Most important thing: Hector Santiago was crazy efficient, throwing four one-hit innings and then having to go to the bullpen for 15 extra pitches just so he can get all his work in. He didn’t walk any batters and struck out five. Yes, most of the guys he was facing were Minor Leaguers, but it was a good sign nonetheless. He says he’s 10-for-10 throwing his screwball for strikes, and I’ll have to take his word for it.
Second-most important thing: Joe Blanton struggled mightily at the other game against the Rockies in Salt River Fields, giving up seven runs on eight hits (four of them homers) in 3 1/3 innings.
Third-most important thing: Hitters are normally behind the pitchers this time of year, so perhaps it should be no surprise that the Angels starters have been shutout in the first five innings of five of their previous six games heading into today. Against the Cubs, they managed one run (a Raul Ibanez fielder’s choice) in those first five innings.
Fourth-most important thing: C.J. Cron came up with a clutch hit once again. One day after hitting a three-run, game-tying homer in the ninth inning, the power-hitting prospect hit a two-out single in the eighth inning to give the Angels the lead (albeit briefly).
Fifth-most important thing: Josh Wall gave up two ninth-inning runs to lose the game and has now given up four in three innings.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Cubs center fielder Junior Lake laid down a perfect bunt in the fourth, but third baseman David Freese charged hard and made a nice barehand play for the out.
Best quote: Mike Scioscia, on Cron’s clutch hitting: “C.J.’s looking very comfortable. The growth he’s had in the last year and a half of playing baseball has been very noticeable.”
Angels’ record: 3-5-1
Taco power rankings (updated every Friday): 1. Los Taquitos, 2. El Hefe, 3. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 4. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 5. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 6. Poliberto’s Taco Shop, 7. Salty Senorita
Dane De La Rosa‘s forearm injury, which caused a rough outing against the Dodgers on Thursday and prompted him to leave the game early, was diagnosed as a sprain, an MRI confirmed, and the Angels’ power reliever doesn’t believe he’ll start the season on the disabled list.
“I doubt it,” a relieved De La Rosa said Friday morning, while hooked up to an electronic muscle massager.
“I should be fine. I’m not sure about the timeline, I can’t really say, but it won’t be too long.”
Starting the sixth inning from Tempe Diablo Stadium, De La Rosa — the journeyman 31-year-old coming off a breakout season in 2013 — allowed five of the seven batters he faced to reach and served up a grand slam to Scott Van Slyke. With two outs in the inning, he was checked on by the Angels’ medical staff and removed from the game.
“I just didn’t feel the ball,” De La Rosa said. “There were a few times when I just had no idea where it was going. I just couldn’t feel fingertips. If you can’t feel your fingertips when you’re pitching, it’s not a good thing.”
De La Rosa said he and the Angels will “attack [rehab] pretty aggressively,” but he didn’t have a gauge on a timeline because he hasn’t visited with the team’s medical staff yet. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said a return by Opening Day, on March 31, is “still realistic because he’s a bullpen guy, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
De La Rosa earned the nickname “Everyday Dane” last season for the frequency of his usage. He pitched in 75 games, fifth-most in the American League, while posting a 2.86 ERA and emerging as the team’s setup man down the stretch.
Asked if all those appearances have caught up with De La Rosa, Scioscia said: “I mean, his bullpens have been great. He didn’t show any signs of anything last year. But I don’t know if you ever really know.”
- C.J. Wilson on Dr. Frank Jobe, who passed away on Thursday: “The pitcher’s elbow is like Humpty Dumpty, and he figured out how to put it back together again.” The Angels left-hander, like many, believes guys like Dr. Jobe and Dr. Lewis Yocum, who passed away last year, should be enshrined in Cooperstown.
- The Angels will meet with Major League Baseball at some point in the next week, where they’ll look at video of Thursday’s play at home plate. Scioscia said the meeting was pre-planned and not a reaction to yesterday’s play. Mike Trout was looking at pictures of his slide on his phone in the clubhouse and said he’s still confused about Rule 7.13 on home-plate collisions. Many are. “Guess I have to do my homework,” he said.
- Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is in full uniform today and was chatting up with Trout during warmups. He’ll shag fly balls and take batting practice. Albert Pujols has played golf with him several times and, not surprisingly, says he can drive the ball a long, long way.
- Catcher John Hester is fine after taking a fastball to his left wrist in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game. He didn’t require X-rays and may even play against the Rockies today.
- Today is the Angels’ first split-squad game of the spring. Triple-A manager Keith Johnson will focus on the offense, player information coach Rick Eckstein will handle the defense and Erik Bennett will be the pitching coach.
- Some notes for the game against the Cubs in Tempe today: Kole Calhoun has led off in six of the Angels’ seven Cactus League games, so, yes, he’ll be the leadoff hitter this year. “You kind of get caught in the middle, I guess, because I do like to be aggressive but right now you kind of have to take a step back and see some more pitches,” Calhoun said. … Trout, Pujols, David Freese, Howie Kendrick, J.B. Shuck, Hank Conger and Erick Aybar are also in that lineup, with Hector Santiago starting.
- Some notes for the game against the Rockies at Salt River Fields: Grant Green will get his first spring start at third base. … Bench competitors Andrew Romine (shortstop), Ian Stewart (first base), Collin Cowgill (center field) and Brennan Boesch (left field) are also in the lineup, with Joe Blanton starting.
Veteran reliever Sean Burnett continues to feel good through every step of his rehabilitation from August forearm surgery, but the Angels are taking a cautious approach that could have him on the disabled list by the time Opening Day rolls around on March 31.
For the first time on Wednesday morning, Burnett progressed past his long-toss program and threw roughly 25 pitches off a slope – an artificial mound that’s place behind the traditional bullpen mound and has him throwing from about 75 feet but without pushing off a rubber.
The 31-year-old lefty “felt good,” said it was the most positive step in his rehab and expects to do it again on Friday. But he wasn’t throwing at full intensity and Angels manager Mike Scioscia estimated on Thursday morning that it’ll still be “a week to 10 days” before he throws his first bullpen session, which would leave roughly two weeks before the start of the regular season.
“No doubt we’re cutting close,” Scioscia said. “But he’ll be ready in his own time. You can’t look at the schedule and say you have to have him ready by a certain date. He’ll be ready on his own time and we’ll see when that is.”
Scioscia stressed that the target date for Burnett’s first bullpen session falls in line with the original projection.
Burnett doesn’t need a lot of time to get ready because he’s only a one-inning reliever, but the Angels will take their time with him because he missed a full season and because having him healthy throughout the summer takes precedence over having him on the active roster coming out of Spring Training.
The Angels can backdate Burnett’s DL stint far enough so that he only misses the first 10 days of the regular season, and they have several lefty relievers in camp – Brian Moran, Clay Rapada, Robert Carson, Buddy Boshers, Nick Maronde and Michael Roth – who can fill the void in the meantime.
Burnett’s arm has stood up to every test, but he knows he has to continue to follow the steps.
“Unfortunately it’s not my first surgery,” Burnett said, “so I know how the process works and I know you have to be to be patient.”
Most important thing: Albert Pujols played in back-to-back games for the first time this spring, and started at first base for the fourth time in six games, and made two very nice diving stops. He also singled in his third at-bat, snapping an 0-for-9 skid.
Second-most important thing: Jered Weaver pitched four complete innings in his second start, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits while giving up four hits, walking two and striking out two. Weaver said he “probably left a couple pitches up, a little excited, but other than that, I felt pretty good out there.”
Third-most important thing: Grant Green started at shortstop for the first time, playing six innings and handling the only two routine grounders hit to him — a slow roller that he changed and a charity hop he fielded slightly to his left. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said “at times he got a little too deep, but his throws across were good.” Green is expected to get a start at third base by the end of the week.
Fourth-most important thing: The Angels had two defensive blunders — on a fly ball Brennan Boesch lost in the sun and a slow roller that sneaked under Weaver’s legs before he recovered — but overall played a very strong defensive game, with nice plays by Luis Jimenez, Matt Long and Pujols.
Fifth-most important thing: Kevin Jepsen had a scoreless outing for the second straight time, giving up one hit and striking out one in the sixth.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): With one out in the first, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford smoked a liner to right field, but Pujols dove full-extension to his right, fielded it cleanly and made the flip to Weaver.
Best quote: Weaver, on the difference between Pujols this spring compared to last spring: “It’s night and day. Just the way he’s running around, the way he’s moving at first — just walking in general he looks more healthy.”
Angels’ record: 3-3
Most important thing: The gamesmanship between Yu Darvish and Mike Trout has begun. Trout owns a lifetime 1.227 OPS in 39 plate appearances against Darvish, so the Japanese right-hander said he only threw him fastballs today (Trout lined out and hit a single in two at-bats against him) because he didn’t want to tip his hand on the different approach he’ll have against the Angels’ phenom this season.
Second-most important thing: Tyler Skaggs, vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, retired six of his first seven batters, but grew noticeably tired in the third, putting four of the five batters he faced on base and giving up an RBI single to Shin-Soo Choo before exiting.
Third-most important thing: Albert Pujols went 0-for-3 with a weak groundout and two harmless flyouts, making him 0-for-8 on the spring. But, as Mike Scioscia said, “Really small sample size. In BP he’s there; he’s just searching for timing. He’ll find it.”
Fourth-most important thing: Raul Ibanez took Darvish deep in the second inning, with a solo shot that easily cleared the right-field fence. Ibanez has one hit and five strikeouts in nine career regular-season at-bats against Darvish.
Fifth-most important thing: Sidearm reliever Joe Smith made his Angels debut in the fourth inning, giving up an RBI triple to Leonys Martin.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): With one on and none out in the eighth, Rangers second baseman Kensuke Tanaka ranged to his right, slid on one knee and made a nice backhand play of a Luis Martinez grounder to start a slick 4-6-3 double play.
Best quote: Trout, to Japanese reporters when asked about Darvish tweaking his game plan against him this year: “It’s going to be interesting. I’m curious to see what he does, see what happens. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Angels lineup …
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Raul Ibanez, DH
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
J.B. Shuck, LF
SP: LH Tyler Skaggs
Rangers lineup …
Shin-Soo Choo, LF
Josh Wilson, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B
Jurickson Profar, DH
Robinson Chirinos, C
Luis Sardinas, SS
Leonys Martin, CF
SP: RH Yu Darvish
- Josh Hamilton wasn’t surprised to hear about Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler‘s comments, saying he hopes his ex-team, the Rangers, go 0-162 and calling general manager Jon Daniels a “sleazeball.” “At least I won’t be the only villain in Texas now,” Hamilton said, smiling. The two were close in Texas, and Hamilton said he wasn’t very surprised to find out about Kinsler’s comments. “He’s very competitive.”
- Hamilton entered the clubhouse drenched in sweat after taking some batting practice and playing catch. Hamilton, who strained his left calf one week from today, no longer requires crutches and doesn’t have to do those baseball activities off one knee. But he has yet to run. “Even if I felt good today, they wouldn’t let me, so I can’t really put a time frame on it.”
- Ian Stewart was scratched from Monday’s lineup after Mike Scioscia said he was “messing around with his daughter and got hit in the nose.” Stewart’s daughter, 4, was lying on the bed stomach first watching TV, and when Stewart went to lunge at her playfully, she sat up and the two collided heads. ”She just kind of looked at me and laid back down, watched the movie, and I thought I had a broken nose, because I heard like a crunching sound,” Stewart said. Stewart was fine on Tuesday, though. No concussion and no broken nose. He’ll get back to baseball activities on Wednesday.
- The Angels are playing a “B” game in Goodyear, Ariz., on Tuesday morning. Hunter Green is pitching in it, and Scioscia is attending both contests.
- Joe Smith, Fernando Salas, Michael Kohn, Brandon Lyon and Clay Rapada are also slated to pitch against the Rangers on Tuesday.
Most important thing: The Angels got their first taste of expanded instant replay. Angels manager Mike Scioscia used it to challenge a botched hit-and-run that saw Luis Jimenez get thrown out at second. Scioscia thought Aaron Hill missed the tag after fielding Bobby Wilson‘s high throw, but umpires upheld the call and Scioscia couldn’t challenge anything the rest of the day. The Angels have 14 more of these “replay games.”
Second-most important thing: Garrett Richards looked really good, breezing through three scoreless innings while giving up just two hits, walking none and striking out two. The 25-year-old right-hander looked great last spring, too, with a 1.45 ERA in 18 2/3 Cactus League innings.
Third-most important thing: Ernesto Frieri made his spring debut, after temporarily leaving the team while his wife gave birth on Friday, and pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning.
Fourth-most important thing: Jimenez and outfielder Collin Cowgill, both competing for spots off the bench, each had two hits.
Fifth-most important thing: Only two regulars were in the Angels starting lineup (Kole Calhoun and platooning catcher Hank Conger). Most of the rest of the everyday players took part in a scrimmage at Tempe Diablo Stadium in the morning.
Best defensive play (that I saw): Hill smoked a line drive off Frieri to start the fourth, but Jimenez extended to his left and snared what looked like a sure single.
Best quote: Richards, when asked whether not having to fight for a job will alter his approach this spring: “These last two years, I’ve competed for a spot, so I know what it’s like to be on that end of the stick. I try keep the same mentality I’ve had every spring. Just because I’m in the rotation right now doesn’t mean I’ll be in the rotation at the end of the year. I have to stay sharp and improve.”
Most important thing: Joe Blanton, entering in the fifth, started his spring by giving up back-to-back singles and a two-run double to Yoenis Cespedes. But he retired seven of the next eight batters, striking out two of them, and Mike Scioscia called it “a step forward.”
Second-most important thing: The Angels had most of their starters in the lineup, but they were shut out in the five innings they were on the field. Mike Trout walked to load the bases with one out in the fifth, but Albert Pujols (now 0-for-5 with a walk this spring) grounded into an inning-ending 5-3 double play.
Third-most important thing: Screwball master Hector Santiago was a little erratic to start the game — his first pitch sailed way wide of Chris Iannetta — but was able to navigate through two Angels misplays and his own two walks to allow just one unearned run in 2 2/3 innings.
Fourth-most important thing: Brennan Boesch, vying for a spot off the bench, had a couple of singles and is now 4-for-7 this spring.
Fifth-most important thing: Brandon Lyon, competing with several other relievers for two bullpen spots, pitches a clean ninth inning, recording a strikeout. Lyon, 34, is an interesting name to watch because he has a good track record and gets hitters out a different way (with offspeed stuff).
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): To start the game, Pujols ranged into foul territory and made a nifty, over-the-shoulder basket catch to record the out. It wasn’t necessarily spectacular, but it was the kind of play he may not have made while hindered by plantar fasciitis last year.
Best quote: Pujols, when asked if Trout’s performance the last two years has pushed him to be at that same level to keep up with him: “I don’t need to keep up with anybody, buddy. Just look at my numbers. My job is to stay healthy and go out there and play. I don’t need anybody to motivate me. My job is to be out there and give 110 percent, and that’s what I’ve been doing [my whole] career.”
Angels’ record: 1-2
Most important thing: They got to play a little bit. Given the storms hitting Arizona in the morning, it almost seemed foolish for the Angels to take the 40-minute bus ride from Tempe to Peoria. But with storms shading north, there was a window to get at least some of Saturday’s game in. They ultimately played six and a half innings, with C.J. Wilson, four relievers and everyone in the starting lineup getting their full-day’s work before the heavy rain came down.
Second-most important thing: Wilson looked sharp while striking out the side in the first, but got hit around in the second, facing seven batters, giving up two smoking line drives to center field — one of which would’ve gone out for a home run if not for a giant fence — and allowing two runs to come across. The 33-year-old left-hander called his April last year “average,” and felt his season would’ve gone from good to great if he had started off the season a little bit better. So he’s looking to be more aggressive out of the gate this spring. In his first Cactus League start, he threw all of his offspeed pitches.
Third-most important thing: Seven of those in the Angels’ starting lineup — J.B. Shuck, Ian Stewart, Hank Conger, Carlos Pena, Chad Tracy, Collin Cowgill, Andrew Romine and John McDonald — are among those competing for three bench spots. Grant Green, Luis Jimenez, Tommy Field and Brennan Boesch were folded in later, an indication that they’re on the outside looking in — which is no surprise. Green was the only player to have a multi-hit game, going 2-for-2 with a double and an RBI.
Fourth-most important thing: Mike Morin, ranked eighth in the Angels’ system and coming off a very solid year at Class A Advanced and Double-A, was hit hard while coming in relief of Wilson in the third, putting four consecutive runners on and allowing two runs to score.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): For the second straight day, it’s a tie between two guys battling for a spot. With two outs in the third, Shuck leaped up against the left-field fence to rob Mike Zunino of extra bases and save Morin from further damage. To start the fourth, Cowgill dived forward full extension to snare a hard line drive off the bat of Carlos Triunfel.
Best quote: Wilson, on pitchers being pushed harder this spring: “It sends a good message when you get a phone call in the offseason and they say, ‘Hey, we’re going to expect a little bit more out of you this year in Spring Training.’ I think the average guy comes in in better shape because of that. The one thing that we haven’t had the last couple years is durability out of the starters as a whole. That’s the goal, obviously, is to get more durability out of the starters.”
Most important thing: The Angels were dialed in. Yes, it’s only Spring Training, and it came against a bad Cubs team that was basically only playing with three regulars, but it’s important for the Angels to assert themselves early in hopes of avoiding another season-crippling start. And their offensive showing, after doing live batting practice for about a week week, was uplifting. Mike Trout hit a grand slam, Chris Iannetta fell three feet shy of a two-homer day, J.B. Shuck had a three-run triple and the Angels had two crooked-number innings, scoring four in the second and nine — nine! — in the fourth.
Second-most important thing: Jered Weaver looked good. He went three full innings in a Cactus League opener for the first time in his career and gave up only one hard-hit ball. Weaver threw 41 pitches and sat around 87 mph. That’s basically where he was last year, and he should build up from that as he continues to throw. His changeup looked great, and he felt like he could’ve kept pitching after three one-hit innings.
Third-most important thing: Maybe not important, but fun — Trout’s grand slam was a laser beam. He got a 2-0 fastball low and inside, kept his hands in beautifully and drove it over the picnic area in left field. In case you hadn’t noticed, he good.
Fourth-most important thing: All the everyday position players (except Josh Hamilton, who’s nursing a strained left calf) played five innings on defense. That included Albert Pujols (0-for-2 with a strikeout and a walk), who didn’t have any balls hit to him but was moving around well in pre-game infield.
Fifth-most important thing: Howie Kendrick singled in his first at-bat and has now hit safely in 27 of his last 29 Spring Training games. His Cactus League batting averages from 2007-13, respectively: .348, .382, .339, .313, .364, .383, .435.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): A tie between Andrew Romine and John McDonald, the two guys fighting to secure the utility infield spot. In the eighth, McDonald — playing second base — slid to his right to backhand a sharp Dan Vogelbach grounder and then made a nifty glove-flip to Romine in one motion, starting a 4-6-3 double play. In the ninth, Romine — playing shortstop — ranged deep in the hole to backhand an Albert Almora grounder and made a long, loopy throw to first to record the out just in time.
Best quote: Mike Scioscia, when sheepishly asked if he felt Trout’s ball had a chance to go out: “I think it was out before he got out of the batter’s box.”
Taco power rankings (updated every Friday): 1. Los Taquitos, 2. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 3. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 4. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 5. Poliberto’s Taco Shop