ST. PETERSBURG -- Dane De La Rosa had good stuff in Tampa Bay. His fastball velocity climbed all the way to 96 mph as the year would go on, just like it has with the Angels in 2013. And in his final season in the Rays' organization, he started to develop the tighter breaking ball that Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey believes has made all the difference.
De La Rosa just needed an opportunity, and in Tampa Bay, there were too many bright young arms for him to get it.
"I think it worked out pretty well for him, because if he was here, he'd probably still be in Durham," Hickey said, referencing the organization's Triple-A affiliate. "But I give him a lot of credit, because his road has been tough and it would've been the easiest thing in the world for him to get discouraged and give up. But he stuck to it, went to the independent ball and he went through a lot of trials and tribulations and here he is in the big leagues. And with the way that he looked throwing, he's got an opportunity to stay here for a while."
De La Rosa picked up his second career save during Tuesday's 6-5 win at Tropicana Field. Asked if it meant more to get it against the Rays, he said: "[Heck] yeah it meant more."
That save, the 30-year-old De La Rosa said, brought things "full circle."
"Joe [Maddon] used to talk about the levels of being a big leaguer," he added. "And I think, right now, I'm at that last level, which is knowing I should be here and building on each outing as a big leaguer."
De La Rosa was drafted by the Yankees in the 24th round in 2002, then spent 2007-09 toiling in independent ball before the Rays signed him to their Minor League system in November 2009. The 6-foot-7 right-hander posted a 1.97 ERA in Double-A in 2010, a 3.20 ERA in Triple-A in 2011 and a 2.79 ERA -- with 20 saves -- in Triple-A in 2012, but made only 12 big league appearances during that time.
On March 27, just before the end of Spring Training, the Angels acquired De La Rosa for Minor League reliever Steve Geltz. And that's been one of few moves that has paid off this season, with De La Rosa posting a 3.45 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 60 innings.
This month, he's allowed one run in 11 appearances.
"He was kind of unlucky when he was here," said Rays catcher Jose Lobaton, who caught De La Rosa with the Durham Bulls. "I always knew he had good stuff. The thing is, sometimes you don't know when it's going to happen. Sometimes people need a new team, which was his case. Now he's doing better and better. That's good."
Nelson's season in doubt following hamstring strain
ST. PETERSBURG -- Chris Nelson suffered what Angels manager Mike Scioscia said was a "significant" right hamstring strain while running down the first-base line to end the top of the seventh inning on Wednesday, an injury that could sideline the third baseman for the last four and a half weeks of this season.
"When I ran out of the box, I just felt something pull," said Nelson, who was having a hard time walking after the Angels' 4-1 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Nelson will be placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday and third baseman Luis Jimenez is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake to take his spot on the roster. Nelson had been the Angels' everyday third baseman since Alberto Callaspo was traded, batting .220 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 33 games.
Peter Bourjos suffered a strained left hamstring earlier this year and missed six weeks.
"It's tough," said Nelson, who nonetheless remained hopeful of a return before the end of September. "That's probably the most frustrating part -- you're getting an opportunity and something like this happens, it just [stinks]."
Jimenez has posted a .261/.293/.361 slash line in 16 games for Triple-A Salt Lake since missing nearly two months with a shoulder injury.
With Pujols out, Trout stepping up in big way
ST. PETERSBURG -- It's now been a month since Albert Pujols went down, eliminating a major asset when it comes to protecting Mike Trout in the batting order.
And the Angels' 22-year-old phenom hasn't skipped a beat.
Since Pujols suffered a partial tear of his plantar fascia on July 27, ultimately knocking him out for the remainder of the 2013 season, Trout has hit .360 with six homers -- including one that traveled 458 feet on Tuesday night -- and a 1.170 OPS heading into Wednesday's game.
Most impressive, perhaps, is the Major League-leading .531 on-base percentage he sports during that time. The second-place guy is Adrian Beltre, at .496.
Trout isn't getting many pitches to hit, and yet he still isn't expanding his strike zone.
"He's hitting the ball well, too, but there's no doubt about teams circling his name and not wanting him to be the guy that beats you," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Trout, who has drawn 28 walks over his previous 25 games. "Sometimes you need someone behind you to get your at-bats, get your swings, get your pitches to hit. That's why the depth of a lineup is important."
Knoop to be inducted into Angels' Hall of Fame
ST. PETERSBURG -- Bobby Knoop, the All-Star second baseman who won three Gold Gloves and has been involved with the organization for 25 years, is set to be inducted into the Angels' Hall of Fame on Thursday, Sept. 5.
Knoop will be honored during a pregame ceremony just before the Angels host the Rays at 7:05 p.m. PT. Fellow Angels Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Brian Downing, Chuck Finley, Jim Fregosi and Bobby Grich will attend, along with owners Arte and Carole Moreno and former owner Jackie Autry.
Long-time Angels employees Susan Weiss, in her 50th season at the ticket office, and John Moynihan, who has been with the club in several capacities since the inaugural season of 1961, will receive gifts commemorating their service to the organization.
Knoop, one of the Angels' first stars, combined with Fregosi to form one of the best double-play tandems in baseball.
Originally signed by the Milwaukee Braves as an amateur free agent before the 1956 season, Knoop was picked up by the Angels in the Rule 5 Draft in December 1963 and posted a .242/.297/.346 slash line from 1964-68, before being dealt to the White Sox for Sandy Alomar and Bob Priddy in May 1969. In 1966, he posted career highs in homers (17), RBIs (72), runs (54) and triples (11) while starting the All-Star Game.
During his time with the Angels, Knoop joined Garret Anderson as the only players to be four-time recipients of the Owner's Trophy, presented annually to the team's MVP. After his playing days, he spent 18 seasons as a Major League coach with the Angels -- from 1975-76, then from 1979-96 -- and returned as a special assignment coach this season.
Shoulder pain limits Hamilton to start at DH
ST. PETERSBURG -- Josh Hamilton's left shoulder continues to bother him when he throws. On Tuesday, it prompted him to be removed from the game for defense in the bottom of the ninth. On Wednesday, it forced him to start at designated hitter for the 10th time this month.
Hamilton has battled random shoulder pain since undergoing surgery for an impingement in 2002. It most recently bothered him in late May, prompting him to get a cortisone shot, and it flared up on him again a couple of days ago. The 32-year-old slugger, unsure if he'll need another cortisone shot, expects to also DH for Thursday's series finale and hopes to start throwing again during the weekend series in Milwaukee.
"It's one of those things that you have to stay consistent with, with exercises and things like that, and then sometimes, even when you do that, it still flares up," Hamilton said of his left shoulder. "A lot of times it's good, but sometimes it just flares up."
Hamilton, with a .343/.413/.537 slash line over his previous 16 games, believes the shoulder is "good enough" to hit.
"I can feel it, but more on like a check swing," he said. "I don't see it being a problem."
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.