Results tagged ‘ A.J. Schugel ’
Joe Blanton‘s next turn through the rotation will come on Saturday. Will he take the ball that day? Angels manager Mike Scioscia wouldn’t say on Monday night, after Blanton gave up four runs in a 3 2/3-inning outing to move to 2-13 with a 5.66 ERA — but he also didn’t say Blanton would make that start.
Here’s what we do know about that turn through the rotation …
1. Somebody has to take the ball. The Angels are four games into a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, so they need a fifth starter.
2. It won’t be Jason Vargas, who’s still recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot. He hopes to start throwing bullpens Tuesday or Wednesday and return two weeks later. And obviously, Jerome Williams is already in the rotation.
It’s easy to say Blanton is having a bad season — easily the worst of his career — and that he should be at least temporarily removed from the rotation. It’s a whole other thing to replace him. First off, I don’t think Blanton would be much help out of the bullpen. The best bet would be to get him to agree to go to the Minor Leagues to iron out some things and hopefully come back in mid- to late-August. And no, you don’t release him. He’s owed $7.5 million in 2014 (plus a team option for 2015), so it’d be senseless to just eat it and give up on him for next season.
But, of course, here’s the most important part: The options to replace Blanton are slim, at best.
Here they are, perceivably …
Garrett Richards: He hasn’t started a game since April 30. Heck, he hasn’t thrown more than 3 2/3 innings in that span. And he has a 4.92 ERA in 16 career starts.
Michael Roth: He was starting in the Minor Leagues, but that was a month ago — and, you know, this is his first full season of pro baseball. Roth was optioned after Monday’s game.
Billy Buckner: He’s probably the likeliest candidate, if there is one at all at this point. But since pitching 4 1/3 innings against the Cardinals on July 3, he’s pitched one inning. And he has a 6.41 ERA in 23 career Major League starts.
Someone in Triple-A: Matt Shoemaker (5.10 ERA), A.J. Schugel (7.05) and Barry Enright (7.13), Jarrett Grube (4.24) and Dustin Richardson (eight earned runs last time out) have all struggled.
Brandon Hynick: Never heard of him? Well, he’s a 28-year-old Minor League journeyman who’s having a nice season in Double-A — 2.68 ERA in 16 starts — so that’s good.
Mark Sappington: He’s probably the Angels’ best pitching prospect right now and he’s 10-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 20 starts this season. But, um, that’s in A ball.
See what I mean?
The reason is very, very simple: They’re still waiting for Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to get going.
The starting pitching (particularly Jason Vargas) has been much better. The bullpen (minus Ryan Madson) has some depth again. Mike Trout (.327/.409/.664 in May) has rounded into form. And several guys (Jered Weaver, Tommy Hanson, Kevin Jepsen, Sean Burnett, Peter Bourjos) have either made their way back or are seemingly on the brink.
But Pujols and Hamilton still haven’t hit full stride just yet. There have been times — Pujols’ four-hit, two-homer, 19-inning game on April 29; Hamilton’s four-hit game on April 22 — when you thought, “OK, here it comes.” And then they just go back to being, well, quite average.
When will it finally happen? And when it does — if it does — will it be too late?
Right now, neither Pujols (105th) nor Hamilton (141st) even rank in the top 100 in OPS in the Majors through the team’s first 57 games.
Pujols, with a .248/.320/.416 slash line, isn’t healthy. The plantar faciitis in his left foot and his surgically repaired right knee have prompted him to start 28 of his 55 starts at designated hitter and forced him out of the lineup on Friday. It’s a testament to his toughness that he’s even out there, frankly. But it’s hard to drive the ball with much force when your lower body ails like that, and we’re seeing it.
Hamilton, .216/.277/.380,can’t use injuries as an excuse. He just isn’t right; hasn’t been since the start of the season. He’s already struck out 61 times –on pace for a career-high 173 — and has yet to establish any sort of consistent rhythm.
You can lament the starting pitching acquisitions the Angels didn’t make, or pray Madson’s elbow fully heals, or even curse Mike Scioscia. But this is a team built around Pujols and Hamilton, the two big-ticket signings that brought with them championship aspirations.
Without them at their best, the Angels will go nowhere.
“Those two guys are critical for us,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’re seeing Albert hopefully start to get more comfortable. As his base, when he hits, feels stronger, you’re going to see him get where he needs to be. And Josh is really important to what we need to do. You have to keep playing ball, though. We just won eight in a row without those guys doing what they can do, so it’s not that your whole season is contingent on what those two guys can do. But they are really important to us, no doubt about that.”
Below is a statistical comparison between the Angels in April and May. As you’ll notice, it’s just the offense that basically stayed the same …
April: 5.26 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 1.62 SO/BB, 5.73 IP/GS
May: 3.85 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2.63 SO/BB, 6.13 IP/GS
April: 4.26 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 1.88 SO/BB, 3-8 SV
May: 3.97 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 2.30 SO/BB, 11-12 SV
April: .262/.321/.402/.723, 4.27 R/G, .92 HR/G, 10-16 SB
May: .259/.326/.443/.769, 4.69 R/G, 1.28 HR/G, 13-23 SB
April: .81 E/G
May: .48 E/G
Times using the DL
Here’s a quick look at who’s hot, and who’s not, in the Minor Leagues …
1B/OF Brad Hawpe (AAA): .303/.336/.422, 6 HR, 26 RBI
1B C.J. Cron (AA): .314/.356/.479, 5 HR, 30 RBI
SP Mark Sappington (A+): 5-2, 3.97 ERA, 12 GS
SP A.J. Schugel (AAA): 2-4, 7.46 ERA, 12 GS
3B Kaleb Cowart (AA): .218/.283/.330, 3 HR, 14 RBI
RP Nick Maronde (AA): 5.12 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 14 G
The baseball gods are doing the on-field equivalent of trolling the Angels right now. It’s not just that they’re 11-20, with Josh Hamilton slumping and every facet of their team — starting pitching, relief pitching, baserunning, defense, production — in a rut through the first five weeks of the season. It’s that so many of the players they’ve discarded recently are, well, thriving.
See for yourself …
RF Torii Hunter (offered little more than a $5 million base salary, plus incentives, this offseason before he inked a two-year, $26 million deal with the Tigers): .361/.406/.479 slash line through his first 27 games in the No. 2 spot for first-place Detroit.
LF Vernon Wells (dealt to the Yankees for the financial relief of getting under the Competitive Balance Tax payroll, with New York picking up $13.9 million of the $42 million owed to him over the next two seasons): .280/.339/.486 with six homers team while batting mostly third — yes, third — for an injury-riddled Yankees team that’s somehow six games over .500.
SP Ervin Santana (essentially given to the Royals because the Angels weren’t going to exercise his $13 million option for 2013): 3-1, 2.00 ERA with 31 strikeouts and five walks in 36 innings for a Kansas City team that — of course — is 17-11.
SS Jean Segura (traded alongside Ariel Pena and John Hellweg for Zack Greinke last July): .333/.380/.523, with a league-leading three triples and one very interesting sequence on the basepaths.
RP Jordan Walden (dealt straight up to the Braves for Tommy Hanson in November): 2.92 ERA, with 14 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.
RP LaTroy Hawkins (unsigned as a free agent): 2.77 ERA, 1.23 WHIP in 13 innings for the Mets.
SP Patrick Corbin (dealt — by then-Arizona interim GM Jerry Dipoto — to the Angels along with Tyler Skaggs, Rafael Rodriguez and Joe Saunders in exchange for Dan Haren in July 2010): 4-0, 1.85 ERA in six starts.
What does all this mean to the Angels? Well nothing, of course. In fact, in my mind, almost all of these moves were justified (you could certainly argue in favor of bringing Hunter back and using the additional funds on pitching). The fact anyone would take on that much for Wells was flat-out shocking; it made little sense to pay Santana $13 million for 2013 given how his 2012 season went; I’ll do Walden-for-Hanson any day of the week; the Greinke trade was a good one considering Dipoto didn’t have to give up Peter Bourjos and/or Garrett Richards, and he would’ve been applauded for it had they made the playoffs last year; and, well, there was little reason to give a 40-year-old Hawkins a guaranteed contract, or a likely shot at winning a bullpen spot, given the group the Angels had going into Spring Training.
But still …
Unrelated subject (well, sort of): Here’s a look at who’s shining, and who isn’t, in the Angels’ system so far …
INF Luis Rodriguez (AAA): .314/.344/.496, 4 HR, 24 RBI
RP Jeremy Berg (AAA): 1.65 ERA, 13 SO, 1 BB, 16 1/3 IP
SP Austin Wood (A+): 2.41 ERA, 4 GS, 17 SO, 9 BB, 18 2/3 IP
RP Mitch Stetter (AAA): 5.56 ERA, 11 1/3 IP, 12 SO, 10 BB
SP A.J. Schugel (AAA): 0-1, 6.21 ERA, 6 GS, 30 SO, 14 BB, 29 IP
OF Randal Grichuk (AA): .186/.262/.351, 2 HR, 7 RBI
Come Monday, Jered Weaver will be making his fourth straight Opening Day start, Josh Hamilton‘s reunion tour will begin and the Angels will (once again) try to cash in on the grand expectations they carry into the season.
Before that happens, here’s a station-to-station look at where they stand heading into what should be a very fun 2013 …
Position players: I don’t see a way this team won’t be among the top three in runs scored in the American League this season. From mid-May to the end of the season last year, when Mike Trout arrived in more ways than one and Albert Pujols remembered he’s Albert Freakin’ Pujols, the Angels led the Majors in runs per game. And that was without Hamilton, mind you. The Angels have three dynamic speed guys (Peter Bourjos-Trout-Erick Aybar) and three lethal power hitters (Pujols-Hamilton-Mark Trumbo) all conveniently lining up together. The rest of the guys (Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Iannetta) don’t need to be anything more than themselves for the Angels to be an offensive juggernaut. Defensively, Trout-Bourjos-Hamilton could be the best defensive outfield in baseball (which tailors perfectly to their flyball-heavy pitching staff) and the infield is solid at every position.
Starters: Angels starters got their necessary work this spring, but just barely. Spring Training may not teach us much, but it certainly didn’t quell any apprehensions about this rotation. Everyone except the no-walks Joe Blanton struggled at some point, with Weaver, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson all bringing temporary concerns that they wouldn’t have enough stamina heading into the regular season. But they do, and most importantly, they’re all healthy. Are they good enough to match one of the best offenses in baseball? No. Will they be adequate enough to eat innings (so the ‘pen doesn’t get worn out) and keep the Angels in games (with the lineup taking care of the rest)? That’s the plan. The key: C.J. Wilson, the $77.5 million No. 2 starter who should be a lot better than his 2012 second half.
Relievers: The Angels are deeper here, with or without Ryan Madson (who is still on track to return in late April or early May, barring another setback). They’ve added arguably the best free-agent lefty available in Sean Burnett, will have a full season of Ernesto Frieri, are banking on Kevin Jepsen‘s last three months being no fluke and, along with Scott Downs, seemingly have four formidable options to protect leads late in games. There’s also the high-upside Garrett Richards, coming off a great spring, the hard-throwing Mark Lowe, who the Angels have targeted since November, and the veteran Jerome Williams. Many will point to last year’s 22 blown saves as the biggest reason the Angels ultimately missed the playoffs, and this year, they’re better in the ‘pen. But that’s on paper. Relievers are a very unpredictable species.
Reserves: If all their everyday players stay healthy, this won’t be much of a factor, particularly in the AL. Chances are, though, injuries will happen. And given that, the Angels took a step back with regards to their bench (though if you’re going to pick one area to downgrade, this would be it). Without Vernon Wells, they don’t have any real power threat in reserve — besides Hank Conger, but he’s the backup catcher — and are pretty darn young. Andrew Romine takes over for the seasoned Maicer Izturis and Conger, awfully talented but coming off a spring soured by throwing woes, has spent most of the last three years in Triple-A. Contact-hitting lefty outfielder J.B. Shuck is the third player on this bench making his first Opening Day roster. The last reserve, veteran infielder Brendan Harris, hasn’t been in the big leagues since 2010.
Depth: The Angels’ farm system is dead last in all of baseball, according to ESPN and Baseball America. But those in the organization will tell you that mostly has to do with pitching; their position-player talent is just fine. Furthermore, the Angels’ front office is confident they’ve built more depth in the upper levels to serve as insurance in 2013. The Triple-A roster has several players with Major League experience, such as Luis Rodriguez, Tommy Field, Scott Cousins, Trent Oeltjen, Chris Snyder (possibly), John Hester, Luke Carlin, Mitch Stetter and Fernando Cabrera. But with Richards’ length shortened in the ‘pen, and Williams’ workload unpredictable as a swing man, where do the Angels turn if something happens to one of their starters? Barry Enright, Billy Buckner, Matt Shoemaker and the young A.J. Schugel figure to make up the Salt Lake Bees’ rotation.
Financials: The Angels’ payroll sits under $150 million, thanks to the Yankees taking on $11.5 million of Wells’ 2013 salary in the recent trade. The deal also bought them some luxury tax flexibility. Prior to the deal, the Angels’ Competitive Balance Tax payroll — which takes into account the average annual value of all 40-man roster salaries, plus benefits and performance bonuses at the end of the season — was $178 million, the threshold at which first-time offenders are taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball. Now, it’s about $172M, giving them some flexibility to take on salary in an in-season trade. Last year, after acquiring Zack Greinke, their CBT payroll was at $178 million, which affected their pursuit of some necessary relief-pitching help.
Underlying theme: Expectations can do some funny things, and it’ll be interesting to see how the magnitude of it all will play into how the Angels go about — and react to — their second year under the microscope. Will it affect them out of the gate? Will it bring turmoil in the clubhouse, especially now that Torii Hunter is gone? Can it cause more tension between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, who have their philosophical differences and were at odds at times last season? And what will it lead Arte Moreno to do if they miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season?
In addition to Trumbo at DH, how much time do you think he will get a first base and right field, giving Pujols and Hamilton a day to rest their legs? (Stephen H., San Luis Obispo)
Plenty. And if I had to pin a number on it, I’d say there’s a very good chance — even if everyone stays healthy — that Trumbo spends about half his time playing the field. If he’s hitting, he’ll be in the lineup for all the Angels’ Interleague games. For a good chunk of April, with Pujols in the early stages of his return from offseason knee surgery, he figures to play plenty of first base. With Wells gone, he’s also the fourth outfielder. And fundamentally, with so much money tied to Hamilton and Pujols long-term, Scioscia will get them off their feet as often as necessary now that he has a revolving door at DH (that wasn’t very feasible with Kendrys Morales there last year).
Do you see the day when the Angels move Trout down in the batting order and put Bourjos, if he can cut it, in the leadoff spot? (Albert H., Los Angeles)
I do. Scioscia continues to say Trout profiles better in the middle of the order, the reason being that you want your best hitter to be in as many RBI situations as possible. The makeup of the Angels’ lineup right now — with Pujols, Hamilton and Trumbo in the middle of the order, and no clear solution in the leadoff spot just yet — means Trout is the best fit to bat first. You can argue that the Angels’ everyday lineup doesn’t figure to change much any time soon, with almost everyone in the books long term. But Trout is the kind of player you construct a lineup around, and his bat figures to eventually become too potent to not put in the 3 spot.
Is this the year the Angels finally get back to the playoffs and make a deep run? (Samuel M., Tempe, Ariz.)
Who knows. I do think that, on paper, they are the best team in the AL West and should win the division. Once you get in the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. The sample size is too small. But 162 games is not a small sample size, and if the Angels stay healthy, there is no excuse for not taking the division crown. The Rangers’ lineup took a step back, replacing Hamilton with Lance Berkman, and the pitching staff won’t have Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis or Joakim Soria to start the season. The A’s are deep, but will need a lot of guys to over-perform again. It’s nice to see the Mariners spending money, but they still have holes and concerns all over the place. And the Astros are a last-place team. But who am I kidding — predicting a baseball season is a foolish act.
Now, at last, we can see how it all plays out on the field.
If you’re in Arizona, this is the last time you’ll see the Angels’ everyday lineup this spring. Most of the everyday players will leave on Tuesday, after a morning workout at Tempe Diablo Stadium, and Peter Bourjos may be the only starter (besides Jered Weaver) who plays in the night game at Talking Stick.
They went out showing just how powerful the offense can be, scoring four runs in the fourth and ninth and finishing with 18 hits.
This spring, the Angels are second only to the Royals in batting average (.314) and OPS (.869), and lead in runs (194).
Some notes …
Albert Pujols (.368 batting average), Josh Hamilton (.294) and Peter Bourjos (.352) each had two hits.
Sean Burnett gave up a walk and struck out a batter in a scoreless inning, giving him back-to-back scoreless outings after giving up three runs.
Mitch Stetter, who could win one of the last bullpen spots, retired the only two batters he faced — Adam Dunn on a flyout and Paul Konerko on a strikeout.
A.J. Schugel was supposed to pitch at least five innings, but exited after two because of a blister in his right hand.
David Carpenter, another guy fighting for that last bullpen spot, gave up a two-run homer to Tyler Saladino in the ninth.
Mike Scioscia, on the offense: “Since Erick Aybar came back, we’re starting to see a little chemistry there and it’s been fun to watch.”
Pujols went from first to third on a hard-hit single to right field. I know, not a defensive play. And nothing spectacular. But it’s a sign that Pujols’ knee is regular-season ready.
Josh Hamilton‘s first two plate appearances with the Angels took all of three pitches. His third went five, but it cost him his last bat. On his second straight foul ball, Hamilton had to scurry back to the on-deck circle and take Mark Trumbo‘s bat, which he used to hit a second straight flyout to center field and cap an 0-for-3 day.
“I ran out of bats, man,” said Hamilton, who packed three bats for his first game with the Angels, then broke one in BP and broke two more in the game.
Here’s the non-Hamilton breakdown of Tuesday’s game …
The Angels didn’t lose! They’re now 0-4-1 thanks to Bill Hall‘s eighth-inning two-run double.
Speaking of Hall, who’s fighting for a roster spot — he went 2-for-4 with four RBIs, adding a two-run double in the fourth on a ball that bounced off the left-field wall.
Brendan Harris, among those competing against him, went 2-for-3 and made a nice leaping grab at shortstop.
A.J. Schugel got hit around in the first inning, giving up three runs on five hits (one of which was a two-run homer by Gerardo Parra). He then settled down in the second, retiring the side while giving up a walk, prompting manager Mike Scioscia to believe it was mostly nerves that initially hindered him. “He was just amped up,” Scioscia said. “He was trying to throw the ball hard. He has a good arm, but he was overthrowing a bit. Second inning, he changed speeds more and he pitched. Great makeup, really good arm, and I think the second inning is more indicative of how A.J.’s career will go.”
Angels pitchers as a whole have given up 38 runs in 44 innings, which amounts to a 7.77 ERA. But hardly any of those who have taken the mound will be on the Opening Day roster.
Best play (that I saw)
With the D-backs spraying the ball everywhere in the first inning against Schugel, Trumbo bailed his starting pitcher out, diving to his right to snag a hard-hit line drive off the bat of Eric Hinske and almost tagging out A.J. Pollock for the double play.
Hamilton, on his debut: “It was weird today, being in the dugout and having the uniform actually on. I walked by [Jered Weaver] and said, ‘This is kind of weird.’ He said, ‘Yeah, it is — but I like it.’”
The Angels announced 21 non-roster invitees who will be joining those on the 40-man roster in Spring Training. Here’s a look at who’s coming to camp …
Pitchers: Billy Buckner, Kevin Johnson, Tony Pena, Jo-Jo Reyes, A.J. Schugel, Mitch Stetter
Catchers: Jett Bandy, Luke Carlin, Carlos Ramirez, Zach Wright
Infielders: Kaleb Cowart, Brendan Harris, Taylor Lindsey, Efren Navarro, Luis Rodriguez, Eric Stamets, Alex Yarbrough
Outfielders: Randal Grichuk, Trent Oeltjen, J.B. Shuck, Matt Young
* Note that veteran reliever Fernando Cabrera will also be in big league camp when his contract his official.
Here’s the 40-man roster, in case you’re wondering who else is joining them.
Pitchers report Feb. 11, position players report Feb. 14.