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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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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Daily Distractions: Jered Weaver’s new toy, Troy Percival, Bobby Abreu, etc.

Jered Weaver

Angels pitcher Jered Weaver is using a bone stimulator, which is not nearly as dirty as it sounds. (Still frame of video shot by ESPN)

Jered Weaver mentioned last week that he was using a non-intrusive device called a “bone stimulator” on his broken elbow.

Albert Pujols used one in 2011 to heal from a wrist fracture. That injury was supposed to knock him out 4-6 weeks. The recovery time was cut in half.

Dr. David Geier, an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina, told me the device has been in use for about 10 years and “there’s not a lot of great data for those.”

The mechanics are fairly simple, Geier said: It’s a black box that delivers a pulse to the affected area, either electronically or via ultrasound.

“The thought is, it stimulates bones to heal faster,” he said. “It won’t make you heal in two days when it could be three months, but if it gets you back a week faster, it’s worth the cost when you’re paying kids all this money. There’s not a lot of data, but there’s no downside to it at all. They tweak the ways energy is delivered, but the idea has been around for a while.”

A couple notes for a Tuesday morning:

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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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How Mike Trout solved Derek Holland and gave the Angels a 2-1 lead.

Mike Trout‘s RBI double in his third at-bat Friday against Texas Rangers left-hander Derek Holland was a quintessential example of Trout’s ability to adjust to a pitcher mid-game.

Trout saw two mid-90s sliders over the outside corner in the first inning and grounded out to shortstop on the second pitch. Holland struck out Trout in the third inning, tying Trout up on an inside slider.

The double came on another inside slider, one that caught a bit more of the plate. Holland had been pounding Trout inside during the at-bat (only one of the five pitches was not), and Trout clearly knew what to look for. The double drove in Chris Iannetta with the go-ahead run. The Angels still lead 2-1 in the sixth inning.

Buster Olney of ESPN.com cited a scary Trout stat the other day on his blog, breaking down Trout’s performance against a pitcher the first, second, third and fourth time he faced him in a game in 2012:

1st : .860 OPS 7 walks 35 strikeouts
2nd: 1.042 OPS 10 walks 25 strikeouts
3rd: 1.198 OPS 17 walks 17 strikeouts
4th: 1.244 OPS 4 walks, 6 strikeouts

Today was just another example of Trout being Trout.

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Daily Distractions: Making sense of Yu Darvish’s near no-no.

Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish, left, was removed after losing his perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Houston Astros. His next opponent is the Angels. (Associated Press)

On an off-day for the Angels, the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros created a compelling night of action in the American League West on Tuesday.

In case you missed it, Yu Darvish retired 26 straight Astros to start the game before allowing a single to Marwin Gonzalez in the bottom of the ninth inning. No longer are the Houston Astros completely anonymous. As the New York Daily News proclaimed, “YU BLEW IT.”

The pertinent question for the Halos: Are the Astros that bad, or is Darvish that good?

The right-hander joined a list that includes Dave Stieb, Mike Mussina and eight pitchers you might not have heard of who have lost perfect games in the ninth inning. Anyone can do it, even Armando Galarraga.

Ken Rosenthal and Mark Mulder blamed the Astros. Jean-Jacques Taylor and Bo Porter credited Darvish. Alan Ashby, the Astros’ color commentator, reacted with racial overtones (I think).

The Angels will find out soon enough whether Darvish’s stuff is for real. If he pitches on regular rest, he’ll face the Angels (and Jered Weaver) on Sunday in Arlington. The game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. national broadcast on ESPN2.

Some bullet points for a Wednesday morning:

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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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Daily Distractions: Angels’ bullpen injury watch becomes a full-time thing.

Ryan Madson was seen throwing off flat ground today in Tempe, but manager Mike Scioscia told reporters that the Angels’ presumptive closer still has no timetable to get back on a mound.

That’s essentially the status quo. Madson was dealing with soreness and inflammation in his right elbow last week. An MRI came back negative but his throwing program was put on hold. Opening day looked like a longshot for Madson then and still does now.

The 32-year-old missed all of last season following Tommy John surgery.

At least the Angels don’t have to rebuild their bullpen from scratch. They can just go back to what (sometimes) worked for them last year — Ernesto Frieri in the ninth, Kevin Jepsen in the eighth, Scott Downs in the seventh — plus free-agent newcomer Sean Burnett.

Oh, about Burnett: He left camp today with stiffness in his lower back to undergo an MRI.

Stay tuned. The Angels’ bullpen is officially on watch.

Things are heating up in Arizona, literally and figuratively. These links are tepid at best:

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