Angels see upside to 7-foot-1 Van Mil
GM Reagins says right-hander's velocity is still improving
OAKLAND -- Loek Van Mil, the 7-foot-1 Dutch right-hander acquired from the Twins in the Brian Fuentes deal, is with Double-A Arkansas, getting acquainted with his new organization. He spent five years in the Minnesota system and is going through the process of harnessing a mid-90s fastball with a delivery complicated by his exceptional height.
"He has improved his velocity each season," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. "He's a guy with potential, and we're looking forward to working with him, seeing what he can do."
Van Mil, who turns 26 this month, is the tallest player in professional baseball. Clearly, he'll stand out when he shows up for Spring Training in Tempe, Ariz., in February. The Angels hope his stuff also sets him apart. He struggled this season at Double-A New Britain (1-2, 6.37 ERA) after experiencing elbow pain in the spring. He had a 2.79 ERA in 2009 at two Minor League affiliates.
"He's still a work in progress," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But he's got tremendous upside and growth -- which I guess seems a little ironic, to talk about a seven-footer with upside and growth."
Santana learns what will be, will be
OAKLAND -- There were times in his career, usually in odd-numbered seasons for some odd reason, when Ervin Santana would let things bother him. A borderline strike he needed would be a ball. A pop fly would drop between several teammates. A double play wouldn't be turned.
Santana would quietly stew, and he frequently would pay for it with the wrong pitch at the wrong time to the wrong hitter, turning a close game into a blowout.
"When I was younger and trying to prove myself, I did let things get to me," Santana said. "It took time, but I learned to let go of those things. When you accomplish some things and everybody knows what you can do, you can relax and just focus on executing pitches.
"I'm trying to make things easier when it's not easy. I'm trying to keep it simple, work quick and throw it in the right spots. If they hit it, there's nothing else you can do. Sometimes you make a good pitch and they hit it. Sometimes you throw one down the middle and they pop it up. Sometimes a teammate makes an error -- that's OK. Move on to the next hitter, try to get a double play."
Santana is 14-9 heading into Sunday's series finale against the A's, a team he has controlled (11-3, 1.73 ERA). His season ERA is 4.05, but rightfully it should be 3.95. A popup fell between two infielders and was ruled a hit in his most recent start in Seattle, costing Santana a shot at a shutout and two earned runs that should have been unearned. That's life, he now understands.
"There's definitely been a maturing process with Ervin," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "The biggest adjustment was going from pitching at 94-95 [mph] when he first came up. Now he's pitching at 91, 92, and he's having a terrific season. He's going to keep growing."
For Mathis, season has been frustrating
OAKLAND -- Although Kendry Morales' loss has drawn most of the attention related to the Angels' struggles this season, the absence of catcher Jeff Mathis for 55 games -- one third of the season -- should not be underestimated.
Mathis, coming off a brilliant postseason performance against the Red Sox and Yankees, was playing at an All-Star level when he fractured his right wrist on April 19. When he returned two months later, he struggled to find his hitting stroke and his form behind the plate.
The word he uses to sum up his season is "frustrating," and how could it be anything else? Hitting .324 and slugging .500 through 10 games at the time of his injury, he came into Saturday's game against the A's batting .193 and slugging .289.
"I think it had a bigger effect on our pitchers," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Jeff's defensive presence was something that has been very settling to a lot of our pitchers. You lose that continuity for some time. Mike [Napoli] and Bobby Wilson filled in and played well, but Jeff's a special catcher from the defensive side.
"If you look at Jeff's season overall, he's disappointed in some things. We're disappointed in some things. It's taken him awhile to get back. He's starting to catch at the level he can and is throwing more accurately. When he first came back from the injury, he wasn't catching the way he can."
Bullpen session finds Pineiro in good shape
OAKLAND -- Angels starter Joel Pineiro said he felt "very good" after a bullpen session Saturday at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, setting up a simulated four-inning, 60-pitch game set for Tuesday at Angel Stadium.
Pineiro, originally expected to be out for the season, has made a rapid and seemingly complete recovery from a strained left oblique suffered as he was warming up before a projected July 28 start at home against the Red Sox. The hope is to get him in shape for several starts before the season ends.
"This was a power 'pen," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It was a very aggressive 'pen, more than the normal bullpen. He was up and down several times. We're getting him closer to what would happen in a normal game."
The Angels and A's came into Saturday's game even at 7-7, with five games remaining. Oakland hasn't taken a season series from the Angels since 2003 when they were 12-8. ... Ervin Santana, who starts Sunday for the Angels, is 5-1 with a 1.89 ERA in 10 career appearances at Oakland Coliseum. He's 11-3, with a 1.73 ERA in 19 games overall vs. the A's. ... Alberto Callaspo has hit safely in 29 of 36 games since joining the Angels, batting .311. ... Back in the lineup on Saturday, Hideki Matsui was hoping to keep his stroke intact. He is hitting .404 since Aug. 14 in 47 at-bats. ... Angels reliever Michael Kohn hasn't yielded a run in 11 of his past 13 appearances and owns a 3.09 ERA. ... Terry Evans, who opened the season on the Angels' roster before being sent to Triple-A Salt Lake, is on fire for the Bees with 21 hits in his past 42 at-bats after going 4-for-4 on Friday with a homer and double. Mark Trumbo pounded his 36th homer and drove in three runs, giving him 121 RBIs. Hank Conger also homered, No. 11 for the catcher. Second baseman Alexi Amarista is batting .412 in 12 games for Salt Lake since getting promoted from Arkansas. ... Mike Trout, with two hits and two runs scored in Class A Rancho Cucamonga's 8-3 win over Lancaster, has multi-hit games in four of the past five.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.