Thompson reactivated after birth of first son
Reliever ready to continue breakout season with Angels
ANAHEIM -- Relief pitcher Rich Thompson was reactivated by the Angels on Saturday, and while it was nice to rejoin his buddies in the bullpen, the big picture -- a brand-new family photo -- was more exhilarating for the man from Australia.
Thompson became a father for the first time on Monday when his wife, Ashley, gave birth to Richard William Thompson in Little Rock, Ark. The couple met while Thompson was toiling for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, and Thompson was tuning up for a return to Anaheim when the big day arrived.
"It was an amazing experience, the greatest feeling you can have," Thompson said. "Now it's back to work."
A fringe member of the Angels' bullpen for the past four seasons with a total of 28 appearances, Thompson, 26, has made major strides this season in harnessing his repertoire featuring a mid-90s fastball along with a cutter and curveball. Refinement of the cutter, under the tutelage of pitching coach Mike Butcher, has had much to do with his improvement. Thompson owns a 1.86 ERA in 9 2/3 innings, allowing a total of nine baserunners while striking out nine hitters.
"He's made slight mechanical adjustments and found a delivery he's comfortable with," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He has a power arm with a big curveball that's not a good command pitch for him. The cutter helps him get back into the zone and helps him against lefties. He's more consistent now with it."
Thompson assumes the spot on the 25-man roster that had been held by closer Brian Fuentes before he was shipped on Friday to the Twins for a player to be named.
Right-hander Bell getting better with time
ANAHEIM -- Experience, the expression goes, is the best teacher. Nobody has to convince Trevor Bell, whose growing pains at the highest level have resulted in a more focused demeanor and command of a Major League mound.
Bell's confident attitude and body language were apparent to Angels manager Mike Scioscia on Friday night when he delivered his most impressive performance in his ninth career start, despite taking the loss and falling to 1-4 with a 5.07 ERA.
Going a career-best seven innings, Bell held the Orioles to two earned runs on six hits and a walk, striking out three. He was able to command his slider and changeup seamlessly with his bread-and-butter four-seam fastball.
"He pitched with purpose," Scioscia said of the 23-year-old right-hander drafted out of Crescenta Valley (Calif.) High School in 2005's first round. "He used both sides of the plate and changed speeds very effectively. The bottom line is we have to keep perspective. He's a young pitcher, still on a learning curve. The way he pitched was absolutely a step forward. That's what we need to see from Trevor."
Having spent most of the season in the bullpen, Bell had gotten no deeper than 5 1/3 innings in his previous three starts. But he maintained his stuff and stamina against the Orioles.
"I think I'm learning how to pitch -- when to throw, what to throw, my release point -- and just thinking about the sign the catcher is putting down, staying with it and executing it," Bell said. "I think I'm settling in a little more -- not in terms of this being my [rotation] spot, but in what I'm doing and how I'm going about it.
"I felt good before the game and carried it through the game, a feeling that I belonged out there. There's a lot to go through to get to this point. I think I'm figuring some things out."
Scioscia impressed by Napoli behind the plate
ANAHEIM -- Mike Napoli has made a lot of noise with his bat this season, producing a career-high 21 homers and 60 RBIs, but it was his quiet, efficient work behind the plate on Friday night that had manager Mike Scioscia enthused.
"Nap caught the kind of game we know he can catch," Scioscia said. "He's a much better receiver than he's shown. He had a great influence on Trevor [Bell] to go out and pitch as deep [career-high seven innings] as he did.
"Nap did some things technically that are extremely important to his success behind the plate. He was very sound back there, and it helped Trevor command the strike zone. That pitcher-catcher relationship is the most important part of the game, and Nap took some great strides -- as did Trevor. The fact they did it together was no coincidence."
Napoli's issues have involved drifting with his body in his setup, not staying in a firm, balanced position while providing a consistently visible target for the pitcher. One of the most underrated aspects of catching, this is a strength of both Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson. With Scott Kazmir on the mound Saturday night, Napoli was back at first base with Wilson behind the plate.
Angels starter Joel Pineiro was highly encouraged by his first bullpen session, throwing 30 pitches at "70 to 80 percent," he said, and coming out of it feeling "great." Pineiro has made an unexpectedly rapid recovery from a strained oblique and "as of right now, there's a chance he'll come back" and pitch before the end of the season if his progress continues, manager Mike Sciosica said. ... Maicer Izturis, sidelined by soreness in his right shoulder region, is not close to starting baseball activities, Scioscia said. "It's going to be a while," Scioscia added. ... Scioscia said September callups likely will center on pitching additions and players who can help win games in certain roles, rather than rewards for outstanding Minor League seasons. ... First baseman Mark Trumbo continues to bang away at Pacific Coast League pitching for Triple-A Salt Lake. He went 3-for-4 in a 9-4 win over Colorado Springs and has 12 hits in his past 23 at-bats. ... For high Class A Rancho Cucamonga, Eddie McKiernan notched his 26th save by striking out the side in a 4-2 win over Lake Elsinore. Eight of the right-hander's past nine outings are scoreless. At low Class A Cedar Rapids, outfielder Randal Grichuk, projected as a power-hitting corner outfielder, is hitting .459 in his past 37 at-bats.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.