April Come She Will …
The Angels are playing their last Cactus League game from Arizona on Wednesday, after which they’ll commute to Southern California for the three-way, exhibition Freeway Series that spills into Opening Day in Seattle on Monday.
Spring Training began with 61 (active) players, and now we’re down to 34 who will not be starting the season on the disabled list. That list has to be whittled down to 25 by Sunday. So, the Angels still have some things to work through the rest of this week.
Here’s a look …
Clarity on Hamilton: The Josh Hamilton situation has been hanging over the Angels like a dark cloud all spring. It hasn’t necessarily been a distraction; he hasn’t been here, and they’ve been going about their business as if he isn’t even on the roster. But they won’t be able to ignore it much longer. Rob Manfred said recently that a resolution should come before Opening Day, with Hamilton likely facing a suspension for what sources say was a drug-related relapse. The news will have a big impact on the Angels’ financial situation, and it’ll force them to make a big decision about how to fold Hamilton back in (if at all).
Extension for Street: Huston Street, acting as his own agent, has been mum on a potential extension with the Angels for a few weeks now. Word is that an extension is still a very real possibility, but the Angels are in a holding pattern until the Hamilton situation is resolved. The 31-year-old right-hander was initially seeking a four-year contract (though perhaps with 2015 included) that would pay him between $36 and $46 million. The only way he would negotiate past Opening Day is if both sides basically have the logistics already worked out.
Making the unofficial official: Mike Scioscia doesn’t like announcing anything until he absolutely has to, and he’ll make a lot of declarations once the Spring Training schedule ends on Saturday. Here’s what we pretty much know already, though …
- Jered Weaver will be the Opening Day starter, with C.J. Wilson and Matt Shoemaker pitching the other two games in Seattle, respectively, and Hector Santiago getting the ball for the home opener against the Royals next Friday. With Adam Wainwright getting the nod for the Cardinals on Tuesday, Scioscia became the only manager who hasn’t announced his Opening Day starter. I told you he’s good at this.
- The Angels will start the season with four starters and eight relief pitchers. They’re off after that season-opening three-game series in Seattle and they won’t need a fifth one until April 14. That means Weaver, Wilson and Shoemaker will make their second start on regular rest. We’ll get into who makes that start later.
- Johnny Giavotella is the starting second baseman. Look no further than the fact that all four second-base candidates were in Wednesday’s lineup, and he was the only one at second base. Giavotella is out of options, has hit well this spring and has made the plays he should make. That was enough to win the job.
- Andrew Heaney and Josh Rutledge will both start the season in Triple-A. Heaney entered camp as the presumed favorite for the fifth starter spot and Rutledge looked like the favorite to win the second base job. But they didn’t help their causes. Heaney, who will start Friday’s Freeway Series game, struggled to keep the ball down and allowed 19 runs on 29 hits in 19 innings. Rutledge, also going with the team to California, struggled with the mechanics of his swing and entered Wednesday with nine hits in 49 at-bats. It’s still a possibility Rutledge makes the team as the utility infielder, but that would mean the Angels lose Taylor Featherston, a Rule 5 pick who would have to be offered back to the Rockies. I’d be surprised if that happens.
- Prospects Carlos Perez and Kyle Kubitza will also be optioned to the Minor Leagues. Perez is a solid defensive catcher, but the more seasoned Drew Butera (out of options) is the backup. Kubitza’s bat really came on late in spring, but he isn’t expected to take over for David Freese at third base until 2016.
- Cory Rasmus (core injury), Garrett Richards (knee surgery) and Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) will be placed on the DL, with Rasmus expected to return around May, Richards in line to return in the middle of April and Skaggs missing the entire season.
The last roster spots: One bench spot and two bullpen spots still look pretty open. Lefties Jose Alvarez and Scott Snodgress and righties Drew Rucinski and Ryan Mattheus are still in camp and vying for the last two spots in the ‘pen, along with Street, Joe Smith, Fernando Salas, Mike Morin, Cesar Ramos and Vinnie Pestano. Right-handed hitters Grant Green (2B, SS, 3B, LF) and Daniel Robertson (LF, CF, RF) and left-handed hitters Marc Krauss (1B, LF, RF) and Efren Navarro (1B, LF, RF) are also vying for a bench spot, along with Butera, Featherston and Collin Cowgill. … My guesses: Alvarez and Rucinski both lock down the last two bullpen spots, even though both of them are starters. One is length out of the bullpen, the other potentially makes a spot start April 14. And Navarro takes the last bench spot. The Angels could use a left-handed hitter off the bench, and though Navarro doesn’t bring power like Krauss, he’s a disciplined hitter who has had a very nice spring. Back spasms may have kept Krauss from winning a job — though I expect him to contribute eventually.
Richards’ progress: Richards had yet another strong outing against Minor League hitters on Saturday, his second straight impressive one. He’ll pitch again on Thursday, then take a week off to pitch on April 9 and start a rehab assignment on April 14, which means the soonest he can return is April 19, Scioscia said from Arizona today. It’s still possible that Richards simply returns to the rotation on April 14, but the Angels have exercised a lot of caution, and Scioscia has hinted in the past that an April 14 return may be a little too ambitious.
Last but not least, my final Taco Power Rankings for 2015 …
1. Los Taquitos
2. The Mission
3. Taquitos Jalisco
4. El Hefe
5. Tortas El Rey
6. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill
7. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop
8. Comedor Guadelajara
9. Senor Taco
10. Carolina’s Mexican Food