Cory Rasmus, an ideal candidate to crack the Angels’ bullpen out of Spring Training, has a core injury that will require surgery and will put him out six to eight weeks.
The Angels didn’t go into specifics about what the injury was, exactly. Mike Scioscia said Rasmus was been dealing with it on and off for the last couple of years, “But it just got to a point where it was affecting what he needed to do.” Rasmus will have the surgery Tuesday in Tempe, Ariz. He can activate his arm in the next three to four weeks, “But certainly nothing aggressive for six weeks,” Scioscia said.
Rasmus, acquired from the Braves for Scott Downs in July 2013, posted a 2.57 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 30 appearances for the Angels last year, striking out 9.2 batters per nine innings. The 27-year-old right-hander was critical in September, providing multiple innings on bullpen games whenever Garrett Richards‘ turn came up.
Two bullpen spots are open, though Vinnie Pestano looks like an ideal candidate for one of them. The only other relievers left in camp are Matt Lindstrom, Ryan Mattheus, Cam Bedrosian and Scott Snodgress. Scioscia mentioned starters Drew Rucinski and Jose Alvarez as candidates to provide length out of the bullpen, which would keep Cesar Ramos in the role of a quasi-lefty specialist.
“It definitely opens up a void,” Scioscia said of Rasmus’ injury. “Cory was a guy that we felt pitched in a variety of roles for us last year, and I think he gained a lot of confidence from just getting those starts at the end of the season. We have some good arms. I think the depth is there. Obviously it’ll take one guy out of the picture in the short term.”
Some additional notes from the Angels …
- Johnny Giavotella, a strong candidate to be the Angels’ second baseman, underwent precautionary X-rays on his left thumb on Saturday morning after banging it on third base while sliding in for a triple on Friday night. Giavotella told the Angels he felt good enough to play on Saturday.
- Josh Rutledge hasn’t played since Tuesday a tight hamstring, but he’s expected to return to the lineup on Sunday.
We’ve reached the midway point of the Angels’ Cactus League schedule. Whether that came fast or slow is merely a matter of your own perspective. But we’re here. 14 down, 14 to go, with an off day (sort of) conveniently placed in the middle and the three-game, exhibition Freeway Series following the Angels’ stint in Arizona.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far …
Second base really is wide open: And I’m not really sure if that’s good. Thing is, none of the three candidates for the everyday role have really stuck out. Grant Green (7-for-23) hasn’t looked comfortable defensively, Josh Rutledge (7-for-31, eight strikeouts) hasn’t hit and Johnny Giavotella (5-for-20) hasn’t done anything to wow you on either end. One guy who has looked good to me is Taylor Featherston, who’s being groomed for the utility-infield job. I like his defense, I like his speed, and his bat may be starting to come around. But I view second base the same way I did at the start of camp: We’ll either see a lot of different guys play the position this year, or we’ll see the Angels go after someone (Chase Utley?).
The rotation order is not: It’s pretty clear that, barring injury, the Angels’ rotation will line up in this order to start the season: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Andrew Heaney. Yes, the fifth spot was deemed an open competition between Santiago, Heaney and Nick Tropeano, but here’s the thing: (1) Garrett Richards is pretty much guaranteed to start the season on the disabled list, because the Angels are being extra, extra cautious with his rehab, as expected; (2) with Richards on the DL, it’s senseless to have both Tropeano and Heaney in your rotation and Santiago in the ‘pen, as opposed to having Heaney or Tropeano in Triple-A, because it messes with your starting-pitching depth; (3) Heaney and Tropeano have been pitching on the same day, but Heaney started the first one, pitched the home half of a split squad in the second and will start against the Dodgers on Thursday, with Tropeano relegated to pitching in a “B” game. It’s Heaney’s spot to lose, and he’s done nothing to lose it thus far.
A big decision with Santiago awaits: Richards will be ready some time around the middle of April, if his rehab continues to go well. At that point, the Angels will have a big decision to make with Santiago, who has posted a 3.58 ERA in 106 games (51 starts) in the Majors the last three years. Do they keep him in the rotation and send Heaney (or Tropeano) to Triple-A? Do they move him to the bullpen, even though he seems somewhat redundant with Cesar Ramos (another lefty who pitches multiple innings and doesn’t profile as a left-on-left specialist)? Do they use him as trade bait? I can see any of those three scenarios taking place, but I’d be somewhat shocked if they sent him to Triple-A, like they did in May of last season.
The Angels will have two lineups: Assuming Rutledge gets the first crack at the second-base job (that’s what it’s looked like all along), this looks like the lineup against righties: Calhoun/Trout/Pujols/Joyce/Freese/Aybar/Cron/Iannetta/Rutledge. This looks like the one against lefties, on most days: Calhoun/Trout/Pujols/Freese/Aybar/Cron/Joyce/Iannetta/Rutledge. Mike Scioscia still needs to figure out how often he’ll use the right-handed-hitting Collin Cowgill to sit Matt Joyce against lefties, and whether he’ll have a left-handed bat to sit C.J. Cron against tough righties. And that brings me to my next point …
Efren Navarro looks like a good fit: I didn’t have Navarro in my projected Opening Day roster at the start of Cactus League games, mainly because I felt they’d keep Giavotella (out of options) to maintain as many options as possible for the second-base job. But Navarro looks like an ideal fit for the last bench spot. He’s a patient left-handed hitter who can sit Cron against tough righties, he plays great defense at first base and he’s more than adequate in the corner-outfield spots. Getting 10 hits in his first 26 at-bats hasn’t hurt, either.
Cory Rasmus won’t be a starting pitcher: Well, he won’t be in the traditional sense. Scioscia said recently that Rasmus won’t be stretched out to the 100-, 110-pitch range, but will still be stretched out somewhat in case the Angels need some length. This only validates what I anticipated all along: Rasmus will crack the Opening Day bullpen as a long reliever, basically being used in the same role he pitched in down the stretch last year. It’s a nice role for him.
Mike Trout is really good: He has 12 hits in his first 22 at-bats, and three of them have gone over fences. He also has the same amount of strikeouts as he has stolen bases (3). What else do you want?
Albert Pujols looks good: Several members of the Angels feel Pujols is poised for an even better year now that he’s even healthier in his lower half, and he’s looked good so far, going 8-for-25 and hitting the ball hard to right-center field. The latter is key for him.
David Freese is going to be really important: I think he’s the Angels’ most important everyday player, because they’ll be counting on him to provide additional pop in the middle with Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton not there and because he’ll probably be playing all nine innings now that the Angels don’t have a natural defensive sub. Of the four second base/utility infield candidates, Featherston has looked the best at third, but he hasn’t played above Double-A, so I doubt the Angels will be putting him in games with a one-run lead in the ninth.
Richards still throws hard: Besides occasionally having a hard time burying the breaking ball, Richards’ stuff has looked about as explosive as it usually does this spring, which is a very good sign.
Cron looks good: Sometimes he’ll strikeout chasing the fastball up near his head. You’re going to get that with Cron, who chased the same percentage of pitches outside the strike zone as Hamilton last season. But Cron has also driven the ball well this spring, hitting long home runs to left and some well-struck doubles to right-center. If Freese is the No. 1 most important member of the lineup, Cron is 1B. He’s the wild card.
It’s Lindstrom’s job to lose: if Rasmus is in the Opening Day bullpen, then only one spot is open (the others go to Huston Street, Joe Smith, Mike Morin, Fernando Salas and Ramos). Matt Lindstrom looks like an ideal candidate for that final spot, because he still throws pretty hard (few others in the ‘pen do), has a good track record and is an XX(B) free agent, which means he has the right to opt out of his contract (or make an additional $100,000 as a retention bonus) if not on the Opening Day roster. But he has to earn it. And aside from giving up two runs on three hits on March 12 — while pitching in the inning when Will Ferrell played center field — Lindstrom has looked good. If Lindstrom doesn’t make it, I expect Vinnie Pestano to be in the ‘pen. Pestano has options, though.
Wednesday was only an off day on the schedule.
The Angels got a lot done at Tempe Diablo Stadium, playing an intrasquad game that featured five of the 12 guys projected to crack the Opening Day pitching staff.
Garrett Richards — in the late stages of his recovery from left knee surgery — threw 44 pitches in three shutout innings, giving up only one hit, walking none and striking out four. C.J. Wilson — scratched from his last two starts, first because he tweaked his left knee and then because he was sick on Tuesday — followed with a three-inning, 40-pitch, scoreless outing of his own.
Wilson is slated to start Sunday against the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz., on three days rest because Wednesday’s workload was like a power bullpen. He’ll have three Cactus League starts before likely taking the ball in the second game of the regular season.
Richards will pitch in a Minor League game on Monday, so this isn’t really the end of his rehab just yet.
Here’s what Richards had to say …
I wouldn’t say the end. I would say this was a big stepping stone in the process to getting back where I want to be. Everything went well today. I still treat this as a day-to-day thing. I can’t get too high on one performance and I can’t beat myself up on a bad one, either. My knee may feel good one day, it may feel a little sore the next day for whatever reason. But we regulate that in the morning whenever I get here. So as far as my workload goes on a day-to-day basis, it’s based on how I feel in the morning. But today went great, I felt good, and I felt like I could compete. I felt like I could go more than three innings today, so that felt good.
Matt Shoemaker also pitched, giving up two runs in five innings. So did veteran relievers Huston Street and Cesar Ramos. Joe Smith, who has pitched in only one Cactus League game because of tightness in his lower body early in camp, worked out in the morning.
Roberto Baldoquin played shortstop for one of the teams, and Arte Moreno and several of the Angels’ front office members were on hand.
This was no typical off day.
Rob Manfred couldn’t comment on Josh Hamilton‘s situation when asked about it from reporters at Dodgers camp on Monday morning. But Major League Baseball’s new Commissioner did state that he will be the one deciding on the length of a potential suspension from what sources say was a drug of abuse.
“I’m the decision maker on this one,” Manfred said.
The fact Hamilton is rehabbing from surgery on his right AC joint, and is in Houston rehabbing instead of being in Spring Training with the Angels, makes the timing of an eventual decision “a little more relaxed,” Manfred added.
Here’s the lineup against Hamilton’s former team, the Rangers …
Collin Cowgill, RF
Josh Rutledge, 3B
Matt Joyce, LF
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Efren Navarro, 1B
Taylor Featherston, SS
Johnny Giavotella, 2B
Daniel Robertson, CF
SP: RH Jered Weaver
Angels setup man Joe Smith will make his Cactus League debut on Monday, after taking his time to make sure he was fully recovered from lower leg stiffness. If he takes just one day off in between the rest of the spring, Smith would make 10 appearances (including Wednesday’s off day, which he’s slated to pitch in). Typically, Smith likes to make eight appearances to feel ready.
“My arm’s still in shape,” Smith said. “I’ve still obviously been doing stuff. It just hasn’t been on the mound or game related. I’m not worried about the time. I know my body’s ready. My leg’s feeling just like normal. It was just trying to get that tightness out.”
Some additional notes …
- The Angels made three more Spring Training cuts on Monday morning, with right-handed relievers Danny Reynolds, Jeremy McBryde and Frank Herrmann heading to Minor League camp.
- The Angels’ annual Prospect Game – which is, of course, an intrasquad game with all their prospects – will take place Wednesday, March 25, at Tempe Diablo Stadium at 6 p.m. MT. It’s open to the public.
- Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus are also slated to pitch today. Mike Scioscia said Rasmus won’t be stretched out to the 100-pitch range this spring, so he won’t be treated as a traditional starter, but they’re making sure he has his length in case they need him for the rotation. I expect him to be in the bullpen as a long reliever to start the season.
- Hector Santiago felt good a day after getting hit by a comebacker on the inside of his left forearm on Sunday, and Scioscia said he’ll throw his normal between-starts bullpen in anticipation of starting again on Friday.
After Thursday’s Will Ferrell extravaganza, the Angels could finally get back to normal on Friday … right?
“Billy Crystal‘s coming today, he’s going to play shortstop,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia joked.
Here’s the lineup on a day when most everyday players were off, as expected …
Collin Cowgill, CF
Efren Navarro, RF
Matt Joyce, DH
C.J. Cron, 1B
Chris Iannetta, C
Josh Rutledge, SS
Grant Green, 3B
Marc Krauss, LF
Alex Yarbrough, 2B
SP: RH Matt Shoemaker
- Roberto Baldoquin is finally in Arizona after getting all his visa issues in order and is expected to work out in Minor League camp when they start full workouts Saturday. Right on time, despite all the headaches.
- Joyce is back in the lineup after getting scratched on Thursday with some tightness in his hamstring. He missed two days earlier in camp with some soreness in his right side.
- Garrett Richards is slated to get off a mound and do some PFP work on Friday. His first Cactus League start is tentatively scheduled for March 23 against the Mariners. The 26-year-old right-hander will have to face hitters in a controlled environment before then, likely in the off day on Wednesday (along with Shoemaker).
- Joe Smith expects to make his Cactus League debut either Sunday or Monday. The Angels’ setup man typically only needs eight appearances to be ready for the regular season, so he has time.
- C.J. Wilson, scratched from his Thursday start after tweaking his left knee, is still on track to start Tuesday.
- Padres lineup here.
Will Ferrell took Mike Trout‘s glove and position, held up giant signs while coaching third base and struck out against a former Major League pitcher. It was an eventful day at Tempe Diablo Stadium, where professional baseball was also played.
Most important thing: Trout was on point, before and after being subbed out by Will Ferrell in center field. He went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored, also drawing a walk and picking up a stolen base. His Cactus League batting average is now at .500.
Second-most important thing: Sean Newcomb couldn’t finish his inning, giving up two runs on three hits and a walk and recording only two outs in the first. He topped out at 95 and broke a few bats; he just didn’t have much luck.
Third-most important thing: Bullpen candidates Matt Lindstrom and Frank Herrmann combined to give up six runs on seven hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. “Matt just missed with a couple pitches; his stuff is good and he’s having a good spring” Mike Scioscia said. “Herrmann was just missing with some pitches; got into bad counts. But both their arms are good.”
Fourth-most important thing: Albert Pujols, C.J. Cron, Collin Cowgill and Drew Butera each had two-hit games. Cron and Butera (!) homered.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Erick Aybar dove full extension to his right to snag a Mike Olt liner in the first.
Quotable: Zach Stewart, on coming in to face Ferrell: “He’s a menacing figure at the plate, so I knew I had to bring my best stuff to get him out.”
Taco Power Rankings: 1. Los Taquitos, 2. The Mission, 3. El Hefe, 4. Tortas El Rey, 5. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 6. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 7. Comedor Guadelajara, 8. Senor Taco, 9. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 10. Poliberto’s Taco Shop, 11. Salty Senorita
C.J. Wilson was supposed to start today, but he tweaked his left knee during a PFP drill and decided to take some time off. The Angels’ left-hander got a precautionary MRI that checked out fine. He’s slated to throw a bullpen session on Saturday and then take his next turn on Tuesday.
The lineups for Will Ferrell Day …
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, LF
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
Drew Butera, C
Josh Rutledge, 2B
SP: LH Sean Newcomb
- Newcomb won’t pitch that much. He’ll throw the first inning, then perhaps face a batter or two in the second. The 21-year-old left-hander, drafted 15th overall last June, will get stretched out in Minor League camp later in spring.
- Matt Lindstrom, Cesar Ramos, Ryan Mattheus and Frank Herrmann are among those also slated to pitch.
- Garrett Richards is tentatively slated to pitch in another two-inning simulated game over the weekend, this time with pitchers’ fielding practice mixed in, and then he’ll be ready to pitch in his first Cactus League game perhaps middle or late next week. Mike Scioscia said he’ll probably only just throw one inning in his first game. “Some parts of it he’s moving into more of a Spring Training environment, but that part of it is definitely something you want to watch closely,” Scioscia said.
- Huston Street is back with the team after getting sick right before game time Tuesday and staying in his room on Wednesday. He’ll throw a bullpen session on Saturday and expects to pitch in a game on Sunday.
- Joe Smith has yet to appear in his first Spring Training game because of lower leg stiffness. He said if it were the regular season, he would’ve only missed a couple days. “It’s just one of those things early in spring, they just wanted me out there with nothing,” Smith said. He should pitch in the next couple days. He’s got plenty of time to be ready for the season. “I think I’m still loose from last year.”
- The overwhelming favorite Will Ferrell movie in the Angels clubhouse is “Step Brothers.” Calhoun said he watched it three times in theaters, twice on DVD. “It’s one of those movies that get funnier every time you watch it.” Most of the guys were bummed that they may not get much time with him, since he’s hitting up five different games.
- The Angels completed their annual, Spring Training toy drive, raising $5,000 to purchase toys that will be donated to Children’s First Academy. Sherman Johnson was in charge of collecting money and purchasing the toys this year.
- Cubs lineup is here.
Most important thing: While giving up three runs on five hits and two walks in three-plus innings, Jered Weaver sat mostly 83-84 mph with his fastball, which is slow even by his standards. His average fastball velocity was 86.8 mph last year. But he usually doesn’t go full intensity until the end of Spring Training, so probably nothing to be alarmed about right now. Weaver has done pretty darn well without much velocity.
Second-most important thing: Matt Joyce went 2-for-3 to put his Cactus League batting average at .500. More importantly, one of those hits came off a lefty, a line-drive, opposite field single off D-backs starter Robbie Ray. If Joyce wants to start against lefties, and not get benched by Collin Cowgill in those situations, he’ll have to show he’s comfortable against them this spring.
Third-most important thing: Grant Green booted a routine grounder at second base and also couldn’t stop a short-hop throw from catcher Chris Iannetta, allowing the runner to take an extra base. Normally that’s no big deal this time of year, but Green can’t have these defensive issues if he wants to win the job as an everyday second baseman.
Fourth-most important thing: Albert Pujols went 1-for-3 with a hard lineout to first base and is batting .462 this spring. The Angels’ first baseman has hit at least .321 in Spring Training each of the last three years.
Fifth-most important thing: Jeremy McBryde, given a spot on the 40-man roster this offseason, gave up two unearned runs in the eighth inning and has allowed six runs four earned) on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings thus far.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Collin Cowgill made a nice diving catch on a sinking liner by Tuffy Gosewisch in the second inning.
Quotable: Mike Scioscia, when asked if Garrett Richards did his PFP at full intensity today: “For what he has, it’s enough. … He was never a burner anyway.”
Angels starter C.J. Wilson has been scratched from his scheduled Thursday start against the Cubs after tweaking his left knee during pitchers’ fielding practice a couple days ago, Mike Scioscia said. Sean Newcomb, the 21-year-old left-hander who was drafted 15th overall last June, will start in his place.
Wilson didn’t take part in agility drills with his teammates Wednesday morning, but did play catch.
Scioscia said Wilson is “fine; we just want to give him a couple days to get over it.” The Angels’ manager isn’t concerned about this holding him back in spring.
“I think [pitching coach Mike Butcher] has a flexible program of where these guys need to be and they start early enough to where you can absorb a little bump like this,” Scioscia said. “We can even push him back a full five days and he’ll be OK.”
Here’s Wednesday’s lineup against the D-backs, which is their first time facing a lefty starter (Robbie Ray) this spring …
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
Matt Joyce, DH
Collin Cowgill, LF
Grant Green, 2B
SP: RH Jered Weaver
- This could very well be the Angels’ lineup against lefties, particularly with Freese at the cleanup spot and Joyce moved down to seventh. Scioscia said he’d like to get righties Cowgill and C.J. Cron at-bats against lefties, so Joyce could sit against some tough lefties. It’ll be up to him. His playing time against lefties could hinge largely on how he handles them this spring. “We’ll see how Matty handles it,” Scioscia said. “When he’s going well, you don’t want to take him out just because there’s two lefties in a row. You don’t want him sitting down for two days.”
- Closer Huston Street is not with the team today. He started feeling really sick right before game time on Tuesday, was scratched from his scheduled appearance and stayed back Wednesday, recovering.
- Setup man Joe Smith has yet to appear in his first game because of some “lower leg stiffness.” He was slated to throw a bullpen session on Thursday and should pitch in the next three to four days, Scioscia said.
- Here is the D-backs lineup (no Mark Trumbo).
The Angels will pass on Jake Locker, thank you very much.
Locker, still only 26, announced his retirement from an injury-plagued career as an NFL quarterback on Tuesday. The Angels selected Locker in the 10th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, signing the two-sport star for $300,000 even though he was focused primarily on football because they’d hold his rights as a baseball player until August 2015.
But Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who didn’t arrive until November 2011, doesn’t see a fit.
“We’re not interested in him as a baseball player,” Dipoto said. “We’re going to focus on the guys we have. We have enough going on.”
Locker was a star pitcher, outfielder, quarterback and defensive back at Farndale High School in Washington. The Angels originally drafted him in the 40th round in ’06, but Locker didn’t sign so he could play quarterback at the University of Washington. They drafted him again three years later, even though Locker hadn’t played baseball regularly since high school.
Locker considered baseball merely as a fallback option, so remained in college for two more seasons, was drafted eighth overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2011, started only 12 games from 2013-14 and hung it up while in the early stages of free agency.
The Angels signed Locker under former GM Tony Reagins, while Dipoto was working in the D-backs’ front office.
“I knew his background only because he was a baseball prospect, football guy,” Dipoto said. “We weren’t really on him when I was in Arizona. Generally with the two-sport guys who we don’t think have interest in being a baseball player we don’t waste our time.”