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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Kevin Jepsen, Ryan Madson and Erick Aybar give Angels a ‘pretty good team’ at extended spring training.

Kevin Jepsen, Erick Aybar and Ryan Madson are heading to Tempe, Arizona today to continue their rehab at extended spring training.

“Got a pretty good team there, sure,” manager Mike Scioscia said.

In each case, that’s a good sign for the Angels, but the timetable is different for each player’s recovery.
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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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Jered Weaver leaves game with left elbow injury.

Jered Weaver

Angels pitcher Jered Weaver grabs his left elbow after falling awkwardly to avoid a line drive in the sixth inning Sunday night. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Los Angeles Angels starter Jered Weaver left his start at Texas with a strained left elbow after diving to get out of the way of a line drive Sunday night.

Weaver avoided being hit by the ball, but landed awkwardly on his left arm while going down. The pitcher immediately grabbed his left arm near his elbow and was clearly in some discomfort.X-rays were negative.

The play happened when Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland led off the bottom of the sixth with a liner back through the middle right over Weaver’s head.

Manager Mike Scioscia and a trainer immediately came to the mound, and Weaver almost as quickly was walking off the field.

Mark Lowe replaced Weaver on the mound. He surrendered a walk and a two-run home run to Ian Kinsler in the Angels’ 7-3 loss to Texas.

“I didn’t feel anything pop or crack, so that’s a good sign,” Weaver told reporters after the game. “It’s like when you jam your thumb pretty bad. That’s what I’m feeling in my elbow.”

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Needing bullpen help, Angels deal for Dane De La Rosa, Elvin Ramirez.

The Angels’ bullpen is an unsettled mess. Their relievers have a collective 7.20 earned-run average in spring training, more than a full run higher than the next-closest team.

Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen, Sean Burnett, Jerome Williams, Scott Downs, Mitch Stetter and David Carpenter all have ERAs above 5. If the Angels choose to send Garrett Richards to Triple-A Salt Lake to get work as a starter (though it’s unlikely in light of his stellar spring), those seven could comprise the Angels’ Opening Day bullpen.

Even though it’s only spring training, the situation was urgent enough for the Angels to add three relievers Wednesday. Before the Angels’ 6-3 win over the Texas Rangers, they announced the signing of Mark Lowe to a minor-league contract. Lowe threw a bullpen Wednesday and is on the travel roster to go to Anaheim.

After the game, the Angels added two more arms to the bullpen: right-hander Elvin Ramirez and right-hander Dane De La Rosa.

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One name stands out as Angels announce Freeway Series roster.

Mark Lowe

Mark Lowe had a 3.43 ERA in 36 relief appearances for the Texas Rangers last season. (Associated Press)

The Angels are bringing 20 position players and 15 pitchers to the Freeway Series. One name on the list stands out.

Mark Lowe signed a minor-league contract this morning after being cut by the Dodgers on Sunday. Lowe, a XX(B) free agent, finished last season on the Texas Rangers’ roster and had until Tuesday before the Dodgers had to decide to keep or cut him. Coincidentally, the Angels’ final four exhibition games are against either the Rangers or Dodgers.

Lowe, 29, has pitched in parts of seven major-league seasons for the Rangers and Mariners. The right-hander posted a 4.15 ERA in nine Cactus League appearances with the Dodgers (four earned runs in 8 ⅔ innings) while walking three and striking out six. With David Carpenter struggling (5.91 ERA in 12 appearances), Lowe stands a decent chance of making the team. The Angels have four open spots on the 40-man roster.

The other name on the list that seems out of place is Austin Wood, but he’ll probably only get on the mound in case of an emergency. The 22-year-old right-hander finished last season at Low-A Cedar Rapids.

Here’s the full list:

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