January 2013

Trout’s mom: ‘I’m really going to miss Torii’ …

TROUT-TORIIThere are a lot of pictures at Mike Trout‘s parents’ house in Millville, N.J.

To his mom, Debbie, this is the favorite.

It’s hanging in a frame downstairs, in the basement Mike has turned into his own personal “man cave,” and autographed with silver Sharpie by the two of them.

This is a snapshot of Mike’s first Major League game on July 8, 2011, taken just after Mike raced to the wall to make this running catch.

But the significance of this photo lies in the man standing to Mike’s right, Torii Hunter, who took Mike under his wing basically since the moment he was drafted and is now gone, signing with the Tigers to a two-year, $26 million contract over the offseason.

“I’m going to miss Torii,” Debbie said. “I really am going to miss Torii. He was just absolutely wonderful to Mike.”

“Not only did he help him with his approach to the game, but all the little things that people don’t realize when you get up there as a 20-year-old kid — how to behave in the clubhouse, what time to get there,” Mike’s father, Jeff, said. “He’s counseled Mike on nutrition, how to take care of his legs, how to take care of your body, how to handle fans, how to handle the autograph thing. He really has been a really, really positive influence on Mike.”

Hunter was one of the first players Mike met after being the Angels’ 25th overall pick in 2009. The Angels invited him to take batting practice at Angel Stadium, Hunter introduced himself and the veteran outfielder stayed in touch with Mike as he was coming up through the system. Hunter bought Mike a suit shortly after he came up to the big leagues, tipped clubbies for him and even paid for his parents’ dinner when he spotted them at a restaurant one night. The two still stay in touch.

Shortly after Hunter signed with the Tigers, Mike’s mom sent him a tweet (her handle: @DebbieTrout27) …

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!! Mike has learned from the Best!!!We will miss you but see you in Detroit!!!

Hunter’s response (via @toriihunter48) …

no mama! Thanks to u for raising such a great kid. He was easy to work with and talk to. @Trouty20 is a special kid

“He was a great mentor, and we appreciate everything he did,” Jeff said. “Hopefully some day Mike can do the same for a young player coming up.”

“That’s right,” Debbie added, “because that’s what it’s all about. But I’m really going to miss Torii.”

We ran a story today on Mike’s hometown of Millville — the impact it’s had on his life, the way it has rallied around him these last nine months and how, in some ways, things can never be the same again there. Here are some additional notes …

* The Angels have not begun talks with Mike and his representatives with regards to a long-term extension, sources have said. The club is past the point where it can get him to agree on an Evan Longoria-type deal — six years, $17.5 million, agreed on when he first arrived in the big leagues.

Big-market clubs, as a general rule, can opt to wait a little longer to sign controlled players to a long extension because they aren’t scared by looming arbitration. And by waiting, they minimize the risk for nine figures at such a young age. Normally it’s the small- to mid-market teams that do it in the pre-arbitration years (think Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, Justin Upton and Hanley Ramirez) because it’s one of few ways to assure a star player doesn’t leave via fre agency.

Also, the competitive balance tax accounts for the average annual value of a contract, not the year-to-year price point. So, for example, if Mike signs a 10-year, $200 million contract that’s typically backloaded into his free-agent years, the $25M AAV is factored into the “now payroll” for the CBT. So, even if that contracts pays him only $1M in 2013, the Angels are paying taxes as if that were a $25M deal. That gets to be very pricey when you have other massive deals (Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, etc.).

In short, the Angels’ thinking is: What’s the rush? They’ll get there at some point. They’d sure like to.

* Mike isn’t too thrilled about being relegated to left field next season, several people close to him say. No surprise. (How would you feel if you were told to switch positions after being the MVP runner-up?) But Mike has made no mention of his displeasure to Angels management, simply telling them he believes he’s a center fielder but will do what it takes to help the team win.

The Angels remain committed to putting Peter Bourjos in center and Trout in left for a vast majority of the 2013 season – unless Bourjos struggles offensively again. They like the alignment because Bourjos is also an elite-level defensive center fielder – some would say he covers more ground than Mike – and Mike has more experience in left field. Also, staying away from center will only limit the wear and tear on Mike’s legs long-term. Being a left fielder, however, could cost Mike some money, especially in arbitration. It’s highly unlikely that Mike attains Super Two status, so he probably won’t reach arbitration until after the 2014 season.

* Here’s a running joke around Millville: The city doesn’t have any maternity hospitals, so every woman in this city gives birth in Vineland, which just so happens to be their heated, neighboring rival. That was no different for Debbie Trout on Aug. 7, 1991, when Mike was born. And because of that technicality, every Mike Trout baseball card and bio page lists his birthplace as Vineland, N.J. (The grainy picture below is from his freshman year of high school.)

IMG_1753Millville folks don’t generally find that very funny, as you might imagine.

“Yeah, but he never spent no time there,” Millville Mayor Tim Shannon bellowed. “Soon as he was born, we brought him back!”

* Jeff and Debbie point to the July 10 All-Star Game in Kansas City as the moment they realized their lives, and especially Mike’s, would never be the same again.

At about 2 a.m., while the Trouts were celebrating Debbie’s 50th birthday at one of The Capital Grille’s private rooms, fans were still parked outside waiting to hound Mike for autographs as soon as he stepped out. At that point, he and his family were led out the back – where Charlie Sheen was coming in, and sparked a short conversation with Mike.

“That’s when we realized things had changed forever, for us and for Michael,” Jeff said.

Added Debbie: “We no longer were coming in through the front door.”


Where the Angels’ payroll stands …

The Angels avoided arbitration with reliever Kevin Jepsen on Tuesday, signing the 28-year-old right-hander to a $1.81 million contract and essentially putting a bow on Jerry Dipoto‘s financial obligations.

So, with help from the folks at Cot’s Contracts, here’s a look at the Angels’ financial obligations for 2013 …

Vernon Wells: $24,642,857
Josh Hamilton: $17,400,000
Jered Weaver: $16,200,000
Albert Pujols: $16,000,000
C.J. Wilson: $11,500,000
Howie Kendrick: $9,100,000
Erick Aybar: $8,750,000
Jason Vargas: $8,500,000
Joe Blanton: $6,500,000
Chris Iannetta: $5,050,000
Scott Downs: $5,000,000
Alberto Callaspo: $4,500,000*
Tommy Hanson: $3,725,000
Sean Burnett: $3,625,000
Ryan Madson: $3,500,000**
Jerome Williams: $2,000,000
Jepsen: $1,181,250

Those 17 contracts add up to $147,174,107.

Left are eight players in the 0-3 service-time range. The Major League minimum, per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, is $490,000 in 2013. It’s up to the club, but some players — most notably Mike Trout, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year — will probably be given more than that.

If we average it out and say the remaining eight players will each make $500,000, that’s $4 million, putting the Angels’ payroll at roughly $151,00,000. Though, as mentioned below, there are some conditions …

* Callaspo’s two-year deal is for exactly $8.975M, though I’m not sure how much of that he’ll make this season.
** Madson’s contract could reach up to $7 million with incentives.
*** Bonuses will be added based on All-Star Game appearances, awards, etc.


Vernon: ‘I want to play for the Angels’

Vernon WellsIf it wasn’t already obvious (it should’ve been), then the Phillies’ recent signing of Delmon Young seemingly sealed it: Vernon Wells and his bloated contract will be with the Angels in 2013. At least the early part of it.

The Phillies were one of few teams linked to Wells this offseason, and the fact they were only willing to guarantee Young $750,000 (with bonuses that can ramp it up to $3.5 million) is perhaps an indication of how dry the market for Wells is at this point.

The Angels expect to absorb a vast majority of the $42 million owed to Wells over the next two years in any trade, but they won’t give him away. They still feel he can contribute — as a right-handed power hitter and the first outfielder off the bench; perhaps even as insurance if Peter Bourjos gets off to a rough start — and they’d want to replace him via free agency if he departed anyway.

So, for the first time in his career, Wells will show up to Spring Training as a clear reserve, behind Bourjos, Mike TroutJosh Hamilton and DH Mark Trumbo in the outfield pecking order.

On Monday, 17 days before position players take their physicals in Tempe, Ariz., Wells joined “Angels Talk” hosts Victor Rojas and Terry Smith AM 830 KLAA. Asked about his diminished role, he took the high road — he always does — and didn’t really seem too bothered by it.

Here’s a partial transcript:

On being hurt the last couple years …

“I think that’s just part of the process. I don’t think it matters where you are in your career. You’re going to have some frustrating times, and unfortunately the last couple years have been frustrating, not only for myself, but for a lot of outsiders also. I think that’s what the offseasons are for, to kind of get a chance to regroup and refocus, and I think the thing for me moving forward is I have to be comfortable. I have to just relax and go play the game like I did when I was a kid. I don’t think I’ve done that as much as I’ve needed to.”

On the preparation going into a season when he’ll probably come off the bench …

“I think every athlete prefers just to be in the best shape they can and for whatever’s thrown at him in Spring Training. I don’t know exactly what the role is going to be. I think it’s been documented what it could be. But for me, as a competitor, you have to go in and be ready to fight. I think that’s what everyone wants to do and everybody’s going to do, because in order for this team to achieve what it needs to, everyone has to be thinking that way.”

On whether the trade rumors have bothered him …

“No, not at all. I put myself in that position, so I can’t get mad about it. I think that’s pretty obvious. You live and you learn. I’ve enjoyed my last two years, even though it’s been frustrating at times, but everything you go through you learn from it, and sometimes it takes a month, sometimes it takes a year, and sometimes it takes two years to kind of get everything straightened out. But I like the opportunity I’m going to get, and I’m going to run with whatever they tell me to do.”

On whether he’d prefer to go to a team with a more prominent role …

“I want to play, and I want to play for the Angels. But I have to earn that. That’s an easy question to answer. I want to be an Angel and I want to play. If I don’t get the opportunity to play, then obviously I need to continue to work harder because I still want to wear the uniform. I want to be able to really show what I can do, and I haven’t been able to do that the last couple of years. There’s still a lot to show some Angel fans. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to do that, and if I don’t get it, then so be it.”


Angels pursuing multi-year deal with Callaspo

Third baseman Alberto Callaspo has a two-year contract proposal on the table from the Angels, an industry source told MLB.com.

Callaspo is in his last year of arbitration and is headed into his final season before free agency unless the two sides can finalize the deal.

Locking him up through 2014 would make him a stopgap until top prospect Kaleb Cowart is ready.

— Alden Gonzalez

Angels, Williams avoid arbitration …

The Angels and pitcher Jerome Williams have agreed on a $2 million contract for 2013, thus avoiding arbitration for the 31-year-old right-hander, a source told MLB.com on Tuesday. 

Williams, who isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season, went 6-8 with a 4.58 ERA in 32 games (15 starts) for the Angels this past season. He’s expected to be the club’s long reliever in 2013. 

The Angels’ remaining arbitration-eligible players are starters Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson, third baseman Alberto Callaspo and reliever Kevin Jepsen, with Callaspo and Vargas both headed into their final season before free agency. 

The two sides exchange figures on Friday and arbitration hearings are scheduled from Feb. 4-20, if necessary. Teams and players can negotiate on a contract all the way up to their hearing date, however. 


Angels announce Minor League staff …

The Angels announced most of their Minor League development staff on Monday. Many are returnees, several got promotions and a few of them are new hirings, most of which were announced in mid-November.

A new name is Denny Hocking, the former utility player who played in the big leagues from 1993 to 2005 — with 11 of those years coming with the Twins — and spent 2012 as hitting coach for the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate.

The Angels lower Class A affiliate has moved from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Burlington for at least the next two seasons. Also, former infielder and Minor League field coordinator Gary DiSarcina has taken a job as manager of the Red Sox’s Triple-A affiliate.

The Angels are still looking for a manager for rookie-level Orem, after Tom Kotchman resigned.

Here’s the full list, courtesy of the Angels’ PR department …

Triple-A Salt Lake

Manager: Keith Johnson
Pitching coach Erik Bennett
Hitting coach: Francisco Matos
Trainer: Brian Reinker
Strength and conditioning: Josh Fields

Double-A Arkansas

MGR: Tim Bogar
PC: Mike Hampton
HC:  Ernie Young
TR:  Mike Metcalfe
S&C: Al Sandoval

Class A Inland Empire

MGR: Bill Haselman
PC:   Brandon Emanuel  
HC: Brenton DelChiaro
TR: Omar Uribe

Class A Burlington

MGR: Jaime Burke
PC: Trevor Wilson
HC: Nathan Haynes
TR: Chris Wells
S&C: Joe Griffin

Rookie-level Orem

PC: Chris Gissell
HC: Carson Vitale
TR: Matt Morrell

Rookie-level Tempe

MGR: Hocking
PC: Matt Wise
HC: Brian Betancourth and Ryan Barba
TR: George Spence
S&C: Sergio Rojas

Dominican Summer League

MGR: Charlie Romero
PC: Hector Astacio and Jose Marte
HC: Edgal Rodriguez and Anel De Los Santos
TR: Osiris Ramirez

Assistant GM, scouting and player development: Scott Servais
Director, player development: Bobby Scales
Manager, Minor League operations: Mike LaCassa
Coordinator Latin American operations: Michael Noboa
Field coordinator: Mike Micucci
Roving pitching coordinator: Jim Gott
Roving hitting coordinator: Paul Sorrento
Roving catching coordinator: Orlando Mercado
Special assignment infield coach: Bobby Knoop
Special assignment catching coach: Bill Lachemann
Special assignment pitching coach: Pete Harnisch
Medical coordinator: Geoff Hostetter
Strength and conditioning coordinator: Seth Walsh
Rehab coordinator: Eric Munson
Rehab coach: Kernan Ronan
Minor League equipment manager: Brett Crane
Assistant equipment manager/Minor League video coordinator: Aaron Wiedeman


Spiezio is grand marshall for Supercross event

The following is a release sent out by the Supercross folks …

AURORA, Ill. – Feld Motor Sports announced today that former Angel and World Series Champion Scott Spiezio will serve as the Grand Marshal at Angel Stadium on January 19 for the third stop of the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship. Spiezio will be available for photographs and interviews on Media Day in the Diamond Club at Angel Stadium on Thursday, January 17 at Noon PT.

 A special ticket offer has been made to Angels Baseball fans in honor of Spiezio. For a limited time only, adults can save $12 and purchase tickets for just $23 by using the password SPIEZIO at Ticketmaster.com. Offer valid in the $35 price level only and expires on Friday, January 18, 2013. The $23 ticket price is in honor of Spiezio’s jersey number during the 2002 World Series.

Spiezio, a member of the 2002 World Series-winning Angels, is best known for his Game 6 three-run homer that changed the momentum of the seven-game series. In an eight-pitch duel with San Francisco Giants hurler Felix Rodriguez, Spiezio’s lifetime dream was achieved when he connected with a low fastball and drove it just over the right field wall. The home run sparked a rally helping the Angels overcome a five-run deficit and force an eventual, victorious Game 7 for the Angels. This watershed moment for the Angels’ franchise-first World Series appearance and victory will forever go down in history.

To commemorate this iconic event, the Angels dedicated a red seat in Spiezio’s honor during the team’s 10-year anniversary of its World Series title last August. The 40-year-old father of three who lives in Morris, Ill., trotted out from right field to the pitcher’s mound as the unveiling took place in the sacred corner of the stadium. Coincidentally, the place where Spiezio’s celebrated home run landed is just steps away from the staging area for the riders of Monster Energy Supercross, who are looking to create Angel Stadium greatness with their own performance.

“Looking back at my career, Angel Stadium will always have a special place in my heart, and, while the venue is home to baseball, it also serves as a special place for the world’s top racers that compete in Monster Energy Supercross,” said Spiezio. “It always amazed me how our field could be transformed into a racetrack and returned to its natural state in a seamless manner. This same place is where I, along with some of the greatest teammates I have ever had, laid claim to the Angels first World Series Championship.”

While Spiezio’s prowess on the baseball field will forever remain cherished by the loyal Angels fans, he is now enjoying the next chapter in his life, which includes his appreciation for Monster Energy Supercross.

“Baseball is a team sport, but when you are one-on-one with a pitcher, the individual aspect comes into play, and I see the parallels between this moment in a game and supercross,” added Spiezio. “Even though each racer has a team behind them, they have to go out on the track and apply their skills against 19 other top racers.”

Tickets and pit passes are available at the Angel Stadium Box Office, all Ticketmaster Outlets, participating Yamaha Dealers, charge by phone at (800) 745-3000, or online at supercrossonline.com and ticketmaster.com. Practice and qualifying begin at 12:30 p.m. and the main event starts at 7:00 p.m. Tickets for adults or children are: Club Seats $85, Gold Circle $60, Price Level 3 $45, Price Level 4 $35 and SuperValue Seats $20. All seats are $5 more day of show. Pit Passes are available for purchase at the Angel Stadium Box Office or Ticketmaster.com for $10 or for FREE when they purchase at participating Yamaha Dealers or when they recycle a MONSTER Energy Can at the stadium’s Pit Entrance on race day from 12:30-6:00 p.m. Tickets are subject to convenience and handling charges and are $5 more on the day of the race.

Supercross LIVE! is back in 2013 with a three-hour mid-raceday program from 2 to 5 p.m. local time. Hosts Jim Holley, a former World Supercross Champion, and Kevin Barnett, a former member of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Volleyball Team and professional broadcaster, will provide in-depth analysis of the afternoon’s practice and qualifying sessions as the riders and teams prepare for the night racing, in addition to interviews and behind-the-scenes coverage. As the only place to follow live practice and qualifying coverage from Monster Energy Supercross, Supercross LIVE! provides fans with an inside perspective before the gate drops on the night’s qualifying and Main Events. Additionally, there will be video snippets made available throughout the race day that can be viewed on SupercrossOnline.com, the official website of Monster Energy Supercross, or the YouTube Channel, YouTube.com/SupercrossLive. To access the live streaming broadcasts, go to SupercrossOnline.com/SupercrossLive or subscribe to the Supercross LIVE! streaming channel at http://new.LiveStream.com/Supercrosslive. 

For more information on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, please log on to SupercrossOnline.com, the official website of Monster Energy Supercross. 


Angels announce Spring Training invites …

The Angels announced 21 non-roster invitees who will be joining those on the 40-man roster in Spring Training. Here’s a look at who’s coming to camp … 

Pitchers: Billy Buckner, Kevin Johnson, Tony Pena, Jo-Jo Reyes, A.J. Schugel, Mitch Stetter

Catchers: Jett Bandy, Luke Carlin, Carlos Ramirez, Zach Wright

Infielders: Kaleb Cowart, Brendan Harris, Taylor Lindsey, Efren Navarro, Luis Rodriguez, Eric Stamets, Alex Yarbrough

Outfielders: Randal Grichuk, Trent Oeltjen, J.B. Shuck, Matt Young

* Note that veteran reliever Fernando Cabrera will also be in big league camp when his contract his official.

Here’s the 40-man roster, in case you’re wondering who else is joining them. 

Pitchers report Feb. 11, position players report Feb. 14. 


Pujols may play in WBC

As long as his surgically repaired knee continues to feel good, Angels first baseman Albert Pujols is expected to play for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, his agent, Dan Lozano, said.

Pujols underwent a clean-up of his right knee early in the offseason. The procedure was perceived to be minor, and Lozano said in an e-mail Saturday that he “feels great so far.”

Asked if he’ll play for his home country, barring an unforeseen setback, Lozano said: “At this point, yes.”

But Pujols could still test the knee out in Spring Training and opt out if he doesn’t feel totally comfortable. Angels position players report to Tempe, Ariz., on Feb. 15, and players will begin practicing with their corresponding WBC teams in early March.

The Dominican team is in Pool C — along with Venezuela, Spain and Puerto Rico — and will begin first-round play March 7 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Provisional rosters for all 16 WBC teams will be announced Thursday.


How Angels’ ‘Big 3’ stacks up in 2013 …

Josh Hamilton

I wrote recently about the Angels’ own prestigious “Big Three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — how they could potentially hold up historically and in this era.

But how do they hold up in 2013? There’s little debate that the Angels now have the most talented and celebrated lineup trio in baseball, giving them arguably the game’s most potent offense. But I was a little stunned that their 2012 stats didn’t show it.

In fact, when combining each of their OPS from 2012, the Angels’ trio ranked third, behind those of the Tigers and Reds. Below is the top 15, based on combined OPS of the top three current players in each lineup (minimum is 400 plate appearances) …

  • Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson): 2.795
  • Reds (Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce): 2.759
  • Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton): 2.752
  • Brewers (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart): 2.729
  • Red Sox (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli*): 2.635
  • Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera): 2.627
  • Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina): 2.627
  • Rangers (Adrian Beltre, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski): 2.607
  • Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin): 2.602
  • Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez): 2.569
  • D-backs (Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel): 2.565
  • Yankees (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira): 2.547
  • Twins (Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit): 2.532
  • Giants (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt): 2.527
  • Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez): 2.524

* Napoli’s deal still hasn’t been finalized. 

** A special thanks to all of you for making this blog the 10th-most popular among MLB.com beat writers in 2012. You’re the whipped cream on my sundae. 


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