TEMPE, ARIZ. — Bill Hall's chances of sticking with the Angels were dealt a severe blow Thursday when the veteran utility player hobbled off to have an MRI exam, which revealed a strained left calf muscle.
Hall hasn't played since experiencing tightness in his right quadriceps more than two weeks ago. He was expected back in the lineup this weekend, but those plans changed when Hall strained his calf during infield drills Wednesday.
"It's real frustrating," said Hall, who injured the same calf in spring training four years ago. "Obviously, I want to get out there. I was playing well. I did a lot of work this off-season to help prevent things like this. But I guess there's another plan.
"Hopefully it's not as bad as it could be and I can get back out there as soon as possible and feel comfortable."
Time is short. Because Hall went into the winter without a contract, and with more than six years of big league service time, he is in a free-agent category in which the Angels must decide by March 26, five days before the season opener, whether Hall will make their 25-man roster.
"I'm a little concerned," said Hall, who is batting .444 with three doubles in nine at-bats this spring. "Hopefully I can come back quick and still have plenty of time."
A healthy Hall, who has played more than 200 big league games at four positions, would probably have had the inside track for the final spot on the Angels' roster.
But if he's out for any length of time, that would probably leave Luis Jimenez, Kole Calhoun, Brendan Harris and Luis Rodriguez to battle for that final spot.
Playing the field
Albert Pujols, who had off-season surgery on his right knee, looked good running the bases Thursday, but Manager Mike Scioscia said the first baseman is at least a week away from playing in the field.
"He's been taking ground balls for a while. Moving off the bag," Scioscia said of Pujols, who had two singles in three at-bats before leaving for a pinch-runner in the fourth inning. "First base is a position that requires an incredible amount of agility -- which he has -- but his knee might not be ready for it. You want to take the steps in the order they come and not miss anything.
"There are all kinds of muscles that don't work in a practice environment that all of a sudden fire in a game. You are trying to simulate as much as you can."
Closer Ryan Madson threw off a mound for the second time this spring, making 25 pitches at what he called 50% effort. Madson is coming back from Tommy John surgery, which cost him all of last season.... Mike Trout, who reported to camp at 241 pounds, says he is down to 232, well on the way to his goal of 230 pounds by opening day.... Peter Bourjos, who has been having a respiratory issue, did not play after seeing a doctor.
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Angels 12, Chicago White Sox 4
AT THE PLATE: Mike Trout hit his first home run of the spring and scored three times, and Howie Kendrick and Albert Pujols each had two hits. Kendrick extended his spring hitting streak to 11 starts and raised his average to .485. For Trout, who also had a double and is batting .407, the three runs gave him 11 in as many games.
ON THE MOUND: Jason Vargas had his best outing of the spring, setting down the first seven batters in order and allowing only three runners to reach base in 42/3 innings. He struck out five. In an inning of relief, left-hander Scott Downs gave up a run on a sixth-inning homer by Dewayne Wise.
EXTRA BASES: Catcher Hank Conger, who has had his troubles throwing, made a sensational catch on a foul popup, as did third baseman Alberto Callaspo, who reached into the Chicago dugout to make his grab. The Angels have four starters -- Trout, Pujols, Kendrick and Chris Iannetta -- batting .400 or better.
UP NEXT: Angels vs. Seattle, Friday at 1 p.m. at Tempe Diablo Stadium. On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 830.
-- Kevin Baxter