Angels fire hitting coach Mickey Hatcher

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From beat writer Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com comes word that the Angels fired longtime hitting coach Mickey Hatcher late Tuesday night.

Triple-A Salt Lake hitting instructor Jim Eppard has been promoted to serve as Hatcher’s replacement.

The news comes with odd timing considering the Halos beat the A’s 4-0 on Tuesday in Anaheim, but this decision runs much deeper than one game.

The Angels have probably been the biggest disappointment of the 2012 baseball season’s first half and currently trail the American League West-leading Rangers by a whopping seven games. The offense has been shut out eight times already and ranked 23rd in the majors in runs scored heading into Tuesday’s game. Someone had to be the scapegoat.

It’s worth remembering that Hatcher had a small clash of philosophies with Albert Pujols back in late April, and that Hatcher is a nearly-lifelong friend of Angels manager Mike Scioscia. Maybe this is standard protocol in Anaheim, but GM Jerry Dipoto made Tuesday’s announcement. Scioscia was not present.

Francisco Rodriguez is being sued by his former landlord

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John Wisely of the Detroit Free Press reports that current free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez is being sued by his former landlord for damage to the rented property as well as missing artwork. The landlord is asking for $80,000 after having kept Rodriguez’s $15,000 security deposit.

The lawsuit says that Rodriguez damaged a bedroom TV, a crystal floor lamp, glass shelves in the bar, glass tiles in the master bath, and a Moroccan mirror in the powder room. Additionally, the suit claims that the bedding is stained and paint has chipped, as well as other damages. And the piece of art that is allegedly missing, which depicts a tiger, is valued at more than $10,000.

Rodriguez has not yet been served with the suit, but the landlord has been speaking to his managers.

The Nationals released Rodriguez, 35, two weeks ago after having signed him to a minor league contract in late June. He started the season with the Tigers, but struggled to a 7.82 ERA over 25 1/3 innings before being released.

Report: Rays acquire Lucas Duda from the Mets

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MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that the Rays have acquired first baseman Lucas Duda from the Mets. The Mets will receive pitching prospect Drew Smith in return, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Duda, 31, is batting .246/.347/.532 with 17 home runs and 37 RBI in 291 plate appearances for the Mets this season. He’ll provide a potent bat in the Rays’ lineup as they attempt to overcome their current 2.5-game deficit in the AL East.

Smith, 23, is the Rays’ No. 30 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He ascended from High-A to Triple-A already this season, posting an aggregate 1.60 ERA with a 40/9 K/BB ratio over 45 innings across four stops with High-A Lakeland (Tigers), High-A Charlotte (Rays), Double-A Montgomery, and Triple-A Durham.