SURPRISE, ARIZ. — After finishing among the top three in the American League in stolen bases for eight consecutive seasons, the Angels were slowed considerably last summer, stealing just 104 times while getting thrown out on a third of their attempts.
That was their worst mark since Mike Scioscia's first season as manager in 2000.
The Angels are up and running again this spring, though. With three steals in a 10-6 loss Wednesday to the Texas Rangers, the team has swiped 10 bases in 12 tries in Cactus League play. Scioscia was quick to dismiss the trend, noting that nine of those 10 stolen bases belong to players who don't figure to make the big league roster.
"A lot of the youngsters have kind of grown up with this. Their legs are in shape. And if we get an opportunity, obviously you want to keep pushing that envelope," he said.
But, he added, some of that aggressiveness should carry into the season.
"We have some depth in our running game," Scioscia said. "It's going to create some situations, maybe, that will help us put guys in motion, whether it's a run-and-hit, hit-and-run or straight steal."
With the addition of outfielder Vernon Wells, who has twice stolen as many as 17 bases in a season, seven of the Angels' nine projected regulars have swiped at least 10 in a big league season.
Center fielder Peter Bourjos and shortstop Erick Aybar have each stolen 50 in a season in the minors, and designated hitter Bobby Abreu has stolen at least 20 bases in 12 consecutive seasons.
Kendry Morales was back in the clubhouse Wednesday after sitting out two days because of flu symptoms and a fever that reached 103 degrees. But that moved him only marginally closer to being ready to play in a game.
The Angels are four weeks away from their regular-season opener and Morales, recovering from a broken ankle that ended his 2010 season after 51 games, still cannot run without the aid of a special harness that supports 20% of his body weight.
The training staff is also experimenting with the wrap it has been putting on Morales' ankle, hoping to make it less restrictive.
Morales wasn't the only Angel who stayed in Tempe while the team traveled an hour up the freeway to Surprise. Aybar and second baseman Howie Kendrick, along with starting outfielders Wells, Bourjos and Torii Hunter, also remained behind to work on cutoff plays.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Rangers 10, Angels 6
AT THE PLATE: Third baseman Maicer Izturis had a double and a home run, driving in three runs. Catcher Jeff Mathis, the only other starter to make the trip, had a single, a stolen base, a run batted in and a run scored. The Angels banged out 12 hits and stole three more bases, giving them 10 in 12 attempts this spring. But they were four for 14 with runners in scoring position.
ON THE MOUND: The Rangers hit home runs off four of the six Angels pitchers, beginning with starter Dan Haren, who gave up a three-run blast to David Murphy in the second inning. Nonroster right-hander Chris Scholl was the only Angel to pitch a perfect inning, retiring the side in order in the eighth.
EXTRA BASES: Although Haren said he was pleased with how he felt Wednesday, throwing 22 of his 29 pitches for strikes, he was angry about Murphy's homer, which came on a two-strike pitch. "If giving up a homer doesn't bother you, then you shouldn't be on the mound," he said. "Every time I go out there I want to do well. I want to put up zeroes."
UP NEXT: Ervin Santana makes his first start of the spring against the Kansas City Royals and Kyle Davies in Tempe at noon PST Thursday.
ON THE AIR: TV: FS West. Radio: 830.
-- Kevin Baxter