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Angels are sticking with current cleanup hitters

Manager Mike Scioscia says the spot in the batting order will continue to be handled, at least for now, by Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales, even though Morales is struggling at the plate.

July 15, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Mark Trumbo celebrates with Albert Pujols after Trumbo hit a two-run homer against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Mark Trumbo celebrates with Albert Pujols after Trumbo hit a two-run homer… (Fred Thornhill / Associated…)

NEW YORK — Mike Scioscia so far has resisted making Mark Trumbo his full-time cleanup hitter even though Trumbo's power and performance — and Kendrys Morales' lack thereof — clearly warrant such a move.

But the Angels manager is relenting, acknowledging Saturday that locking Trumbo into the fourth spot behind Mike Trout, Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols "is something we're looking at."

The switch-hitting Morales bats cleanup against right-handers because Scioscia prefers to break up the right-handed hitters at the top of the lineup with a left-handed bat. Trumbo hits fourth against left-handers.

But Trumbo, an All-Star who is batting .305 with a team-leading 23 home runs, 60 runs batted in and a .610 slugging percentage, is actually hitting better against right-handers (.312, 15 home runs) than left-handers (.289, eight home runs).

His 435-foot three-run home run Friday in Yankee Stadium came against right-hander Hiroki Kuroda and was his 15th shot that tied a score or gave the Angels a lead.

Morales has struggled to regain his 2009 form after sitting out a year and a half because of a broken left ankle, hitting .282 with a .421 slugging percentage, eight home runs and 33 RBIs and a decent .286 with runners in scoring position. But he has one home run and 10 RBIs in his last 24 games.

"If Kendrys isn't as productive as he can be and we have to adjust, we will," Scioscia said. "But Mark is getting the table set. He's getting plenty of opportunities. He's getting pitched to."

He didn't in the first inning Saturday. With runners on second and third and two outs, Trumbo walked on five pitches, four of them breaking balls far off the outside corner.

"If Kendrys' power doesn't emerge, that would be a consideration," Scioscia said of moving Trumbo to the fourth spot permanently, "but right now, the offense is going the way we want it. We'll adjust when we start seeing some things that would really warrant moving some guys around."

Scioscia believes the struggles of Morales, who hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 RBIs in 2009, have more to do with plate discipline than with his surgically repaired ankle.

"He's at his best when he's using the whole field," Scioscia said. "He's expanding the strike zone a bit."

Short hops

Hunter sat out Saturday's game because of right groin tightness but is expected to return Sunday or Monday. … Despite struggling in his last two starts with the Angels and giving up eight runs and 11 hits in 31/3 innings for triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday, right-hander Garrett Richards is expected to be recalled to start Tuesday night in Detroit. … C.J. Wilson said the blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, which forced him to sit out the All-Star game, caused "no problems" during his seven-inning stint Friday night. … Trout became the sixth rookie in club history to steal 30 bases or more in one season.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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