MINNEAPOLIS -- With Albert Pujols signed and Kendrys Morales healthy, the Angels' offense was expected to be much improved this season.
So far, though, at least one stat points to it being the worst in franchise history.
The Angels were shut out for the seventh time this season on Tuesday, when soft-tossing Twins lefty Scott Diamond laid the foundation with seven innings. The seven shutouts not only lead the Majors; they are the most the Angels have had through the first 31 games of a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"I didn't know it was that high, to be honest," said Mark Trumbo, one of few who has pulled his weight while batting .293 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 23 games. "That's just not going to cut it."
The Angels came into the series finale against the Twins ranked 12th in the American League in runs per game, and 11th in homers, OPS and batting average with runners in scoring position. Meanwhile, the Rangers, against whom the Angels start a three-game road series on Friday, lead in all those categories except home runs, and there they trail only the Yankees.
Only Kendrys Morales (.318) is batting over .300 on the Angels, while seven -- Vernon Wells (.240), Alberto Callaspo (.234), Bobby Wilson (.217), Erick Aybar (.200), Chris Iannetta (.197), Peter Bourjos (.192) and Pujols (.190) -- are batting .240 or below.
What can be done about the offensive struggles?
From a front-office standpoint, nothing -- except wait.
Angels hitters certainly don't lack in track record. Five of their 13 position players have hit at least 25 homers in a season (Torii Hunter, Trumbo, Wells, Morales and Pujols), four have been All-Stars (Howie Kendrick, Hunter, Wells and Pujols) and one (Mike Trout) profiles as one of the best young players in baseball.
Somewhere in that group, the Angels believe they have a dynamic offense waiting to bust out. And somewhere in that clubhouse, there's a belief that a lot will change once Pujols -- 1-for-10 since his first home run, and still without a multihit game since April 19 -- reverts back to his usual self.
The wait continues.
"These guys are all doing what they historically do to kind of get back into their game and the rhythm, and they're working hard at it," said manager Mike Scioscia, who has already trotted out a Major League-leading 28 lineup combinations. "You just have to stay the course at times. This group of guys will play at a higher level, and they will hit better, and our bullpen will come together, all the things we've been talking about all season. But we just need to keep moving in that direction, and I think the confidence in this team will grow."
Haren: Back woes won't derail next start
MINNEAPOLIS -- Dan Haren, bothered by lower-back stiffness during Tuesday night's rough outing, still expects to be ready for his next scheduled start, on Monday against the Athletics at Angel Stadium.
The Thursday off-day, it turns out, was perfect timing for the Angels' No. 2 starter.
"It comes at a good time," Haren said on Wednesday. "I'm going to take it easy today, and then tomorrow take it completely off."
Haren began feeling tightness in his back during his pre-start bullpen session at Target Field and was never really able to shake it off in the Angels' 5-0 loss to the Twins, pitching just 3 2/3 innings -- the least he has hurled in a start since 2005 -- while giving up five runs on eight hits and two walks.
Haren, who has never gone on the disabled list in his 10-year career, was pushed back three days last June because of lower-back tightness that took two weeks to completely go away. This latest pain, he says, doesn't hurt nearly as much.
"Really it's not too bad, just doing everyday stuff, walking around," said Haren, who's 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in seven starts. "I can still play catch and stuff. When I take it to the next level, 100 percent on the mound, is when I get a little bit of stiffness. It's just kind of not letting me get extended. I have to do some stuff to lengthen my back and make sure I keep it warm throughout the game."
Scioscia tossed for first time this season
MINNEAPOLIS -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia was ejected for the first time this season in Wednesday's eighth inning, for arguing balls and strikes in an eventual 6-2 win over the Twins at Target Field.
Scioscia was ejected on an eventual walk to catcher Joe Mauer by reliever Ernesto Frieri, and had a semi-heated exchange with home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook.
"I thought there were some pitches that were there during the game that we weren't getting the benefit of," Scioscia said. "I guess he was just tired of hearing it."
Bourjos bides his time, stays at the ready
MINNEAPOLIS -- Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos has now started just twice in the last 11 games. But he still manages to stay upbeat.
"It'll all work out one way or another," he said with a smile from the visiting clubhouse at Target Field on Wednesday, which marked yet another day on the bench. "I think I'm too good of a player for it not to."
That may be the case, but Bourjos has batted just .120 (3-for-25) since April 17 and has been essentially confined to bench duty since Mike Trout's arrival on April 28. In fact, that game -- against the Indians at Progressive Field -- has marked the only time the two have been in the starting lineup together.
"I don't think it would be good to dwell on not being in the lineup," Bourjos said. "You just have to go out there, and if you pinch-run in the eighth or you go in for defense, you have to be ready to do that. And I think that's the only way you can go about it. If you sit back and pout like a baby, it's just going to snowball."
Pujols was drilled by a ball in the top of his back while running to second base when Twins first baseman Joe Mauer threw to second on Wednesday. Pujols then tripped on the bag and hobbled back, seemingly favoring his left ankle. He stayed in the game after being checked on by Angels trainers. "I'm all right," Pujols said postgame.
"I don't know if he twisted his knee or his ankle coming around," Scioscia said. "He said he was fine. He stumbled and fell to the side a little bit, but he was fine."
The Angels signed right-hander Sean White to a Minor League deal on Monday. White, 31, posted a 4.16 ERA in 105 appearances through three years in the big leagues, all with the Mariners. He's currently pitching in Triple-A Salt Lake.
Morales has hit safely in seven of his last eight games and is batting .406 in that span. Callaspo has had two-hit games in four of his last five starts. Trout is batting .355 with five doubles, a homer, four RBIs and six runs scored in his last eight contests.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.