Jeff Mathis' batting average dipped below .200 for the first time this season Monday, the Angels catcher's season-long slump only worsening over the last month.
But that figure wasn't the one triggering the most concern in the manager's office.
"What's probably more disappointing than his offensive side are some of his defensive numbers," Mike Scioscia said before the Angels played Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Angels pitchers have a 4.03 earned-run average when Mathis is behind the plate this season, a smidgen higher than the 3.95 ERA they had compiled in games he had caught previously in his career. Mathis has also thrown out 23.1% of attempted base stealers, slightly worse than the 24.6% he threw out last season.
"Obviously, the numbers don't look great," Mathis said. "I'm just doing my stuff trying to get on the same page as the pitchers to get them in rhythm and where they need to be."
Mathis was pretty much exactly where he wanted to be offensively early this season, hitting .324 when he suffered a wrist injury April 19 that forced him to miss the next 55 games. He is hitting .160 since returning in June, including only .079 this month with 15 strikeouts in 38 at-bats, to bring his overall average to .196.
Mathis said he didn't think his offensive struggles were influencing his work behind the plate, and Scioscia asserted that the catcher had recently "picked it up a notch" defensively.
"Although he needs to be that presence and at times he brings it," Scioscia said, "on a consistent basis it hasn't been there."
On the upswing
Francisco Rodriguez is streaking again. And this time the numbers look good.
The rookie reliever has yielded only one run in his last 8 2/3 innings, continuing a string of alternately good and bad stretches that started with a scoreless streak of 8 1/3 innings to start the season.
The right-hander then gave up eight runs over his next eight innings before bouncing back to give up only two runs over his next 8 2/3 innings. He then yielded five runs over his next 6 1/3 innings before his current roll, which has lowered his earned-run average to 3.69.
"He's made some nice improvements and hopefully those little pitfalls will be fewer as he gets more mature in the big leagues," pitching coach Mike Butcher said.
Butcher said when Rodriguez struggled he often had trouble completing innings after getting two outs, something the pitcher attributed to "trying to do more than I can. And that's when I get lost. That's not what you need. If you're doing well, stick to the plan and keep doing what you're doing."
Scioscia said Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli would split time at first base the rest of the season, with Rivera inserted into the mix because he had been a more consistent hitter recently. Rivera entered Tuesday batting .318 since the All-Star break. … Although Scioscia declined to say who would start Friday's game against Baltimore, Trevor Bell said both the manager and Butcher had told him he would pitch against the Orioles. … Outfield prospect Mike Trout, who hit .362 with six homers and 39 RBIs in 81 games with Class-A Cedar Rapids of the Midwest League before being promoted to Rancho Cucamonga in July, was selected Midwest League most valuable player and prospect of the year.