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Offense isn't only area where Angels see need for improvement

General Manager Tony Reagins and Manager Mike Scioscia, speaking before a 2-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, say there are multiple things the team needs to fix.

September 22, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

Tony Reagins emerged from two days of organizational meetings with an assessment of the Angels that might surprise followers of the team.

"I don't know that the offense has been the biggest shortcoming of the club," the general manager said before Wednesday night's 2-1, 12-inning loss to the Texas Rangers. "There have been several areas we haven't performed well in.

"The offense sticks out because of the numbers, but the bigger aspect of the game we have to get better in is all-around baseball, whether it's fundamentals, defense, pitching or getting into the type of game we do well."

Manager Mike Scioscia said coaches, front-office executives and scouts have "peeled the paint off this thing, I can tell you that."

And what was revealed?

"There are multiple areas we need to tighten up in, and offense is one," Scioscia said. "We struggled at times on defense. At times, the bullpen held leads and pitched well; at times it struggled. I don't think it can all be placed on the shoulders of the offense."

A lineup that lost slugger Kendry Morales to a season-ending leg injury May 29 didn't do enough heavy lifting.

The Angels entered Wednesday ranked 10th in the American League in batting average (.250), 12th in on-base percentage (.313), 10th in slugging (.395) and 11th in average with runners in scoring position (.247). And unlike in past seasons, when the Angels made up for a lack of power with aggressive base-running, they have only 96 stolen bases (seventh) and have been caught stealing 49 times, second-most in the league.

But the bullpen and defense haven't exactly been strengths. Relievers entered Wednesday ranked 11th in the AL with a 4.23 earned-run average, and they led the league in walks (218) and wild pitches (38).

The defense ranked 13th with a .982 fielding percentage, and Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu were so shaky in the corner outfield spots that the Angels called up speedy center fielder Peter Bourjos on Aug. 3 and moved nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter to right.

Closers Brian Fuentes and Fernando Rodney have not inspired much confidence, and ineffectiveness and injuries in the bullpen ( Scot Shields, Jason Bulger, Brian Stokes, Matt Palmer) made it difficult to keep scores close in the middle innings.

Combined with a sluggish offense, the Angels have mounted few comebacks — they have 22 come-from-behind wins and are 2-63 in games they've trailed after seven innings.

"Our team got one-dimensional," Scioscia said. "Early runs were more important to this team than any we've had. We didn't have the dynamic offense to come back like we did last year."

The Angels are expected to aggressively pursue Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Carl Crawford in free agency, but Reagins and Scioscia gave the impression that a reliable veteran reliever will also be high on the team's shopping list.

A need to be more athletic on defense and on the bases does not bode well for Rivera, whom the Angels will probably look to trade, and Abreu, who will probably move to designated hitter.

"A total overhaul of this team would be premature," Scioscia said. "An infusion of talent from the outside could be made, and we have some young talent that is going to mature and help us. But I think the nucleus of a championship-caliber club is here."

Rangers win

Jeff Francoeur doubled off reliever Matt Palmer to lead off the 12th inning and later scored on catcher Jeff Mathis' passed ball, and Texas beat the Angels and reduced its magic number for clinching the division to four.

Angels starter Dan Haren gave up one unearned run and three hits in seven innings, and Mike Napoli tied the score, 1-1, in the seventh with his team-leading 26th home run, a shot to right-center off Rangers starter C.J. Wilson.

The Angels had a chance to go ahead in the eighth when singles by Reggie Willits and Howie Kendrick put runners on first and third with one out.

But even with Kendrick running on a full-count pitch to Hunter, Texas shortstop Andres Blanco turned a double play on Hunter's hard grounder to the hole.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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