Most important thing: C.J. Wilson was solid once again, giving up only one unearned run in five innings and — most importantly for him — issuing zero walks. The Angels’ No. 2 starter hasn’t allowed an earned run in each of his last two starts, spanning nine innings. This was already Wilson’s second time facing the division-rival Mariners this spring, and he’s slated to see them a third time in five days. Weird.
Second-most important thing: A call was overturned, with Andrew Romine‘s bobble of a force out at second going from an out to a safe call after umpire’s reviewed the replay in the eighth inning. Afterwards, Mike Scioscia spent about 15 minutes talking to umpire Dale Scott to get some clarity on the transfer. With replay now used to confirm, umpires will be more strict with how they call outs on bobbled transfers. Now, Scioscia said, you have to have the ball in your bare hand and out of your glove in order for it to be ruled an out. “Before,” Scioscia added, “it was called really loosely where if you had the ball in your glove and you moved your glove to get it to your bare hand, it was [called an out]. That’s going to change the mechanics of how you turn a double play.”
Third-most important thing: Matt Long, who’s really putting an imprint on this spring, went 3-for-4 with two doubles, one day after going 4-for-5. I still think he’s a longshot to make the team, with J.B. Shuck, Collin Cowgill and Brennan Boesch all ahead of him. But it’s not like this is some fluke. Long has hit at every level in the Minor Leagues (look it up), and he’s very versatile, playing all three outfield positions and second base while batting left-handed. It could get interesting if he keeps this up.
Fourth-most important thing: Albert Pujols made his third diving stop at first base in the first inning, then hit an RBI double in the second that was the first time I’ve seen him really square up the ball all spring.
Fifth-most important thing: Erick Aybar drew another walk today. He now has seven in eight games this spring, a good sign for the speedy shortstop who typically doesn’t display much patience.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Grant Green, who spent all nine innings at third base, ranged slightly to his left to snag a hard-hit line drive off the bat of Humberto Quintero in the fifth. It wasn’t a spectacular play, but it’s a difficult one for someone who isn’t used to playing the hot corner and having to react so quickly.
Best quote: Wilson: “I need to learn to be more efficient. Today was a good example of that. I didn’t walk anybody, so I was popping apple-cider ginger ale in the dugout for that one.”
Angels’ record: 5-7-1
Josh Hamilton was hopeful of possibly playing in his first Spring Training game on Thursday, though he was cautious about putting a definitive timeline on his return from a strained left calf.
On Tuesday morning, Angels manager Mike Sciosica indicated that it would take a little longer.
“I don’t know what the time frame’s going to be, but I don’t think we’re going to be seeing him play this week,” Scioscia said. “By the weekend, we’ll probably have a little better idea.”
Hamilton is exactly two weeks removed from suffering the injury, the minimum amount of time he was expected to be out. He’s progressed to doing all baseball activities, but he still isn’t running at 100 percent because the Angels want to control his intensity.
“His BP has been great,” Scioscia said. “He feels good. He’s still progressing as far as running. It’s tough to project exactly what day he’s going to play, but we’ll get a better idea here by the weekend of exactly where he is.”
- Kole Calhoun was held out of the starting lineup on Tuesday with some discomfort in his hips, but should be fine for tomorrow.
- Dane De La Rosa (right forearm strain) is hopeful of picking up a baseball at some point in the next couple days. It’s still uncertain whether he’ll be ready by Opening Day, but Scioscia is confident the Angels dodged a serious injury, saying: “As far as this being something serious that this guy’s going to miss a season or something, that’s not the case at all. This is something that seems very manageable.”
- The Angels granted Mark Mulder his release, a transactional formality since he’s out for the year with a ruptured Achilles. Jett Bandy, Kaleb Cowart, Eric Stamets and Alex Yarbrough were reassigned to Minor League camp.
Most important thing: Jered Weaver labored through 4 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks. But he finished strong, striking out three of the last five batters he faced, and felt perfectly healthy afterwards. Weaver sat at mostly 86 to 88 mph with his fastball, hitting 89 mph twice, which is normal for him.
Second-most important thing: A lot of the guys fighting for bench spots had nice showings. Andrew Romine drew three walks and drove in two runs. Grant Green went 2-for-4 with a double (though he misplayed a grounder at second base and hardly got any action at third). And Collin Cowgill hit a long two-run homer against Trevor Bauer.
Third-most important thing: C.J. Cron continues to hit, and he’s handling himself pretty well defensively at first base. The 24-year-old spent the summer trying to gain a better strike zone awareness in Double-A and had an up-and-down season for the Arkansas Travelers. But he raked in the Arizona Fall League and is having a very nice spring, going 2-for-4 on Monday to put his Cactus League batting average at .545.
Fourth-most important thing: Matt Long is a longshot to make the team, but he went on a tear on Monday, getting four hits and falling a homer shy of the cycle to lead an Angels offense that was low on everyday players — Chris Iannetta and Raul Ibanez were the only ones — but in need of some production.
Fifth-most important thing: Five relievers fighting for jobs (Buddy Boshers, Robert Carson, Josh Wall, Brandon Lyon and Michael Kohn) had scoreless outings, combining to give up only two hits while walking two and striking out four in 4 2/3 innings.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): John McDonald, a frequent contributor to this section, dove to his left and quickly flipped across his body to get a force out at second base and rob Carlos Santana of a single in the third inning.
Best quote: Weaver, on his spring results: “I don’t worry about that until the last start before the season. … Until then, I’m just trying to work on stuff.”
Angels’ record: 5-6-1
“It looks like a bullpen,” Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher said, “but it’s not a bullpen. … He’s still building into a bullpen.”
But the fact he executed it well, and felt good the next day, was nonetheless the latest, most positive step in Burnett’s recovery from August forearm surgery. Burnett, who played light catch on Monday morning, was expected to throw off the 10-foot-wide rehab slope that sits behind the bullpen mound on Sunday, but instead threw fastballs off the rubber and called it “a really good bullpen for being seven months [away from] the mound.”
Simply throwing at a downhill angle was something he wasn’t able to do last season, while making only 13 appearances and never quite getting healthy.
“I felt good,” Burnett said. “Obviously there was some fatigue towards the end. The big thing was to come in today and see how it was going to feel, and I feel pretty good. … I feel loose, I don’t feel like there’s anything restricting. I feel normal soreness. Everything was positive, and hopefully we’ll do it again here in a couple days.”
Mike Scioscia said throwing a full-fledged bullpen is “the next progression.” The Angels’ manager estimated on Thursday that it would be “a week to 10 days” before Burnett throws what’s considered a traditional bullpen session, which would make a return by Opening Day questionable, and that timeline doesn’t appear to have changed.
Burnett, 31, has thrown all his pitches on flat ground and, most importantly, has felt good every step of the way.
“They’re going to make the decision,” Burnett said of being ready by Opening Day on March 31. “My job is to be ready and to try to make it a tough decision for them. At the same time, I’m conservative enough to know that it’s my body; don’t push it too much. Yesterday was positive. Didn’t push it too much, but I got good results out of it. Obviously there was a little bit of fatigue at the end, but that’s normal.”
Here are some other notes from Angels camp today …
- Josh Hamilton (strained left calf) was planning on doing straight-line sprints on the field Monday morning, one day after doing agility drills. He could play as early as Thursday, when the Angels host the White Sox at Tempe Diablo Stadium, but doesn’t want to put a precise timeframe on his return. If he gets back by the end of the week, Hamilton says he should have enough time to get the 45 to 55 at-bats he typically likes to get to be ready for the regular season.
- Former Angels starter Jim Abbott (47 wins and a 3.49 ERA from 1989-92) is in camp this week as a special guest instructor.
- Albert Pujols has the day off today after playing in three games in a row (he served as the designated hitter against the Reds on Sunday). Pujols wants to play in segments of three in a row from now until Opening Day.
- The Angels cut five additional players on Monday: Michael Roth, Jarrett Grube, Michael Morin, Mark Sappington and Justin Thomas. Roth, the only one on the 40-man roster, was optioned to Triple-A; the rest were reassigned to Minor League camp.
- Jered Weaver is slated to throw five innings and 70 to 75 pitches in his third spring start. Scioscia declined to say when asked who his Opening Day starter is, but, um, yeah, it’s Weaver.
- Dane De La Rosa, who exited Thursday’s game because of a forearm strain, still doesn’t have a timeline for when he’ll pick up a baseball.
Most important thing: Hector Santiago was crazy efficient, throwing four one-hit innings and then having to go to the bullpen for 15 extra pitches just so he can get all his work in. He didn’t walk any batters and struck out five. Yes, most of the guys he was facing were Minor Leaguers, but it was a good sign nonetheless. He says he’s 10-for-10 throwing his screwball for strikes, and I’ll have to take his word for it.
Second-most important thing: Joe Blanton struggled mightily at the other game against the Rockies in Salt River Fields, giving up seven runs on eight hits (four of them homers) in 3 1/3 innings.
Third-most important thing: Hitters are normally behind the pitchers this time of year, so perhaps it should be no surprise that the Angels starters have been shutout in the first five innings of five of their previous six games heading into today. Against the Cubs, they managed one run (a Raul Ibanez fielder’s choice) in those first five innings.
Fourth-most important thing: C.J. Cron came up with a clutch hit once again. One day after hitting a three-run, game-tying homer in the ninth inning, the power-hitting prospect hit a two-out single in the eighth inning to give the Angels the lead (albeit briefly).
Fifth-most important thing: Josh Wall gave up two ninth-inning runs to lose the game and has now given up four in three innings.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Cubs center fielder Junior Lake laid down a perfect bunt in the fourth, but third baseman David Freese charged hard and made a nice barehand play for the out.
Best quote: Mike Scioscia, on Cron’s clutch hitting: “C.J.’s looking very comfortable. The growth he’s had in the last year and a half of playing baseball has been very noticeable.”
Angels’ record: 3-5-1
Taco power rankings (updated every Friday): 1. Los Taquitos, 2. El Hefe, 3. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 4. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 5. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 6. Poliberto’s Taco Shop, 7. Salty Senorita
Dane De La Rosa‘s forearm injury, which caused a rough outing against the Dodgers on Thursday and prompted him to leave the game early, was diagnosed as a sprain, an MRI confirmed, and the Angels’ power reliever doesn’t believe he’ll start the season on the disabled list.
“I doubt it,” a relieved De La Rosa said Friday morning, while hooked up to an electronic muscle massager.
“I should be fine. I’m not sure about the timeline, I can’t really say, but it won’t be too long.”
Starting the sixth inning from Tempe Diablo Stadium, De La Rosa — the journeyman 31-year-old coming off a breakout season in 2013 — allowed five of the seven batters he faced to reach and served up a grand slam to Scott Van Slyke. With two outs in the inning, he was checked on by the Angels’ medical staff and removed from the game.
“I just didn’t feel the ball,” De La Rosa said. “There were a few times when I just had no idea where it was going. I just couldn’t feel fingertips. If you can’t feel your fingertips when you’re pitching, it’s not a good thing.”
De La Rosa said he and the Angels will “attack [rehab] pretty aggressively,” but he didn’t have a gauge on a timeline because he hasn’t visited with the team’s medical staff yet. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said a return by Opening Day, on March 31, is “still realistic because he’s a bullpen guy, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
De La Rosa earned the nickname “Everyday Dane” last season for the frequency of his usage. He pitched in 75 games, fifth-most in the American League, while posting a 2.86 ERA and emerging as the team’s setup man down the stretch.
Asked if all those appearances have caught up with De La Rosa, Scioscia said: “I mean, his bullpens have been great. He didn’t show any signs of anything last year. But I don’t know if you ever really know.”
- C.J. Wilson on Dr. Frank Jobe, who passed away on Thursday: “The pitcher’s elbow is like Humpty Dumpty, and he figured out how to put it back together again.” The Angels left-hander, like many, believes guys like Dr. Jobe and Dr. Lewis Yocum, who passed away last year, should be enshrined in Cooperstown.
- The Angels will meet with Major League Baseball at some point in the next week, where they’ll look at video of Thursday’s play at home plate. Scioscia said the meeting was pre-planned and not a reaction to yesterday’s play. Mike Trout was looking at pictures of his slide on his phone in the clubhouse and said he’s still confused about Rule 7.13 on home-plate collisions. Many are. “Guess I have to do my homework,” he said.
- Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is in full uniform today and was chatting up with Trout during warmups. He’ll shag fly balls and take batting practice. Albert Pujols has played golf with him several times and, not surprisingly, says he can drive the ball a long, long way.
- Catcher John Hester is fine after taking a fastball to his left wrist in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game. He didn’t require X-rays and may even play against the Rockies today.
- Today is the Angels’ first split-squad game of the spring. Triple-A manager Keith Johnson will focus on the offense, player information coach Rick Eckstein will handle the defense and Erik Bennett will be the pitching coach.
- Some notes for the game against the Cubs in Tempe today: Kole Calhoun has led off in six of the Angels’ seven Cactus League games, so, yes, he’ll be the leadoff hitter this year. “You kind of get caught in the middle, I guess, because I do like to be aggressive but right now you kind of have to take a step back and see some more pitches,” Calhoun said. … Trout, Pujols, David Freese, Howie Kendrick, J.B. Shuck, Hank Conger and Erick Aybar are also in that lineup, with Hector Santiago starting.
- Some notes for the game against the Rockies at Salt River Fields: Grant Green will get his first spring start at third base. … Bench competitors Andrew Romine (shortstop), Ian Stewart (first base), Collin Cowgill (center field) and Brennan Boesch (left field) are also in the lineup, with Joe Blanton starting.
Veteran reliever Sean Burnett continues to feel good through every step of his rehabilitation from August forearm surgery, but the Angels are taking a cautious approach that could have him on the disabled list by the time Opening Day rolls around on March 31.
For the first time on Wednesday morning, Burnett progressed past his long-toss program and threw roughly 25 pitches off a slope – an artificial mound that’s place behind the traditional bullpen mound and has him throwing from about 75 feet but without pushing off a rubber.
The 31-year-old lefty “felt good,” said it was the most positive step in his rehab and expects to do it again on Friday. But he wasn’t throwing at full intensity and Angels manager Mike Scioscia estimated on Thursday morning that it’ll still be “a week to 10 days” before he throws his first bullpen session, which would leave roughly two weeks before the start of the regular season.
“No doubt we’re cutting close,” Scioscia said. “But he’ll be ready in his own time. You can’t look at the schedule and say you have to have him ready by a certain date. He’ll be ready on his own time and we’ll see when that is.”
Scioscia stressed that the target date for Burnett’s first bullpen session falls in line with the original projection.
Burnett doesn’t need a lot of time to get ready because he’s only a one-inning reliever, but the Angels will take their time with him because he missed a full season and because having him healthy throughout the summer takes precedence over having him on the active roster coming out of Spring Training.
The Angels can backdate Burnett’s DL stint far enough so that he only misses the first 10 days of the regular season, and they have several lefty relievers in camp – Brian Moran, Clay Rapada, Robert Carson, Buddy Boshers, Nick Maronde and Michael Roth – who can fill the void in the meantime.
Burnett’s arm has stood up to every test, but he knows he has to continue to follow the steps.
“Unfortunately it’s not my first surgery,” Burnett said, “so I know how the process works and I know you have to be to be patient.”
Most important thing: Albert Pujols played in back-to-back games for the first time this spring, and started at first base for the fourth time in six games, and made two very nice diving stops. He also singled in his third at-bat, snapping an 0-for-9 skid.
Second-most important thing: Jered Weaver pitched four complete innings in his second start, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits while giving up four hits, walking two and striking out two. Weaver said he “probably left a couple pitches up, a little excited, but other than that, I felt pretty good out there.”
Third-most important thing: Grant Green started at shortstop for the first time, playing six innings and handling the only two routine grounders hit to him — a slow roller that he changed and a charity hop he fielded slightly to his left. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said “at times he got a little too deep, but his throws across were good.” Green is expected to get a start at third base by the end of the week.
Fourth-most important thing: The Angels had two defensive blunders — on a fly ball Brennan Boesch lost in the sun and a slow roller that sneaked under Weaver’s legs before he recovered — but overall played a very strong defensive game, with nice plays by Luis Jimenez, Matt Long and Pujols.
Fifth-most important thing: Kevin Jepsen had a scoreless outing for the second straight time, giving up one hit and striking out one in the sixth.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): With one out in the first, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford smoked a liner to right field, but Pujols dove full-extension to his right, fielded it cleanly and made the flip to Weaver.
Best quote: Weaver, on the difference between Pujols this spring compared to last spring: “It’s night and day. Just the way he’s running around, the way he’s moving at first — just walking in general he looks more healthy.”
Angels’ record: 3-3
Most important thing: The gamesmanship between Yu Darvish and Mike Trout has begun. Trout owns a lifetime 1.227 OPS in 39 plate appearances against Darvish, so the Japanese right-hander said he only threw him fastballs today (Trout lined out and hit a single in two at-bats against him) because he didn’t want to tip his hand on the different approach he’ll have against the Angels’ phenom this season.
Second-most important thing: Tyler Skaggs, vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, retired six of his first seven batters, but grew noticeably tired in the third, putting four of the five batters he faced on base and giving up an RBI single to Shin-Soo Choo before exiting.
Third-most important thing: Albert Pujols went 0-for-3 with a weak groundout and two harmless flyouts, making him 0-for-8 on the spring. But, as Mike Scioscia said, “Really small sample size. In BP he’s there; he’s just searching for timing. He’ll find it.”
Fourth-most important thing: Raul Ibanez took Darvish deep in the second inning, with a solo shot that easily cleared the right-field fence. Ibanez has one hit and five strikeouts in nine career regular-season at-bats against Darvish.
Fifth-most important thing: Sidearm reliever Joe Smith made his Angels debut in the fourth inning, giving up an RBI triple to Leonys Martin.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): With one on and none out in the eighth, Rangers second baseman Kensuke Tanaka ranged to his right, slid on one knee and made a nice backhand play of a Luis Martinez grounder to start a slick 4-6-3 double play.
Best quote: Trout, to Japanese reporters when asked about Darvish tweaking his game plan against him this year: “It’s going to be interesting. I’m curious to see what he does, see what happens. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Angels lineup …
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Raul Ibanez, DH
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
J.B. Shuck, LF
SP: LH Tyler Skaggs
Rangers lineup …
Shin-Soo Choo, LF
Josh Wilson, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B
Jurickson Profar, DH
Robinson Chirinos, C
Luis Sardinas, SS
Leonys Martin, CF
SP: RH Yu Darvish
- Josh Hamilton wasn’t surprised to hear about Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler‘s comments, saying he hopes his ex-team, the Rangers, go 0-162 and calling general manager Jon Daniels a “sleazeball.” “At least I won’t be the only villain in Texas now,” Hamilton said, smiling. The two were close in Texas, and Hamilton said he wasn’t very surprised to find out about Kinsler’s comments. “He’s very competitive.”
- Hamilton entered the clubhouse drenched in sweat after taking some batting practice and playing catch. Hamilton, who strained his left calf one week from today, no longer requires crutches and doesn’t have to do those baseball activities off one knee. But he has yet to run. “Even if I felt good today, they wouldn’t let me, so I can’t really put a time frame on it.”
- Ian Stewart was scratched from Monday’s lineup after Mike Scioscia said he was “messing around with his daughter and got hit in the nose.” Stewart’s daughter, 4, was lying on the bed stomach first watching TV, and when Stewart went to lunge at her playfully, she sat up and the two collided heads. ”She just kind of looked at me and laid back down, watched the movie, and I thought I had a broken nose, because I heard like a crunching sound,” Stewart said. Stewart was fine on Tuesday, though. No concussion and no broken nose. He’ll get back to baseball activities on Wednesday.
- The Angels are playing a “B” game in Goodyear, Ariz., on Tuesday morning. Hunter Green is pitching in it, and Scioscia is attending both contests.
- Joe Smith, Fernando Salas, Michael Kohn, Brandon Lyon and Clay Rapada are also slated to pitch against the Rangers on Tuesday.