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Hillenbrand to be traded or released

ANGELS REPORT

June 28, 2007|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Shea Hillenbrand vented his frustration about losing his designated hitter job Tuesday, saying he felt "pushed aside, put on a back-burner," and that if he wasn't going to play for the Angels, "give me enough respect to trade me or get rid of me."

Wednesday, the Angels informed Hillenbrand he would be designated for assignment Friday, giving the team 10 days to trade or release him.

Did Hillenbrand think his strong comments Tuesday led to his departure Wednesday?

"Not at all," said Hillenbrand, who left Toronto under different circumstances last July, when he torched Manager John Gibbons and the front office after being designated for assignment. "This team has been awesome. It's a great organization. I wished I could have finished my career here."

General Manager Bill Stoneman insisted Hillenbrand's comments "had nothing to do with this." Hillenbrand's playing time had evaporated, and with outfielders Reggie Willits and Gary Matthews Jr. banged up, the Angels need some outfield depth. Plus, outfielder Garret Anderson and Maicer Izturis are due off the disabled list soon.

"We didn't see a whole lot of playing time for Shea," Stoneman said. "He had over 200 plate appearances, and we saw his productivity to this point. What will it be as a bench guy? We felt it was smart to make the move now."

*

In the baseball equivalent of a group intervention, Manager Mike Scioscia held a lengthy closed-door meeting with struggling pitcher Ervin Santana, a gathering that included pitching coach Mike Butcher and catchers Mike Napoli and Jose Molina, among others.

For more than 30 minutes, the group tried to figure out why Santana, who has given up 11 runs -- nine earned -- and 18 hits in 11 2/3 innings of his last two starts, has not seemed like himself lately.

"The biggest thing is we didn't see his best stuff out there," Scioscia said. "Whether it's not turning the ball loose aggressively or repeating pitches, you want to find the reason for it. Sometimes it's mechanical, sometimes it's focus, sometimes it's mental aggressiveness, sometimes it's a delivery flaw, sometimes it's an injury."

Santana assured Scioscia he is sound. So, what was the verdict?

"The biggest thing is he's trying to pitch a little too much, which is taking away some of his aggressiveness," Scioscia said, "as opposed to turning the ball loose and bringing more stuff on the mound. ... If you're going to get beat, you want to get beat with your best stuff."

*

Reliever Justin Speier, out since May 1 because of an intestinal infection, will resume his rehabilitation assignment at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga today, and infielder Izturis, out for most of May and June because of hamstring and rib-cage injuries, will begin playing for Rancho Cucamonga today. ... Anderson, sidelined by a right hip flexor tendon tear, will begin a rehab assignment at Rancho Cucamonga on Friday. ... Matthews, who sat out the Royals series because of a hamstring strain, is expected to return this weekend.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com\o7

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