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ANGELS FYI

Vernon Wells takes the long view of his slow start at the plate

The Angels' new left fielder went three for 27 in the first six games, but he can recall an even worse start — in 2002, his first full season. And that wound up being a 23-homer, 100-RBI year.

April 08, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels outfielder Vernon Wells throws his bat after striking out against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.
Angels outfielder Vernon Wells throws his bat after striking out against… (Kim Klement / U.S. Presswire )

Most baseball players have amazing recall, for the good and the bad. They can remember what pitch they hit for a home run off a certain pitcher 10 years ago, and what pitch the same guy struck them out with five years ago.

So, when he was asked before Friday night's home opener about his sluggish start, left fielder Vernon Wells, who hit .111 (three for 27) with eight strikeouts in his first six games with the Angels, immediately flashed back to 2002.

"I've been through worse starts than this," said Wells, who was facing his old team, the Toronto Blue Jays, for the first time. "My first full season in the big leagues, I went three for 30-something."

Wells was spot-on. Seven games into 2002, he was hitting .100 (three for 30) with no home runs and three runs batted in. He went on to hit .275 with 23 homers and 100 RBIs on the season.

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"You don't panic in this game," said Wells, 32. "You keep working, taking early batting practice and swings in the cage, and once it clicks, it clicks."

Was Wells, who was slowed by hamstring tightness in the last week of spring training, trying too hard to impress his new team?

"No. I was just bad," he said. "I was terrible. I was missing the concept of hitting the baseball. I don't think I've ever been punched out that many times on a road trip. That means there are going to be a lot of hard-hit balls coming. That's how I see it."

Downs' return near

The pitching line for Scott Downs at Class-A Inland Empire on Thursday night was not pretty — one inning, one earned run, two hits, one walk — but that was of no concern to the veteran left-hander, who is on the disabled list because of a broken left big toe.

"My arm feels good," said Downs, who has been sidelined since March 13. "I don't care about the results. I could give up 10 runs, as long as I felt good. I'm there to get healthy."

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Downs had no problems covering first base on one grounder, fielding a slow roller to the right side or backing up third base on a play. He will make another rehabilitation appearance for Inland Empire on Saturday and will probably be activated Monday.

On the run again

First baseman Kendrys Morales, whose return from a broken left ankle has been slower than anticipated, resumed running on a treadmill Friday, but he still hasn't run on the field since his last setback in late March.

"He's trying to get over that last hurdle of running 100% on a treadmill before he gets back to running on the field," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's the last mental hurdle of letting it go on the treadmill. He's moving in the right direction."

Short hops

Joel Pineiro, who suffered a setback last week in his return from right shoulder tightness, played long toss Friday and hopes to throw off a mound early next week. The right-hander will not be ready by Tuesday, when the Angels need to add a fifth starter to the rotation. . . . Shortstop Erick Aybar, who has missed four games because of a left side strain, began taking ground balls Friday and should resume batting practice over the weekend. It appears Aybar will avoid the DL, but he probably won't return until late next week.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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