June 2012

Game 76: Blue Jays-Angels

Greetings from Toronto, where the Angels will look to build on a three-game winning streak, capture their 14th road victory in their last 15 games and (no doubt) drink milk out of a bag …

Angels (42-33)

Mike Trout, LF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Mark Trumbo, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Peter Bourjos, CF
Bobby Wilson, C

Pitching: RH Dan Haren (5-7, 4.24 ERA)

Blue Jays (38-37)

Brett Lawrie, 3B
Colby Rasmus, CF
Jose Bautista, RF
Edwin Encarnacion, DH
Kelly Johnson, 2B
Yunel Escobar, SS
Rajai Davis, LF
Adam Lind, 1B
Jeff Mathis, C

Pitching: LH Brett Cecil (1-0, 2.45 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Vernon Wells (thumb surgery) will get back into baseball activities next week, with the hope of going out on a rehab assignment shortly after the All-Star break. Where/when will he play when he gets healthy? “I can’t worry about that right now. I just have to focus on getting healthy.”
  • Mike Scioscia hinted pregame that the Angels’ lack of depth at the Triple-A level could push Garrett Richards (able to be sent down) back to the Minor Leagues when Jerome Williams (out of options) is ready to return. Putting Williams in the ‘pen, he said, just sacrifices their starting-pitching depth even further.
  • While going 13-1 in their last 14 road games, the Angels have outscored opponents, 81-37. This marks just the fourth time in club history that they’ve won 13 of 14 road games.

Some Angels links from Wednesday …

  • Trout’s catch highlights victory over O’s
  • Jeff Trout marvels at his son’s catch
  • Richard Justice: Trout brings something special to Angels
  • Notebook, on Bourjos adjusting to his role, Haren’s velocity and Chris Iannetta‘s progress

Some AL West links …

And the Heat might be thinking small in the upcoming Draft.

Alden

Game 75: Orioles-Angels …

Angels (41-33)

Mike Trout, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mark Trumbo, LF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Bobby Wilson, C

Pitching: RH Jered Weaver (7-1, 2.40 ERA)

Orioles (41-32)

Brian Roberts, 2B
J.J. Hardy, SS
Chris Davis, RF
Adam Jones, CF
Matt Wieters, C
Wilson Betemit, 3B
Mark Reynolds, 1B
Nick Johnson, 1B
Steve Pearce, LF

Pitching: RH Jason Hammel (8-2, 2.61 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • The return of Chris Iannetta (forearm strain) continues to be delayed. He was shut down recently for the second time, had a contrast MRI last week (weeks after getting an MRI when the forearm first flared up) and won’t re-start throwing for a couple days. “He’s fine,” manager Mike Scioscia insisted. “You’re just ruling some things out, and he’ll be throwing out here in a couple days.”
  • Rookie reliever David Carpenter has only appeared in two games since June 6, but Scioscia believes the difference in workload between his current role and one he’d have in the Minors (probably about 20 appearances when it’s all set and done) makes it more beneficial for him to stay in the Majors. “I think the experience he’s getting up here is going to be invaluable to him. Although he’s not the finished product, you can use the experience here and if you ever go back to the minor leagues or get an opportunity to pitch in a better role in the big leagues, you can use that as a platform to hopefully grow from.”
  • In case you missed it from last night … With his fifth-inning homer last night, Pujols has now homered against every team except the Cardinals, and has hit one out in 34 big league stadiums (including the World Series).
  • Aybar is riding a season-long 11-game hitting streak, the longest by an Angels player this year. His .321 BA in June tops all AL shortstops.
  • Jerome Williams came out of his sim game fine and will throw a bullpen session tomorrow.

Some Angels.com links from Tuesday …

  • Angels tee off at Camden Yards
  • Notebook, on Trout’s homecoming, Trumbo’s HR Derby chances, Jerome’s sim game and Mickey Hatcher‘s new job
  • Question of the Day, on Peter Bourjos
  • Preview, on the Weaver-Hammel matchup

Some AL West links …

And in the end, LeBron James had the last laugh.

Alden

Question of the Day, 6/26 …

Will Peter Bourjos begin to get more playing time? — @RyanHuyler

I take this question not because Bourjos has now homered in back-to-back games, but because it’s crystal clear — as it has been all year — that Bourjos deserves to be an everyday player. His impact on the Angels’ lineup would be huge from a defensive and speed standpoint, but how do you get him consistent at-bats? Bench Torii Hunter? He’s been rolling since he got in the No. 2 spot. Bench Mike Trout? Funny. Put Mark Trumbo at third base? That experiment didn’t go too well early on and seems to have been put to rest. Play Albert Pujols at third? I doubt Mike Scioscia would do it. The only real way I see Bourjos getting regular playing time is if Kendrys Morales finds his way on the bench against more than a lefty starter, but the Angels need that power presence from the left side.

Alden

Game 74: Orioles-Angels …

Welcome to Baltimore, the start of a nine-game road trip and a swing that will see the Angels play 16 of their next 20 on the road. (I know, because I’ll be covering all of them.) …

Angels (40-33)

Mike Trout, LF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Mark Trumbo, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Maicer Izturis, 3B
Peter Bourjos, CF
John Hester, C

Pitching: LH C.J. Wilson (8-4, 2.44 ERA)

Orioles (41-31)

Brian Roberts, 2B
J.J. Hardy, SS
Adam Jones, CF
Matt Wieters, C
Mark Reynolds, DH
Wilson Betemit, 1B
Steve Pearce, RF
Steve Tolleson, LF
Robert Andino, 3B

Pitching: LH Brian Matusz (5-8, 5.00 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Oriole Park at Camden Yards happens to be about a two-hour trek from the small town of Millville, N.J., where Trout grew up. And pretty much the entire town is here. There are about 10 reporters here to write stories on Trout’s surge, and one of them told me there will be like 1,000 people — including his parents and high school coaches — here to see him play.
  • Oh, and in case you hadn’t noticed, Trout now leads the AL in batting average at .338, with Paul Konerko sliding down to second at .337.
  • Former Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was hired by his former team, the Dodgers, to be a special assistant to GM Ned Colletti.
  • Jerome Williams (asthma) threw a 51-pitch simulated game and felt good. He could get in a rehab game at some point this week, and it’s looking like he’ll be ready to be activated off the DL when eligible, on July 4.

Some Angels.com links from Monday …

Some AL West links …

And The Big 3 was on Oprah.

Alden

A quiet Deadline for the Angels? …

It appears we may be headed in that direction.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto talked briefly Saturday about the non-waiver Trade Deadline that’s still more than a month away, and didn’t sound like a guy who felt he needed to make significant moves before July 31.

“We have a 25-man roster right now of guys that are playing particularly well, they’re feeding off each other,” Dipoto said. “I don’t think it’s imminent that we make any kind of moves, nor do I think that it’s a must. We’re going to continue to survey, and if the ability or chance to help in a given area arises, then we’ll take advantage, we’ll try to capitalize on that opportunity. But I can’t define at this time whether that’s going to be available to us or not.”

One reason — on top of the fact that this roster has led to an MLB-best 33-18 record since April 28 — is the Angels aren’t in a position to add much salary to a payroll that’s pretty much maxed out at $154 million.

Dipoto said the Angels are “not involved” in talks to acquire Kevin Youkilis, who the Red Sox are desperately trying to deal, adding that third base isn’t a very big priority in his mind. As for their own ostracized player, Peter Bourjos? Teams will be interested, and the Angels will keep an open mind, but Dipoto doesn’t sound very motivated to move him (given how inexpensive he is and that he’ll probably have a starting spot next season).

“It’s popped up multiple times since last offseason,” Dipoto said, “and our answer has been the same every time – Peter is a very good fit for this club, where we are right now and where we are moving forward.”

As for the bullpen?

“We have a variety of different looks [on the current roster].”

Starting pitching?

“I don’t know that we’re going to be able to go out on the market and replicate or do better than any of the six guys that we have.”

Any team would love to add pitching depth, and the Angels are no different. It just doesn’t appear like they’ll be making any big splashes, per se. Not if they hold on to Bourjos — one of few tradeable guys who could bring back a sizeable return — and not if they don’t have much payroll flexibility.

But, hey, a lot can change in five weeks.

Alden

Haren’s uncharacteristic struggles continue …

The Angels came back in emphatic fashion on Friday night, turning a 5-0 deficit into an 8-5 victory to move to a season-best seven games over .500.

That’s the good part.

The bad part is Dan Haren got them into that early hole by giving up five runs on six hits and three walks in the first two innings, throwing 46 pitches and surrendering a first-inning three-run homer to former Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu, only his second in 49 games this year. He settled down after that, hurling three scoreless frames despite having a runner on each time to somehow get the win, but Haren has hardly looked like his masterful self this year.

From 2005-11, he ranked second in the Majors in innings and still managed to post a 3.49 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and a 4.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Through 15 starts this year (seven of them “quality”), his ERA is 4.24, his WHIP is 1.37 and his K/BB rate is 3.7.

Solid? Perhaps. Haren-like? Hardly.

“I have to get better,” Haren said. “I don’t want to bring the team down.”

Haren was pitching on six days’ rest tonight, a scenario that had yielded a 5.03 ERA in his career. Asked if that was a factor in his early struggles, Haren said: “It might’ve a little bit, but I’m not going to make any excuses.”

Asked if he’s still feeling pain in his lower back, which he experienced during a rough May 8 start in Minnesota and could explain why his cutter and splitter looked so flat on Friday, Haren said: “It’s not an issue. It was earlier in the year, but that’s the least amount of problems out there.”

Haren just felt his command was simply too erratic, he got behind in counts too often and he made too many mistakes up in the strike zone.

“It just looked like everything was up, was flat, it didn’t look like he was attacking the zone, nibbling,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “It’s very uncharacteristic for Dan to walk anybody. … But I think the last couple innings, he really got after it and turned the ball loose and pitched like he can.”

The Angels will hope he can carry that into his next start.

Alden

Game 71: Dodgers-Angels …

The scene shifts for the Freeway Series tonight, with the Angels hosting the second leg and looking to build on an 11-4 mark against the crosstown-rival Dodgers over their last 15 games. Mike Scioscia, on the significance of it all: “I don’t think there really is as far as our clubhouse or anybody in their clubhouse, but I do know the media and the fans obviously have more interest in a game because of the geographical rivalry that’s here, with the two teams being so close. But for us, it’s another game. They’re a good team, we have to do things well if we’re going to beat them, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

Dodgers (42-28)

Dee Gordon, SS
Jerry Hairston, 2B
Andre Ethier, RF
Bobby Abreu, DH
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Adam Kennedy, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF

Pitching: RH Chad Billingsley (4-5, 3.75 ERA)

Angels (38-32)

Mike Trout, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mark Trumbo, LF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Bobby Wilson, C

Pitching: RH Dan Haren (4-7, 3.96 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Jerome Williams (breathing problems) has been medically cleared to do everything, meaning he can begin the process of long-tossing, then getting in bullpen sessions, being stretched out and ultimately returning to the Angels’ pitching staff. Will that be as a starter or a reliever? That remains to be seen. But Scioscia said he’s received no indication from the medical staff that Williams would not be allowed to start.
  • Chris Iannetta (wrist surgery and forearm strain) will restart his throwing program Saturday, but is still a ways away from getting in a rehab assignment.
  • Scioscia, on how Weaver’s feeling after his Wednesday start: “He feels really good. I think he feels just some normal stiffness you would get from going out there and pitching, nothing connected at all with what put him on the disabled list, so that’s encouraging.”
  • Every Angels starter will be on at least six days’ rest coming up, which can be good (it’s a long season) and bad (starters for the most part hate breaking routing). “I think long term it’s a good thing, for guys to maybe catch their breath,” Scioscia said. “Some guys aren’t sharp historically on six days, and some guys are very good on six days. There’s no rhyme or reason or one thing you can point to that’s going to make your staff better, but especially this time of year, these guys have been grinding a lot.”
  • Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri have the best combined ERA of any Major League relief tandem, at 0.66 (or four runs in 54 2/3 innings). Minimum for this was 20 innings per player.
  • Erick Aybar is on a seven-game hitting streak and is batting .417 over his last 10 games.

Some Angels.com links from Thursday …

Some AL West links …

And in case you missed it, MY HEAT WON THE ‘SHIP!

Alden

Angels get Weaver back, & the rich get richer

Heading into Wednesday night, the Angels had been without their best pitcher for nearly three weeks, had seen their No. 2 starter struggle uncharacteristically (by his standards) and had stomached a mystifying start from their No. 3 man.

And still their rotation had the lowest ERA in the American League.

The Angels have plenty of pitching depth on their big league roster. Enough so that they largely relied on it even while ace Jered Weaver missed time on the disabled list with a lower back strain. Now, after receiving six shutout innings from Weaver in his return, the Angels’ staff ERA sits at 3.51 — even with Dan Haren struggling through a 3.97 ERA and Ervin Santana sporting a 5.16 mark.

The No. 1 ERA in the AL: Weaver, at 2.40.

No. 2: C.J. Wilson, at 2.44.

Then there’s Garrett Richards, the young stud who has given up two earned runs in 21 innings and stayed on board after Jerome Williams was placed on the disabled list. And there’s Williams himself, who has pitched much better than his 4.45 mark would suggest, being one of the better No. 5 starters in baseball. When Williams returns (that’s unknown, but as scary as his shortness of breath on Monday night was, at least he’s not injured, per se), the Angels will have six capable starters, possibly all in the big leagues.

That’s big because the Angels have hardly nothing in the Minors. With David Pauley being claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays, and Brad Mills and Trevor Bell on the DL, the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees have had to use relievers like Juan Rincon in the rotation to fill the void.

It’s big because in this era, even the best clubs need big time help beyond their five starters to succeed. In fact, six of the last seven World Series champions needed at least 10 starts from six guys throughout the regular season, with the ’06 Cardinals (with Jason Isringhausen as their closer and Albert Pujols as their star) needing 13 from seven different pitchers. The only exception here was the ’09 Yankees, who went to a three-man staff in the playoffs and got through the regular season with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain as full-time starters. But even they needed at least six starts from four others.

Simply put, the cliche is true — you can never have too much quality starting pitching.

The Angels, at least, have a fair amount.

Alden 

** From last night: Question of the Day, on Mark Trumbo or Mike Trout for Angels MVP. 

Question of the Day, 6/20 …

Angels’ MVP so far — Mark Trumbo or Mike Trout? — @markscelfo

That’s a tough one, but if I have to pick one, I’ll go with Trout. No disrespect to what Trumbo has done, but he’d probably tell you the same. The root of the Angels’ turnaround points almost directly to Trout’s April 28 call-up. He’s the guy who sets the table, who does it all on the field and who provided this team with the spark they so-desperately needed. As he goes, so does the offense. You saw it on Tuesday night. Trout went 3-for-25 over his previous six games, and the Angels totaled 11 runs in that span. Then he goes 4-for-4 and the Angels score 12. It’s hardly a coincidence.

Both deserve to be in the All-Star Game, though.

Alden

Game 70: Giants-Angels …

Jered Weaver is activated off the DL today, looking to pick up right where he left off and give the Angels eight series wins over their last nine …

Giants (38-31)

Gregor Blanco, DH
Ryan Theriot, 2B
Melky Cabrera, LF
Buster Posey, C
Angel Pagan, CF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Brandon Belt, 1B
Nate Schierholtz, RF
Brandon Crawford, SS

Pitching: RH Ryan Vogelsong (6-2, 2.29 ERA)

Angels (37-32)

Mike Trout, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mark Trumbo, LF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Bobby Wilson, C

Pitching: RH Weaver (6-1, 2.61 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Jerome Williams was placed on the DL on Wednesday, with the breathing problems that caused him to go to the hospital after his Monday night start. With that, the Angels opened a spot on the roster for Weaver. Williams passed out in the Angels clubhouse after pitching against the Giants, likely due to an asthma attack. He’ll take it easy for now, and there’s no timeline for his return. More on the site soon.
  • With Williams on the DL, Ervin Santana will start Saturday against the Dodgers and the young Garrett Richards will go Sunday. Dan Haren is the Friday starter.
  • The Blue Jays claimed reliever David Pauley off waivers from the Angels.
  • Scioscia was asked about the recent pine tar scandal between the Rays and Nationals. Scoiscia didn’t really have a problem with Davey Johnson bringing it up — which his former coach, Joe Maddon, took exception to — but said using pine tar is hardly an advantage for a pitcher. “Pine tar’s an accepted practice in baseball. And I don’t think hitters have much of an issue with it, especially when it’s cold or guys are really sweaty or it’s wet. It doesn’t change the flight of the ball, it’s in the rules, and obviously you have to abide by what’s in the rules. It’s like getting pulled over for going 66 mph in a 65 mph zone.”

Angels.com links from Tuesday …

Some AL West links …

And the Miami Heat are ONE WIN AWAY from championship glory.

Alden

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