Nick Tropeano was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake and will start Thursday’s series finale against the A’s, with C.J. Wilson getting pushed back to Saturday’s start against the Rangers. Wilson came out of his last start with stiffness in his left (pitching) elbow, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it’s nothing serious and he could’ve taken his normal turn on Thursday if needed.
Pushing Wilson back also buys extra time for Matt Shoemaker, who was placed on the bereavement list to deal with the death of his grandfather. Shoemaker was originally slated to make that Saturday start, but is now tentatively slated for next Wednesday’s game in Oakland, putting him on extended rest a second straight time. Shoemaker pitched on six days’ rest Monday, giving up five runs in three innings, and would be on eight days’ rest Wednesday.
Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Jered Weaver will keep their normal turns. So, here’s the order …
Tuesday: Weaver (starting tonight)
Tropeano has given up five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 11 innings during his first two starts for Triple-A Salt Lake, striking out 12.
“I think I just need to keep working hard and showing consistency,” Tropeano said. “Going down to Triple-A, getting those innings in and getting that work in kind of matured me and sent me into this spot now.”
Some additional notes …
- Scioscia said the date of Josh Hamilton‘s arrival in Arizona for extended spring is “really fluid.” “It could happen this weekend, it could happen next week. But the process is there. He’s going to be evaluated. The process is starting.”
- Cam Bedrosian pitched two scoreless innings of mop-up duty on Tuesday and has been used as a multi-inning reliever since going down to Minor League camp midway through Spring Training, compiling eight innings in four appearances. Scioscia said Bedrosian has “the potential to be in the back end of the bullpen, but right now he needs a little bit of length to do the kind of things he did last night.”
- C.J. Cron had only his second multi-hit game of the season on Tuesday, then found himself out of the lineup on Wednesday. Scioscia opted to go with Collin Cowgill as his right-handed hitter against Sonny Gray — with the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce at DH, but dropped from fourth to sixth against a right-hander — to get better defense in left field for Weaver, a fly-ball pitcher.
The Angels claimed center fielder Gary Brown off waivers from the Cardinals on Wednesday, then subsequently optioned him to Triple-A Salt Lake.
Brown was born and raised in Diamond Bar, Calif. — about 15 miles away from Angel Stadium — attended Cal State Fullerton and was the 24th overall pick by the Giants in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The 26-year-old right-handed hitter has posted a .276/.340/.412 slash line in 559 career games in the Minors, adding 44 homers and 141 steals.
Brown played in seven games for the Giants last year and was selected off waivers by the Cardinals on April 3.
The Angels also transferred Cory Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, which means the right-handed reliever won’t be eligible to be activated off the disabled list until early June, at the earliest. Rasmus learned he needed surgery for a core injury on March 21 and the initial hope was that he’d return sometimes around May.
Josh Hamilton was recently cleared for baseball activities and the Angels are putting together a plan that would involve him working out in their Arizona-based extended spring program “in the not-too-distant future,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said.
The team is still sorting through details and has yet to communicate them with Hamilton, who has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery in Houston since early February. An announcement is expected by the end of the week.
“Josh is now to the point where we’re beginning the process of preparing to return him to the field, and that’s going to begin at some point in the not-too-distant future in Tempe,” Dipoto said in a phone conversation on Tuesday morning.
“We don’t have a specific date for that, and we haven’t talked through the detail with Josh at this point. We’re still very much in the planning zone. Like any other player, he’s going to begin an on-field rehab process, and that will begin sooner rather than later. But we still don’t have any defined dates.”
Hamilton could work out there for a couple of weeks, then take part in a rehab assignment at one of their affiliates for up to 20 days – that’s the maximum amount of time allowed for position players on the disabled list – and perhaps be ready to return to the Majors around June.
The Angels still have to determine where Hamilton is in terms of his overall preparedness to play, particularly what kind of running exercises he’s been doing. They know he’s been hitting a lot, taking 200-plus swings a day since March, and teammates who recently saw him raved about his physical condition.
“He’s all of 250 pounds,” said Angels third baseman David Freese, who joined Collin Cowgill and Kole Calhoun for lunch with Hamilton on Thursday, while the team was in Houston. “But I think there’s a lot of things going on between him and the Angels that nobody knows about. That’s between them, and it’s really going on behind closed doors.”
Every option is still at play for Hamilton, who’s owed $83 million through the 2017 season and has a full no-trade clause. The Angels could look to trade him, could release him – which means they assume his entire remaining salary – or could eventually fold him back into the team.
Angels owner Arte Moreno said on April 10 that Hamilton’s contract contains language that gives the team recourse in the event of a drug- or alcohol-related relapse, a point the Major League Baseball Players Association quickly refuted. Moreno could try to act on those provisions, which would undoubtedly lead to an arbitration hearing between the MLBPA and the Commissioner’s Office, but has yet to decide on that, a source said.
The Angels didn’t issue Hamilton a locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Angel Stadium, where any merchandise or images depicting the five-time All-Star have been taken down. Asked if Hamilton will return to the team at some point, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”
If the Angels’ offense continues to struggle – they ranked 21st in runs and 26th in OPS after Monday’s 6-3 loss to the A’s – perhaps there will be more willingness to bring Hamilton back.
For now, all they can do is take the next step in his rehabilitation from Feb. 4 surgery to his right AC joint.
“We are prepared to begin the rehabilitation process on the field sooner rather than later,” said Dipoto, who wouldn’t comment further. “We don’t have a specific date that we’ve coordinated yet, but we’re getting to that.”
UPDATE: Angels manager Mike Scioscia made it official prior to Saturday’s game, saying Garrett Richards will start Sunday’s series finale against the Astros. The Angels wanted to keep Richards on an every-five-days schedule in large part so that he doesn’t pitch in a National League park and, thus, have to bat.
Richards is slated to start on April 19, 24 and 29, then May 4, which means he’d skip the three-game series in San Francisco, against the Giants, May 1-3.
It looks like Richards will indeed be making his long-awaited return from knee surgery on Sunday, the series finale against the Astros from Minute Maid Park.
The decision hasn’t been announced yet, but the Angels have Matt Shoemaker listed for Monday’s series opener against the A’s at home — on six days’ rest — and there’s strong indication that Richards will be the one taking the ball on Sunday. Richards gave up five runs in five innings at Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, then threw a between-starts bullpen session in Houston on Friday and said he feels ready to return to the big leagues.
Adam Wilk, temporarily serving as a long reliever, is expected to be sent back to the Minors when Richards is activated.
Richards’ return would be a big boost to the club.
“When teams play us, they wonder if they’re going to miss G-Rich or not,” Angels third baseman David Freese said in a recent story. “He’s that type of pitcher. He’s big to our rotation. What he did last year, hopefully he can build on that. From the looks of it, he’s ready to go.”
Josh Hamilton isn’t with the Angels at Minute Maid Park, but he isn’t forgotten.
Several Angels players went to go see the 33-year-old outfielder prior to Friday’s series finale in Houston, where Hamilton has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery since early February. Manager Mike Scioscia and bench coach Dino Ebel had dinner with him on Wednesday night; C.J. Wilson met with Hamilton at Wilson’s friend’s house, where the Angels starter stays during trips to Houston; David Freese, Collin Cowgill and Kole Calhoun met him for lunch during the Thursday off day.
“It was good to see him,” Freese said. “I thought he was good in really good spirits. The fact is he wants to play some baseball. And he’s ready to roll.”
Freese, Calhoun and Cowgill came away shocked at how good Hamilton looked — 250 pounds, chiseled, in good spirits and ready to play baseball. That last part, of course, is complicated, with Angels owner Arte Moreno all but saying he doesn’t want the embattled slugger around.
Wilson, Hamilton’s good friend dating back to their days with the Rangers, said he’s “100 percent” in a state of mind to play baseball.
Based on their conversation, Wilson believes Hamilton’s latest relapse — which occurred late in the offseason and reportedly involved cocaine — was a “tame scenario” compared to what he went through as a Minor League player in the Rays organization. He said Hamilton is “100 percent functional,” “in the right place” and “ready to go.”
“It’s my 100-percent opinion that Josh is not a risk to himself or anybody else,” Wilson added. “That’s what I feel having known him for 8 years. That’s the closest thing I can get to a factual opinion.”
Scioscia didn’t want to elaborate on his conversation with Hamilton.
“He’s on his way with his physical recovery,” Scioscia said. “He’s getting into more baseball activities and we’ll just see when he’s ready to get out and really get after it and play. We’re not sure yet.”
The situation has put Angels players in an awkward spot, because they want to express support for Hamilton but don’t want to appear critical of upper management. For the most part, the players — and, to some extent, the coaching staff — don’t really know what’s going on.
Seeing Hamilton, at least, provided a little clarity.
“We still don’t really know what’s going on,” Freese said. “All I know is what I saw, a guy that’s smiling a lot. We enjoyed a nice lunch. He’s got a routine going on right now, and he really just wants to play some baseball.
“The lack of knowledge that’s going on can be frustrating, because this is a guy we care about. This is our team. Sooner or later, things will come out and we’ll all know what’s going on and whether he’s coming back with the Angels or he’s not.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia touched base with Josh Hamilton when the team arrived in Houston for a weekend series, but said there’s still “no clarity that he’s getting the help he needs.”
“That’s a major concern,” Scioscia told MLBNetwork Radio on Friday morning, roughly nine hours before the series opener against the Astros from Minute Maid Park.
“Hopefully the frustration will start to evaporate as Josh gets through his first physical rehab of getting his shoulder where he needs to be,” Scioscia added. “He had surgery about eight weeks ago, and it seems like he’s turned the corner and it feels pretty good. And then we have to see when he’s able to get back out on the field and play baseball. There’s still some things that are open-ended and natural frustration that comes with uncertainty. That’s kind of what we’re dealing with.”
Hamilton has been in Houston, staying with a friend who acts as a part-time accountability partner, since undergoing surgery in his right A.C. joint on Feb. 4. The 33-year-old outfielder hasn’t been around the team all year – he wasn’t even given a locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Angel Stadium – and isn’t expected to make an appearance at Minute Maid Park this weekend.
On April 3, an arbitrator ruled that Hamilton did not violate the terms of his treatment program and would not be suspended for a self-reported drug relapse that occurred late in the offseason. The ruling noticeably angered the Angels, with president John Carpino saying it “defies logic” and general manager Jerry Dipoto expressing “disappointment” in Hamilton’s actions.
Angels owner Arte Moreno indicated prior to last Friday’s home opener that he’ll seek action against Hamilton, who has provisions in his contract that may give the team recourse in the event of drug or alcohol use. Asked if Hamilton will play another game for the Angels, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”
“It’s a unique situation,” Scioscia said. “First and foremost, we want to make sure Josh is getting the help and support he needs. It’s important to Josh getting back to where he needs to be and getting on the field and playing baseball.”
Scioscia, who will address the matter further from Minute Maid Park on Friday afternoon, did not specify what kind of help Hamilton is currently receiving and whether or not the two met face-to-face.
“He’s still doing his rehab, and we’ll see when he’s ready to get into full baseball activities,” Scioscia said. “Nothing much has changed.”
The Angels still aren’t sure if Garrett Richards start for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday night — five runs, seven hits, four walks, five innings — will be his last before returning to the Major League rotation. Richards will meet with the team in Houston on Wednesday night or Thursday afternoon to decide what the next step will be.
Richards left a lot of balls up in Fresno, Calif., but the Pacific Coast League has a tendency of being a little deceiving.
The important thing is he came out of it healthy — and even fielded a bunt.
“Stuff looked good,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think his command maybe wasn’t as crisp at some points, but he moved well. I think he felt good. We’ll evaluate him when he gets here and see what the next step will be.
“It took him a lot of work to get through the five innings, 90-plus pitches. But his stamina was there.”
Some additional notes from Wednesday, Jackie Robinson Day …
- Scioscia is still confident he’ll touch base with Josh Hamilton when the Angels go to Houston this weekend, but isn’t sure if it’ll be face-to-face or over the phone. Scioscia said Hamilton’s rehab from shoulder surgery wouldn’t be any different if he were actually with the team — which he hasn’t been all season — but he has no idea where he’s at in his quest to return to baseball activities. “That’s part of the stuff that’s still open-ended,” Scioscia said. “I think it’s been open-ended for some time. A lot depends on where he is, what baseball activities he’s able to perform right now. The surgery he had, there’s a time he needs to heal and there’s a range. We’re still within that range. It’s not like he’s outside that range. But there’s a lot to take into account of just where he is.”
- Kole Calhoun (right calf) is still out, as expected, with Erick Aybar leading off against Rangers right-hander Anthony Ranuado. Albert Pujols is making his first start at designated hitter, after starting the Angels’ first eight games at first base.
- Jackie Robinson Day is still special to Scioscia. “I came up in the Dodger organization,” he said. “It was special for all of us young guys to hear the first-hand accounts from Roy Campanella and Carl Erskine and the guys who played on that Brooklyn Dodger team about what a special person Jackie Robinson was, not only as a ballplayer but as a human being and what he went through to make our game so great. A big reason our game is so great is what Jackie went through. It’s a story that needs to be told.”
Kole Calhoun was hopeful to return to the lineup on Tuesday, but his strained right calf will keep him out at least until Friday. Calhoun also won’t start in a day game Wednesday, coupling it with the Thursday off day to make sure he’s 100-percent healthy for Friday’s series opener against the Astros.
That means the Angels’ leadoff hitter will miss four straight games.
“It’s just not there yet,” said Calhoun, who hit a pinch-hit RBI single in Monday’s ninth inning, then came out for pinch-runner Efren Navarro, as planned. “I’ll take it easy today.”
Some additional notes …
- Garrett Richards will start for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday night, in what will be his final rehab start if all goes well. The Angels plan to have Richards back in the Major League rotation on Sunday, the 19th, and continue to keep him on the normal four days’ rest throughout. That would push Matt Shoemaker to six days’ rest for Monday and Hector Santiago on five days’ rest for Tuesday.
- Drew Rucinski won’t have any restrictions despite throwing more than 30 pitches in a relief appearance on Saturday. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that’s pretty much the length of his normal, between-starts bullpen session — though with more intensity, of course.
The Angels are in Houston this weekend, and they hope to see Josh Hamilton for the first time in 2015.
“Hopefully we’ll connect with him face-to-face,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said prior to Monday’s game against Hamilton’s former team, the Rangers. “Everybody’s been in touch with him, but we want to connect with him and just see where everything is. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see him.”
Hamilton — without a locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Angel Stadium — has been in Houston since early February, rehabbing from surgery to his right A.C. joint while staying at a friend’s house. There’s a growing sense that Hamilton won’t play for the Angels this season, with the only question being whether the two sides can agree on a buyout for a contract that will pay him $83 million through the 2017 season.
The 33-year-old outfielder is not expected to stop by the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park during the upcoming weekend series in Houston, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Scioscia said the situation is “very frustrating” “on some levels.”
“It just seems like as you try to get more clarity, it seems like it’s getting foggier and foggier,” Scioscia said. “We’ll see where this is and where this leads, and just where Josh is. I think first and foremost, we’re hoping Josh is getting the help and support that he needs.”
Some additional notes from Monday …
- Kole Calhoun is out of the lineup for a second straight game, with Collin Cowgill leading off and Matt Joyce starting against a lefty (both firsts). Calhoun took part in pregame activities, though, and expects to return Tuesday. He could be used as a pinch-hitter on Monday if needed, too.
- Remember that Prince Fielder bunt against the Angels in Spring Training? Yeah, that won’t happen again. The Angels will have David Freese on the left side of the infield when he comes to bat tonight in case he tries it again. Freese will then move to where the shortstop is situated on two-strike counts.
- Asked if Tuesday’s start for Triple-A Salt Lake will be Garrett Richards‘ last one before returning to the rotation, Scioscia said “possibly.” “We’re definitely going to err on the side of caution,” Scioscia added. “But if a guy is down there wasting pitches, you don’t want to get in that scenario. We’ll balance it out, see where Garrett is, get information from our medical staff and from our Triple-A staff and see where he is.”
- Mike Trout didn’t hear from anybody on the Royals after his brief dust-up with Yordano Ventura on Sunday. “It was just one of those things,” Trout said. “I was playing my game. I hit a single, and things got a little chippy.”
The Angels just got swept! At home! To the team that swept them last October! And now they’re under .500! Another slow start! Why, God, why!?
Perspective is an invaluable trait this time of year. Six games have been played, which accounts for 3.09 percent of the regular season. Teams will get hot, then cold, then hot, then cold again. The season is that long. And the hope of every club, as Angels catcher Chris Iannetta likes to frequently point out, is to stay within reach for most of the year and get hot late. That’s what the 2014 Angels did, on their way to a Major League-best 98 wins. That’s what the 2015 Angels hope to do, at 2-4 entering a six-game road trip through Arlington and Houston.
Here are some takeaways from the first full week of real games …
Hamilton situation is getting ugly: For a while now, people around the team had been getting the impression that there was a strong chance Josh Hamilton would never play a game for the Angels again. Those sentiments were essentially confirmed on Friday, when owner Arte Moreno couldn’t guarantee that Hamilton would rejoin the team and talked about pursuing action against the high-priced outfielder for his drug-related relapse. Nobody from Hamilton’s camp — himself or his agent — has spoken up. But on Saturday, Angels starter C.J. Wilson expressed displeasure in the Angels’ comments, telling the LA Times, “It doesn’t seem like any bridges are being built,” and telling the OC Register, “If Josh was hitting .300 with 35 home runs a year, what’s the situation?”
From the outside, it seems as if this whole Hamilton saga — however it ends — is a huge distraction for the team, one that has divided the players from ownership. Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t think Wilson’s anger is necessarily felt by the rest of his teammates. They all love Hamilton as a person — how can you not? — but it’s not as if they’re clamoring to get him back, or are upset he isn’t being given a second chance. Sad as this may sound, it all comes back to production, and Hamilton hasn’t produced for them the last two years. Wilson is closer to Hamilton than anybody on the Angels, dating back to their days with the Rangers. He looks at it a little bit more personally. The rest of the team pretty much looks at it like this: We hope the best for Hamilton and his family off the field, but on the field, we’re fine without him.
That doesn’t mean this isn’t a contentious situation, however. Moreno clearly wants to negotiate some sort of buyout or trade here, but this could be a long, drawn-out battle. Hamilton is owed — no, guaranteed — $83 million through the 2017 season. So why would he take a penny less? Perhaps so he could join another team to continue his career, since Moreno has pretty much made it clear it won’t happen with the Angels. But how much is that worth, in terms of a discount for the Angels? Over the weekend, the Angels are in Houston, the city where Hamilton has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery since early February. The team doesn’t expect to see him. It’s awkward.
Weaver shaky: In his first two starts of the season, Jered Weaver has given up 10 runs on 15 hits (three of them homers) in 10 1/3 innings, prompting the national freakout that has pretty much become an April tradition. His velocity is down again, which is perhaps of most relevance. It’s 84.01 mph on his fastball, after being 87.5 mph in 2014, 87.3 mph in 2013, 88.7 mph in 2012 and 90.1 mph in 2011. Weaver has proven time and time again that he doesn’t need an overpowering fastball to be a reliable, top-of-the-rotation starter. And as Eric Hosmer pointed out to Lyle Spencer after Weaver’s rough start on Saturday, Weaver’s fastball plays up because of his length and delivery (even to a left-handed hitter, apparently).
The only thing you typically care about with Weaver — and the reason being three ticks down is a red flag — is that his right arm is healthy. He started slow last year, too, with a 5.79 ERA after three starts. And eventually he figured it out and turned in a very solid year. His velocity may not be debilitating, but it makes him have to be almost precise with his location and command. And because his delivery has so many moving parts, sometimes it takes him a while to get everything in sync with his release point and his landing leg. Eventually, though, he gets it. And when he does, his fastball velocity picks up a tick or two, like it did down the stretch last season. But the velo has never been as low as it has these last two starts. It’s worth monitoring.
Punchless out of the gate: So far, the same Angels offense that led the Majors in runs last season is 25th in the Majors in OPS (.577), tied for 25th in runs (16) and tied for 28th in batting average (.195). They have four hits in 23 at-bats with runners in scoring position and they haven’t stolen a single base. C.J. Cron is 0-for-13 after a hot spring, while Iannetta is 1-for-18 with 10 — yes, 10 — strikeouts. But hey, it’s really, really early. The Nationals have scored only 13 runs all year, and they’re going to be a juggernaut. The Angels’ offense should eventually be pretty darn good, too. A little slump coming out of spring is nothing six games in Texas can’t fix.
Reinforcements on the way: One aspect that was continually touted about the Angels heading in was their improved starting-pitching depth, and how they were no longer in deep trouble if one of their original five — or in this case, four — struggled. We may see that materialize pretty soon. Garrett Richards is slated for what very well could be his final step on Tuesday, a rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake, and could return to the rotation by early next week. And the two rotation candidates of Spring Training, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano, have thrown well in Triple-A. Heaney pitched seven shutout innings, giving up two hits, walking none and striking out eight. Tropeano pitched six innings of three-run ball, giving up two hits, walking none and striking out seven.
On the Major League side, Wilson was great on Tuesday (eight shutout innings with less than 100 pitches), but really bad on Sunday (seven runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings). Hector Santiago pitched well in Friday’s home opener, but he needed 100 pitches to record 16 outs. The Angels’ ideal pitching staff has Santiago in the bullpen as a dynamic lefty weapon, but that will only be the case if Heaney or Tropeano force their way into the big leagues. They need to prove that with more than one start.
Matchup bullpen taking shape: So far, though, their two current lefty relievers, Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez, are getting the job done. A real difference maker for the Angels this season is having Joe Smith and Huston Street entrenched as the eighth- and ninth-inning relievers. It not only solidifies the last six outs of a lead; it gives Mike Scioscia the freedom to match up in the seventh or earlier. That’s when Ramos and Alvarez can come into play against lefties, with Mike Morin being the go-to guy against righties. The two have combined to hold lefties to two hits and no walks in nine at-bats, striking out three. Neither are traditional lefty specialists. Alvarez is a last-minute converted starter; Ramos has been used mainly in multi-inning roles throughout his career. But it’d be big for the Angels if they can be effective against lefties. There are a lot of dangerous left-handed hitters in the American League West.