ANAHEIM -- One of the most disappointing aspects of this Angels season is one that's gone relatively unnoticed, lost amid Josh Hamilton's slump and Joe Blanton's struggles and Albert Pujols' foot and the injuries to Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson:
The defense has inexplicably gone from great to awful.
Consider the numbers:
• The Angels rank 28th in the Majors in Defensive Runs Saved, after being second in that department in 2012.
• They're 21st in Ultimate Zone Rating, one season after having the second-best score in the sabermetric stat.
• They entered Monday tied with the Brewers for the Major League lead in errors, at 83.
• Their catchers have the 29th-lowest caught-stealing percentage.
Manager Mike Scioscia pointed out that despite all the errors, the Angels are pretty much average in terms of unearned runs allowed (they're tied for 11th in the Majors, with 37). The Angels skipper also said a lot of the team's errors have been in the outfield, on balls that have already fallen for hits, but added that double plays haven't been turned consistently, runners have picked up too many bases and the error count is egregious.
"There's a whole team defense component of our club that needs to be picked up," Scioscia said.
Kendrick hopes to avoid DL after hyperextending knee
ANAHEIM -- Howie Kendrick's hyperextended left knee was "really sore" late Monday night, but the Angels' second baseman was able to put some weight on it while getting around on crutches and remained hopeful of avoiding a trip to the disabled list.
"Hopefully it'll only be a couple days," said Kendrick, who will find out for sure when he undergoes an MRI on Tuesday.
"We just hope everything's stable in there," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after his team's 5-2 loss to the Rangers. "Maybe he'll just be day to day."
The injury looked a lot worse initially.
With runners on second and third and two outs in a 1-1 game in the top of the fifth, Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus lifted a high fly ball to shallow right field that Collin Cowgill and Kendrick both went after. Kendrick briefly had it in his glove, but lost it after his left knee collided with Cowgill's right arm and he remained on the ground in agonizing pain.
"We were running right after each other," Cowgill said. "I know as an outfielder, we're taught to go low and [infielders] stay high. It just so happens that when I was reaching, he was stepping. And his knee hit my elbow. It's one of those things where it's everybody's ball. It's really unfortunate."
"Nobody's at fault here," Kendrick said. "It's just baseball. Two guys playing hard. Things like that are going to happen."
Kendrick was helped off the field by Angels trainers, getting a standing ovation from the 34,040 in attendance as he made his way to the dugout, and was promptly replaced by infielder Tommy Field. It's the first time he's ever suffered a knee injury, and if he lands on the DL, it'd be his first trip there since May 2011.
Even if Kendrick doesn't land on the DL, though, Scioscia expects him to "be down for a number of days." That means the Angels will likely have to make a roster move prior to Tuesday's game, sending down a pitcher -- or placing Kendrick on the DL -- to bring in another infielder to give Scioscia three reserves.
A likely callup would be Grant Green, who was acquired from the A's in exchange for third baseman Alberto Callaspo and has played both second and third base at Triple-A Salt Lake, batting .333 in six games.
The 30-year-old Kendrick is having arguably his best season, with a .301/.341/.437 slash line, 11 homers and 47 RBIs in 108 games.
"We'll get information tomorrow and see how long he's going to be," Scioscia said of Kendrick. "He's sore tonight."
Wilson, Hamilton offer differing views on Cruz
ANAHEIM -- The Angels faced the division-rival Rangers on Monday without a man who has haunted them for years, Nelson Cruz, who was one of 13 players suspended for their link to the now-shuttered Biogenesis anti-aging clinic.
Josh Hamilton, who shared the outfield with Cruz over the previous five years, said he was "very surprised" to hear the news and was mostly forgiving, saying: "He made a mistake, and I've made plenty of those."
C.J. Wilson, Cruz's teammate in Texas from 2006-11, was not.
"I've known Nelson for many years, always thought he was a great guy and teammate, but at this point, he's a competitor, on the other team, so it's immaterial what I think," said Wilson, also the Angels' players' union representative. "He got hits off me and I'm [ticked] off about that."
Cruz, who addressed his team before the start of a three-game series but was not made available to the media, has posted a .292 batting average and an .877 OPS in 106 career games against the Angels, with 25 homers and 69 RBIs. During last week's three-game series in Texas, which the Rangers swept on the strength of three walk-off homers, Cruz went 5-for-9 with a homer and three walks.
"It's affected our team," Wilson said of all those violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program. "We've played against these guys. They've all hit home runs against us, struck us out, and we're not happy about that. We were hoping [the suspensions] would happen sooner rather than later to give us a chance to play against the clean guys."
MLB on Monday suspended 13 players as a result of the league's Biogenesis investigation. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received the stiffest penalty -- a 211-game ban without pay through the end of the 2014 regular season. Rodriguez, 38, has appealed the suspension, which is to begin Thursday. His case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz.
Rodriguez's discipline, MLB said in its written announcement, is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to "obstruct and frustrate" the investigation.
Wilson believes the A-Rod ordeal is "going to end in a [ESPN] '30 For 30' special."
"It's a saga; always has been for him," Wilson said. "He's been in the spotlight for 20 years. Nothing is gonna change that. He has one of those polarizing personalities that people are going to be drawn to. People will think he's a villain no matter what he does.
"Good for the game that they're finally getting him on something. All these press conferences, Good Morning America, 20-20, enough of that -- let's just play some baseball and stop trying to be a role model. All those quotes are hilarious for everybody in our clubhouse."
The other players who were handed 50-game suspensions include Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and recently demoted Mets utility man Jordany Valdespin. Minor Leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino De Los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona were also suspended.
"I think the issue centers around greed," Wilson said. "If anybody says it's something else, they're not telling the truth. The players want to do well because they want to get bigger contracts. That money they earn is tainted, just like their statistics are.
"We need the greed to stop. I've accepted the fact I'm not a $300-million player. God didn't bless me with that. I'm dealing with regular-guy stuff and trying to compete, and that's the way it is for the rest of the guys in this dugout. You're dealt a certain hand and you have to play that. Stop being a baby and move on."
Hamilton hasn't reached out to Cruz yet, but plans to in due time.
In a statement, the 33-year-old slugger attributed his PED usage to "a gastrointestinal infection" that affected him from November 2011 to January 2012 and forced him to lose 40 pounds weeks before the start of Spring Training last year.
"I was there last year and I saw him when he came to Spring Training and what he looked like," Hamilton said. "I asked the same questions everyone else did. 'What happened?' 'How did you get sick?' There was nothing he said to me that made me question anything.
"It's one of those things, you know? You're teammates, you spend a lot of times with him. Some guys keep certain parts of their lives to themselves. Take from what you see. Nellie was always a good teammate. I enjoyed playing with him and enjoyed having him in the locker room."
Angels release rehabbing closer Madson
ANAHEIM -- The Angels opened the season hopeful of having Ryan Madson as their closer in the early part of 2013.
On Monday, with his recovery from Tommy John surgery continually stalled, they released the 32-year-old right-hander.
The Angels will pay the remainder of Madson's $3.5 million base salary for 2013, but because he never took the mound, they saved on the performance bonuses that totaled an extra $3.5 million.
Madson isn't expected to return to the Majors in 2013, so releasing him now eases some workload off the Angels' medical department.
"Our medical team has spent much time, effort and resource in the effort to facilitate a healthy return," said Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who obtained Madson on a one-year, incentive-laden deal in November. "It's been a long and difficult process for all involved. I spoke to Ryan earlier today and informed him of our decision. This was an upside gamble that I deemed worth the risk and unfortunately it did not transpire for either Ryan or the club."
Madson got as far as a rehab appearance for Class A Inland Empire on May 13, only to be shut down again with lingering pain in his right elbow. For about a month, he had been rehabbing at the Angels complex in Tempe, Ariz., occasionally throwing bullpen sessions but never able to progress far enough to throw at full intensity or be cleared for another rehab assignment.
Armed with one of the game's best changeups, Madson was among the most productive late-inning relievers in baseball while with the Phillies from 2007-11, posting a 2.89 ERA while averaging 62 games per season and saving 32 games that final year.
He signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Reds in January 2012 -- after a much larger contract with the Phillies reportedly fell through -- but was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery on April 11 of that year.
Now, it looks like he'll miss a second full season.
"It certainly wasn't Ryan's plan to not pitch two years in succession; it certainly wasn't our plan," Dipoto said. "We've gone through every possible form of rehab -- medical advice, medical health, he's been to visit specialists in New York and Phoenix and Florida. He's covered the globe, and we're continuing to try and help him today. He's gone through a long rehab -- an unexpectedly long rehab -- and to that point, it's very disappointing to Ryan, and I know it's very disappointing to us."
• Jason Vargas, out since June 17 because of a blood clot in his left armpit area, is slated to pitch in a rehab game for Triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday, going five innings and throwing 75-80 pitches.
• Peter Bourjos, nursing a fractured right wrist since June 30, is "not quite where he needs to be" with his hitting to go on a rehab assignment just yet, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. Starting a rehab assignment at some point this week is possible, Scioscia added, but doesn't sound likely.
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.