Jerry Dipoto’s seat in the Angels’ Draft room was situated right next to Kathy Mair, who was responsible for phoning each of the team’s selection to Major League Baseball. Every time a pick was ready, a tag with the amateur player’s name would sit right next to Dipoto, ready for Mair to read out with the next pick.
When it came time for Mair to call in the Angels’ 38th-round selection, though, the tag was missing.
“They hid it from my view so I couldn’t know what they were doing, then they called the name,” Dipoto said. “Then the whole room erupted. It was pretty cool.”
The Angels had just drafted Jonah Dipoto, a right-handed pitcher out of nearby Newport Harbor High School and, yes, the teenage son of the Angels’ general manager.
Over the last year and a half, Jonah played for multiple scout teams, including the Angels’, so the organization’s scouts were very familiar with him. They liked how he was progressing. And even though they knew he wouldn’t sign – Jonah is committed to UC San Diego, where he’ll be a two-way player – they wanted to select him anyway, as a reward for how far he’s come and some added encouragement in his development.
Angels scouting director Ric Wilson asked Dipoto if he’d be OK with it a week ago, and the Angels’ GM rejected the idea because he didn’t want to take an opportunity away from someone else. During Wednesday’s lunch break, Wilson insisted, saying that area scout Rob Wilfong really liked Jonah and that selecting him wouldn’t interfere with anything else.
So, Dipoto relented.
A few minutes later, he heard his son get selected with the 1,155th overall selection.
“I will admit,” Dipoto said, “it was a great moment for me, a great moment for Jonah, and I hope we have the opportunity to do it again in another three years.”
After Dipoto exchanged hugs and handshakes with the room, Wilson asked the logical question: “Who’s calling Jonah?”
“Well I’m not calling him,” Dipoto said.
Wilfong made the call, just like he would’ve for any Southern California amateur, and Jonah let it go to voicemail. He was busy taking batting practice.
“He worked his tail off all spring long and he has for the last couple years, and I didn’t want to rob him of the opportunity to hear his name called on Draft day because I felt weird about it,” Dipoto said. “He earned his chance, and like a lot of the kids he played with over the summer – got drafted today at some point and will not sign; they’ll go off to college – he’s just one of the guys in that regard. He just happens to have been picked by the team where his dad is the GM.”
The Angels entered the 2015 Draft targeting bats and have stuck to the script through the first two days, taking a position player with eight of their first 10 picks after wrapping up on Tuesday.
The Draft concludes Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 9 a.m. PT. The Angels took Texas A&M right-hander Grayson Long, Florida Atlantic University right fielder Brendon Sanger and Louisiana State University right fielder Jared Foster in Rounds 3-5 earlier on Tuesday, respectively.
Below is a look at their picks from Rounds 6-10.
Round 6 (195): Loyola Marymount University SS David Fletcher
Fletcher, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, is undersized but is considered a plus defensive player who makes a lot of contact, can get on-base and could eventually become a utility infielder in the Major Leagues. The 21-year-old right-handed hitter batted .308/.385/.416 with two homers, 27 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 55 games.
Round 7 (225): Pepperdine University 2B Hutton Moyer
Son of long-time starting pitcher Jamie Moyer, and brother of Dodgers farmhand Dillon Moyer, Hutton is a junior who learned to switch hit early in his high-school career and saw a huge rise in power this past season. Hutton batted .295/.413/.564 and hit 14 homers, after not hitting any as a sophomore.
Round 8 (255): University of Houston CF Kyle Survance
A left-handed hitter who’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Survance has plus speed that should allow him to stick in center field. But he still has improvements to make both offensively and defensively. The 21-year-old batted .297 with a .385 on-base percentage in his junior year, with eight doubles, six triples, two homers and, for the second year in a row, 31 stolen bases.
Round 9 (285): University of Nebraska-Lincoln C Tanner Lubach
Lubach is the second catcher taken within the Angels’ first eight picks, joining 26th overall selection Taylor Ward. The 22-year-old Lubach is a right-handed-hitting senior who finished his collegiate career batting .312/.375/.441 with four homers and 26 RBIs in 51 games (49 starts).
Round 10 (315): California Baptist University RHP Adam Hofacket
Hofacket, a junior, is a consistent strike-thrower with a deceptive delivery and is expected to be tried as a starting pitcher. The 21-year-old went 7-5 with a 2.26 ERA in 14 starts this past season, striking out 98 batters and walking only 20 in 103 1/3 innings.
The Angels’ seventh-round pick carried a familiar ring to it. It was Hutton Moyer, a junior second baseman from Pepperdine University and also the son of longtime Major League pitcher Jamie Moyer. The elder Moyer spoke about his son shortly after the Angels selected him. Below are the highlights.
On the emotions of seeing his son get drafted …
I’m very happy and excited for him to get an opportunity to play professional baseball. This is something he’s dreamt of doing, and his brother [Dillon] is doing it right now in the Dodgers organization. Hopefully he’s going to get that chance. He’s going to figure out what he needs to do here to sign with the Angels, and get the opportunity to start his professional career. That part of it hasn’t been worked out yet, but hopefully it’ll be an easy process for him and he can move forward with his aspirations.
On Hutton’s eagerness to sign …
That’s going to be his decision. We’re going to support him with whatever he needs to do. I know his degree is important to him, but I also do know that the opportunity to play baseball is something he’s looked forward to, as well. He’s grown up with it, obviously, being in the clubhouse and being around players. He’s very comfortable in that situation. He knows the game, he loves the game, he’s got a passion for the game. You hear people talk about basketball players being gym rats, and he would be a baseball-field rat as far as I’m concerned. Both of my boys are. They really enjoy being around the game.
On what kind of player he is …
I know this year he really came along with his bat, with the power he showed. I think he had no home runs last year and he hit 14 home runs this year. … He’s put on some strength and he’s put on some weight, he’s a student of the game, he works at the game. His speed, I would say, is a little bit above average. I was impressed with his power. The amount of home runs that he hit this year really impressed me. And on the offensive side, the thing that impressed me the most is that when he was in his freshman or sophomore year in high school, he decided he was going to be a switch-hitter, and he did it. Of the 14 home runs he hit this year, I think nine were left-handed and five were right-handed. His naturally side is right-handed, but obviously being in the game of baseball you see more right-handed pitching than you do left-handed pitching, so I think he had more opportunities from the left side. That will help him in the pro game, being a switch-hitter.
On how often his sons tagged only in the Majors …
In Spring Training, they lived in the clubhouse. After our workouts, they’d take groundball after groundball, and we’d hit buckets of groundballs. During the season, when they could be around they were in the clubhouse. I can tell you this – when I was with the Phillies, when we clinched our division, when we clinched the league championship, when we clinched the World Series, they were in uniform, in the dugout, as the last out was made and on the field with my teammates celebrating. Those experiences that I’ve been able to share with my boys, on the field, that part of it, is something that we will always have together, as a father and son. They’ve seen what that takes. They’ve seen the excitement, they’ve seen the ups, they’ve seen the downs, and I think that’s one thing our boys will benefit from.
On why his sons weren’t pitchers …
Being right-handed, I realized that if they didn’t do anything special as a pitcher, they were not going to get an opportunity to play beyond high school or college. And being right-handed, right-handers are a dime a dozen. If you don’t throw 95 in today’s game, nobody barely gives you a second luck. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way the game has gone. I’m not bitter about it; it’s a fact. The other part of it, too, is that we always felt that they would always be compared to me. We kind of looked at that as being a little unfair, because Dillon is Dillon and Hutton is Hutton. They have to create who they are, and being position players they’re able to do that.”
The Angels took a couple of outfielders and their first starting pitcher to kick off Day 2 of the 2015 Draft on Tuesday, after taking Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward and high-school outfielder Jahmai Jones on Monday night.
The Angels will make five more picks on Day 2, thru Round 10. The Draft then concludes Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 9 a.m. PT.
Below is a look at the Angels’ picks from rounds three to five.
Round 3 (104): Texas A&M RHP Grayson Long
Long finished his junior year 9-1 with a 2.82 ERA in 17 starts for the Aggies, striking out 106 batters and walking 39 in 95 2/3 innings. He’s a big-body right-hander, at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, and has easy velocity with a fastball that ranges from 89 to 93 mph. Long also has good deception with his changeup, but needs to improve on a slider that’s thrown mostly in the low 80s.
A Houston product, Long was drafted in the 39th round by the Mariners in 2012 but chose to attend Texas A&M, where he went 4-2 with a 3.52 ERA in 12 games (10 starts) as a freshman and 6-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 15 starts as a sophomore. Long’s Aggies were eliminated by TCU in the Super Regional on Monday night, after dropping the decisive game to TCU in 16 innings.
Round 4 (135): Florida Atlantic University RF Brendon Sanger
Sanger, listed at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, was the Conference USA Player of the Year as a junior, batting .370/.492/.583 with seven homers and 48 RBIs in 61 games. He’s a left-handed hitter with a funky setup but high on-base ability, as evidenced by his 112 walks and 83 strikeouts in his three-year college career.
Sanger, a product of South Florida, doesn’t have any plus tools aside from his on-base ability, but he’s the kind of safe bet the Angels need in a system devoid of outfield talent. The 21-year-old will probably eventually have to move to left field and is projected mostly as a fourth outfielder in the Major Leagues.
Round 5 (165): Louisiana State University RF Jared Foster
Foster also played quarterback at LSU and is considered a very good athlete, with the versatility to potentially play all three outfield spots and perhaps even second base. Listed at six feet, 200 pounds, Foster finished his senior year with the Tigers batting .284/.339/.498, with nine homers, 34 RBIs and nine stolen bases.
The 22-year-old right-handed hitter is a Lake Charles, La., product who turned down scholarship offers at other Southeastern Conference schools to walk on to the football and baseball programs at LSU. Foster was the backup quarterback on the 2011 SEC champion football team, then decided to devote his full attention to baseball the following spring.
Major League Baseball has had a difficult time luring African-American players away from basketball or football over the last few decades. But Jahmai Jones, the high-school outfielder the Angels drafted in the second round of the 2015 Draft, personified an encouraging sign.
Jones’ family lives and breathes football. His late father, Andre Jones, was a linebacker on the national championship-winning Notre Dame team in 1988. His older brother, T.J. Jones, is currently a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions.
But after two years as a slot receiver at Wesleyan High School in Norcross, Ga., the younger Jones decided he would steer his speed and athleticism stricly towards baseball.
“It was a very tough decision because my bloodlines scream football,” Jones said on a conference call Monday night. “It was almost abnormal not to play football in our family. You’d wake up on Saturday mornings and go play football in the backyard, not baseball. But it came down to a decision where I just wanted to do what I love. Football was a hobby and kind of a leisure activity that I played just to stay in shape for baseball. Baseball came around, and I knew that was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
The Angels drafted Jones 70th overall, moments after selecting Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward with the 26th pick, to cap Day 1. The Draft continues with Rounds 3-10 on Tuesday, with the MLB.com preview show starting at 9:30 a.m. PT and exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 10 a.m.
Jones was a middle infielder in his freshman and sophomore year, but was told his speed would play better in the outfield the summer before his junior season and moved primarily to center field for his final two years of high school.
Jones is listed at 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, and MLB.com’s Draft experts say he has quick hands, a smooth swing and a line-drive approach that help generate a lot of contact.
Asked what he liked about Jones, Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said: “His athleticism, the power, the strength – just the whole package.”
“For as young as he is, he’s pretty advanced,” Wilson added. “Don’t get me wrong; there’s some work to be done. But he’s got bat speed, he’s got strength, he’s got instincts in the outfield, he can throw the ball. It’s just what we were looking for. We truly needed some athleticism and some upside.”
Jones was committed to the University of North Carolina, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be going there.
“Don’t get me wrong, the University of North Carolina is a great school and I was really excited to go to college, but at the end of the day, my heart’s sold on baseball,” said Jones, a Perfect Game First-Team All-American this season. “I’m just really excited to be on a team, and hopefully in a couple weeks I’m out there in California playing.”
The Orioles had just announced the 25th overall pick and the MLB Network cameras immediately cut to a large gathering of Angels executives and scouts who were suddenly on the clock. Jubilation quickly filled the room. Arms were thrust in the air, high-fives were dispersed and a smattering of applause could be heard because one of the Angels’ prime targets, Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward, had fallen into their laps.
“As the day unwound, we were getting indications that he might go a few picks in front of us to a few teams,” Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said on a conference call. “When Baltimore took their pick, obviously we had ours, and that’s what you saw. What we were trying to do was coming to light.”
The Angels wanted Ward, so they took him 26th overall, higher than any catcher they’ve selected in nine years and higher than any Draft experts expected. MLB.com ranked Ward 99th overall and fifth among catchers heading into the Draft, but the Angels were a lot higher on him than that.
“It doesn’t bother me where other people have him,” Wilson said of Ward, a junior who previously attended Shadow Hills High School in Indio, Calif. “They have no idea what our dynamics are, and everybody sees people differently. Without being inside and knowing what we’re trying to do, it’s easy to say things like that. But we’re more than happy, actually elated, to have Taylor.”
Later in the day, the Angels took speedy, athletic high-school outfielder Jahmai Jones with their second-round pick, 70th overall. The Draft continues with Rounds 3-10 on Tuesday, with the MLB.com preview show starting at 9:30 a.m. PT and exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 10 a.m.
Ward is the seventh catcher the Angels have taken in the first round, joining Hank Conger (25th overall in 2006), Jeff Mathis (33rd, ’01), John Orton (25th, 1987), Erik Pappas (sixth, ’84), Danny Godwin (first, ’75) and Mike Nunn (ninth, ’67).
The slot value for the Angels’ first-round pick is $2,034,500, and Ward said he’s “very motivated to get going” with the Angels.
“I am surprised,” Ward said of getting picked so high. “There were indications that it was going to be right in that area. Teams were in need of a catcher and the Angels were a team for me. I’m glad that they took me.”
Wilson projects Ward to be ready by 2018 and believes he can be “a .250, .255 hitter, maybe 12- to 15-homer type.”
Defense is his biggest strength, offense is his greatest question.
“He’s got good size to him, he’s durable, he’s a got a well-above-average arm,” Wilson said. “He can really, really throw. When it’s all said and done, he’s going to be a premium defender; he’s going to be able to shut down the running game. He controls the staff, and he’s got some strength in his swing and controls the strike zone.”
Ward, 21, batted .304/.413/.486 with seven homers and 42 RBIs while throwing out 56.6 percent of would-be basestealers (13 of 23) and starting all 59 games this past season. For his three-year career at Fresno State, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound right-handed hitter batted .288 with 16 homers and 98 RBIs in 162 games, while throwing out 60 percent of would-be basestealers.
Ward was born in Dayton, Ohio, and resides in Oviedo, Fla. He led his high school team to a 20-5 record as a senior, was named the De Anza League’s Most Valuable Player as a junior and became the first athlete in Shadow Hills history to receive a Division-I scholarship.
The Rays initially drafted Ward in the 31st round in 2012.
Projected ahead of Ward by MLB.com this year were Tyler Stephenson of Kennesaw Mountain High School (ranked 18th), Chris Betts of Wilson High School (25th), Lucas Herbert of San Clemente High School (69th) and Austin Rei from the University of Washington (87th). Stephenson was taken 11th overall by the Reds, but Betts, Herbert and Rei were still on the board when the Angels drafted.
MLB.com’s Draft experts describe Ward as “primarily a catch-and-throw guy” with “tremendous arm strength,” though his other defensive skills are still lagging behind. Ward “has the tools to be a quality all-around receiver,” MLB.com’s Draft experts say, but the question is whether he’ll hit enough.
The Angels seemingly believe so.
The Draft starts today, and after going heavy-handed on pitching the last two years, the Angels are expected to target position players this time around. They — like any other team — want to set themselves up so that every time there’s a need on the Major League club, there’s a player in their farm system ready to take over. It’s too risky, not to mention expensive, to rely on the free-agent market to fill holes. Look no further than that brutal offseason heading into 2013, which saw the Angels sign Josh Hamilton, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett. Ouch.
The Cardinals are the gold standard when it comes to organizational depth, as evidenced by a Major League-leading plus-70 run-differential without Adam Wanwright or Matt Adams.
The Angels? Well, they’re working on it.
Their farm system was in need of a major replenishment right around the time Jerry Dipoto took over as general manager after the 2011 season, but major free-agent signings stripped the Angels of early-round picks and new CBA regulations limited how much teams can spend on amateur talent. It’s been a slow process. But over time, the Angels have at least done a good job of building some respectable starting-pitching depth. Some notables …
Triple-A: Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano
Double-A: Nate Smith, Kyle McGowin
Class A Advanced: Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis, Victor Alcantara
Class A: Jeremy Rhoades, Jake Jewell
Lower levels: Joe Gatto, Hunter Green
That brings us to the upcoming offseason, and why that starting-pitching depth could be so important. The Angels — losers of five straight games — could have up to five holes in their lineup once this season ends: catcher, second base, third base, left field, designated hitter. In the majority of those spots — perhaps all of them, if you’re being really cynical — the Angels don’t have players in their organization ready to come up and take over. And their big financial flexibility won’t come after the 2016 season, when C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver and Erick Aybar, among others, come off the books.
Dipoto, with a contract that carries a lingering club option for 2016, knows he’ll eventually have to part ways with some of the precious starting-pitching depth he’s worked so hard to compile. He may have to trade some of it within these next two months, with his club in desperate need of some offense. And he’s almost certain to do so over the winter, given all their upcoming needs.
Here’s a snapshot …
Current option: Chris Iannetta, in the final season of a three-year, $15.55 million extension
In-house replacement(s): Carlos Perez, Jett Bandy
Free-agent options: Iannetta, Alex Avila, John Jaso, Dioner Navarro, Jeff Mathis (!), Matt Wieters
Probable outcome: The rest of this season could play a big part in deciding how the Angels handle this position. They need to find out if Perez, basically a throw-in in the deal that sent Hank Conger to the Astros for Tropeano, is capable of being a semi-regular. Bandy has made some pretty big strides in the last year and is solid defensively, and that free-agent list is pretty compelling. But I’d guess that if the Angels splurge on a free agent, it’s an outfielder, not a catcher.
Current option: David Freese, making $6.425 million in his final arbitration year
In-house replacement(s): Kyle Kubitza
Free-agent options: Freese, Aramis Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Casey McGehee, Alberto Callaspo (!)
Probable outcome: The hope – the initial plan – is that Kubitza is ready to be the everyday third baseman in 2016. The likely scenario is that Kubitza is paired with a right-handed-hitting veteran who doesn’t mind sharing the job and can help Kubitza make the transition to the big leagues. I think it’s unlikely that they make a run at resigning Freese, especially since he’ll probably make good money given the lack of talent in the free-agent pool at third base.
Current option: Johnny Giavotella, controllable through 2019
In-house replacement(s): Giavotella, Josh Rutledge, Grant Green, Taylor Featherston, Alex Yarbrough
Free-agent options: Howie Kendrick (!), Ben Zobrist, Daniel Murphy
Probable outcome: Giavotella has been a revelation of sorts and is out of options. None of the other in-house options are all that appealing, as Spring Training might have shown, but the free-agent market isn’t deep here, either. The Angels don’t really do reunions, but Kendrick was huge for their lineup these last few years and he loves playing in Southern California. This is a position where they may ultimately have to get creative again.
Current option: Matt Joyce, making $4.75 million in his final arbitration year
In-house replacement(s): Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill, Efren Navarro, Alfredo Marte
Free-agent options: Joyce, Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward, Torii Hunter (!), David Murphy, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Shane Victorino
Probable outcome: As you can see, this is a major, major problem. Outfield is by far the Angels’ biggest organizationally need and they’ll most certainly have to get somebody from the outside. That may happen before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, though. Dipoto has been looking for a left-handed-hitting left fielder for quite a while, and for obvious reasons, he’d like to get someone who’s controllable beyond this season. Upton would be a very appealing option, though.
Current option: C.J. Cron, controllable through 2020
In-house replacement(s): Cron, Marc Krauss
Free-agent options: Chris Davis, Mike Napoli (!), Delmon Young
Probable outcome: This situation is strikingly similar to left field. For the last two years, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been scrounging for that ninth bat, going from Raul Ibanez to Cron to Navarro to Krauss to Green to Cron again. Most teams have this problem, though. Perhaps the Angels remain patient with Cron, but I see them getting two bats before August.
Can Albert Pujols tie, and perhaps pass, Mickey Mantle at his old stomping grounds?
Pujols, who tied Jimmie Foxx on Tuesday, enters the weekend series at Yankee Stadium — the new Yankee Stadium, of course — with 534 career home runs. Two more, and he ties Mantle for 16th on the all-time list. The Angels’ 35-year-old first baseman is batting .258 with 14 homers and 28 RBIs, and six of those homers have come over his last seven games.
“Every time Albert hits a home run, it’s kind of fun to just see what the notes say about who he’s catching,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s a Hall of Fame roster. If he catches Mickey Mantle in this park, that’d be a nice touch.”
- The Angels are shuffling the rotation once again. Matt Shoemaker will start Tuesday’s series opener against the Rays and Hector Santiago will be pushed back to start next Friday. The Angels were coming off an off day on Thursday and have another one Monday.
- Collin Cowgill (fractured left wrist) took some dry swings on Friday and will hit off a tee on Saturday. He’s feeling good, but is still weeks away and will have to eventually go on a rehab assignment.
- The same can be said about Mike Morin, who’s nursing a left oblique strain. Morin played light catch on Wednesday and Friday, but is still in the early stages of his throwing progression.
- Carlos Perez caught each of Jered Weaver‘s last five starts — five starts that has seen Weaver turn his season around with a 1.98 ERA. But Chris Iannetta was behind the plate on Friday (full lineup here).
The Angels continued to juggle their roster on Monday, selecting the contract of left-handed reliever Edgar Ibarra, sending corner outfielder Alfredo Marte back to Triple-A Salt Lake and designating center fielder Gary Brown for assignment.
With that, the Angels returned to the traditional 12-man pitching staff for Monday’s series opener against the Rays – partly because they used four relievers in Sunday’s win over the Tigers, partly because Albert Pujols returned to first base.
Pujols started the last two games at designated hitter while nursing a groin injury, but the 35-year-old was cleared to play the field pregame and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he “feels really good.”
Brown — a 26-year-old former first-round pick by the Giants — was selected off waivers from the Cardinals on April 22, but the Angels needed to designate him in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Ibarra.
Ibarra, signed to a Minor League contract in the offseason, gives the Angels three lefty relievers, along with Jose Alvarez and Cesar Ramos. Converted to the bullpen three years ago, Ibarra posted a 1.93 ERA in Double-A and Triple-A in 2013, then had a down year at those levels in 2014, compiling a 4.22 ERA, a 1.48 WHIP and a 2.07 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 40 appearances.
The Angels watched Ibarra struggle in Spring Training, then moved him to the other side of the rubber, saw his fastball play up and his slider improve, then watched it translate to the Pacific Coast League, where he posted a 2.25 ERA and struck out 29 batters in 24 innings.
Ibarra was informed of his first big league call up at 10:30 p.m. local time in Memphis, Tenn., on Sunday – in the final hours of his 26th birthday.
“Really happy to be here,” Ibarra said. “I was really surprised.”
- Mike Morin, nursing an oblique strain for the last eight days, continues to get treatment and should be playing catch by the end of this week. At that point, though, the 24-year-old right-hander will have to make an entire throwing progression and go out on a rehab assignment. Morin said “it’s just going to depend on how my body reacts day-to-day.”
- Right-handed reliever Cory Rasmus, in the late stages of his recovery from surgery to repair a core injury in March, was recently shut down from throwing to hitters in Arizona because of back stiffness. Scioscia said it wasn’t serious and Rasmus is back to throwing to hitters.
- Tyler Skaggs, who will spend the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, played catch from 150 feet on Monday and said it “went really well.” Rasmus will throw from that distance four days a week and plans to get off a mound in three weeks.
- The Angels hosted 1,900 at-risk students as part of an ongoing effort to keep children out of gangs. The kids – representing the largest group to attend an Angels game under the organization OC Grip – got the invitation as a reward for improved school attendance and behavior. Hector Santiago and Kole Calhoun were among the Angels members who spoke to them pregame.
Angels shortstop Erick Aybar was out of the starting lineup, as expected, on Friday, one day after tweaking his left hamstring while running up the first-base line.
Aybar felt just “a pinch” in his leg, and he hopes to return as early as Saturday.
“I woke up feeling better,” Aybar said in Spanish. “I won’t do anything today. Tomorrow, I’ll run. If I’m fine, I’ll just play tomorrow.”
Aybar’s absence prompted young utility infielder Taylor Featherston to start at shortstop and second baseman Johnny Giavotella to move into the leadoff spot.
Aybar, who started each of the Angels’ first 48 games at shortstop, suffered the hamstring injury after executing a squeeze bunt in Thursday’s fifth inning. He jogged back to the dugout gingerly and asked to return to the game, but Featherston took his place the next half-inning. He wanted to start Friday, but the Angels told him to take the day off entirely.
They’ll continue to be cautious.
“He has to get to a level the medical department is comfortable with before we consider working him out to see where he is and getting him into a game,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “… When he pulls up, you’re racing in your mind. ‘Is this something where he’s just going to have to come out for this game, or is it going to be a month?’ You just never know with hamstrings. It seems like we’re in the day-to-day range right now.”
The Angels’ offense – 22nd in the Majors in runs per game and 27th in OPS despite a 12-run output on Thursday – can ill afford to lose Aybar for an extended period. The 31-year-old switch-hitter has been hitting .351 since May 8 and had settled in as the Angels’ leadoff spot over the last 11 days.
Giavotella can continue to lead off in Aybar’s place, though Scioscia brought up the possibility of Kole Calhoun returning to the leadoff spot if the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce stays hot. Featherston will get the majority of playing time at shortstop while Aybar heals and Grant Green can also fill in.
If Aybar does go on the disabled list, the Angels would call up Josh Rutledge or Ryan Jackson from Triple-A.
Asked about the chances of that happening, Aybar said: “I feel good; I don’t think so. I can’t tell you for sure because it’s a hamstring. But I feel good, thankfully.”
- Matt Shoemaker, undrafted out of Eastern Michigan University seven years ago, had his own bobblehead giveaway at Angel Stadium on Friday. The 28-year-old right-hander called it “an honor. It’s really humbling and an honor at the same time to say, ‘Hey, they wanted to make a bobblehead out of you.’ Pretty special.”
- Right-handed reliever Chad Smith was claimed off waivers by the Marlins on Friday. The Angels signed Smith, 25, on May 8, then designated him for assignment on Wednesday to make room on the 40-man roster for outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
- Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher returned to the team on Friday, after taking a couple days off to be with his daughter while she graduated high school. Triple-A pitching coach Erik Bennett filled for Butcher.
- The organization will host 1,900 at-risk students at Angel Stadium on Monday, as part of an ongoing effort to keep children out of gangs. The kids got the invitation as a reward for improved school attendance and behavior and for staying out of gangs. It represents the largest group ever to attend an Orange County Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership (OC GRIP) Angels game.