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ANGELS FYI

Stealing third is worth the risk for Angels

Manager Mike Scioscia wants his players to move into better scoring if the situation warrants it.

May 21, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

SEATTLE — Torii Hunter was already in scoring position after singling with one out and stealing second base in the third inning Tuesday night. On Felix Hernandez's next pitch, the Angels center fielder took off for third.

It took a perfect throw from Seattle catcher Kenji Johjima and a quick tag by third baseman Adrian Beltre, but Hunter was out.

Kendry Morales then doubled to right-center, a hit that would have easily scored Hunter from second. When Mike Napoli grounded out, the Angels came away with no runs in the inning instead of one.

The Angels won, 6-5, so Hunter's dash to third wasn't costly but raises a question: How do the Angels, one of baseball's most aggressive base-running teams, weigh the risk of stealing third against the fact that a player on second is in scoring position?

"For most base-stealers, the best time to go [to third] is right after you steal a base or hit a double because they don't expect you to go right away," said Hunter, who has eight stolen bases in 11 attempts this season.

"That's the only reason I went. With a guy as good as Felix on the mound, the closer you are to home, the better chance you have of scoring a run."

The Angels were successful on five of eight stolen-base attempts Tuesday and entered Wednesday with 55 stolen bases -- second in the major leagues behind Tampa Bay's 70 -- in 69 attempts.

But Manager Mike Scioscia approved of Hunter's attempt to swipe third. The Angels have been successful on six of seven attempts to steal third this season.

"It has to be an extraordinarily high success rate to attempt to do that, but when the opportunity is there, I want them to take advantage of it," Scioscia said. "It's a lot different being on third than second with one out."

Bullpen moves

Scioscia met individually with several relievers Wednesday, informing them that some bullpen roles would be changing.

Scot Shields, who was 0-2 with a 14.40 earned-run average after his first seven games, appears to have regained his eighth-inning role.

The right-hander has given up only four earned runs in 9 2/3 innings of his last 10 appearances, including a scoreless eighth inning Tuesday night, to lower his ERA to 7.36 entering Wednesday.

Jason Bulger, who pitched two hitless innings Tuesday and hasn't given up a run in 6 1/3 innings of seven appearances, will probably assume a more prominent late-inning role.

That means Justin Speier, who served in a setup role while Shields and Jose Arredondo struggled in April, will return to more of a middle and long-relief role.

"The bullpen has been in a state of flux, and the roles we envisioned, with the exception of [closer Brian] Fuentes haven't formed," Scioscia said.

"But in the last week to 10 days, we've seen guys start to throw to their capabilities, and that has given us better insight into some of the roles that will develop."

Tip of the cap

After catching Russell Branyan's routine fly ball to left field in the eighth inning Tuesday night, Gary Matthews Jr. doffed his cap toward the left-field bleachers.

Was the Angels left fielder being razzed by fans for catching a spike in the turf, tripping and falling to the ground after catching a Ken Griffey Jr. fly ball an inning earlier?

"No, I got a standing ovation from our bullpen," Matthews said. "That was cold."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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