Orange County connections run deep among Grant Green, Hank Conger, Mark Trumbo.

Grant Green

Grant Green (left) collected two hits in his Angels debut Tuesday night. (Getty Images)


Nine years ago, Grant Green, Hank Conger and Mark Trumbo were among Orange County’s brightest young baseball stars. It’s still true. When the Angels recalled Green from Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, it reunited the former Anaheim Canyon star with Conger (Huntington Beach) and Trumbo (Villa Park) in the same clubhouse.

Their paths in amateur baseball overlapped just enough that there are a few stories.
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Angels’ Albert Pujols feels ‘decent’ after a restful All-Star break.

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols said he doesn’t feel any improvement in his right knee or foot since before the All-Star break. (Associated Press photo)

Albert Pujols didn’t want the All-Star break to end.

Not because his knee was in pain, not because his plantar fasciitis has been acting up. His son, A.J., has a big game.

“I wish I could be with my son in Cooperstown,” Pujols said Friday. “He’s in a tournament. He told me he’s going to be in Cooperstown before me.”
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Postgame notes: A strange game caps a good series for the Angels.

The Angels’ 10-9 win over the Seattle Mariners was fun for a night. As I pointed out in my game story, they did something that no team had never done, beating Felix Hernandez after falling behind by seven runs.

Because it was such an anomaly it’s hard to extrapolate any long-term, big-picture ideas about what the win means for the Angels. Mike Scioscia tried.

“Hopefully it’ll inspire you the next time you’re down by two, three runs at any time in the game to just keep playing baseball. Hopefully that experience for some of the young guys out there — you just have to experience it, understand it.”
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Has moving Mike Trout to second in the batting order had the desired result?

Sunday marked Mike Trout‘s 23rd game as the Angels’ number-two hitter. Say what you want about the Angels’ record in the meantime — they’re 9-13 with him batting second compared to 2-6 when he led off — but the move seems to have helped the second-year outfielder.

Trout has 20 RBIs in 22 games since the switch. His batting average is down (.267) but his on-base percentage (.340) and slugging percentage (.511) are both up a tick.

The move hasn’t always connected Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, which was one of manager Mike Scioscia‘s goals when he made the move seven games into the season. Hamilton was demoted to fifth in the batting order prior to Sunday, when Pujols got the day off and Hamilton batted third.

But Mark Trumbo has stepped into the cleanup hole and given the Angels the dangerous 2-3-4 combo they were looking for. Trumbo has home runs in five of his last six games and is batting .295/.363/.557.

Here’s what Mike Scioscia had to say when asked if moving Trout to the number-two hole has had its desired effect:

“Primarily, what Mike really needs to be in a position to drive in runs,” Scioscia said. “He’s a guy you want guys on base with. He can draw a walk with guys on base to really set the table for the middle of the lineup. Connecting him, Josh and Albert is one thing we talked about. There’s no doubt he’s getting more opportunities with runners in scoring position.

“I think it’s accomplished some things. It maybe got Mike back to where he needed to be to be more productive driving in some runs. Right now Josh isn’t connected with them the way we envisioned. Mark is. Mark’s a guy that, I think there’s no doubt Mark Trumbo’s gotten more out of being connected with Mike and Albert than anywhere else he’s hit in the lineup. I think it’s going to be tough to evaluate all the components until Albert and Josh hit stride.”

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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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Slumping slugger Josh Hamilton is batting fifth against the Texas Rangers.

Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton is playing the Texas Rangers today.

When the Angels and Rangers hooked up in spring training, that was enough to capture a few headlines. When the Angels visited Arlington, Texas in the opening week of the season, it captured even more.

Today, the story wasn’t about Hamilton facing his old team. That’s old news.

The story was in a lineup card that saw Hamilton batting fifth for the first time as an Angel and for the first time since July 29-31 of last season. Mark Trumbo will bat cleanup and Albert Pujols remains the number-three hitter against the Rangers and left-hander Derek Holland.

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Crouching teammates, hidden camera left Angels’ Mark Trumbo to face ‘tons of backlash’ on Twitter.

Mark Trumbo home run celebration

Mark Trumbo was on top of the world Sunday night. At least it felt like it, leaping onto home plate (“four inches” off the ground, he joked) to make his game-winning home run against the Detroit Tigers official. MLB.com posted the above photo on its Twitter account and Trumbo got an unexpected reaction from the Twitterverse.

“Tons of backlash,” he said.
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Daily Distractions: Angels get ready for the Rangers’ self-proclaimed Cy Young hopeful.

Derek Holland

Derek Holland is 1-1 with a 1.64 earned run average in three starts for the Texas Rangers this season. (Associated Press photo)

The Angels’ opposing starter tonight entered the 2013 season with a 4.71 earned-run average and a 39-29 record. Derek Holland is three games into a new season and he’s already talking about winning a Cy Young Award.

So far he’s backing up the talk: Holland is 1-1 with a 1.64 earned-run average. His first win of the season came at the hands of the Angels back on April 5.

Holland may have bragging rights, but he may be the only Rangers starter who’s in a position to boast. Their pitching staff is experiencing a “crisis,” according to the Dallas Morning News.

So maybe it’s a good time for the Angels to be facing the Rangers, the current first-place team in the American League West. The Halos’ hole is deep enough that they will still be in third place in the division even if they manage a three-game sweep – following a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers.

First pitch is at 7:05.

Onto some bullet points:

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Albert Pujols is the Angels’ designated hitter in rubber game against the Houston Astros.

Albert Pujols flipped spots in a last-minute lineup change and will be the designated hitter for the Angels against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium today. The Angels, who beat Houston last night on a walk-off double by Pujols, can win their first series of the season with a win today.

Here’s the lineup that will face right-hander Philip Humber:

Bourjos CF
Trout LF
Pujols DH
Hamilton RF
Trumbo 1B
Kendrick 2B
Conger C
Jimenez 3B
Romine SS

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