Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’

Big arms, wide eyes, sweaty hands, leadoff homers …

troutasgSean Newcomb impressed at the Futures Game, Albert Pujols put on a show at the Derby, Mike Trout proved once again that he’s the best all-around player in the game and Hector Santiago soaked up every minute of it. Below are links to our All-Star Game coverage from Cincinnati, in case you missed anything …

Trout & Frazier on a jet, Santiago’s mementos, Yadi on Albert, tuning out noise
Castrovince, on Trout’s growing legend after his second straight All-Star Game MVP
A look at the leadoff home run that propelled the AL and gave Trout another trophy
Cut4, with a look at Trout’s All-Star Game cycle
Trout’s bat is headed for the Hall of Fame
Cut4, on Pujols booing his former Cardinals teammates
A look at Pujols’ eventful return to the Home Run Derby
How Santiago “snuck in the middle” with Trout and Pujols
Sean Newcomb, unnoticed out of high school, excelled at the Futures Game

— Alden

Pujols on leak of meetings: ‘It’s really embarrasing’ …

The prevailing sentiment in the Angels’ clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after a FoxSports.com report detailed friction between the front office and coaching staff, wasn’t so much anger at what took place.

It was disappointment in the fact that it was made public.

“Whoever leaked that story, it’s really embarrassing,” Angels first baseman Albert Pujols said. “We’re supposed to be a family here.”

The report stated that “emotions simmered” amid a series of meetings revolving around the front office’s belief that the coaching staff was doing an inadequate job of relaying scouting information to players. In those meetings, occurring this past weekend, at least one coach “responded heatedly” to general manager Jerry Dipoto and Pujols issued “a pointed rebuttal” to the fourth-year GM.

A source said the report’s portrayal of the meetings was “verbatim,” though what it all means moving forward is still very much open for interpretation.

“I’m not going to comment on what happened or didn’t happen,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “but I can only tell you it will not be a distraction to these guys.”

Angels setup man Joe Smith believes it was no different from what goes on throughout the course of any season with any team.

“You have a bunch of men filled with testosterone in one little room, and we’re with each other every day and we’re all trying to do something,” Smith said. “Stuff happens, and I think it’s better when it’s kept in-house. Because it does happen; it happens every year in every clubhouse. You keep your mouth shut, you keep it in here, and you move on, with everybody performing in the right direction.”

But the report could also be yet another sign that Dipoto and Scioscia, baseball’s longest-tenured manager, aren’t on the same page. And it’s even more prevalent when considering that Scioscia can opt out of his 10-year contract at the end of this season, rather than staying through 2018.

Dipoto, who had his 2016 club option picked up earlier this season, didn’t respond to several requests seeking comment. The two bumped heads through Dipoto’s first two years, 2012-13, but Scioscia said he and Dipoto are “a good team,” adding that “the only real issue” was when they let hitting coach Mickey Hatcher go in May 2012.

We’ve moved past that,” Scioscia added. “We’ve moved way past that.”

Dipoto, according to the report, believes the coaches rely too heavily on “feel” and the coaches “seemingly do not trust the information they are given,” making them “not willing or able to translate it for the players.”

None of the roles in the Angels’ coaching staff or in-game scouting department will change, Scioscia said. A source added that the players will simply be receiving scouting information directly to their iPads from the front office, rather than have a coach filter through it first. The players can then choose to do what they want with it.

“The only difference is getting the scouting reports to players and then bringing it back to coaches,” Scioscia said. “It’s just a slight adjustment.”

The FoxSports.com report said Pujols “challenged” Dipoto on Sunday, by “saying that the coaches are working as hard to prepare the players as they did last season, but that the roster is not as strong as it was a year ago.”

Asked about having words with Dipoto, Pujols said: “That’s none of your business. Whatever happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse.”

The report comes at a time when the Angels are still trying to find their footing. They won a Major League-best 98 games last year, but they’ve had a .500 record on 18 separate occasions this season. And despite winning four of their previous five games, they entered Tuesday four games back of the first-place Astros in the American League West.

On the mound, the Angels sport the fifth-lowest ERA in the AL. On defense, a department where the Angels began incorporating a lot more defensive shifting at the start of 2014, they rank third in efficiency, according to Baseball Prospectus. Their offense, however, has scored the fourth-fewest runs per game in the AL.

“It’s been a tough year so far,” Pujols said, “but we’re only four games out with still [11] games before [the All-Star] break.”

Angels starter C.J. Wilson considered the heated discussions “a positive thing.”

“That’s the way I took it,” he said. “Like, ‘Hey, we’re going to work harder as a team overall, have more communication overall.’ I didn’t see anything wrong with it. The whole goal is not about ego; it’s all about winning.”

Alden

Albert Pujols, making his All-Star push …

The All-Star Game and Albert Pujols were as much a summer tradition as beach balls and sunburns. Through his first 10 years, he went to nine of them, starting seven times for the National League while competing in the Home Run Derby on three separate occasions.

It’s now been five years since Pujols’ last invite to the Midsummer Classic, though. He’s been denied each of his first three years with the Angels, while starting 2012 on a miserable slump, battling injuries throughout 2013 and falling off the radar by 2014.

Now, he’s making his push.

Pujols’ sixth-inning two-run homer in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the D-backs gave him sole possession of the American League lead with 19. Eleven of them have come over his last 18 games, a stretch that has seen Pujols bat .368 with three strikeouts in 75 plate appearances. His slash line is up to .273/.326/.550. His OPS, .876, now ranks third among AL first basemen.

“If I get the call, great,” Pujols said of the All-Star Game. “If I don’t, then I guess I don’t. There are so many people in the past that deserve to be there. You can only have so many guys on the roster. It’s not like you get a hundred players on the roster. But I don’t think about that, to tell you the truth.”

It won’t be easy.

The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera (1.043) and the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira (.942) lead in OPS among first basemen, but they aren’t even in line to start. That distinction belongs to Eric Hosmer, one of eight Royals players currently being voted in to make up the AL lineup. Pujols ranked fifth in fan votes at his position when the latest results were revealed, nearly five million shy of Hosmer.

His only real hope is to get voted in by his peers, who select a backup at each position, or the managers, who select eight additional players.

“I think first base is one of the toughest positions to grab a spot in the All-Star Game,” Pujols’ longtime teammate, David Freese, said. “It’s a position where guys are expected to bang. You can have 15, 20 at the break with a lot of damage and not make it. … But the guy is just unbelievable. I get front-row seats on deck a good portion of the time, just watching him hit. He looks healthy, man. His legs are powerful. He’s getting down on his stance and he’s ready to go every pitch.”

Pujols was batting .228 with eight homers and 17 RBIs through the Angels’ first 45 games, but he remained confident, because he was batting an unseemly .210 on balls in play and he was hardly striking out. He’s now on pace for 47 home runs, a number he hasn’t reached since 2009.

The year after that, he made his last All-Star Game.

“Would I like to be there? Of course,” Pujols said. “Everybody wants to be at the All-Star Game. But I can’t control that. All I can control is doing the best I can, hopefully helping this ballclub be in first place before the All-Star break.”

Alden

Trout moves into No. 3 spot, Pujols now at cleanup …

Desperate for continuity from his offense and looking to maximize opportunities for his two best hitters, Angels manager Mike Scioscia made a significant, highly anticipated change to his lineup Tuesday, batting Mike Trout in the prominent No. 3 spot and making Albert Pujols his new cleanup hitter.

Scioscia hopes “this is a lineup we can ride out for a long time.”

In his mind, it became a necessity.

“We’ve got five holes in our wall and enough spackle for three holes,” is how Scioscia described it. “Which ones do you want to fill? Right now we want to go solid one through five and look at it that way.”

Translation: The Angels’ offense hasn’t proven to be very deep this year, so Scioscia would prefer to bunch all of his best hitters up top.

That involved keeping Erick Aybar at leadoff and moving Kole Calhoun to the No. 2 spot to bat him directly in front of Trout and Pujols, as was the case when Calhoun batted leadoff all of last season.

The Angels entered Tuesday ranked 22nd in the Majors in runs per game, while Trout and Pujols were tied with Nelson Cruz for the American League lead in homers with 18 apiece.

Pujols had started in the cleanup spot just five times since 2003 and not once since signing a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels. Trout batted leadoff as a rookie in 2012, moved into the No. 2 spot a couple weeks into the 2013 season and batted third only on days when Pujols wasn’t in the lineup, which was especially the case when Pujols missed the last two months of 2013 because of a partial tear of his left plantar fascia.

Trout has a .323/.473/.511 slash line in 245 career plate appearances as a No. 3 hitter.

“I’m not going to change my approach,” said Trout, who entered Tuesday batting .297/.381/.577 for the season. “You can’t change your approach. That’s when you get in trouble.”

Since 1914, Pujols – riding a hot stretch that has his slash line up to .272/.323/.540 – ranks eighth in starts in the No. 3 spot with 1,851. The 35-year-old first baseman didn’t want to talk about the subject when approached by the media on Tuesday afternoon, but indications are that he really likes the move.

There’s a delicate balance here, a tradeoff between potentially giving Trout and Pujols more opportunities with runners in scoring position while ensuring that they will come up to bat less frequently over the course of the season.

“That was weighed very heavily,” Scioscia said. “But the bottom line is everybody in the room when we were talking about it was unanimous about the need to try to readjust some things.”

There was a 16-plate-appearance gap between the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters in the AL last year, which would add up to about 10 fewer plate appearances for both Trout and Pujols this season. Scioscia hopes Aybar and Calhoun can help make up for that by giving Trout and Pujols more opportunities to drive in runs.

Aybar’s slash line is down to .255/.301/.301 after a recent 0-for-19 slump, while Calhoun – the cleanup hitter for the better part of the last month – entered Tuesday batting .273/.328/.398.

“Right now we all feel that we need to try something that’s going to get a little more action, especially early in games,” Scioscia said. “It’s not just the first inning. But if we get a little action and move the lineup, these guys are coming back up in the third inning and in the fifth inning, the same group. If you just do a statistical analysis of it, the chances of these guys hitting with a couple of guys on base is very real within the first five or six innings, either Mike or Albert, if this works out. We’ll see.”

Alden

Pujols chasing Mantle in the Bronx …

Can Albert Pujols tie, and perhaps pass, Mickey Mantle at his old stomping grounds?

It’s possible.

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).

Alden

Ibarra up, Marte down, Brown DFA’d, etc. …

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.

Alden

Pujols’ wrist, Richards’ return, Cron’s future, garden gnomes …

Albert Pujols returned to the Angels’ lineup for Friday’s series opener against the Red Sox from Fenway Park, two days after a fastball caught him on the left hand/wrist.

Pujols initially thought for sure that he was headed for the disabled list, but a CT scan revealed only a bruise and the swelling on the bottom of his left hand went down significantly. The Angels’ 35-year-old first baseman is going to have to hit through a little bit of pain, but believes it’s manageable.

“Albert is as tough as they come,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He wants to play. He’ll go out there when he’s at 60 percent. He’ll go out there and compete and usually get it done. He just wants to play.”

Here’s the Angels’ lineup …

Erick Aybar, SS
Mike Trout, CF
Pujols, 1B
Kole Calhoun, RF
David Freese, 3B
Matt Joyce, LF
Chris Iannetta, C
Marc Krauss, DH
Johnny Giavotella, 2B

SP: RH Garrett Richards (3-2, 2.29 ERA)

Richards dismissed the thought of there being any added emotion upon returning to Fenway, the place where he suffered the gruesome knee injury that ended his season and sent him on a long rehab on Aug. 20. Scisocia place much significance on it, either.

“It wasn’t Fenway Park that hurt his leg,” Scioscia said. “It was just a baseball field. I think he’ll be fine.”

Some additional notes …

  • C.J. Cron scorched through Spring Training, but he has a .200/.222/.274 slash line and isn’t starting against right-handers. He’s still 25 and developing as a hitter. Is it best for him to go to the Minor Leagues to work some things out at the plate and get some regular playing time? “You don’t have to get [at-bats] seven days [a week], but if you are getting them one day a week, then there’s a discussion of what’s best for the team and what’s best for the player. C.J. has gotten enough at-bats where if he’s swinging like he can, he’d be contributing. But he hasn’t found that swing yet.”
  • A more positive memory from Fenway Park was Calhoun’s brilliant catch over the right-field fence. “That was incredible. You know, most guys would’ve probably caught that neck-high,” Scioscia quipped. Calhoun is listed at 5-foot-10 and Collin Cowgill, who typically comes in as a defensive replacement in left field, is listed at 5-foot-9. “When him and Cowgill are out there, they’re two LA Angels garden gnomes. That’s what I tell Trout — make sure you don’t step on them.”
  • The Red Sox called up Rusney Castillo and optioned Jackie Bradley Jr.

Alden

X-rays negative on Pujols’ left wrist …

X-rays were negative on Albert Pujols’ left wrist, which was hit by a Drew Hutchison fastball that forced him to leave the game.

“He’s OK,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a text message late Wednesday night. “Day-to-day with a bruised hand.”

Pujols was noticeably in a lot of pain after getting plunked in the top of the fourth, but he stayed in the game, ran the bases and played the next half-inning on defense. In the top of the fifth, though, Marc Krauss pinch-hit for him – then drove in the game-winning run with a two-run double two innings later.

Pujols left Rogers Centre early to undergo further examination.

“It didn’t sound good,” Angels center fielder Mike Trout said after an eventual 4-3 win. “I was on first base and at first I thought it hit the knob. But after the replay, I heard everybody saying it hit the wrist. I just hope everything’s all right. He’s a big guy in our lineup.”

Pujols entered Wednesday’s game batting .232 with seven homers and 15 RBIs, but was nonetheless a crucial piece to an offense that had been limited to three runs or less in 22 of the previous 39 games.

The 35-year-old first baseman fractured his left wrist while with the Cardinals in June 2011, banging it against a runner while trying to field a one-hop throw up the first-base line. The injury forced him to miss two weeks, far less than what was initially expected.

“I don’t know if there’s anything residual from when he fractured it in St. Louis,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who wasn’t aware of the severity of Pujols’ latest injury immediately after the game.

“We’re naturally concerned. Just the area it was and some swelling in there. We hope it’s just a bruise and we’ll see how it lines up.”

Alden

Calhoun back to cleanup, seemingly long-term …

For a little more than a year, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has enjoyed the luxury of receiving uncommon power from a traditionally powerless spot in his batting order. His lineup was deep enough, productive enough to keep Kole Calhoun in the leadoff spot, while leading the Majors in runs and receiving power from almost every position.

But those days are seemingly over.

The Angels’ current offense – 29th in the Majors in runs per game and 30th in OPS through the first six weeks of 2015 – can no longer sustain keeping Calhoun’s power left-handed bat at the top. Scioscia moved him back into the cleanup spot on Monday, prior to the opener of a four-game series against the Blue Jays, and this time it seems like a long-term move.

“We’re going to ride this out,” said Scioscia.

Calhoun at cleanup moved Erick Aybar into the leadoff spot, a lineup configuration Scioscia used for what he hoped was a short-term fix from April 30 to May 4. Aybar doesn’t walk a lot – he ranked 184th among qualified players in plate appearances per walk from 2009-14 – but Scioscia believes he can succeed batting in front of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, which would seemingly lead to getting more pitches to hit.

“What Erick doesn’t bring in patience, working counts, he brings in just athleticism and still gets on base at a rate which hopefully will set the table for Mike and Albert moving forward,” Scioscia said. “And also, we have Johnny Giavotella pushed back to ninth, to try to connect him with Mike. Hopefully there will be some table-setting there that’s happening, and we’ll get to the big guys in our lineup. “

The Angels have already been shut out three times, equaling their total from all of last season, and had scored three runs or less in 21 of their previous 37 games. The left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce continues to struggle, with a .143/.180/.219 slash line through his first 32 games, and the Angels’ lineup has several right-handed hitters who have historically struggled against right-handed pitching.

That’s why they need Calhoun in the middle of the order, to protect Pujols and maximize his opportunities with runners in scoring position.

Calhoun entered the series at Rogers Centre with a .327 batting average, three homers and 17 RBIs in his last 29 games. Last year, his .801 OPS from the leadoff spot was significantly higher than the Major League average of .715. It was an advantage that set the Angels’ lineup apart. So Scioscia tried for as long as he could to keep Calhoun at that leadoff spot, going so far as to bat Aybar cleanup on Saturday and Sunday.

But it’s a luxury the Angels can no longer afford.

“As much as we really like Kole in the leadoff spot, and in front of Mike, I think what we’re presented with right now just makes the most sense to go with it this way,” Scioscia said. “Guys have had a lot of time to get into their game and aren’t there yet, so we need to start to take a little pressure off our pitching staff.”

Alden

Perez earns another start; Joyce continues to sit …

Not surprisingly, Carlos Perez was back in the starting lineup on Wednesday, one day after capping his Major League debut with a walk-off home run. Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn’t declaring him the everyday catcher, though. He said once again that Chris Iannetta — batting .094 — will continue to get playing time.

But it’s hard to have a platoon with two right-handed-hitting catchers.

So basically, Scioscia will ride the hot bat. And though it’s only been one game for Perez, his bat is nonetheless hotter than Iannetta’s has been all year.

“The best way I can say it is if you play well you always earn more playing time, both ways,” Scioscia said. “If both those guys are playing well, it makes us better.”

Wednesday’s lineup also excluded the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce, who sat for a second straight day because the Angels faced a second straight lefty. Joyce was seemingly starting to turn the corner, hitting several balls hard in a weekend series in San Francisco and homering against Felix Hernandez on Monday.

“I talked to Matt,” Scioscia said. “Just because a lefty’s pitching doesn’t mean he’s not going to play. But right now, you’re trying to jump-start an offense with every little bit of offense you can, against lefties especially. … We just haven’t seen Matt get into his game yet. And when he does, you’re not going to want to sit him just because there’s a lefty in there. But right now, we’re just trying to get as much depth to our lineup as we can.”

Albert Pujols, who exited last Wednesday’s game with a tight left hamstring, made his fourth start of the year at designated hitter. Scioscia said it was precautionary.

Alden

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