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Vernon Wells' early struggles raise concerns for Angels

ANGELS FYI

Left fielder Vernon Wells is coming off the worst season of his career, and the Angels think he might be pressing to atone for it. He is out of the lineup Monday after a two-for-13 start at the plate.

April 09, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels outfielder Vernon Wells reacts to a strike during Sunday's game against the Royals.
Angels outfielder Vernon Wells reacts to a strike during Sunday's… (Harry How / Getty Images )

MINNEAPOLIS — A mere three games into the season, the Angels are already concerned Vernon Wells is pressing in an effort to bounce back from his career-worst 2011, when the left fielder hit .218 with a .248 on-base percentage, 25 home runs and 66 runs batted in.

Wells was two for 13 (.154) with a home run and four strikeouts in the season-opening series against Kansas City, whiffing twice Sunday on pitches that were well above the strike zone.

Wells was not in the lineup Monday and was summoned by Manager Mike Scioscia for a brief closed-door chat before the game against the Minnesota Twins. Wells replaced Bobby Abreu in left field in the seventh inning and struck out in the eighth.

"Absolutely," Scioscia said, when asked if Wells is feeling pressure to make up for last season. "He understands how much we need him. There could be some things players do from time to time to overcompensate for some things they're trying to correct."

Wells spent much of the winter working with Chicago Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to overhaul his swing and approach, but Scioscia said the adjustments he spoke to Wells about Monday were more "conceptual" than mechanical.

"His bat speed is still incredible, and his hands are great," Scioscia said. "He just needs to settle in, and I think less will be more. He needs to keep it simple."

Memory Lane

Angels right fielder Torii Hunter and reliever LaTroy Hawkins were part of a pregame ceremony Monday honoring the Twins' 2002 club that lost to the Angels in the American League Championship Series just months after their franchise was nearly eliminated by Major League Baseball.

"That ranks No. 1 on my list of favorite moments," said Hunter, who was drafted by the Twins in 1993 and spent 15 years with the organization before signing with the Angels before 2008. "We didn't know if we were going to be a triple-A team, a Yankees farm club or if we'd be contracted, and we won 94 games."

Hawkins was 6-0 with a 2.13 earned-run average in 65 games for the Twins in 2002. Hunter, who had breakfast with several former teammates Monday, hit .289 with 29 homers and 94 RBIs to help spark a run in which Minnesota reached the playoffs six times in nine years.

"We were like brothers," Hunter said. "We had a lot of fun. It's special to see all the guys I played with, guys I came up with, guys I cracked jokes with. This is where it all started. This is home. It's something I'll never forget."

Short hops

Michael Kohn was shut down again when his forearm strain prevented him from throwing long-toss last week, and the reliever will travel to Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday to be examined by surgeon James Andrews. . . . Abreu's first-inning double Monday was the 556th of his career, the most among active players.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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