NEW YORK -- The Tommy Hanson the Angels expected finally showed up on July 23, his first start back after missing a little more than a month with a strain in his right forearm. He pitched 5 1/3 innings, gave up one run, struck out eight batters, walked none and, perhaps most importantly, sat in the 93- to 94-mph range with his fastball, the kind of stuff he hadn't displayed since his 2011 season with the Braves.
Hanson, the Angels hoped, had finally rediscovered himself.
Then he spiraled again, posting an 8.59 ERA over his next three starts and failing to get through the sixth inning each time. And late Monday night, with the Angels needing to kick someone out of their rotation to create a spot for Jason Vargas to make Tuesday's start against the Yankees, Hanson -- 26 and one of the best young pitchers in baseball not too long ago -- was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake.
"It wasn't tough," Hanson said. "I wasn't performing. So I have to work and try to get better."
Hanson was slated to start in the Majors on Tuesday, but he could've easily been pushed back to Friday and Jerome Williams -- with an 8.59 ERA in his last eight starts -- could've gone back to the bullpen, which he's done several times this season. Manager Mike Scioscia decided to demote Hanson, because they already have length in the bullpen with Joe Blanton and because Hanson -- a non-tender candidate in December -- can stay stretched out in the Minor Leagues.
"I think it's best for Tommy and best for us right now," Scioscia said. "He definitely needs to figure some things out. What's tough is when somebody has to go down and try to find their game again, it's disappointing to the player. I know Tommy will take it in the right light and go down there and be a better pitcher when he comes back."
Hanson, acquired from the Braves in a one-for-one deal that sent Jordan Walden to Atlanta in November, is seemingly going backwards, his ERA, strikeout-to-walk ratio and WHIP worsening in each of the last three seasons. In 13 starts this season -- a year in which he also missed nearly four weeks while on the restricted list to deal with his stepbrother's death -- he's posted a 5.59 ERA and has had a very hard time controlling the running game.
Somewhere in Triple-A, he hopes to find the guy who showed up to pitch at Angel Stadium on July 23.
"I still do feel like I can do that," said Hanson, who's getting optioned to the Minors for the first time since 2009.
"When he came back and pitched against Toronto after the layoff, he was sensational the whole game," Scioscia said. "His stuff, his delivery, times to the plate, fastball command -- all the things that are important to a pitcher, they were there. It seems like his stuff has eroded a little bit in the last couple starts and he feels a little out of sync. Tommy needs to find it."
Vargas, a free agent at season's end and potential trade bait this month, was having a typically solid year in his first season with the Angels, going 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 14 starts.
On June 21, he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left armpit area. Five days later, he had invasive surgery that kept him away from throwing for two weeks. And on Thursday -- about six weeks post-op -- he progressed to a rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake, giving up four runs in 4 2/3 innings.
That was plenty, Vargas believes. His arm has been just fine for a while.
"There was nothing wrong with me, except that they just went in and tied it up and closed me off," Vargas said. "I got over that, if there was anything, way back when I started playing catch."
Trout says PED users should be out of game if caught
NEW YORK -- Angels 22-year-old superstar Mike Trout typically shies away from controversial topics, but he had a firm stance on players using performance-enhancing drugs while speaking to a New York radio station on Monday morning.
"For me personally," Trout told WFAN's Boomer and Carton Show, "I think you should be out of the game if you get caught."
Trout was speaking from the Empire State Building to celebrate a field dedication for his South New Jersey high school and is in town for a four-game series against the Yankees and embattled superstar Alex Rodriguez, who's appealing an unprecedented 211-game suspension from Major League Baseball.
Trout didn't mention Rodriguez by name, but said players using PEDs "takes away from the guys working hard every day and doing it all-natural."
"Some people are just trying to find that extra edge," Trout said on the radio show. "It's tough. As a guy that goes out there and plays hard every day and puts 110 percent effort every time, and you wake up the next day and see there's a list of guys. But it's good that MLB caught 'em and they're moving in the right direction with suspensions and stuff."
Trout didn't want to go any further on the subject when approached by reporters at Yankee Stadium later on Monday, deferring to Angels union rep C.J. Wilson.
The stigma of steroid use hit close to home recently, when former big leaguer Jack Clark said on St. Louis airwaves that he knows "for a fact" that Albert Pujols used PEDs because his former trainer, Chris Mihlfeld, told him when they were with the Dodgers together in the early 2000s.
Mihlfeld vehemently denied those claims on Friday. Later that night, Pujols issued a defiant statement that threatened legal action, and moments later, Clark and his co-host were dismissed by the radio station, WGNU 920AM.
Josh Hamilton stands by Pujols' innocence.
"The guy has worked hard, he's obviously got a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove people wrong when he's out there playing," Hamilton said. "Being the competitor that he is, he comes in, works hard every day, and I've never questioned anything that Albert says."
Trumbo making contact, but balls not falling in
NEW YORK -- Mark Trumbo has already exceeded his previous career high in walks, his strikeout percentage is lower than it was in 2012 and he's hitting line drives with more frequency than ever. Yet his batting average heading into Monday's series opener was an unsightly .237, only 16 points higher than that of struggling slugger Josh Hamilton and 31 points below where he finished last season.
Trumbo puts the onus primarily on himself, but he also doesn't feel like he's had a lot of luck with balls falling in -- and his batting average on balls in play reflects that.
The Major League average for BABIP -- which measures the percentage of balls that fall in safely for a hit, not including homers, and could account for a hitter's luck -- is .297 since 2009. Last year, Trumbo's BABIP was .316. This year, it's .272, somewhat spoiling a season that has seen his walk rate (6.1 percent in '12 to 8.5 in '13), strikeout rate (26.1 to 25.8) and line-drive rate (16 to 21) improve.
"As a hitter, you try and make the best contact you can," said Trumbo, who's added a team-leading 25 homers. "You put balls in play. Some of them should find holes. In some years, they find more holes."
Trumbo, with only nine hits in his last 61 at-bats entering Monday, was dropped to the No. 6 spot of Mike Scioscia's lineup, even though Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick are still out. And he's still searching for a prolonged rhythm at the plate.
"You know what, man, I want to get better," Trumbo said. "I want to be hitting .300 and on a tear and on a hot streak. But I'm not there. I try to do the best with what I've got now."
• Peter Bourjos could be activated prior to Tuesday's game, with the Yankees starting Sabathia, a left-hander. Bourjos, out since June 29 with a fractured right wrist, was scheduled to play in his fifth rehab game for Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday. He went 4-for-17 with a homer, two doubles and two walks from Thursday to Sunday.
• With Vargas healthy, the Angels basically have six available starting pitchers including Joe Blanton, who was demoted to the bullpen three weeks ago and still has no semblance of an identified role. "You never know when an opportunity comes," Scioscia insisted. "We're still trying to get some continuity in our rotation."
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.