Author Archive

Angels swap Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli …

Jason GrilliThe Angels took a step – and it’s probably only the first step – in trying to shore up the back end of their bullpen on Friday, sending struggling closer Ernesto Frieri to the Pirates for struggling closer Jason Grilli in what general manager Jerry Dipoto called “a classic change of scenery that I think will be good for all parties.”

Grilli, 37, posted a 2.74 ERA and saved 36 games for the Pirates from 2011-13, but has hit a rough patch this year, posting a 4.87 ERA, a 1.62 WHIP and a 1.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio while saving 11 games in 15 opportunities.

Frieri, 28, had a 3.07 ERA and 60 saves from 2012-13, but has struggled through a 6.39 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and a 4.22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2014, which has seen him blow three of his 14 save chances.

Frieri is owed $3.8 million in 2014 and was arbitration-eligible for two more seasons, while Grilli is owed $4 million and is a free agent at the end of the year.

“At the end of the day, sometimes these types of address changes are just good for everybody,” Dipoto said in a phone interview. “Obviously, over the last couple weeks, it’s been a mighty struggle for Ernie. And he just needed a chance to clear himself out. This is probably best in that regard.

“We’re encouraged to get the opportunity to work with Jason Grilli, and see if we can’t get him back to where he needs to be. He still has the velocity, he still has the slider, he still has the ability to be the dominant ninth-inning presence that he was a year ago.”

But will he be the closer, like he was during that All-Star season in 2013?

“We’ll sort that through as he gets in,” Dipoto said of Grilli, who’s expected to join the Angels in time for Saturday’s game against the Royals.

“We’ll see where he fits in,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia added. “He’s pitched in the back end of games and has done a very good job in that role. We’re going to get his feet on the ground here, and then we’ll see where he fits.”

The Angels head into a weekend series at Kauffman Stadium on a six-game winning streak that has put them a season-best 11 games over .500. But they’ve suffered through 12 blown saves, tied with the Astros for the American League lead, and entered Friday ranked 26th in the Majors in ERA (4.46) and tied for 23rd in WHIP (1.38) from their bullpen.

Dipoto would still like to add a situational left-hander and perhaps another option for the ninth inning, which would free Scioscia up to use current closer Joe Smith in a more versatile role.

“We’re still open to improving and adding to our team in any way that will help us win,” Dipoto said. “We understand that the bullpen is something that needs to be addressed. I think this is a step in trying to address some of our needs down there, but I’d be surprised if it’s the only step.”

Grilli – a product of Tommy John surgery in 2002 – was originally taken with the fourth overall pick in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft but didn’t come into his own until spending the entire 2010 season recovering from a torn quadriceps muscle, when he joined the Pirates as a 35-year-old who had already spent time in five different organizations.

Grilli broke out in 2013, posting a 2.70 ERA and 33 saves while converting each of his first 25 opportunities.

His fastball velocity is basically the same this year – in the 92- to 93-mph range – but he missed 27 games because of an oblique strain earlier this season and has yet to see consistent results.

“He’s ready for a new challenge,” Pirates GM Neal Huntington said. “Jason has responded very well to a number of challenges in his life. He had a good run here, loves the city and the team, but he’s ready for a new challenge.”

The Angels believe the same can be said for Frieri, the affable right-hander who shined upon being acquired from the Padres in May 2012 but has been demoted twice from his role as closer this season.

“Ernie’s a tremendous young man,” Scioscia said. “He became part of our family. It’s tough to let go of a piece like that. Hopefully in the long run it’ll be better for Ernie to go there and get a fresh start.”

Alden

Grant Green starts at third, but just for one day …

Adam Eaton, Grant GreenGrant Green made his first start Major League start at third base on Wednesday, but no, he hasn’t supplanted David Freese as the everyday guy at the hot corner, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Green won’t necessarily be cutting into his playing time, either.

Green is starting simply because Freese’s left elbow is “a little sore” after a hit by pitch in Tuesday’s eighth inning, Scioscia said, adding that Freese will “still get the lion’s share of the third-base starts.”

“He’s hit the ball much better than some of his numbers show,” Scioscia said. “He’s hit a lot of hard outs. Really what David does is give you that great at-bat with guys in scoring position. We’re starting to see a little bit more of that. That being said, I don’t think he’s hit stride, or there’s a comfort level of what he did a couple years ago. That just hasn’t materialized. But he’s giving us good at-bats, and if he can get close to where we project him to be, he’s going to be a huge boost to the depth of our lineup.”

So far, that hasn’t happened.

Freese sports a .226/.305/.282 slash line overall and a .170/.270/.170 mark with runners in scoring position, and he’s basically been treading water recently, with a .256 average, 14 strikeouts and one walk in his last 11 games.

Green, meanwhile, enters hitting .333/.347/.435 in an interrupted 25-game stint in the big leagues, but is still getting acclimated to third base — one of five positions he currently plays.

The 26-year-old — a natural shortstop who’s most comfortable at second base, received the majority of his starts in left field earlier this season and has most recently been experimenting with first base — hadn’t spent much time at third base when the Angels acquired him from the A’s for Alberto Callaspo last July. But Green got some time there in the Minors down the stretch last year, spent a lot of time in the hot corner during Spring Training and played third in four of his last six Triple-A games.

“I felt good there when I first came up,” Green said. “When I first came up, I played a lot of third. When I went back down, I didn’t feel rusty. It was just getting back into it, getting back into taking grounders game-speed.”

Twins (36-39)

Danny Santana, SS
Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, 1B
Josh Willingham, LF
Kendrys Morales, DH
Oswaldo Arcia, RF
Eduardo Escobar, 3B
Eric Fryer, C
Sam Fuld, CF

SP: RH Yohan Pino (0-0, 2.57 ERA)

Angels (42-33)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
C.J. Cron, DH
Grant Green, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C

SP: RH Garrett Richards (7-2, 2.79 ERA)

Alden

Where does Hector Santiago stand? …

Hector SantiagoMike Scioscia knows who his starters will be on Saturday and Sunday, but won’t announce them until Friday, probably because a corresponding roster move is involved. One of the games will be started by Jered Weaver, and for the other it’ll either be Hector Santiago or Matt Shoemaker. And with that, the Angels’ manager will have essentially made the much-wondered-about rotation decision, which was made difficult by how effective Shoemaker and Santiago have been lately.

Santiago has one thing pointing in his favor: Soon, the Angels have to basically figure out whether or not he’s going to start for them down the stretch.

The non-waiver Trade Deadline is exactly six weeks away, and the Angels have two potential needs: Lefty reliever and starting pitcher. Santiago has a chance to fill either of those roles, but obviously not both. And the decision to keep him in the rotation could rest partly on the fact that they need to figure out whether or not trading for a starting pitcher is necessary.

The Angels have the flexibility to absorb payroll – remember, the money they offered to Matt Garza this offseason essentially went unused — but getting a front-of-the-rotation starter would mean parting ways with top prospects from a farm system that needs to grow. Acquiring a lefty reliever probably would not.

The Angels have been heavily linked to Rays ace David Price, most recently by ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden, who believes C.J. Cron and Alex Yarbrough could be enough to get a deal done. FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal linked them to Ian Kennedy of the Padres and Dillon Gee of the Mets. I’ve heard they like Kennedy, Travis Wood of the Cubs and J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays (albeit a contender), among others. The Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija is a sexy name who could be shopped since he turned down a reported extension offer, but he — like Price and the Phillies’ Cliff Lee, who’s currently rehabbing from an elbow strain — will cost some top-shelf prospects.

But before they go in that direction, the Angels need to find out if Santiago’s last two starts were a fluke or a sign that he’s actually rounding into the form they expected when they traded for him.

Now, is five weeks enough to draw a conclusion?

Alden

C.J. Cron continues to sit …

Stephen Vogt, C.J. CronThe National League rules of Atlanta kept him out of the lineup this past weekend, the constant stream of Indians right-handed starters have prompted Mike Scioscia to go with the left-handed-hitting Raul Ibanez on a daily basis, and suddenly the still-developing C.J. Cron is adjusting to life as a part-time player.

“It’s how it works,” Cron said. “Obviously, I want to be in there as much as possible. But I’m not in the lineup, so I’ll be ready in case a pinch-hit comes or whatever.”

Scioscia has continued to go with a strict platoon at designated hitter, starting Ibanez three straight times against righties even though the 42-year-old carries a .153/.257/.258 slash line on the season and is 3-for-18 lifetime against the Indians’ Wednesday starter, Justin Masterson.

The Angels’ manager pointed out that one of those hits was a two-run triple on April 28, brought up the fact that Masterson has limited righties to a .630 OPS this season and said Ibanez “has had some good at-bats in this series,” going 2-for-5 with a couple of walks and no strikeouts.

“I don’t think you’re going to look up tomorrow and see Raul hitting what he should with the production you would expect,” Scioscia said. “But there’s no doubt that he’s making some strides in the batter’s box and you’re seeing better swings. The bottom line is production. Nobody understands that better than Raul. He knows that he needs to contribute and have better at-bats. Nobody is working harder at it than Raul, and we’re very confident that he’s going to contribute for us.”

The question is: When will the right-handed-hitting Cron get playing time?

The 24-year-old had a .305/.329/.524 slash line as of June 4, but has three hits and seven strikeouts in his last 20 at-bats, hasn’t started since last Wednesday and is rotting during a stretch in which the Angels are mostly seeing righty starters. The Indians are throwing four in a row this series, the Rangers will only have one lefty – Joe Saunders on Friday – in Anaheim this coming weekend, and the Twins, who play at Angel Stadium from next Tuesday to Thursday, have only righties in their rotation.

Scioscia said “there’s a chance Cron will get some at-bats against righties, too.”

But for now, he waits, and the Angels face the dilemma of keeping Cron in the big leagues or sending him down to Triple-A so he can get consistent at-bats and continue to develop.

“Ever since I’ve been up here I have kind of platooned,” Cron said. “It hasn’t switched yet. I come to the field every day as if I’m going to play. If I’m not in the lineup, I’ll help the team later in the game.”

Angels (38-32)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Raul Ibanez, DH
David Freese, 3B
Hank Conger, C

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (7-6, 3.50 ERA)

Indians (36-36)

Michael Bourn, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Carlos Santana, 1B
Ryan Raburn, RF
Nick Swisher, DH
Yan Gomes, C
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
Mike Aviles, LF

SP: RH Justin Masterson (4-5, 5.05 ERA)

Alden

Shoemaker makes a statement …

Matt ShoemakerMatt Shoemaker certainly isn’t making the Angels’ forthcoming rotation decision an easy one, and that’s certainly a good thing for the organization.

In Tuesday’s 9-3 win, the 27-year-old right-hander got “real aggressive” and tossed a career-high eight innings, giving up only two runs, scattering five hits, walking one batter and striking out a career-high 10. He could’ve had a complete game, but the tarp came onto the field as he warmed up in the bottom of the ninth with 94 pitches, prompting an 11-minute rain delay that forced Mike Scioscia to use Ernesto Frieri (his only rested reliever).

“I was thinking if it’s a real quick one I have a chance to go back out there,” Shoemaker said. “A lot of times, it’s like a 20-, 30-minute delay, and once that happens, hopefully I get a chance to go back out there. It’s unfortunate, but I understand.”

Shoemaker will settle for the win, and continued success. In six starts since initially replacing Hector Santiago in the rotation, he’s 4-0 with a 3.41 ERA.

Asked what he feels like he’s shown the Angels since arriving from Triple-A, Shoemaker said: “That I can definitely compete at this level and be a good attribute to this team. Just keep taking that mental approach of being aggressive, and do whatever I can to help this team win.”

Tyler Skaggs could be activated early next week, at which point the Angels will seemingly have to make a decision between Santiago and Shoemaker. Santiago has stated his case, too, pitching six shutout innings against the A’s on June 10 and throwing five scoreless against the Braves on Sunday before getting hit around a bit in the sixth — and he’d probably have the upper-hand given how much the Angels were counting on him at the start of the year.

But Shoemaker has shown he deserves to stay in the big leagues, either as a starter or a swingman in the bullpen.

The latter, however, would cut into the Angels’ organizationally starting-pitching depth.

“You never try to think about that,” Shoemaker said of pending roster decisions. “Sometimes you might think about some of that. But you say, ‘OK, let’s not think about that. Let’s think about what we’ve got today.’”

Alden

Skaggs won’t be activated when eligible …

Tyler SkaggsIt turns out Tyler Skaggs won’t be activated when eligible on Saturday.

Skaggs, on the disabled list since June 10 because of a strained right hamstring, didn’t throw his scheduled simulated game at Progressive Field on Tuesday. Instead, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, the 22-year-old left-hander will “probably throw a bullpen in the next couple days.”

Scioscia said Skaggs didn’t suffer a setback; the Angels are just “going on his pace.”

“He’s feeling good,” Scioscia added, “but not quite enough to do what you need him to do in a sim game.”

The Angels can afford to wait a little longer, with Hector Santiago (six shutout innings against the A’s, followed by five scoreless against the Braves before a rough sixth inning) and Matt Shoemaker (3-0 with a 3.76 ERA in five starts heading into his Tuesday outing) throwing the ball well.

Skaggs would have to see hitters before getting activated, either in a sim game or, if his recovery stalls a little longer, a Minor League rehab assignment.

“I think it’s just getting back to where he wants his mechanics, his motions, everything,” Scioscia said of Skaggs, who’s 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 12 starts. “He was down for like nine days, so it’s going to take a little bit of work to get him where he wants to be.”

Angels (37-32)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, DH
Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Hank Conger, C

SP: RH Matt Shoemaker (3-1, 4.19 ERA)

Indians (36-35)

Michael Bourn, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Carlos Santana, 1B
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
David Murphy, RF
Nick Swisher, DH
Yan Gomes, C
Ryan Raburn, LF

SP: RH Josh Tomlin (4-3, 3.33 ERA)

Alden

Home runs ‘killing’ Jered Weaver …

Jered WeaverJered Weaver gave up two home runs in Monday’s 4-3 loss — a two-run shot to Asdrubal Cabrera in the first, a solo shot to Carlos Santana in the fourth — and has now given up 14 in 95 2/3 innings this season, giving him the second-highest total in the American League.

Last year, the Angels’ ace gave up 17 homers in 154 1/3 innings.

“It’s no secret, I just can’t stay away from the home-run ball,” said Weaver, now 7-6 with a 3.67 ERA. “It’s been killing me lately, and that was the difference in the game again tonight. I don’t think I’ve thrown the ball terribly, but when I’m making mistakes, they’re hitting home runs. It’s definitely frustrating.”

Weaver’s velocity has continually eroded over the last few years, and he entered Monday averaging a career-low 86.2 mph on his fastball. That could explain the higher home-run rate, or at the very least his shrinking margin for error, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia believes Weaver’s “stuff right now is batter than it was last year.”

So, why all the homers — particularly eight in his last seven starts?

“I don’t know,” Weaver said. “Wish I had an answer. When I have an answer, I’ll let you know.”

From 2006-13, Weaver’s homers-per-nine-innings rate was 0.96, tied for 45th in the Majors. This year, it’s 1.32.

“Just can’t stay away from the home-run ball,” Weaver said. “That contributes to losses. Nothing else to be said. I think my stuff is good. Take away the home-run balls [on Monday], it’s not a bad outing. But those home-run balls are not taken away, and that has led to us losing games.”

Alden

Early on, Pujols learned from Gwynn …

gwynnAlbert Pujols used to have this videotape of Tony Gwynn conducting a hitting clinic in the late 1990s. The Angels’ first baseman was at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City then, still striving to be the hitter who would establish himself as one of the greatest ever, and Gwynn was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. So Pujols popped that tape in frequently, hoping to learn as much as he could from a master at his craft.

“I took a lot of notes off that,” Pujols said Monday, the day Gwynn lost his multiyear battle to salivary gland cancer at the age of 54.

“It’s a sad day,” Pujols added. “Not just for myself, because I got to know him over the years, but for baseball. We lost a great man at a young age.”

Pujols’ first year with the Cardinals – 2001 – was Gwynn’s last with the Padres, and Pujols got to be Gwynn’s teammate during his final All-Star Game at Safeco Field in Seattle that summer. Nearly two months later, when the Padres and Cardinals met for their first regular-season meeting, Pujols finally struck up the nerve to tell Gwynn about those videotapes.

But he never really talked to him about hitting.

“I wasn’t that comfortable my first year in the league,” Pujols said. “But he was always open to help all the young players.”

Gwynn went down as one of the greatest hitters of all time, a guy who compiled 3,141 hits, sported a lifetime batting average of .338, won eight National League batting titles and never struck out more than 40 times in one season.

“A legend,” Pujols said. “Just an unbelievable hitter. But I think for me, he was a better person, with everything that he accomplished in the game versus off the field. What he’s done, and what he did through his career in San Diego, it speaks for itself.”

Angels (37-31)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
John McDonald, SS

SP: RH Jered Weaver (7-5, 3.51 ERA)

Indians (35-35)

Michael Bourn, CF
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Michael Brantley, LF
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Carlos Santana, DH
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
Nick Swisher, 1B
David Murphy, RF
George Kottaras, C

SP: RH Trevor Bauer (1-3, 4.24 ERA)

Alden

Takeaways from a 14-inning thriller …

Collin CowgillTuesday night’s game will be remembered mostly for Collin Cowgill‘s walk-off homer, which set up the Angels’ fifth straight win and put them 2 1/2 games back in the American League West, and for Yoenis Cespdes‘ throw, one of the best anybody has ever seen. But here are some other takeaways from one of the most interesting games of the season …

  • This was the Angels’ best pitching performance of the year. Hector Santiago provided six scoreless innings in his return from Triple-A Salt Lake, scattering three hits while walking one and striking out eight. Then, six relievers (Kevin Jepsen, Mike Morin, Joe Smith, Cam Bedrosian, Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus) combined to give up one run in eight innings, scattering five hits, walking two and striking out six, going toe-to-toe with an A’s bullpen that ranks third in the Majors in relief-pitcher WHIP.
  • The Angels, as Mike Scioscia said, “were fortunate tonight.” They made two critical baserunning blunders, with Albert Pujols running through a Gary DiSarcina stop sign in the sixth to easily get thrown out at home by Brandon Moss, and Kole Calhoun trying to advance to third in the 11th on a ground ball to shortstop Jed Lowrie, who flipped to Josh Donaldson for the easy out.
  • Scioscia made a questionable decision to have Calhoun bunt in the 13th, after Mike Trout drew a leadoff walk. Calhoun did his job, which meant Trout advanced to second, but with first base open, the A’s opted to walk Josh Hamilton (even though they had a lefty, Jeff Francis, pitching). The sac bunt took the bat out of the hands of one of the Angels’ best players, and paved the way for an inning-ending double play from David Freese.
  • The Angels and A’s play a lot of extra innings. In five matchups between the two at Angel Stadium, they’ve now gone to extra innings three times. That, in addition to the 19-inning game played in Oakland on April 29 of last year.

Alden

Skaggs headed to DL; Santiago coming back up …

Tyler SkaggsAngels lefty Tyler Skaggs has been scratched from his Tuesday start against the A’s because of a strained right hamstring, prompting Hector Santiago to come back up from Triple-A Salt Lake and start in his place.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Skaggs, who will be placed on the 15-day disabled list, “felt it a little bit” during his Thursday outing in Houston and “came out of the start a little bit sore.”

The 22-year-old Skaggs – 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 12 starts – can be activated as early as June 21, which would have him missing two or three starts. And Scioscia doesn’t anticipate this being a prolonged injury.

“We’re doing this more as a precaution to make sure it gets behind him,” Scioscia said. “Hamstrings, they have a life of their own. You never know. But we don’t anticipate it being longer than [the extent of the DL stint].”

Santiago was optioned to the Minor Leagues shortly after going 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA in his first seven starts with the Angels. The 26-year-old left-hander had a 6.43 ERA, a 2.14 WHIP and a 1.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the three starts that spanned 14 innings during his time in the Pacific Coast League. Santiago last pitched Thursday – he gave up six runs (four earned) on 11 hits in six innings – and will take the mound on his normal four days’ rest.

“He’s making progress with his command,” Scioscia said of Santiago. “He feels much better about what he needs to do on the mound, so hopefully he’ll bring it into the game tomorrow.”

Athletics (39-24)

Coco Crisp, CF
John Jaso, DH
Josh Donaldson, 3B
Brandon Moss, RF
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Stephen Vogt, C
Alberto Callaspo, 1B
Eric Sogard, 2B

SP: RH Jesse Chavez (5-3, 3.04 ERA)

Angels (34-28)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Raul Ibanez, DH
Hank Conger, C

SP: RH Garrett Richards (5-2, 3.25 ERA)

Alden

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 116 other followers

%d bloggers like this: