Santana's struggles are starting to mount

Santana's struggles are starting to mount

Santana's struggles are starting to mount
LOS ANGELES -- Lost somewhat in the shuffle of the offensive outburst that gave the Angels a three-game sweep over the Rockies on Sunday and a Major League-best 14-4 mark since May 22 was the continued struggles of Ervin Santana.

Santana had another ugly outing that afternoon, yielding seven runs for a second straight start while giving up a season-high nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. The 29-year-old right-hander finds himself 3-7 with a 5.74 ERA and a Major League-leading 18 homers allowed on the year.

Santana started off the season poorly (7.23 ERA in four starts), pitched very well while getting little run support immediately after that (2.25 ERA in five starts), and he has once again struggled of late (10.18 ERA in four starts). Twice in his recent stretch, Santana's control has been erratic, leading to a combined 13 walks. The other two times, he's been bit by the home run bug, giving up four long balls.

But manager Mike Scioscia notices a common theme in all of them.

"His fastball command, his ability to command both sides of the plate and staying in good counts," Scioscia said.

"A lot of times, he has the right plan, but he's having trouble getting the pitch where it needs to be."

Santana may need to figure that out quickly. Jered Weaver (lower back strain) could be a week or so away from returning, and with promising young right-hander Garrett Richards now with the club, Scioscia could have an interesting dilemma on his hands.

Santana could in fact have one more start to prove he belongs in the Angels' loaded staff.

But the Angels' skipper won't put that kind of urgency on the situation.

"I don't think it's coming down to one start," Scioscia said. "I think that Ervin needs to get into his game. He pitched some good ballgames with not a lot of support early. This last little stretch has not been what he can do. We know that. But Ervin pitching to his potential is really important to us, and I think we definitely need him to start getting into that mode."