Scioscia talks Greinke, Trout, Wells …
Angels manager Mike Scioscia met with the media from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday, the final full day of the Winter Meetings. With the pitching market moving slowly — and likely staying that way until Zack Greinke chooses his destination — the Angels haven’t addressed their final rotation and bullpen need, and there are still no indications that they’ll do so before heading back West.
In a wide-ranging interview, Scioscia talked about the Angels’ pursuit of Greinke — who he hasn’t talked to since the end of the regular season, the addition of Ryan Madson, the new-look outfield, Mike Trout‘s future spot in the outfield and Vernon Wells‘ limited role.
Here are the highlights …
Any sense you guys will be able to do something today?
Well, you know, there’s a lot of things that Jerry [Dipoto] is working on, and I think the important thing about this time of year is really not only who you’re targeting but the contingencies. Those guys have put a lot of time in and a lot of effort into getting us ready to go whatever direction negotiations take you, whatever direction these Winter Meetings take you. We’re very, very comfortable and confident in the team that we’re going to have. I think there are already some things that were vastly improved on from where we were in September. We’ll see where this leads.
Any concerns from a rotation standpoint, numbers and maybe some of the quality, as we get through right now?
Well, we have right now a couple good guys to build around when you talk about Jered [Weaver] and you talk about C.J. [Wilson]. Obviously there’s some young guys coming up, guys like Garrett [Richards] that are obviously going to have opportunities, Jerome Williams. But when you talk about the Greinkes, you talk about a lot of the other pitchers that are still out there right now with some question marks as to are they going to be part of your team or not, you know, there are things you have to prepare for.
So yeah, starting rotation is obviously the heartbeat of your club, and I know that Jerry is putting a lot of time and effort into it. And I think as we’re waiting for that to hopefully develop and get solidified, there have been some great additions that we’re very, very excited about.
What dialogue, if any, have you had with Zack over the winter or maybe in the last week or two?
The dialogue is really going to be between Jerry and his agent. I think Zack was very comfortable here at the end of last year, pitched very, very good baseball for us. Free agency is complicated. Right now we’re at a stage where I don’t know if there’s as much clarity as there are in some other areas that are going on, but he’s certainly a guy that I know that they’re talking to.
So have you talked to him at all?
I talked to Zack at the end of the season.
Even if you solidify the pitching staff the way you want, would you still consider it a disappointment if Greinke isn’t part of it?
I don’t know if you ever are going to say, well, this is disappointing and that’s disappointing. You want to see what direction negotiations take your team and what direction Winter Meetings take your team. I think we’re going to have a strong rotation with or without Zack. Naturally we’d like Zack to be part of it because we saw where he was and what he did for us last year, but if it plays out that way, then obviously that’s important. If it doesn’t go that way, I think there are some names that Jerry is certainly ‑‑ there’s some names that he’s in negotiations with that hopefully are going to take our rotation where it needs to be.
How do you feel about the bullpen right now?
I think it’s terrific. I think that when you look at a guy like Madson and you look at adding him to what [Ernesto] Frieri did and [Kevin Jepsen‘s] development, and you look at [Scott] Downs, there are so many situations where we didn’t hold leads the way we needed to last season. And I think going into this year, if everyone hits the ground running as far as our bullpen, we’re going to hold leads at a much better rate, and that’s going to definitely influence where we finish our standings.
If he’s healthy, is Madson the closer?
Well, there’s no doubt that he wants to be and has the potential to be. But I don’t think we have to make that determination right now. I think that where Ryan is is certainly one factor. Where Ernie is, if you look at Scott Downs who had saves last year, where Kevin Jepsen is, our bullpen is much deeper right now, and that’s encouraging. It’s always easier when that one guy emerges and can be the closer. If that is what materializes, great; if it doesn’t, then we’re going to hold leads in different ways and have the good arms to do it.
How will the loss of Torii Hunter impact your team on and off the field?
There’s no doubt it impacts our club. I think when you lose a presence in the clubhouse ‑‑ I think we have plenty of guys in the clubhouse that are a presence, and they’ll absorb that. I think what we have to carve out is that No. 2 spot that Torii just fit like a glove. He took that role and he just ran with it and got back to his roots of being a young player coming up and getting into a situational game and played at a high level for us. That’s what we have to, I think, be able to replicate, and hopefully we will.
What are you thinking for the 2-hole?
There’s a lot of guys we can revisit, but I think if you look at where Erick [Aybar] was and where Howie [Kendrick] was as they moved on in the season and got more comfortable, there’s certainly going to be some spots for that. Where we end up at the end of these Meetings and going into Spring Training will have a lot to do with who’s going to hit in the No. 2 spot.
Do you still have Trout leading off next year?
There’s definitely things that we’ve talked about. If you look at Mike Trout and where he can hit, he can hit anywhere from 1 to 4 in your lineup. Where you’re going to get the most production from Mike, he fell right into lead‑off hole and was just natural, but you certainly want to set the table for Mike, and I think as a lead‑off hitter, there’s certainly an argument to saying how much are your 8 and 9 guys getting on for Mike to be able to justify putting him in that spot. He might be suited to hit second in your lineup if you had the right combination.
I think there’s a lot of lineups that you can roll around right now. I think the one thing with Mike that was incredible was really the number of RBIs he had or really maybe not getting as many opportunities as some guys, and that’s something you would definitely explore when you’re putting lineups together.
What do you think [Peter] Bourjos can do offensively?
I think Peter had a good 2011 for us. If you look at how he did particularly in the second half where his on‑base percentage improved, I think you saw some power evolve. Pete’s obviously a presence in the outfield, but he still needs to bring us some offense, which he’s definitely capable of doing.
There’s some people that may not have seen a lot of Bourjos that go, ‘Hey, you have somebody that’s a better center fielder than Mike Trout?’
I think Mike has the tools to play an incredible level of center field, and with experience I think you’ll see Mike improve on some things as a center fielder. Not that he was really deficient, but you’re going to see some routes that are going to be cleaner. It just happens with experience. Peter had a little more time to play in the Minor Leagues and work on some things and is probably a little more polished in center field right now than Mike. And I think that says more about Peter’s ability than it does to say any deficiency that Mike has, because Mike Trout is a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. But Peter plays to a special level.
I’m assuming you will play him at left, Peter in center? What is the overall reason you would say, one or two reasons, and is there something to be said for exposing Mike a little less to some of the rigors defensively?
I don’t think that’s as much to where you think the pieces fit that give you the best defensive look you can have. You know, Peter is very polished on stopping at first and third, he’s got incredible range at center field he’s going to play, and there’s some things from a center fielder look that Peter is going to give you that gives you a chance to have a really dynamic outfield if that’s the way it plays out. Mike in left field and Peter in center, especially in our park, are going to give you range plus out there, and you know, we’ll see how things unfold.
If your question is taking pressure off of Mike going to be one of the reasons why we would go with that alignment, I’d say no. I’d say he can play center field every day. We wouldn’t shy away from that if that’s going to make us a better team.
What do you think you can get out of Vernon Wells this year?
Well, you know, Vernon is a guy that we’ve seen struggle for a couple years. I talked to Vernon over the winter about it. I think that for him to find his comfort zone and get into his game, he’s a guy that’s much more talented than he’s shown in the last couple years. Part of him was slowed a little bit with the groin injury in ’11, and then last season with the thumb. It’s been frustrating not only for Vernon but for us as a staff because of the talent. You still see the bat speed there. You see a guy that can play at a higher level, and you know, we’ll see where Vernon is. But he’s been very frustrated, also.