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Russell Branyan gets rare start, still seeks a job

Branyan, a proven power hitter on a team starved for power, hasn't been able to crack the lineup because rookie Mark Trumbo is established at first base, and third is reserved for superior defenders.

August 12, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Angels first baseman Russell Branyan and third baseman Alberto Callaspo celebrate after a two-run single by Torii Hunter against the Blue Jays on Friday night in Toronto.
Angels first baseman Russell Branyan and third baseman Alberto Callaspo… (Abelimages / Getty Images )

Reporting from Toronto — In an era of drug tests and amphetamine bans, when teams are starved for power, Russell Branyan can't find a decent job.

Branyan took Mariano Rivera into the third deck at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, as a pinch-hitter. The Angels started him Friday, for the first time in 20 days.

The Angels entered play ranking next-to-last in the American League in runs, with five home runs from their third basemen, and Branyan has played third base more than any other position in the major leagues. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Branyan is "adequate at first base" but not likely to play third.

"I think our defensive continuity is still important, especially on the left side of the infield," Scioscia said.

In the four seasons in which Branyan has gotten at least 350 at-bats, he has hit at least 20 home runs.

He hit 31 two years ago, 25 last year. He has four this year.

He turned down a guaranteed contract with the New York Mets last winter to take a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, lured by what he said was the promise of more playing time.

The Diamondbacks cut him after 62 at-bats. The Angels signed him as insurance against the potential struggles of Mark Trumbo, who then emerged as a rookie-of-the-year candidate. Branyan said he hopes to find at least a platoon job next year.

"I've enjoyed my time here," he said. "The chemistry is good. Mark's going to be a good player. I could be stuck in a lot worse situation. I could be on a team with a bunch of [crummy] guys and a bad manager. Mike's a great manager."

The last player to hit no fewer than 25 one year and no more than four the next: Andruw Jones, who showed up at Dodger Stadium overweight and marginally interested in 2008.

(Adam LaRoche of the Washington Nationals, whose season has ended because of injury, will join Jones and 12 others in major league history on the list of players to drop from 25 homers one season to four or fewer the next, with a minimum of 130 at-bats, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.)

Bring on the Rangers

Garrett Richards said he threw a bullpen session Friday, in anticipation of starting against the first-place Texas Rangers on Monday. In his major league debut, Richards gave up six runs in five innings Wednesday in Yankee Stadium, but he said his workout Friday did not focus on correcting mistakes.

"Nothing major," he said. "It was the Yankees. It was a hard lineup. I'm sure I'll do better next time."

Neither Richards nor his parents had been to New York before his debut. He said his parents visited the Statue of Liberty on Thursday and toured Times Square on Friday, sending pictures via his cellphone.

Ervin's magic man

Backup catcher Bobby Wilson caught Ervin Santana for the fourth consecutive start Friday, a run that started with Santana's no-hitter. Santana pitched complete games in three of those starts and came within two outs of a complete game in the other.

Santana has a 1.98 earned-run average with Wilson catching, a 4.26 ERA with Jeff Mathis catching. Wilson also has thrown out a runner trying to steal in each of his last five starts.

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