NEW YORK -- The second half is a very important one for three Angels players with lingering club options in their contracts. Two of them are struggling starters Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, who have 2013 options worth $15.5 million and $13 million, respectively.
The other is catcher Chris Iannetta, who can't seem to get back on the field.
Iannetta is working on his third month on the disabled list right now. It began with May 11 surgery on his right wrist, and has continued due to a right forearm strain suffered from trying to come back too fast. For next season, Iannetta -- acquired from the Rockies in exchange for pitcher Tyler Chatwood in the offseason -- has a $5 million option in his contract. That's pretty affordable for a solid player at a premium position with scarce talent elsewhere, but these next three months can have a lot of say in the Angels' decision to exercise it.
Iannetta knows one thing.
"I would love to be back here," he said prior to Friday's series opener at Yankee Stadium. "I think it's a great team and a great organization, a chance to win in an awesome location and city. There's not a better opportunity that I can foresee at this point. I'd like to be back here. Definitely would."
And you'd think the Angels would love to have Iannetta, considering general manager Jerry Dipoto traded for him, and their offense behind the plate is very shaky without him. But in their system, the Angels have Hank Conger, who's 24, is completing his seventh pro season, and is playing well at Triple-A.
"That's something that I could either think about and worry about, or just worry about getting back and just letting it take care of itself," Iannetta said. "If for some reason something happens, and it doesn't turn out the way I would like, I can't do anything about it. The only thing I can do is try to get back healthy, and once I'm back healthy, play as well as I can. That's going to dictate what happens in the future."
Iannetta's getting there. He has extended his throwing program to about 150 feet -- and that's as far as he'll stretch it -- and is scheduled to throw to bases when the team gets to Detroit early next week. If that goes well, he should finally progress toward a rehab assignment.
"It's very frustrating," Iannetta said of the recovery process. "The only thing that's keeping me in a good place is that the team is winning. If we were struggling, it'd be even harder."
Angels counting on Haren, Santana turnarounds
NEW YORK -- The Angels are still not expected to be big players in the sweepstakes for the Brewers' Zack Greinke or the Phillies' Cole Hamels -- two premium starters whose teams are reportedly trying to lock them up long term and thus avoid losing them to free agency.
But if Ervin Santana continues to struggle, and Dan Haren's disabled-list stint doesn't heal his stiff lower back, can that change?
"That remains to be seen," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said Friday, a day two of his scouts were in Miller Park watching Greinke pitch. "It's not like we're looking at this as a volatile time [for the rotation]. Ervin's 100-percent healthy, we're just looking to get him back on track, and Danny's making terrific progress. And I don't necessarily think we're going to be having discussions like this a month from now. As I told you before, I think the best moves that we can make are getting Ervin back on track and getting Danny healthy."
The prognosis, at least in these early stages, looks positive for Haren, who had an encouraging bullpen session in Anaheim on Thursday, is slated for another one at Inland Empire, Calif., on Saturday, and looks to be on track to return from the disabled list at or around the time he's eligible -- this coming Thursday.
The Angels still have to decide who starts in Haren's place on Tuesday -- a decision that may come down to Brad Mills or Garrett Richards -- but they're hoping they only have to fill his spot once more.
And they seem confident that a couple of weeks off will make all the difference for Haren, who has posted a 4.86 ERA while giving up 16 homers in 17 starts.
"He feels a lot better," Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "His stuff looked really good yesterday -- I mean really good; getting through the baseball like he can, delivery looked better. He was really tight [in his back] to where it really affected his delivery; he wasn't able to get through the ball like he can. So, I think we'll see a different guy when he comes back. He'll be a lot more healthy."
Santana doesn't have the benefit of using injury as an excuse. His arm is totally healthy and, by all accounts, his stuff and velocity are fine. His problem is location. More specifically, as Butcher noted, it's not locating well enough early in counts, causing him to pitch from behind too frequently.
That could be a byproduct of lacking confidence, perhaps stemming from getting hit around early in the year.
"When a pitcher goes out there, and you give up home runs or what have you, you might tend to lose a little confidence," Butcher said of Santana, who has posted a 5.75 ERA and has given up 20 homers in his 17 starts. "And that's why guys start nibbling a little bit. I think once he starts being the aggressor, starts attacking the strike zone, I think we're going to see better results out of Ervin."
Angels option Mills to Triple-A Salt Lake
NEW YORK -- Needing to create roster space in order to activate Jerome Williams for Saturday's start, the Angels optioned left-hander Brad Mills to Triple-A Salt Lake after their 6-5 loss to the Yankees on Friday night.
That takes Mills out of the running for Tuesday's start and means that he won't get another turn despite hurling five shutout innings in a win over the Orioles on Sunday.
"I'm surprised. I'm disappointed," Mills said. "I never know the circumstance, so I don't know if I was being sent down no matter what, if it had the chance of being an extended look. Obviously, there was a lot of other factors going on, but I want to be up here, I want to stay up here. I'm kind of at the point in my career where I've gotten enough spot starts in little stretches here and there. I want an extended look."
The move also appears to open the door for Garrett Richards to start in place of Dan Haren on Tuesday, but Richards gave up 12 runs in 8 2/3 innings over his last two starts for the Angels and struggled in his first start back with Salt Lake on Thursday, charged with eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Trout says meeting Sheen was 'really cool'
NEW YORK -- Every now and then, Mike Trout will get these little reminders about just how popular he's become over these last few months.
The latest came during the just-completed All-Star Game. It had nothing to do with being selected, or all the media attention he got leading up to it, or even the pats on the back from future Hall of Famers.
It came after everything was done -- when Charlie Sheen told him how big a fan he is.
"Really cool, man," Trout said. "It was great to meet him. A lot of people say that you talk to people that are on TV shows and stuff like that, and they sound different. But he's just like he is on 'Two And A Half Men.' That's pretty crazy."
Trout had just finished up a meal at The Capital Grille in Kansas City with his brother on Tuesday night, a few hours after getting a hit off R.A. Dickey and drawing a walk against Aroldis Chapman in the All-Star Game, when waitresses told him Sheen was outside. So, Trout figured he'd introduce himself.
He didn't have to.
"He knew who I was," Trout said before playing his first game at Yankee Stadium, which is about a three-hour drive from his hometown of Millville, N.J. "He follows baseball and stuff like that. It was pretty neat. Just seeing him and all the shows he's done, it's pretty crazy. He was pretty chill. ... He said he loves what I do."
To Trout, though, the biggest celebrity sighting was actually Adam Sandler in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., a couple of years ago -- except Sandler didn't have any idea who he was at that point.
With Sheen, Trout played it cool.
His brother, Tyler, didn't.
"He was in the background shaking," Trout said. "It was pretty neat for him to meet him, too. Pretty cool."
The Angels signed 36 of the 38 players they took in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft before Friday's 2 p.m. PT deadline. The only two who didn't sign were shortstop Jeff Kemp (a 31st rounder) and catcher Justin Morhardt (39th). The Angels, who didn't have a pick in the first two rounds, spent "well below" their signing-bonus pool, general manager Jerry Dipoto said, but that money doesn't roll over for next year.
Vernon Wells (thumb surgery) is taking live batting practice on the field. Manager Mike Scioscia estimates he'll need to do that for another week, but since he's been running and throwing, he won't be far from starting a rehab assignment shortly thereafter.
Albert Pujols appeared to tweak his ankle while stepping on second base for an RBI ground-rule double in the eighth inning. But Scioscia said he's fine and expects him to start Saturday.
Mike Trout was the Angels' winner of the Heart and Hustle Award, which, according to a release, is given by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association to "active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit, and tradition of the game." Toward the end of the year, fans, all Alumni and active players will vote to select the final winner from the 30 team winners. Torii Hunter was the recipient in 2011; Albert Pujols won it while with the Cardinals in '09.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.