Cowgill's setback has Angels outfield in bind

Cowgill's setback has Angels outfield in bind

ANAHEIM -- Matt Joyce, sporting the lowest Wins Above Replacement score in the Major Leagues, was dropped to the No. 9 spot in the lineup on Saturday. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, designated for assignment after a two-week stint, was re-claimed off waivers by the Mets. Kyle Kubitza and Taylor Featherston, two rookie infielders, shagged fly balls in left field for the first time.

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The Angels are in a bind with their outfield, which made the latest installment in Collin Cowgill's rehabilitation from a sprained right wrist all the more troubling.

Cowgill, on the disabled list since May 28, recently experienced stiffness while taking batting practice in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will see a specialist in Arizona early next week. Mike Scioscia said Cowgill's injury "hasn't progressed the way we anticipated," which means the Angels will be without his right-handed bat, speed and premium defense a little longer than they had hoped.

"Collin's one of those guys you don't really appreciate until he's not there," Scioscia said. "He does so many things for us, especially against left-handed pitching. And right now we're going to have to try to create some depth in our roster to fill the void that's there because he's banged up."

Right fielder Kole Calhoun is now the backup center fielder for Mike Trout, while Efren Navarro has drawn three consecutive starts against right-handers -- playing left field on Thursday and Friday, then getting the nod at first base when Albert Pujols started at designated hitter on Saturday.

Calhoun's go-ahead tater

The Angels are still searching for a consistent ninth bat, while trying to get Joyce going.

Joyce entered Saturday with a .181/.266/.316 slash line, though he had a .345 on-base percentage over his previous eight games. Scioscia was not trying to send Joyce a message by batting him last.

"It's just a functional grouping," he said. "With Matt, the one thing he is doing is getting on base."

The Angels -- 21st in the Majors in OPS against right-handers and 27th in OPS from their left fielders -- are still trying to trade for a bat, particularly a left-handed hitter who can play left field. They're roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold, but the timing is not on their side.

Parity is as prevalent as ever and offense is down significantly.

The only true sellers right now are the Brewers and Phillies, with the other 28 teams within only nine games of a playoff spot. The Major League average in OPS is .709, which trails only last year's mark (.700) for the lowest in 23 years.

"You break the season into thirds, and we are now separate from the first third," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "The first third of the season is when you're identifying your need. The second third is when you're trying to solve your need.

"It takes time. We definitely know we have a need. We're an imperfect team, like most teams are, but we also have a lot of really strong points to this team."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.