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ANGELS FYI

Bobby Abreu sits out Sunday's game

Manager Mike Scioscia says he gave the right fielder and No. 3 batter time off to "freshen him a bit." First baseman Kendry Morales will likely sit out Monday's game.

September 21, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Nearing the end of a grueling season-ending stretch in which they'll play 50 games in 52 days, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia gave right fielder and No. 3 batter Bobby Abreu, who is hitless in 12 at-bats over his last three games, Sunday off.

"He's played a lot down the stretch, so we'll try to freshen him up a bit and get him back in there at home," Scioscia said. "At this point of the season, you want to be a step ahead of things if you can. At times, it's important to sit back and watch a game."

With left-hander Andy Pettitte scheduled to start tonight for the New York Yankees in Anaheim, first baseman Kendry Morales probably will sit back and watch the series opener.

Morales was being mentioned as a most-valuable-player candidate at the end of August, and he entered September with a .314 average, 30 home runs and 94 runs batted in.

But in his last 11 games, Morales has six hits in 40 at-bats for a .150 average and no RBIs. After his second-inning double Sunday, Morales struck out four times. His season average is .298.

"He's obviously not as comfortable in the box," Scioscia said. "Mickey [Hatcher, batting coach] is trying to get him to use more of the field, left-center field. It could be the time of the year, it could be his swing is getting a little long, but he'll snap out of it."

Though the Angels are 21-16 so far in their 50-game sprint to the finish, their offense had stalled in September, averaging 3.3 runs a game before Sunday's 10-run outburst.

But the pitching staff leads the major leagues with a 2.56 earned-run average in September, and the Angels have avoided serious injuries.

"We keep chewing it off one game at a time, but when you look back, it's hard to believe we've played that many games in that many days," Scioscia said. "It's challenging, and we've gone through some lulls, but all in all, we've held up well."

Mothballed Matt

Matt Palmer helped patch the Angels' injury-plagued rotation in April, May and June, going 8-1 with a 4.99 ERA in 12 starts. He filled a valuable bullpen role in July, August and September, with a 2.39 ERA in 22 relief appearances.

But lately, the 30-year-old right-hander hasn't been doing much of anything. With Angels starters going six innings or more in 16 of 19 games this month and short reliever Jason Bulger back from a shoulder injury, Palmer has pitched only twice in the last 12 days, including his scoreless eighth inning Sunday.

"As long as we win, it doesn't matter," said Palmer, in his first full season in the big leagues. "That's what we want, the starters to go long."

Palmer's inactivity has him wondering if he'll fit into the team's post-season plans. If the Angels go with a 10-man pitching staff in the first round, putting one of their starters in the bullpen, the last bullpen spot will come down to Palmer and Jose Arredondo.

"I've worked real hard my whole life to get here; it would be real nice to be in that [playoff] situation," Palmer said. "But they're going to take who they take, and that's the way it goes."

Closing in on a crown

The Angels took a commanding 7 1/2 -game division lead over the Rangers on Sunday, but they weren't about to declare the race over.

"Let's be honest, it's looking good for us," pitcher John Lackey said. "But I'm not going to go past that."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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