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Baseball / Sports

Angels get back-end help, but A's make front-end alignment

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It should have been an unqualified good day for the Los Angeles Angels. They needed a left-handed reliever, and they got one. Their team got a little better.

But the Angels are chasing the Oakland Athletics, the best team in baseball. The A's did not appear to need a starting pitcher, but they traded for perhaps the two best starters on the market.

"My initial reaction was, 'Wow,'" Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said Saturday, "like I'm sure every other person in baseball or fan that was watching."

The Angels got Joe Thatcher from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The A's got Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs, strengthening their rotation and weakening the pitching market for their rivals, all in one bold stroke.

"Kudos to the A's," Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton said, dryly. "We're comfortable with who we got. We can add a piece here and there.

"It makes you wonder about the A's. They're still going after starting pitching, and they've got pretty good starting pitching already."

Indeed, Oakland's starters lead the American League in earned-run average. The Angels rank sixth.

A's relievers rank second in the league in ERA. The Angels rank 11th.

"Our focus going into this trade deadline was to see how much we could help this bullpen," Dipoto said.

Thatcher is the third reliever the Angels have acquired in eight days. Right-hander Jason Grilli has made five appearances without giving up an earned run. Left-hander Rich Hill, acquired for $1 last Tuesday, faced four batters, retired none, and was designated for assignment Saturday.

The acquisitions of Grilli and Thatcher have added about $1.1 million to the Angels' payroll, leaving budgetary room to add another late-game reliever.

The Angels are interested in Joaquin Benoit and Huston Street of the San Diego Padres, but they consider the asking price high right now. They appear less interested in Jonathan Papelbon of the Philadelphia Phillies and Joakim Soria of the Texas Rangers.

They would consider another left-handed reliever -- Michael Roth, summoned from the minors Saturday, is expected to go back down shortly -- and possible targets include Neal Cotts of the Rangers and James Russell and Wesley Wright of the Cubs.

They could wait to see if the Boston Red Sox or Tampa Bay Rays decide to sell relievers. And, of course, they could give their newest bullpen alignment a couple weeks to jell.

"I don't know how much more tweaking we'll need to do," Dipoto said. "If there is a way to help that group get better, we will try to do that."

The Angels have checked in with the Rays about David Price, who would be the best starter on the market if Tampa Bay actually moves him, but the Angels do not appear to have the quality prospects necessary to acquire an ace.

Dipoto, speaking generally, said he is satisfied with a team that is second in the AL in runs, tied for first in fielding percentage, and second in innings from its starting pitchers.

"You're always looking for ways to get better," he said. "To this point, our focus has been on our bullpen. ... Right now, we're not anticipating making a move in any other area."

The A's did, leaving Dipoto to dust off the ballplayer cliche about worrying only about what you can control.

"I'm sure they're thrilled," he said. "They're an excellent team. They're the team everyone is trying to catch, and have been for three years. We're just trying to control our own shot."

Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick said that, under owner Arte Moreno, the team has imported such notable trade-deadline help as Mark Teixeira and Zack Greinke.

"It's always good to see that when we're playing really well, they're trying to make moves to make the team better," Kendrick said. "When you add pieces like that, it helps you get an extra bit of confidence as a team."

The A's just added two big pieces.

"Everybody knows what they did," Kendrick said. "We've still got to go play. Those are two quality pitchers they received, but when it comes down to it, it's about playing the game.

"We try not to focus on the other team around here. It's about what we're doing here. The biggest thing is just to try to win games."

The Angels won again Saturday night, rallying for eight runs in the seventh inning and beating Houston, 11-5, their fifth win in six games and their ninth consecutive home victory. The A's defeated Toronto, 5-1, to remain 3 1/2 games ahead of the Angels in the AL West.

"We'll see what happens," Hamilton said. "We'll keep pushing. They'll keep pushing. Hopefully, they'll stub their toe at some point."

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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