Joel Pineiro is clearly at the end of his rope after being tagged for seven earned runs and seven hits, including two home runs, in 41/3 innings of the Angels' 11-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins Wednesday night.
The 32-year-old right-hander insists he feels fine physically, but he is 0-3 with a 14.85 earned run average in his last four starts, having allowed 22 earned runs and 29 hits, walking six and striking out two in 131/3 innings.
"I wish I had an explanation, but I have no idea what's going on," Pineiro said. "I've tried everything. I've seen video, worked on mechanics, thrown in the bullpen. Honestly, the next thing I can do is sacrifice a live chicken."
The Angels are thinking along the same lines, only they might chop the fourth starter from their rotation.
Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have been superb, pitching well enough to keep the offensively challenged Angels in contention, one game behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West.
But a complete collapse by Pineiro since the All-Star break, combined with the inconsistency of No. 5 starter Tyler Chatwood, is threatening to torpedo the team's playoff hopes.
Chatwood has been erratic, mixing several brilliant starts with an occasional shoddy one, which should be expected from a 21-year-old who had only 61/3 innings of triple-A experience when he was called up by the Angels in early April.
Pineiro's struggles are more baffling. The veteran was 5-3 with a 3.90 ERA in his first 14 starts, usually keeping the Angels in the game with his ground-ball-inducing sinkers, but he has been shelled in each of his last four starts.
"This is embarrassing," Pineiro said. "I'm making the team, the [pitching] staff and myself look bad. I've got to turn it around. If it's going to be like this the rest of the year, it's going to be a long year for me."
Manager Mike Scioscia won't give Pineiro that much time to turn things around. He said after the game that changes might be coming.
"We'll put everything on the table [Thursday] and see where we are," Scioscia said. "Definitely, we need J.P. pitching like he can — that's important to us.
"Our organizational pitching depth is not where it has been. There are limited options, but we'll look at everything and see what the best way is for us to move forward."
Hisanori Takahashi looked like a good candidate to replace Pineiro, but the left-hander's first pitch after replacing the starter in the fifth inning Wednesday was crushed for a grand slam by Michael Cuddyer, a shot to center field that snapped a 4-4 tie.
Takahashi, 36, was a starter for 10 years in Japan and made 12 starts for the New York Mets last season.
Despite his rocky outing Wednesday — he also gave up a solo homer to Jason Kubel in the seventh — Takahashi "is definitely going to be in the conversation," Scioscia said.
There are few attractive options at triple-A Salt Lake, though right-hander Trevor Bell, who is 2-2 with a 4.34 ERA there, will be considered.
So will the organization's top pitching prospect, right-hander Garrett Richards, who is 12-1 with a 3.04 ERA, 98 strikeouts and 39 walks in 136 innings at double-A Arkansas.
"We're going to throw a lot of things on the table," Scioscia said. "We're going to look at every option we have, including Joel, but it's safe to say he needs to start throwing the ball better, and we haven't seen him move forward at all in his last seven starts."