Angels relief pitcher Hisanori Takahashi has 10 years of starting experience… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)
Reliever Hisanori Takahashi appears to be the leading candidate to replace struggling right-hander Joel Pineiro in the rotation, with triple-A right-handers Trevor Bell and Jerome Williams and double-A right-hander Garrett Richards also in the mix.
Manager Mike Scioscia said he has settled on a replacement starter, who would pitch Wednesday night in Yankee Stadium, but he would not reveal his choice Friday.
Takahashi, 36, was a starter for 10 years in Japan, and among his 12 starts for the New York Mets in 2010 was a June 18 game at Yankee Stadium in which he gave up four hits, struck out three and walked two in six scoreless innings of a 4-0 victory.
The left-hander also threw six scoreless innings against the Yankees in Citi Field on May 21, giving up five hits, striking out five and walking one in the Mets' 2-1 loss.
Richards is the organization's top pitching prospect, with a 12-2 record and 3.06 earned-run average at Arkansas, but it might be asking too much of a 23-year-old to make his big league debut in Yankee Stadium against one of baseball's most prolific offenses.
"Whoever starts, the challenge is to be connected with the catcher, not to be disconnected with the environment," Scioscia said. "Whether it's someone from our roster or minor league system, that's where the focus will be."
Takahashi, who gave up a tiebreaking grand slam to Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer on Wednesday night, is 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA in 43 games this season, and he has not gone more than 22/3 innings or thrown more than 43 pitches in any of those appearances.
But if he starts Wednesday, "I could throw 100 pitches," Takahashi said through an interpreter. "I don't know what would happen a couple of days after that, but I could throw 100 pitches."
No hard feelings
Pineiro, who was 0-3 with a 14.85 ERA in his last four starts, took Thursday's demotion to the bullpen in stride.
"If I was young, I'd probably be throwing stuff around, yelling at people, but I'm too old for that," he said. "If they want me in the bullpen, that's their decision. They're the bosses. I wish I was pitching better, but I had a bad little stretch — a really bad stretch."
Pineiro, 32, was 5-3 with a 3.90 ERA in his first 14 starts before giving up 22 earned runs and 29 hits in 131/3 innings against Oakland, Baltimore, Detroit and Minnesota.
His struggles could affect his value as a free agent in the off-season — Pineiro's two-year, $16-million contract expires after this season.
"If I wasn't healthy, I'd be very concerned, but I feel fine," Pineiro said. "I just want to pitch good for the team and to make it to the playoffs. Honestly, free agency was the last thing in my head."
Rookie first baseman Mark Trumbo began Friday night's game with a team-leading 21 home runs and 62 runs batted in. No rookie has led his team in homers and RBIs over a full season since Cleveland's Jody Gerut (22 homers, 75 RBIs) in 2003.
The previous four American League rookies to lead their team in homers and RBIs won rookie-of-the-year honors: Kansas City's Bob Hamelin (24 homers, 65 RBIs) in 1994, Oakland's Mark McGwire (49, 118) in 1987, Seattle's Alvin Davis (27, 116) in 1984 and Chicago's Ron Kittle (35, 100) in 1983.