Jerome Williams was hit around on Thursday, giving up five runs (four earned) on five hits and two walks in his two-inning stint, putting his ERA at 11.25 in four Cactus League innings. It’s early – really early – but the 31-year-old right-hander hasn’t been able to put it together just yet.
“Jerome is working really hard, but he’s just getting behind every count,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He hasn’t been able to put guys away, and that’s a tough combo if you’re not getting ahead and you’re not putting guys away.”
Scioscia believes Williams’ good stuff “is there,” he just “hasn’t brought it into a game yet.”
More from Thursday in Glendale – another Angels loss (they’re 0-5-2) you can’t take much away from …
Howie Kendrick blew up, going 3-for-3 with a single and a double off Clayton Kershaw and a solo homer off another southpaw, Ted Lilly.
Hiroyuki Kobayashi threw a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and a walk while striking out one. The Japanese right-hander has given up one run in three innings this spring.
Chad Cordero, making his second spring appearance, gave up a double and a bloop single that scored a run, but also struck out two hitters.
Peter Bourjos, batting leadoff, went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts but is still batting .375 this spring.
Brad Mills, out of options, gave up four runs on four hits and two walks in two innings.
Alberto Callaspo went 0-for-3 with a couple of strikeouts and misplayed a grounder at third base – but he also made a nice diving play to his left.
Best play (that I saw)
Mark Trumbo made a nice diving stab to his right on a hard grounder in the first inning. It was the second nice play he’s made at first base – a position he could spend a lot of time at in April, given Albert Pujols’ recovery from knee surgery. He dropped a foul pop-up later in the game, but several players have had a hard time with this Arizona sun.
Josh Hamilton, asked if it’s possible that an outfield with Bourjos and Mike Trout gives up no triples all season: “It’d be close to possible, but you think of a ball being hit the wrong way or something, that’s the way this game is. But if everything worked out perfectly, then it’s a possibility.”
This was the second straight tie for the Angels (0-4-2), and the third straight for the Giants (1-1-3).
Welcome to Spring Training.
Another thing about Spring Training: The lack of star power. Especially this year, especially in this camp. The early start has prompted Angels manager Mike Scioscia to wait until March 1 before using any of his Major League starters or relievers. Of the 47 times a new pitcher has taken the mound so far this spring, only four times — Jerome Williams, Garrett Richards and Michael Kohn (twice) — has that guy had a realistic chance of being on the Opening Day roster. And no everyday position player has received more than eight plate appearances.
In other words: Take zero wins and a 7.57 ERA with a grain of salt.
“We feel very strongly with our guys that if they start to fire it up early, by March 18 they’re going to be stir-crazy,” Scioscia said. “There’s only a certain amount of at-bats they need. We’re going to have plenty of time for that.”
Here’s more from Wednesday’s game …
Mike Trout, playing center field, went 1-for-2, with a single and a walk — just like he did in Monday’s debut. He ripped a base hit to right field in the first inning, then drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth.
Kaleb Cowart looks like he’s starting to come along from the left side of the plate, notching a single and an RBI double and getting robbed of extra bases in three plate appearances there — all against quality right-handed pitchers.
Brandon Sisk, the lefty reliever acquired from the Royals for Ervin Santana, pitched a clean inning in his spring debut.
Nick Maronde, who will be stretched out this spring despite having an outside chance at a bullpen spot, had a rough first couple innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on three hits and one walk while only getting four outs.
He wasn’t helped by catcher Hank Conger, whose first-inning throw to third base on an attempted steal sailed wide of Bill Hall, allowing a run to score. Scioscia said pregame that Conger’s throwing is “getting much better,” but added that it’s “always a work in progress.
Hall, trying to make the Angels’ Opening Day roster as a utility player, left in the third inning with a tight right quad. He initially hurt it while running up the first-base line in his first at-bat in the second inning, then aggravated it while charging a slow roller the next half-inning. “Nothing serious,” he said. “Hopefully only a couple days.”
Best play (that I saw)
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Giants center fielder Juan Perez ran a long way towards the gap in deep left-center field and stole a sure double away from Cowart just before crashing into the wall, drawing a standing ovation from the Giants fans seated on the third-base side.
Chad Cordero, on being promoted to Major League camp: “It threw me back a little bit. I was surprised, but at the same time, I was excited, to be able to come up here and go through big league camp and just get used to the whole thing again. I’m looking forward to that. It’s a great opportunity for me, and I’m very thankful that it’s happened.”
- There are basically three candidates: Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo.
- Spring Training will not be the judge of who primarily hits in that spot this season. They’ve each played long enough that Mike Scioscia knows what he’s going to get out of them, and a lot of the time this spring, they won’t even be hitting between Trout and Pujols (who won’t get in games until about mid-March).
- At the start of the year, Scioscia will match up. And if somebody grabs hold of it, like Torii Hunter did last June, even better.
- The most important thing to the Angels’ skipper is “passing the baton,” which immediately leads you towards Callaspo’s on-base ability — but it’s not necessarily that simple. “A guy like Erick Aybar is in that case, where his on-base percentage may not be off the charts, but he’s in scoring position a lot,” Scioscia said. “Same with Howie, with the amount of doubles he’ll hit. Callaspo has the best on-base percentage of the three, and that’s something that would give him a lot of looks in the 2-hole.”
Here’s a quick overview of the pros and cons each of them brings to that spot (I went into it more extensively over the offseason).
Pros: Power (career OPS of .756), good fastball hitter, descent speed.
Cons: Splits show he’s much more comfortable hitting lower in the lineup.
Pros: Patience (takes a lot of pitches, allowing Trout to steal bases, and draws more walks than any of the three).
Cons: Not a lot of speed and not very productive in general (.252/.331/.361 slash line last year).
Pros: Good speed (combined 72 stolen bases the last three years), good strike hitter, great bunter.
Cons: Not patient (least amount of pitches seen per plate appearances — 3.28 — in the AL last season).
Now, about that whole matching up thing at the start of the season … Scioscia could do it simply based on their numbers based on who’s starting on a particular night, or perhaps who’s riding a hot bat, but here are some things to keep in mind, based on their splits …
- Callaspo probably shouldn’t bat second against a righty. The switch-hitter is a career .264/.331/.371 hitter against righties, as opposed to .306/.349/.418 against lefties.
- Aybar is a notorious slow starter, with a career .261 batting average during the first two months of the season.
- It may make most sense for Kendrick to bat second on the days Vernon Wells replaces Peter Bourjos in the lineup — that’s a whole other subject — because the Angels will have more power towards the bottom of the lineup.
“I think Howie can match up against guys and he’s going to be not as much a situational hitter, just the good matchup guy who’s going to hit the ball hard and take advantage of whatever Trout creates,” Scioscia said. “Callaspo’s got more of a situational component, as does Erick.”
Josh Hamilton‘s first two plate appearances with the Angels took all of three pitches. His third went five, but it cost him his last bat. On his second straight foul ball, Hamilton had to scurry back to the on-deck circle and take Mark Trumbo‘s bat, which he used to hit a second straight flyout to center field and cap an 0-for-3 day.
“I ran out of bats, man,” said Hamilton, who packed three bats for his first game with the Angels, then broke one in BP and broke two more in the game.
Here’s the non-Hamilton breakdown of Tuesday’s game …
The Angels didn’t lose! They’re now 0-4-1 thanks to Bill Hall‘s eighth-inning two-run double.
Speaking of Hall, who’s fighting for a roster spot — he went 2-for-4 with four RBIs, adding a two-run double in the fourth on a ball that bounced off the left-field wall.
Brendan Harris, among those competing against him, went 2-for-3 and made a nice leaping grab at shortstop.
A.J. Schugel got hit around in the first inning, giving up three runs on five hits (one of which was a two-run homer by Gerardo Parra). He then settled down in the second, retiring the side while giving up a walk, prompting manager Mike Scioscia to believe it was mostly nerves that initially hindered him. “He was just amped up,” Scioscia said. “He was trying to throw the ball hard. He has a good arm, but he was overthrowing a bit. Second inning, he changed speeds more and he pitched. Great makeup, really good arm, and I think the second inning is more indicative of how A.J.’s career will go.”
Angels pitchers as a whole have given up 38 runs in 44 innings, which amounts to a 7.77 ERA. But hardly any of those who have taken the mound will be on the Opening Day roster.
Best play (that I saw)
With the D-backs spraying the ball everywhere in the first inning against Schugel, Trumbo bailed his starting pitcher out, diving to his right to snag a hard-hit line drive off the bat of Eric Hinske and almost tagging out A.J. Pollock for the double play.
Hamilton, on his debut: “It was weird today, being in the dugout and having the uniform actually on. I walked by [Jered Weaver] and said, ‘This is kind of weird.’ He said, ‘Yeah, it is — but I like it.’”
Here are some notes prior to Tuesday’s game, as Josh Hamilton is set to make his Angels debut …
Albert Pujols, recovering from offseason arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, continues to take batting practice, run in the treadmill and field groundballs in his general vicinity.
Later this week, he’ll start running on the field – first in a straight line, then gradually working in turns so he can eventually run the bases. And in a couple weeks – around mid-March, as planned – he’ll start playing in Cactus League games, with Opening Day on April 1 still not in doubt.
The Angels open the season under National League rules, against the Reds in Cincinnati, so Pujols won’t be able to serve as the designated hitter. But the Angels are off the following day, then travel to the Rangers’ American League park two days later.
Pujols is the only everyday position player who hasn’t made his way into the Angels’ lineup.
“There’s no need to rush him,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think if Opening Day was on the horizon, he might feel the need to push it a little bit. He really doesn’t need to be into games until probably the second week of March. I anticipate he’ll play before then, for him to be ready for the season.”
* Alberto Callaspo came into camp 18 to 20 pounds overweight, but Scioscia said the Angels’ third baseman has trimmed most of it off and is a “handful” of pounds away from his playing weight. “He was too heavy,” Scioscia said. “… He wanted to recoup last offseason. He’s trimmed it off, though. I don’t think it was anything excessive. He’s not far from his playing weight now.” Callaspo usually plays winter ball, but said he opted not to in order to rest his shoulder, which he’s previously experienced some mild tendinitis in.
* Non-rehabbing Angels relievers – guys like Scott Downs, Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen – aren’t expected to start getting into games until the first week of March. The only non-rehabbing, non-roster reliever who hasn’t appeared in a game is Brandon Sisk, who was obtained from the Royals for Ervin Santana. He could appear in a game as soon as Wednesday.
* Sean Burnett (stiff lower back) and Ryan Madson (Tommy John surgery) each threw off flat ground again on Tuesday, representing back-to-back days for both. Scioscia said Burnett will get off a mound “soon,” but not within the next couple of days because he still needs to progress with his long-tossing.
* Veteran reliever Tony Pena underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2011, signed with the Angels in August 2012 and made two appearances in rookie ball, but felt some pain while trying to pitch in winter ball and shut it down. The 31-year-old right-hander has been throwing from 75 feet and expects to get back off the mound in two to three weeks.
* Angels lineup: Bourjos CF, Aybar SS, Kendrick, 2B, Hamilton RF, Trumbo 1B, Wells LF, Callaspo 3B, Iannetta C, Hall DH; Schugel SP.
* D-backs lineup: Bloomquist SS, Parra CF, Pollock DH, Hinske 1B, Davidson 3B, Snyder RF, Barajas C, Marte LF, McDonald 2B; Holmberg SP.
Plenty of story lines in the Angels’ fourth Cactus League game of the spring. Mike Trout debuted, Kendrys Morales faced his former team and Chad Cordero made his first appearance in a professional game since 2011.
That put Garrett Richards, making his spring debut, way in the background.
Richards worked two innings, giving up an unearned run on two hits while walking none and striking out one. The 24-year-old right-hander has been working with pitching coach Mike Butcher on keeping his posture straight as he drives towards home plate. Richards believes that has given him more control over his fastball, which will ultimately help him get ahead of hitters.
“Last year, I felt like I was a little bit herky jerky,” Richards said. “Now, I just feel like I’m free and easy. I’m throwing the ball about 80 percent and I don’t feel like I’m losing any velocity or any sharpness on my ball. I feel really good right now.”
Here are some quick hits on the Mariners’ (3-1) walk-off victory over the Angels (0-4), a game that saw each team notch 14 hits.
Trout, leading off and playing left field, singled on a chopper in his first 2013 plate appearance, then flied out to shortstop and drew a walk before exiting. So, he’s hitting .500 in the Cactus League — but I’m not really sure what his WAR is yet.
The first batter Cordero saw in the bottom of the third, Brendan Ryan, hit a solo homer to left-center field. But the 30-year-old — who racked up 113 saves for the Expos/Nats from 2005-07, had shoulder surgery in 2008, lost his 11-week-old daughter in 2010, left baseball in 2011 and is now trying to make a comeback in the Angels’ Minor League camp — retired the next three batters on flyouts. He sat between 89 and 91 mph, where he’s always been, and said he “felt like a rookie again.”
Hank Conger, catching while Chris Iannetta started at DH, hit the Angels’ first home run of the spring — a two-out, three-run shot to left-center field in the first inning — then hit an RBI double and added a two-out RBI single, giving him five RBIs. His throwing may still be a little inconsistent, but his bat may get him on the roster.
Luis Jimenez, ranked sixth in the Angels’ system, made two errors at third base. He dropped a fly ball in the first inning and had a liner bounce off his glove in the fifth.
Kole Calhoun had a couple of misplays at first base, bobbling a grounder before making the out and then having another one go through his legs. He won’t be counted on to play much first base, though. Mike Scioscia just wanted to get the lefty-hitting outfielder in the lineup today.
Mark Sappington (taking in the fifth round in 2012) and Matt Oye (in the Angels system the last four years) came over from Minor League camp and struggled, giving up a combined six runs on seven hits in the seventh and eighth. R.J. Alvarez (a third-rounder last year) suffered the loss after giving up a triple to Francisco Martinez and a walk-off single to Brian Moran in the bottom of the ninth.
Best play (that I saw)
In case you needed any reminders, Peter Bourjos is fast. After drawing his second walk, he moved from first to third — third! — on a wild pitch. He recalled doing that a couple times in the Minors.
Cordero (pictured top right) on Trout: “He’s like one giant muscle.”
As part of winning the Player’s Choice Award for the American League’s Outstanding Rookie, the Major League Baseball Players Association offered to reward $20,000 to a foundation of his choice. Trout chose the Millville High School baseball program, where he starred as a Thunderbolt before being the Angels’ first-round pick in 2009.
Millville baseball coach Roy Hallenbeck said he’s going to “try to make it stretch as long as we can,” but the team has already purchased new gray uniforms and alternate tops, and on Friday, they finished sodding the field in anticipation for the start of practice in March.
Don’t worry, there’s more coming.
In January, BODYARMOR SuperDrink, the company that signed Trout to its first major endorsement deal, decided to get involved, too.
“Mike was on board from the beginning,” Hallenbeck said, “and every time I talk to those guys [at BODYARMOR], they say he brings it up all the time. He’s really excited about that project working out and helping us out.”
BODYARMOR hasn’t said exactly how much they plan to contribute, but their involvement — which could include sprucing up the press box, adding a big net behind home plate, providing “L” screens and, most importantly, renovating the batting cages — was recently approved by the board of education.
By the end of March, Hallenbeck believes, everything will be finished.
And by early June, the field will be rededicated to bear Trout’s name.
“There’s no major construction differences,” Hallenbeck said, “but it’s just going to be adding a lot of really nice bells and whistles to what we already have.”
With Cactus League games starting on Saturday, here are some notes to get you caught up on the first 11 days of camp …
- Ryan Madson had a setback after a Feb. 1 bullpen session and is taking it slow. He won’t be ready by Opening Day and there’s a chance he won’t pitch in any Spring Training games in March, but the Angels are hopeful they’ll have him at some point in the early portion of the season.
- Albert Pujols is still working his way back from arthroscopic right knee surgery. Don’t expect him to appear in games until mid-March.
- The early start of camp has prompted Angels manager Mike Scioscia to change things up a bit, with no intrasquad games, very little live batting practice and plenty of rest for the regulars. The starting pitchers won’t start until March 1, which makes it even harder to find bodies for the split-squad opener. The elimination of the third-to-first move has also forced Scioscia to tinker.
- Josh Hamilton came in lighter than normal, maintaining his end-of-season weight of 225 thanks to a healthier diet. Trout did the opposite.
- Hamilton can expect to hear loud boos when he returns to Texas on April 5, thanks to some comments he made on TV.
- Here’s what we know about the lineup: Trout will lead off, Pujols will bat third, Hamilton will bat fourth and Trumbo — at least at the start — will bat fifth. It may be a revolving door between Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar in the No. 2 spot, with Chris Iannetta and Peter Bourjos hitting lower in the lineup.
- Scioscia doesn’t sound like a man who’s ready to fully commit to Bourjos as his starting center fielder, continuing to leave the door open for Vernon Wells to get some playing time in left field, which would move Trout to center. But some of that may be the Angels’ skipper trying to be sensitive to Wells’ situation. Scioscia has also said Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams are fighting for spots in the rotation, even though the five are already set.
- The Angels have two big lingering free agents in Jason Vargas and Scott Downs.
- Ernesto Frieri is trying to add a cutter, and thinks it can do wonders.
- Sean Burnett is dealing with a back ailment, but it isn’t expected to hinder him much. Michael Kohn is looking great after Tommy John surgery. Veteran relievers Tony Pena (setback after Tommy John) and Mitch Stetter (bulging disk) are working themselves back slowly, currently throwing off flat ground. First base prospect C.J. Cron (shoulder surgery) is doing everything but throwing and is targeting Opening Day, in Double-A.
- Kendrick and C.J. Wilson don’t expect to be hindered by offseason elbow surgery.
- Two reclamation projects are currently working out in Minor League camp — former Nationals closer Chad Cordero and former A’s first-round pick Ben Fritz.
- Aybar (Dominican Republic), reliever Fernando Cabrera (Puerto Rico) and first baseman Efren Navarro (Mexico) will leave camp early to take part in the World Baseball Classic.
- The Angels have a new partnership with Ticketmaster. Individual tickets go on sale tomorrow.
- In case you missed them, here are stories on Trout, Pujols, Wells, Bourjos, Jered Weaver, the new rotation trio, The Big Three, Trumbo, Hamilton, Omar Vizquel, Chris Iannetta, Hank Conger, Scott Cousins, Bill Hall, Randal Grichuk, Kaleb Cowart, Kole Calhoun, Bobby Cassevah, Hiroyuki Kobayashi and Travis Witherspoon.
- For a breakdown of the Angels’ Spring Training roster, click here. … For the videos we’ve put together, click here. … For photos, click here.
Angels slugger Josh Hamilton has been catching some heat from Rangers fans in Texas recently, for telling a TV reporter on Sunday that Texas is “not a true baseball town.” In case you missed it, this is what he told CBS-11’s Gina Miller …
“It’s one of those things where Texas, especially Dallas, has always been a football town. So the good with the bad is they’re supportive, but they also got a little spoiled, at the same time, pretty quickly. You can understand like a really true, true baseball town — and there are true baseball fans in Texas – but it’s not a true baseball town.”
Hamilton elaborated on those comments briefly after Monday’s workout. Here’s a transcript …
“I told them on camera – I said there’s true baseball fans and then there’s others that’s not. I said the ones that are true baseball fans won’t boo when I come back, and the ones that are not, will. It’s just like last year, when I got booed after going 2-for-4 in a game, driving in a couple runs, and I struck out the other two times. You understand the Yankees, Boston, Cubs, Phillies — baseball towns. If they were doing that, that’s one thing.”
On the sensitivity of people in Texas right now … “Everybody’s sensitive. We had a good team, and they still have a good team. But we did some things that had never been done before in Texas, so obviously they want to keep doing those things. They have young guys coming up and they’re going to have to get it done.”
On whether by ‘spoiled’ he meant by the team or by his individual play … “No, [the team]. Everything I talk about is team, man. It’s not saying I don’t still appreciate them, and thank you for cheering for me and all that. But reality’s reality. I think I’ve always spoken the truth in what I said and not beat around the bush. But I loved my time there.”
On the response he got from people in Texas after he signed with the Angels … “Nothing. We’re going to miss you.’ Nothing different, man. If I’m out looking in places where I shouldn’t be, I’m going to find bad responses. If I’m living my life, with my kids and family, and I am where I am supposed to be, I’m going to get support.”
Less than a week later, though, that went out the window.
“When Josh was originally signed and we had Kendrys Morales, who’s a bat we felt was going to be there, I think there was definitely some lineups that looked like it worked with Josh in the 2-hole,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, referencing an eventual trade that sent Morales to the Mariners for Jason Vargas on Dec. 19, four days after Hamilton was signed to a five-year, $125 million contract.
“It might evolve to adjusting it a little bit here or there. But right now the way we line up, and wanting to take advantage of Albert’s on-base percentage, where you project it to be, Josh hitting behind him makes sense right now both from a balance and production perspective.”
Pujols’ career on-base percentage is .414; Hamilton’s is .363. It makes sense to bat Albert third and Hamilton fourth, for the simple fact that he’d get more chances throughout the course of a season. For the Tigers, Prince Fielder started all 162 games last year in the cleanup spot and got 690 plate appearances; Miguel Cabrera started one less game in the No. 3 spot and finished with 697 plate appearances.
Subtle difference, sure, but you’re usually going to want the better hitter getting those extra 10 or 15 plate appearances.
Consider: Nobody in baseball saw fewer fastballs than Hamilton last year (44.6 percent) and nobody swung at more pitches outside of the strike zone (45.4 percent). With Pujols in the on-deck circle, and Mike Trout frequently on base, Hamilton only figures to see more fastballs and more strikes if he’s batting third rather than fourth.
But would pitchers really attack him much different — significantly different than they would if Hamilton batted fourth and Mark Trumbo was behind him?
Scioscia doesn’t think so, pointing to the fact Adrian Beltre was protecting him in Texas and Hamilton still saw an inordinate amount of breaking balls out of the strike zone. So, for now at least, he’s sticking to Hamilton as his cleanup hitter.
“I think it’s just a function of how Josh was pitched,” Scioscia said. “Sometimes the pitches [hitters] see is not going to be contingent on who’s behind him, it’s just going to be how guys are trying to pitch to them. And with Josh, I think it was more that case than anything else.”
Two things became clear regarding Ryan Madson on Wednesday: What he’s dealing with in his surgically-repaired elbow is nothing more than inflammation, and Opening Day is essentially out the window.
The former was revealed in a Tuesday MRI that came back clean. The latter is the result of Madson being shut down 13 days ago and unable to throw again for another week, when he’s re-evaluated.
Madson won’t flatly dismiss pitching the ninth inning on April 1 in Cincinnati, but he’s no longer in a race against time to make it back by then.
“That’s what I was going towards and it maybe got me in a little bit of trouble,” Madson said. “Now I don’t have a date in mind. I just want to let my arm take me and guide me.”
Madson first felt uncommon soreness in his elbow, which underwent Tommy John surgery on April 11 of last year, during his fourth bullpen session of the offseason on Feb. 1. Since then, he’s only been getting treatment. And for the next seven days, he’ll be on a strengthening program.
“I’m just going to listen to the trainers and my arm, especially, and just let it do its thing and not try to put any limits or goals on it,” said Madson, who was signed to a one-year, incentive-laden contract over the offseason. “But I can’t wait to go out on the field and pitch in a game. I want everybody to know that, the fans to know that – I am eager to get out there, and that’s what got me in trouble in the first place.”
The last thing the Angels want to do is rush his recovery, so they’ll wait until all the swelling subsides before allowing him to pick up a baseball again.
“I think that what he has is definitely manageable,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s just going to be a matter of following some protocol to make sure he doesn’t do a little too much, too soon. He’s hopefully going to feel better fairly quickly.”
If Madson starts the season on the disabled list – all but a certainty at this point – Ernesto Frieri would probably be the closer, with Sean Burnett, Scott Downs and Kevin Jepsen the other options in the back end.
Madson’s temporary absence would also create an additional opening in the bullpen, with Michael Kohn, Garrett Richards, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, David Carpenter and Bobby Cassevah (out of options) among a large, eclectic group competing.
“I think there’s depth there,” Scioscia said, “and Ryan is a guy that can really solidify some roles down there and we look forward to that. I think from Day 1, we should be in a position to hold leads better than we did last year. And we expect Ryan to eventually be part of that.”