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Angels looking for boost from pitchers in second half

SEATTLE -- The Angels offense, for all its power, speed and potential, underperformed in the first half that ended Sunday at Safeco Field.

But that's not the team's problem. Manager Mike Scioscia is not worried about the bats.

"Our offense will be fine,'' he said. "I think we'll be able to pressure teams to score runs [in the second half], even with some of our guys who haven't hit their stride. We can still get it done.''

What he worries about, as every manager does, is the starting pitching. An effective, consistent rotation is what every successful team needs. Injuries and inconsistencies robbed the rotation of its effectiveness in the first half.

"We're not going to reach our goal without starting pitching,'' said Scioscia, whose team was 44-48 entering the first-half finale against Seattle. "We're not going to reach our goal without consistency that gives us the chance to win. I think we've proven that. When guys perform the way we expected them to, we've had some good streaks.''

Staff ace Jered Weaver missed at least nine starts in the first half after a fractured right elbow. Jason Vargas started 14 games before a blood clot developed in his left arm and he remains sidelined. Tommy Hanson is on the disabled list with a right forearm strain, but is expected back to fill the fifth starter spot on July 23rd.

"Some guys just are having some problems with consistency. Some guys are pitching really well,'' Scioscia said. "That's why Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas are important to us to get back to the depth that we've had.''

Entering Sunday, the Angels' pitching staff has allowed the fourth-most hits and runs, the fifth-most walks and has the 11th ranked ERA in the American League.

The offense, by contrast, is third in average, fourth in hits, sixth in runs and RBIs, and eighth in home runs.

"The way we need to set up a game, we put a lot of pressure on the offense to say, 'OK, you're going to need to out hit these guys because our pitchers are not performing to their capabilities.' That never happens," Scioscia said. "Our team needs to be set up with that consistent pitching.''

The bullpen ranks ninth in the league in ERA and seventh in saves. But the Angels have blown eight save opportunities.

"The bullpen is evolving,'' Scioscia said. "Hopefully, we can become an 'A' bullpen.''

Hanson threw a 38-pitch simulated game Saturday and is on track to return next week. Vargas is long tossing and is not on the mound yet. Right-hander Ryan Madson (right elbow) and left-hander Sean Burnett (left elbow impingement) are making gains.

"Madson is getting close as he's been to getting in a rehab game,'' Scioscia added. "So that's encouraging.''

Bob Sherwin is a contributor to
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