Chris Nelson is ready to settle down with the Angels.

Chris Nelson

Chris Nelson was claimed by the Angels on Saturday, after he was designated for assignment by the New York Yankees, and added to the major-league roster Sunday. (Associated Press photo)

Chris Nelson didn’t see it coming.

For almost nine years the Colorado Rockies were the only organization Nelson knew, beginning the day he was drafted ninth overall in 2004 and ending when he was traded to the New York Yankees on May 1. After playing 10 games for the Yankees, Nelson was designated for assignment on May 15. On Saturday he joined the Angels, his third organization in three weeks.

“We’ve been living out of a suitcase for too long now,” Nelson said.

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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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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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Giants 4, Angels (SS) 1: Postgame thoughts.

By Greg Beacham, Associated Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Although Pablo Sandoval had pretty much run out of steam by the time he got to third, Kung Fu Panda kept on chugging.

The San Francisco Giants’ hefty slugger scored the go-ahead run and maybe burned off a few ounces of flab along the way, getting the defending champions’ spring off to a rollicking start.

Ryan Vogelsong pitched two scoreless innings, Sandoval lumbered home on Jackson Williams‘ double, and the Giants opened Cactus League play with a 4-1 victory over a Los Angeles Angels split squad Saturday.

The last time Sandoval was in a major league game, he wrapped up the World Series MVP award in San Francisco’s sweep of Detroit last October. Although he played in Venezuela’s professional league this winter and will play in the World Baseball Classic soon, he acknowledges he’s a few weeks and several pounds away from recapturing his postseason form.

“It looked like home plate was running away from me,” Sandoval said.

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Daily Distractions: On Mark Trumbo’s case for batting second, plus some Angels links.

Mark TrumboTurns out the question of who should bat second in the Angels’ lineup has some shelf life.

Related to our recent poll and post comes this thought, which Buster Olney addressed Thursday on his blog for ESPN.com: If you’re going to use the number-two slot in the Angels’ lineup to allow a good-but-struggling hitter to see more fastballs, why not Mark Trumbo? Writes Olney:

If you’re thinking that Mark Trumbo might be a candidate to hit second, keep in mind that he was slightly above average against fastballs (relative to all of MLB): .280 BA, .843 OPS, which ranked in the 57th and 64th percentile, respectively, last season. Trumbo increasingly struggled as the season progressed, which coincides with the decreased percentage of fastballs he saw month to month:

April: 52.7 percent
May: 51.9 percent
June: 50.4 percent
July: 49.0 percent
Aug: 45.3 percent
Sept: 43.5 percent

There’s more nuance to the formula than a batter’s simple ability to hit a fastball. But it’s an interesting argument for Trumbo.

Some links to send you into the weekend:

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Daily Distractions: Love for the Angels’ gloves, Tim Salmon in Germany, Luis Jimenez on a tear.

Erick AybarIt was nice to see the Angels’ defense get a little love today – OK, a lot of love – in MLB.com’s rankings of the majors’ 10 best defenses. The Angels led the pack, ahead of the Rays (2), Reds (3), Nationals (4), Giants (5), Rangers (6), Padres (7), Braves (8), Orioles (9) and A’s (10).

The outfield of Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton has already been mentioned as one of the best in recent memory. The Angels’ worst defensive infielder is second baseman Howie Kendrick, but he’s considered average by some metrics (notably range factor) and managed to lead the league in fielding percentage in 2011.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens now that the Angels have overhauled their pitching staff. Righty Joe Blanton and lefty Jason Vargas are contact pitchers, certainly more than Dan Haren and Zack Greinke. Will the Angels’ defense help their effectiveness? That was part of the thinking in both acquisitions – we’ll see if it matches up with reality.

If there’s a fly in the ointment, it’s that Hamilton had a major off-year in the field in 2012. His ultimate zone rating – designed to account for a fielder’s ability to prevent runs with his arm, range, double plays and “errorlessness” (for lack of a better word) – was a woeful -12.6. That was mostly a result of his play in center field, however, and moving to right field could be the cure to what ails him.

Onto the links …

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Daily Distractions: Who’s the Angels’ number two? Braun implicated; Micah Owings converting; Candlestick exploding.

Alberto Callaspo

Who will replace Torii Hunter as the Angels’ No. 2 hitter?

There are bigger questions facing the club going into spring training – you or I could hit between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and probably see some juicy fastballs – but by process of elimination we know it’ll be either Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo, Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, Chris Iannetta or Mark Trumbo.

For what it’s worth, Aybar, Bourjos and Kendrick were all among the top 25 sacrifice bunters in the American League last year. Iannetta seems an unlikely choice, though his patience and power are above average for a catcher, while Trumbo has the best chance of replicating Hunter’s .313/.365/.451 slash line from a year ago.

Perhaps unwittingly, FanGraphs.com makes a strong endorsement today for Callaspo, who signed a two-year contract yesterday. Callaspo’s best skill at the plate – hitting to contact while avoiding strikeouts – is typically the skill that managers value most in their number-two hitter:

Even in his best years with the bat (2009 and 2011) his BABIP was only around .310. But avoiding strikeouts does a lot for a player’s bat. This is not because strikeouts are all that much different from regular outs. It is because putting the ball in play simply allows other things to happen. Callaspo does not get an exceptional number of hits on balls in play, and the hits he does get on contact usually do not go very far. He simply ends plate appearances with the ball going into play often enough that even given average (and below-average) rates of favorable outcomes, he is able to be close to average overall as a hitter (95 wRC+ career).

It’s something to think about as Spring Training approaches.

Which defunct ballpark, and which former National League MVP’s reputation, are getting blown up? Read on …

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