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Angels are looking at pitchers they could acquire

Club has scouted Tampa Bay's James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson, Miami's Josh Johnson and Minnesota's Francisco Liriano, just in case there's an opportunity to trade for them.

July 23, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna and Lance Pugmire

The Angels have scouted Tampa Bay pitchers James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson extensively, and Monday night they had scouts in Miami to watch Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson pitch against Atlanta and in Chicago to see Minnesota left-hander Francisco Liriano pitch against the White Sox.

"If the ability to make a move to help the club exists, we'll search that out," General Manager Jerry Dipoto said, eight days before the non-waiver trade deadline. "Pitching will be available — it is every July. How much of it will be available, I don't know. But there will be a premium to access it."

Hal Morris, the Angels' director of professional scouting, was in Miami on Monday night to watch Johnson, 28, who gave up one hit over six innings and struck out nine to beat the Braves, 2-1. Johnson, who is 6-7 with a 4.14 earned-run average, left because of a blister that isn't expected to affect his next start.

Johnson and Liriano have ace-caliber stuff, but their injury histories make them risky trade targets.

Liriano, 28, didn't enhance his trade value Monday, giving up three home runs and seven earned runs in 22/3 innings.

Johnson, who is signed through 2013 and is being paid $13.75 million this season and would receive the same amount next season, won a combined 26 games in 2009-10, but a shoulder injury limited him to nine starts in 2011.

Hellickson, 25, was the American League rookie of the year last season. He was 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA.

With an excess of pitching, the Rays had a special assignment scout in Detroit to watch the Angels last week and are willing to part with the right-hander if they can get players to upgrade their offense in return.

Erick Aybar toe injury to be reevaluated

An X-ray Saturday night revealed an inconclusive "line" on Erick Aybar's right big toe and the shortstop will be reevaluated Tuesday, the Angels said. Aybar fouled a ball off the toe in Saturday's game.

"He's not close to playing now," Manager Mike Scioscia said of Aybar, who walked through the team's clubhouse in a walking boot fitted below his knee. "It will be determined by how he feels and if he can improve enough. Hopefully, he can avoid the disabled list."

Scioscia and a team spokesman were unable to say whether the line on the X-ray indicated a break. Scioscia said he was eager to learn more, whether Aybar, who's batting .325 in the last 34 games, is out "for two days or two weeks."

The Angels probably will start Maicer Izturis in Aybar's absence at least through Wednesday, and just-promoted Jean Segura fielded ground balls at shortstop before Monday's game.

Jordan Walden addresses injury

Angels reliever Jordan Walden, who hasn't pitched since July 8 because of what was immediately assessed as a right biceps strain, said there's also a nerve issue stemming from his neck that weakened his pitching arm.

Walden said a recent MRI exam revealed the neck nerve problem, but he called it "minor."

He's scheduled to have a follow-up exam Tuesday after "all kinds of exercise, rehab and treatment to get the strength back," Walden said.

Garrett Richards to make start

Former first-round pick Garrett Richards (3-1, 3.53 ERA) will make his eighth start for the Angels on Tuesday night, but his first since Scioscia kept him in the rotation over slumping veteran Jerome Williams.

"It was just … the guy has terrific stuff and for Jerome, it was time to take a breather," Scioscia said. "We felt that if Garrett gets in a zone, his stuff plays anywhere."

Fast company

Scioscia says that the outfield combination of Torii Hunter, Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos could be the fastest in the majors since the 1985 season.

 That year, the St. Louis Cardinals started speedsters Vince Coleman and Willie McGee and rotated Andy Van Slyke and Tito Landrum.

Scioscia's words didn't come as a surprise to Hunter, who said the trio is definitely the fastest in the majors this year. And he said he feels no shame in being the third-fastest in that group.

"Hey, of course I'm the third-fastest out of the three; I'm 37," said Hunter, who lost 18 pounds in the off-season to improve his speed. "I'm still pretty fast, but those guys are among the fastest in the game."

Scioscia has been using the group with more regularity recently, including Monday against the Kansas City Royals. Mark Trumbo, who usually starts in left field, was moved to designated hitter and Bourjos got the start in the outfield.

With a group of outfielders who can cover so much ground, Scioscia believes it gives his club a defensive edge, and has been employing the trio late in games.

With the trade deadline looming and the Angels rumored to be looking for help in the bullpen, Kendrys Morales has been mentioned as a potential trading chip. If Morales is traded, the Angels could employ the speedy outfield full time.

Times staff writer Andrew L. John contributed to this report.

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