Angels left fielder Vernon Wells readies for batting practice before Friday's… (Kim Klement / US Presswire )
Reporting from St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Angels are growing increasingly concerned over Vernon Wells' struggles at the plate.
Manager Mike Scioscia and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher met privately with Wells for a couple of hours before Friday's win over the Tampa Bay Rays, but whatever they talked about had just a modest impact as Wells went one for four with a bloop single, striking out twice — though he did drive home the go-ahead run with a fifth-inning fly out.
It was at least the second time Wells, who is hitting .181, has met with Scioscia behind closed doors this month, and the manager said the message was the same both times.
"We talked about taking a breather and things like that," Scioscia said. "It's really just communicating, trying to get ideas and concepts going back and forth to see if we can do something to get a player where he's in a comfort zone."
Wells looked anything but comfortable in his first two at-bats against Tampa Bay starter David Price, flailing at two-strike pitches high and away each time. In the fifth inning, he lifted a lazy fly to medium center field that drove in Bobby Abreu, just his second run batted in in nine days.
"He's trying to do too much. It's obvious with his swing," Scioscia said. "We've definitely talked about backing off one day and just coming out here and playing a game; strap it on and go without batting practice. Sometimes it just gives you a different perspective."
A career .280 hitter in 12 seasons with Toronto, Wells batted .337 with eight home runs last April. And his troubles this spring have had a big impact on a team that started its trip ranked 11th in the American League in scoring. No Angel has a lower average with runners in scoring position than Wells' .167, for example, and Jeff Mathis is the only regular with an on-base percentage below Wells' .223.
"With Vernon, where he is, it's going to be matter of little things that are going to eventually build into him feeling comfortable," Scioscia said. "Those little battles with Vernon are going to be important right now."
Scioscia is not optimistic the Angels will see first baseman Kendrys Morales or left-hander Scott Kazmir any time soon. Morales, out because of a broken ankle since May, took a step backward in his rehab when he returned to the team's training base in Arizona after being reexamined Wednesday by Dr. Phil Kwong, a foot and ankle specialist.
"I don't think there's much that we can do differently right now. Just have to be patient," Scioscia said. "There's a lot that's healing in there with his ankle. And some parts are just very, very slow."
Kazmir, who lasted five outs in his only big league appearance this season, has also seen his comeback stalled. He last pitched Thursday in an extended spring training game in Arizona with mixed results.
"He threw some real good sliders and changeups," Scioscia said of Kazmir's Thursday outing. But "the fastball command is something that has to keep moving forward."
Kazmir will throw at least one more extended spring game before the Angels decide where to send him next.