by their manager yesterday.

I could have cited a few more stats about the Angels’ staff in my game story from yesterday’s 8-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles and where they rank among the 30 teams, namely:

• Opponents’ on-base percentage .344 (29th)
• Opponents’ slugging percentage: .427 (25th)
• Opponents’ OPS: .770 (28th)
• Blown saves: 5 (t-23rd)
• Save percentage: 44.4 (t-29th)
• HR allowed: 39 (t-25th)
• Wild pitches: 17 (27th)
• WHIP: 1.48 (29th)
• Strikeouts per nine innings: 6.80 (24th)
• Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 1.70 (28th)

The Angels are among the worst in the league in nearly every pitching category. It’s almost hard to be this bad. And this is *after* two stellar complete-game efforts by Jason Vargas last week.

That’s why even Mike Scioscia isn’t pulling punches. It’s hard to be optimistic.

Nowhere to go but up, right?

Onto the bullet points:
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Jason Vargas could pitch in the Angels’ season-opening series.

Jason VargasMike Scioscia set the template for his starting rotation earlier this month by having Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson pitch in that order when the five starters began pitching Cactus League games.

So it figures that Weaver, Wilson and Blanton would be the Angels’ starters when the season begins with a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Preparing early — two and a half weeks ahead of time — for the possibility of injury, Scioscia sent Vargas into the batting cage with Weaver, Wilson and Blanton when Angels starters began taking their first full swings Wednesday.

Here’s why:

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Scioscia: Angels’ best starters won’t pitch until March.

Get ready for a steady dose of Billy Buckner, A.J. Schugel and Brad Mills this weekend.

Mike Scioscia didn’t single out those starters by name, but the Angels’ manager did rule out his projected five starters from pitching in games for at least another week. The Angels open Cactus League play with split-squad games Saturday against the Cubs and Giants.

“The guys that we’re looking at, especially Weave [Jered Weaver], he doesn’t need to get started until somewhere around the first” of March, Scioscia said. “It would just be too long for him. He wouldn’t need it.”

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Angels spring training preview: Starting pitchers.

Jered Weaver

The Angels’ five-man rotation is all but set. Two familiar faces, Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams (whom I included with the relievers), are vying for “sixth starter” status. Of course, just because a rotation is set doesn’t mean it’s good, and many see this group as the Angels’ Achilles heel beyond ace Jered Weaver.

The other four starters — Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and C.J. Wilson – were flat-out bad for stretches last season. Will Wilson snap back to his old self following elbow surgery? Can Hansen, Blanton and Vargas benefit from a change of scenery and a star-studded defense?

Those are the biggest questions facing the rotation, and maybe the team, going into camp. Unless there’s an injury, don’t expect the Angels’ five-man rotation to change in spring training.

(Non-roster invitees listed in parentheses)

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