Smith activated off DL, could be trade chip

Free agent-to-be missed 28 games with left hamstring strain

Smith activated off DL, could be trade chip

BOSTON -- The Angels activated their setup man, Joe Smith, on Friday, the very first day of July, which could end up being his final month with the organization.

First-year general manager Billy Eppler repeatedly stressed on Tuesday that the Angels would not rebuild. But that philosophy does not prevent him from trading off veteran pieces for much-needed young talent if the Angels remain out of it this month -- and Smith undoubtedly fits the profile, even amid a slow start.

He has a distinguished track record, he remains a weapon against opposing right-handed hitters, he is universally well-liked, and, just as important, he is a free agent at season's end.

"I'm worried about pitching," Smith said when asked if he has given much thought to the possibility of being traded. "Who knows, maybe I am here. Maybe they sign me. I can't worry about that. I just want to pitch and get outs. Either way, if I don't pitch and get outs, I might not have a job anymore. It's just nice to be healthy again."

Smith earns the save

The Angels optioned young right-hander Mike Morin -- with a 4.93 ERA in 35 appearances -- in order to make room on the roster for Smith. And Angels manager Mike Scioscia seems inclined to use a collection of relievers when his team holds a close lead in the eighth inning, at least initially.

Smith, who worked a scoreless inning of relief in Friday's 5-4 loss to the Red Sox, missed 28 games with a strained left hamstring he tried to pitch through. Before landing on the DL, the 32-year-old right-handed side-armer had a 3.91 ERA that would represent a career-high, and a 1.55 strikeout-to-walk ratio that was his lowest in six years.

But in five prior seasons, Smith has appeared in an average of 72 games, has posted a 2.51 ERA and has held opposing right-handed hitters to a .554 OPS, 157 points below the Major League average from 2011-15. His three-year, $15.75 million contract expires in four months, and the Angels haven't engaged him in serious talks for a new one -- partly because their GM is new, partly because the team is in last place in the AL West, and partly because Smith admittedly hasn't been at his best.

"Really," Smith said, "why would you? Would I like to stay? Yeah, I'd like to stay. But for me, I'd rather take the approach of, 'Let's just go pitch and see what happens.' Obviously they're going to do whatever's best for this organization. I can't worry about that."

Worth noting

• Angels third baseman Yunel Escobar missed his seventh consecutive game on Friday because of a tender left knee, though Scioscia said he made progress since Wednesday. The Angels have yet to place him on the disabled list because they're holding out hope that he can play on Saturday or Sunday. Jefry Marte started in Escobar's place at the hot corner and Kole Calhoun batted leadoff.

• Angels starter Andrew Heaney had his Tommy John surgery in Los Angeles on Friday morning and his agent, Rob Martin, said it "went smoothly." Scioscia felt Heaney made "the right decision" in relenting to surgery. "And I think he did it the right way," Scioscia added. "Certainly he feels that there was no chance that it would heal with the course of action now, so why wait?"

• Asked about what he would think if Mike Trout ultimately decided to take part in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, Scioscia said: "First of all, it's always been his decision. I think the Home Run Derby is much more manageable now [with timed rounds] than it was even two years ago or three years ago, which is good. If he wants to do it, then I think it'd be great." Trout recently said he is still undecided.

Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.