Mike Trout is batting second, Alberto Callaspo first, as Angels shuffle lineup.

Alberto Callaspo

Albert Callaspo batted leadoff 12 times for the Angels in 2010, hitting .148 with a .179 on-base percentage. He returns to the top of the lineup Thursday. (Associated Press)

Mike Trout has one career start as the Angels’ number-two hitter.

Alberto Callaspo said he didn’t remember the last time he batted leadoff.

Yet that’s where they’ll be batting tonight against the Oakland A’s, and for the immediate future.

It was the first thing Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked about in his pregame media scrum. The first thing he said in response: “I think it’s just really a common sense move.”

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Postgame notes: A’s 11, Angels 5.

Dane De La Rosa

Angels pitcher Dane De La Rosa kisses his wife Katie before making his 2013 debut against the Oakland A’s on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

This afternoon, Mike Scioscia bristled at the notion that he and reliever Sean Burnett were not on the same page about the non-blister on Burnett’s pitching hand Tuesday. After the game, an 11-5 loss to the Oakland A’s, the Angels did something that teams do when they need to get on the same page. They held a team meeting.

From the outside, it’s easy to misconstrue team meetings as a red flag or a panic button. To the players inside a clubhouse, they’re typically constructive. So it was no surprise that Albert Pujols left Wednesday in what seemed to be an upbeat mood.

“We’re having a good time,” Pujols said. “We’re having fun. We’re talking about eight games.”

The Angels are 2-6 for the second time in the last four seasons. That’s only four games under .500, which is an easy hole to climb out of in a 162-game season — even if the American League West standings look like this:

Oakland 7-2
Texas 6-3
Seattle 4-6
Houston 3-6
Angels 2-6

“Everything always looks worse at the start of the year,” pitcher Joe Blanton said, and right now he couldn’t be more correct.

So why hold a team meeting after eight games?

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Daily Distractions: Angels right fielder Josh Hamilton gave Rangers fans the football sign. What’s the football sign?

Josh Hamilton

Did Josh Hamilton strike a Heisman pose over the weekend? How does one confuse that with a middle finger? (Associated Press photo)

So a 2-4 record is no good, and losing two of three to the Texas Rangers is no good, and Jered Weaver hurting his elbow on national television is no good for the Angels. But this exchange, as relayed by USA Today, is good:

There were comments posted on Twitter that [Josh] Hamilton, who spent the last five years in Texas, reacted to the Rangers’ boos and taunts with an obscene gesture, but Hamilton vehemently denied the accusations.

“I would never do that, ever,” said Hamilton, a devout Christian. “I think it was the other way around. Many times.”

The only gesture that Hamilton made, he said, was making football signs, poking fun at the fans’ outrage over his comments calling the Dallas-Fort Worth area a “football town.”

“I gave him the football sign,” Hamilton said. “But I would never flip anyone off.”

Hamilton said he didn’t find irony in the fact that Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel threw out the ceremonial first pitch Sunday, whom he met before the game and took pictures.

My follow up: Do you find irony in the fact that there’s a “football sign” in Texas? Pardon my Californian ignorance, but can anyone in Texas tell me what the football sign is?

Onto some links:

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Daily Distractions: Mike Trout’s celebrity grows, Vladimir Guerrero’s quest continues.

Not long ago, fans voted online to determine who is “The Face of Major League Baseball.” The winner, of course, was Ezequiel Astacio Joey Votto.

Wait, you didn’t remember who won the most important bracket of March?

Votto’s victory vindicated his small-market heroics but it couldn’t land him in a national television advertising campaign called “I Play.” The five faces MLB chose for the campaign: David Price, Andrew McCutchen, Robinson Cano, Bryce Harper and Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whose video spot is linked above. (Apologies to the entire Midwest are in order.)

It’s another drop in the growing tide of Trout’s national celebrity. This off-season, he was featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine, GQ and Men’s Health. You have to figure that he’ll get more exposure before he gets less. Ryan Seacrest seems to agree.

It’s also a refreshing affirmation that it’s possible to be a star simply by being really good at what you do. Trout isn’t as flashy as Harper, doesn’t play in as large a market as Cano, and hasn’t had as much time to establish himself as Price or McCutchen. He’s just a really good baseball player — maybe the best in the game — albeit one with a .313 on-base percentage (if you want to hold up his three-game sample size from 2013).

Playing in Los Angeles of Anaheim helps, too.

The Angels are playing the Texas Rangers in Arlington in about 10 minutes. Onto the bullet points:

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Postgame thoughts: Rangers 10, Angels 9.

If it were a regular-season game, you’d be talking about it tomorrow. Josh Hamilton’s first game against the Rangers was overshadowed by a lot of things: a walkoff hit, a four-homer inning, a complete implosion by Jerome Williams and — stop the presses — three damn fine throws from behind home plate by Hank Conger.

But since it’s only spring training (checking my watch, yup, one more week…) it’s getting the postgame bullet-point treatment for posterity.

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Breaking: Angels’ Albert Pujols reaches first base, doesn’t need a courtesy runner.

Albert PujolsAlbert Pujols was not lifted for a courtesy runner upon reaching first base on a fielder’s choice in the first inning of the Angels’ spring training game Wednesday against the San Diego Padres.

That’s a Cactus League first for the Angels first baseman, who is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last October. Pujols was forced out and did not run to second base when the next batter, Josh Hamilton, grounded into a double play.

Pujols has been running the bases in practice.

3:48 p.m. update: Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after the game that Pujols wanted to run the bases today. He did not request a courtesy runner and  have that request denied by Bud Black, the Padres’ manager.

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Angels 16, Dodgers 8: Postgame thoughts.

Josh Hamilton

Angels right fielder Josh Hamilton watches his two-run home run in the first inning of a spring baseball game against the Dodgers at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Friday, March 1, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona. The Angels won 16-8. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News)

It took three and a half hours, but it happened: The Angels won a game.

They scored in mind-numbing fashion, piling on former Angel Matt Palmer (two-thirds of an inning, seven runs) and former Mariner Sean White (two-thirds of an inning, five runs) for 11 unearned runs on four Dodger errors.

The quality of play didn’t make the game come alive, but a standing-room only crowd of 6,744 did. They got their money’s worth. Jered Weaver made his long-awaited debut and a patient Josh Hamilton belted his first home run. And the Angels won.

The bullet points:

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Josh Hamilton seems very comfortable here. As in, ‘Here Josh, use my bat’ comfortable.

Josh Hamilton

For his first day playing a game in an Angels uniform, Josh Hamilton did not bring enough bats.

Hamilton had three bats when the day began Tuesday. He broke one in batting practice. The other two broke in the game. When he looked down to see a crack in his lumber after fouling a pitch off in the fifth inning, at least he had a contingency plan in place.

“I told (Mark Trumbo) before the game, If I break one I’m going to come and get yours,” Hamilton said.

The bat broke, and Trumbo obliged.

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Daily Distractions: Mike Trout is debuting for the Angels, plus links.

Big news today: Garrett Richards is making his long-awaited spring debut.

So is some kid named Trout.

The reigning American League rookie of the year and new Angels left fielder will get his first chance to call off center fielder Peter Bourjos in a few minutes against the Seattle Mariners. He’s unlikely to play the whole game, but is any player more exciting to watch for just a few innings? Even at 240 pounds?

As for Richards, it’s his first shot to prove that he belongs on the Angels’ Opening Day roster. Definitely more on the line for him today.

Here are some links from around the league:

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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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