With the potential tying run on second base and one out in the ninth inning Sunday, Mike Scioscia turned to his bench.
The Angels' manager wanted a pinch-hitter for catcher Jeff Mathis, who was hitless in his first three at-bats, but the players at Scioscia's disposal might have seemed more like last resorts than enticing options.
There was Cory Aldridge, who had one major league hit in 14 professional seasons; Bobby Wilson, who was batting .200 against right-handed pitchers; and Brandon Wood, whose season-long slump had only deepened amid a two-for-20 slide.
Scioscia went with Paul McAnulty, a 29-year-old journeyman batting .136 with one home run and 11 strikeouts in 22 at-bats. McAnulty walked during a rally that eventually fizzled in a 2-1 loss to Seattle and was designated for assignment after the game.
Sending the rest of the reserves packing isn't an option, to the chagrin of most Angels fans.
"We have a young bench and you could say they're one of our weak spots, but I don't know what you can do," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "I'm pretty sure all teams have a weak spot, and that happens to be ours."
In recent years, the Angels' bench included more attractive alternatives, including Gary Matthews Jr., Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales. That was before Matthews was traded to the New York Mets and Rivera and Morales became starters. Robb Quinlan, a staple of the bench for most of the last seven years, was demoted to the minor leagues this month.
"As we keep going through this, hopefully we can create some more depth," General Manager Tony Reagins said. "But as of right now, there's just not those guys with the level of experience we had on the bench in the past."
The reserve corps could get a boost Tuesday when Maicer Izturis returns from the disabled list, but the utility infielder will probably start at third base when the Angels open a series against the New York Yankees.
Izturis' return will probably mean more time on the bench for Kevin Frandsen, who has been a pleasant surprise since being claimed off waivers from the Boston Red Sox in April. Frandsen is batting .290 in 42 games, including 35 starts.
Outfielder Reggie Willits, who entered Sunday's game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, gives Scioscia an attractive pinch-hitting option leading off an inning, though Willits is unlikely to drive the ball. He has gone 337 games with an at-bat without hitting a homer, the longest homerless streak in the major leagues among active non-pitchers.
Scioscia said he is not as concerned with his bench depth as he is with sustaining continuity in his batting order after the season-ending injury to Morales and continued struggles of Wood, who was expected to be the everyday third baseman.
"I don't think our depth issue is as much looking for a pinch-hitter coming off the bench as it is to make sure that every day we have enough guys that we can create matchups with in the starting lineup," Scioscia said.
After pitching once over the previous 13 days, closer Brian Fuentes appeared in the last three games of the Seattle series. He pitched a total of three scoreless innings, giving up no hits and one walk to continue a resurgence in which he has not given up a run over his last 11 outings.
"You could see it coming where he was getting his command, hitting his spots, and when he's doing that he can get on a roll like he did last year," Scioscia said of Fuentes, who since June 20 has lowered his earned-run average from 6.23 to 3.81. "It's an important time for us, and he's throwing the ball well."
Matt Palmer, on the disabled list since May 11 because of a strained shoulder muscle, has pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings in three appearances with Salt Lake. He picked up a victory in relief Sunday, striking out three batters in 2 1/3 innings against Sacramento. … Scott Kazmir (shoulder fatigue) will accompany the Angels on their trip and is scheduled to throw in the bullpen during the series against Texas that starts Thursday.
Buy Angels tickets here
Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.