Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’

Pujols has his foundation back …

Albert Pujols has never really had a bad Spring Training. He’s hit at least .286 and as high as .407 over the last 10 years, because he always shows up in shape and it never takes him long to find his timing.

He just seems, well, different this spring.

More specifically, his legs look healthier than they have in the last three years.

Pujols entered Spring Training 2013 recovering from offseason surgery to his right knee, then suffered plantar fasciitis around the middle of camp, a condition that didn’t allow him to play past July of that season. That was followed by a prolonged offseason that allowed Pujols to get healthy, but the Angels’ first baseman wasn’t able to strengthen his right knee like he wanted to until this past winter.

Now, it seems, he has a strong foundation at the plate again.

“You could tell the difference when you’re in good health, and he is right now,” Angels shortstop Erick Aybar said.

“He looks strong right now,” third baseman David Freese added. “His lower half looks strong; as strong as I’ve seen it over the last few years, watching him and obviously seeing it in person. I think he’s taking care of himself.”

Pujols entered Friday’s game batting .326 (14-for-43) with four home runs in Cactus League play. All of those homers have come over his last six games, with the latest coming Thursday, a towering shot to left-center-field on a high-and-inside fastball from Cubs reliever Jason Motte.

But the 35-year-old has been driving the ball to the opposite field all spring, an indication that his right leg is feeling better and a positive sign considering he was shifted on more than any right-handed hitter in baseball last year.

“I think he’s found ways to manage what’s been bothering him with the experience of going through it,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s certainly in great shape and he’s moving well.”

Some additional notes from Friday …

  • Freese, who suffered a hyperextended left elbow on Tuesday, took batting practice and did some defensive work in the morning. He’s expected to return to the lineup on Saturday.
  • Marc Krauss, out since Sunday with back spasms, was expected to play later in Friday’s game.
  • Kole Calhoun, who exited Thursday’s game after taking a fastball to his right triceps muscle, played catch but stayed away from hitting. The Angels’ right fielder is expected to return to the lineup this weekend.
  • Drew Rucinski was slated to pitch in a Minor League game on Friday, throwing five innings and 75 pitches.
  • Mark Trumbo is in the lineup for the D-backs, marking the first time ever that he’ll face the Angels.
  • The Angels are still stretching Jose Alvarez out as a starter, but not to the point where he’ll be throwing 100-plus pitches. They want to give him enough length to potentially serve as starting-pitching depth, but Alvarez is also in the running for a bullpen spot. “With he, with Rucinski, with some of the swing guys, you have to find a balance,” Scioscia said. “… You want them to get enough length to be depth in your rotation but still maintain their stuff to where you can have them in your bullpen. He’s on the depth chart in two spots.”

Alden

The midway point …

Rangers Angels Spring BaseballWe’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.

Alden

ST Game No. 8: Angels 10, Cubs 9 …

Spring Training Ferrell BaseballWill 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

Alden

C.J. Wilson expects to take his next turn …

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.

Alden

ST Game No. 6: D-backs 6, Angels 5 …

Jered WeaverMost 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.”

Alden

Wilson scratched; Newcomb to start Thursday …

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).

Alden

ST Game No. 5: Reds 7, Angels 5 …

Angels Spring BaseballMost important thing: Andrew Heaney (pictured) looked OK in his Cactus League debut, giving up a hit and a run, walking two and striking out three (including Joey Votto) in his three-inning outing. His main competition for a rotation spot, Nick Tropeano, struggled with his fastball command and it hurt with three straight long drives in the fifth — a double by Skip Schumaker off the right-center-field wall, a homer by Kyle Skipworth right around the same place and another homer to left by Jason Bourgoeis.

Second-most important thing: Up one with two on and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Mattheus — a long shot to make the Opening Day bullpen — served up a line-drive, walk-off three-run homer off the top of the right-field fence to Reds Minor League outfielder Juan Duran. It was the third straight game the Angels have lost in the ninth inning, after Edgar Ibarra gave up a couple of runs to the A’s on Saturday and Jeremy McBryde gave up four runs to the Royals on Sunday. You can officially get worried if it happens to Joe Smith and Huston Street.

Third-most important thing: Albert Pujols went 2-for-3 and drove in a couple with a line-drive single up the middle in the third. That’s four hits in the last two days for the Angels’ first baseman.

Fourth-most important thing: Johnny Giavotella sent a high fastball out to left-center field, Grant Green and Josh Rutledge each had opposite-field hits, and Taylor Featherston singled to left and stole a base. And that was your second base update for the day.

Fifth-most important thing: Mike Trout drew a walk on four straight pitches with first base open in the third and hit an infield single off Aroldis Chapman in the fifth. And that was your Mike Trout update for the day.

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Non-roster outfielder Roger Kieshnick tracked a long fly ball from Brayan Pena, leaped up against the right-field fence and made a nifty catch for the second out of the sixth.

Quotable: Mike Scioscia on Tropeano and Heaney: ““For their first outing, they did fine. Chris [Iannetta] is trying to work with them to understand their stuff a little bit. It’s gonna take a little time. But I think the first impressions were very good. Nick Tropeano has terrific stuff. He just missed with his fastballs and those guys crushed them. Heaney looked strong. He has a lot of his life to his fastball.”

Alden

Matt Joyce: ‘I’ll be in there tomorrow’ …

Angels outfielder Matt Joyce took the last couple of days off due to stiffness in his right side but expects to be back in the lineup on Tuesday, when the Angels host the Rangers at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Joyce took some swings on Monday morning and said he feels “great.” The 30-year-old left-handed hitter felt soreness from swinging the bat on Saturday and the Angels told him to take a couple of days off as a precaution.

“I guess it’s just one of those things — it’s early, and every time you deal with your side, there’s a chance of having the oblique involved,” Joyce said. “They really want to be cautious. I’m not worried about it.”

A lot of starters are playing in back-to-back games for the second time this spring, and traveling all the way to Goodyear to do it …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Collin Cowgill, LF
Josh Rutledge, 2B
Kyle Kubitza, 3B

SP: LH Andrew Heaney

  • Nick Tropeano will also pitch, which officially makes this the start of what should be a fun competition between Tropeano and Heaney for a rotation spot. With Garrett Richards slated to start the season on the disabled list and Hector Santiago having far more experience, it could very well come down to these two.
  • Richards is slated to do some more pitchers’ fielding practice on Monday morning, which involves covering first base and basically simulating the play that led to a ruptured left patellar tendon on Aug. 20. Richards will throw to hitters for the second time on Tuesday and looks to be on track for Cactus League games by early next week. Mike Scioscia said he’s doing the PFP drills “as hard as he can.” “He really showed no favoring of his gait,” Scioscia said. “Right now there’s a conditioning component he needs, but he’s doing fine.”
  • The Angels expect Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin to report for Spring Training at some point this week. Baldoquin has been delayed by visa issues in the Dominican Republic. He was slated to spend the spring in Minor League camp, which recently began, but Angels coaches were looking forward to having him on the Major League side for drills earlier in camp.
  • Cesar Ramos, Matt Lindstrom, Frank Herrmann, Ryan Mattheus, Danny Reynolds, Scott Snodgress and Edgar Ibarra are also slated to pitch today.
  • Reds lineup is here.

Alden

Lineups and Notes, ST Game 2 …

The first five hitters are starting off the Cactus League schedule playing in back-to-back games and the Angels’ Opening Day starter gets his first outing against the Rockies …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, DH
Erick Aybar, SS
Collin Cowgill, LF
Drew Butera, C
Grant Green, 2B
Kyle Kubitza, 3B

SP: RH Jered Weaver

  • When Cesar Ramos was acquired in early November, the Angels made him one promise and only one promise: “You’ll pitch.” It was a refreshing sentiment for the 30-year-old left-hander who frequently went 15 days without pitching in Tampa Bay. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said “his best role is to match up against a lefty. He spins the ball wall, but he can give you long or multi-innings if you have to.” Ramos has never really been used as a lefty specialist. He has a four-pitch mix, but could shorten that if he’s pitching to only one or two batters a game. Scioscia said the Angels “need enough length in our staff” in order to free Ramos up to be a lefty specialist. The presence of Cory Rasmus could accomplish that.
  • Matt Harvey made his first post-Tommy John surgery start for the Mets on Friday, and Tyler Skaggs — in the early part of his own recovery from TJ — is monitoring his progress, as well as Jose Fernandez‘s. “I want to see how they do,” Skaggs said. “I would think that I’ll come back stronger, better. I want to see if these guys are going to do that.”
  • Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano will both pitch in Monday’s game, with Heaney likely starting. After that it’ll go to Hector Santiago once again. C.J. Wilson and Matt Shoemaker go Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
  • Rockies lineup here. In case you missed it, here’s a handy little Spring Training guide.

Alden

Opening Day lineup? Possibly …

Asked if his first lineup of Cactus League play will be the same as his Opening Day lineup, Angels manager Mike Scioscia just laughed. But it sure is possible, perhaps likely (except Jered Weaver would be starting, of course).

Here’s what it looks like …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, LF
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Josh Rutledge, 2B

SP: LH Hector Santiago

  • Each player will get at least two at-bats, with Santiago — who has thrown like 25 bullpen sessions before this start — will go two or three innings.
  • Jose Alvarez, Adam Wilk, Cory Rasmus, Trevor Gott and Jeremy McBryde are slated to pitch in this game, as well.
  • Scioscia doesn’t think it’ll tough to get all the rotation candidates innings. They have a split-squad game on the 14th and a “B” game on the 19th.
  • Garrett Richards will repeat the PFP drills he completed yesterday, and his next step could be throwing to hitters in live BP. That could be his final stage before making his Cactus League debut.
  • The Angels still plan to fold Joyce into first base to see if he’s an option to play there part time.
  • In case you missed it, I categorized each of the 63 players who were invited to Angels Spring Training here.

Alden

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