Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’
Dane De La Rosa‘s forearm injury, which caused a rough outing against the Dodgers on Thursday and prompted him to leave the game early, was diagnosed as a sprain, an MRI confirmed, and the Angels’ power reliever doesn’t believe he’ll start the season on the disabled list.
“I doubt it,” a relieved De La Rosa said Friday morning, while hooked up to an electronic muscle massager.
“I should be fine. I’m not sure about the timeline, I can’t really say, but it won’t be too long.”
Starting the sixth inning from Tempe Diablo Stadium, De La Rosa — the journeyman 31-year-old coming off a breakout season in 2013 — allowed five of the seven batters he faced to reach and served up a grand slam to Scott Van Slyke. With two outs in the inning, he was checked on by the Angels’ medical staff and removed from the game.
“I just didn’t feel the ball,” De La Rosa said. “There were a few times when I just had no idea where it was going. I just couldn’t feel fingertips. If you can’t feel your fingertips when you’re pitching, it’s not a good thing.”
De La Rosa said he and the Angels will “attack [rehab] pretty aggressively,” but he didn’t have a gauge on a timeline because he hasn’t visited with the team’s medical staff yet. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said a return by Opening Day, on March 31, is “still realistic because he’s a bullpen guy, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
De La Rosa earned the nickname “Everyday Dane” last season for the frequency of his usage. He pitched in 75 games, fifth-most in the American League, while posting a 2.86 ERA and emerging as the team’s setup man down the stretch.
Asked if all those appearances have caught up with De La Rosa, Scioscia said: “I mean, his bullpens have been great. He didn’t show any signs of anything last year. But I don’t know if you ever really know.”
- C.J. Wilson on Dr. Frank Jobe, who passed away on Thursday: “The pitcher’s elbow is like Humpty Dumpty, and he figured out how to put it back together again.” The Angels left-hander, like many, believes guys like Dr. Jobe and Dr. Lewis Yocum, who passed away last year, should be enshrined in Cooperstown.
- The Angels will meet with Major League Baseball at some point in the next week, where they’ll look at video of Thursday’s play at home plate. Scioscia said the meeting was pre-planned and not a reaction to yesterday’s play. Mike Trout was looking at pictures of his slide on his phone in the clubhouse and said he’s still confused about Rule 7.13 on home-plate collisions. Many are. “Guess I have to do my homework,” he said.
- Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is in full uniform today and was chatting up with Trout during warmups. He’ll shag fly balls and take batting practice. Albert Pujols has played golf with him several times and, not surprisingly, says he can drive the ball a long, long way.
- Catcher John Hester is fine after taking a fastball to his left wrist in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game. He didn’t require X-rays and may even play against the Rockies today.
- Today is the Angels’ first split-squad game of the spring. Triple-A manager Keith Johnson will focus on the offense, player information coach Rick Eckstein will handle the defense and Erik Bennett will be the pitching coach.
- Some notes for the game against the Cubs in Tempe today: Kole Calhoun has led off in six of the Angels’ seven Cactus League games, so, yes, he’ll be the leadoff hitter this year. “You kind of get caught in the middle, I guess, because I do like to be aggressive but right now you kind of have to take a step back and see some more pitches,” Calhoun said. … Trout, Pujols, David Freese, Howie Kendrick, J.B. Shuck, Hank Conger and Erick Aybar are also in that lineup, with Hector Santiago starting.
- Some notes for the game against the Rockies at Salt River Fields: Grant Green will get his first spring start at third base. … Bench competitors Andrew Romine (shortstop), Ian Stewart (first base), Collin Cowgill (center field) and Brennan Boesch (left field) are also in the lineup, with Joe Blanton starting.
Most important thing: Albert Pujols played in back-to-back games for the first time this spring, and started at first base for the fourth time in six games, and made two very nice diving stops. He also singled in his third at-bat, snapping an 0-for-9 skid.
Second-most important thing: Jered Weaver pitched four complete innings in his second start, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits while giving up four hits, walking two and striking out two. Weaver said he “probably left a couple pitches up, a little excited, but other than that, I felt pretty good out there.”
Third-most important thing: Grant Green started at shortstop for the first time, playing six innings and handling the only two routine grounders hit to him — a slow roller that he changed and a charity hop he fielded slightly to his left. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said “at times he got a little too deep, but his throws across were good.” Green is expected to get a start at third base by the end of the week.
Fourth-most important thing: The Angels had two defensive blunders — on a fly ball Brennan Boesch lost in the sun and a slow roller that sneaked under Weaver’s legs before he recovered — but overall played a very strong defensive game, with nice plays by Luis Jimenez, Matt Long and Pujols.
Fifth-most important thing: Kevin Jepsen had a scoreless outing for the second straight time, giving up one hit and striking out one in the sixth.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): With one out in the first, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford smoked a liner to right field, but Pujols dove full-extension to his right, fielded it cleanly and made the flip to Weaver.
Best quote: Weaver, on the difference between Pujols this spring compared to last spring: “It’s night and day. Just the way he’s running around, the way he’s moving at first — just walking in general he looks more healthy.”
Angels’ record: 3-3
Most important thing: The gamesmanship between Yu Darvish and Mike Trout has begun. Trout owns a lifetime 1.227 OPS in 39 plate appearances against Darvish, so the Japanese right-hander said he only threw him fastballs today (Trout lined out and hit a single in two at-bats against him) because he didn’t want to tip his hand on the different approach he’ll have against the Angels’ phenom this season.
Second-most important thing: Tyler Skaggs, vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, retired six of his first seven batters, but grew noticeably tired in the third, putting four of the five batters he faced on base and giving up an RBI single to Shin-Soo Choo before exiting.
Third-most important thing: Albert Pujols went 0-for-3 with a weak groundout and two harmless flyouts, making him 0-for-8 on the spring. But, as Mike Scioscia said, “Really small sample size. In BP he’s there; he’s just searching for timing. He’ll find it.”
Fourth-most important thing: Raul Ibanez took Darvish deep in the second inning, with a solo shot that easily cleared the right-field fence. Ibanez has one hit and five strikeouts in nine career regular-season at-bats against Darvish.
Fifth-most important thing: Sidearm reliever Joe Smith made his Angels debut in the fourth inning, giving up an RBI triple to Leonys Martin.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): With one on and none out in the eighth, Rangers second baseman Kensuke Tanaka ranged to his right, slid on one knee and made a nice backhand play of a Luis Martinez grounder to start a slick 4-6-3 double play.
Best quote: Trout, to Japanese reporters when asked about Darvish tweaking his game plan against him this year: “It’s going to be interesting. I’m curious to see what he does, see what happens. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Most important thing: Joe Blanton, entering in the fifth, started his spring by giving up back-to-back singles and a two-run double to Yoenis Cespedes. But he retired seven of the next eight batters, striking out two of them, and Mike Scioscia called it “a step forward.”
Second-most important thing: The Angels had most of their starters in the lineup, but they were shut out in the five innings they were on the field. Mike Trout walked to load the bases with one out in the fifth, but Albert Pujols (now 0-for-5 with a walk this spring) grounded into an inning-ending 5-3 double play.
Third-most important thing: Screwball master Hector Santiago was a little erratic to start the game — his first pitch sailed way wide of Chris Iannetta — but was able to navigate through two Angels misplays and his own two walks to allow just one unearned run in 2 2/3 innings.
Fourth-most important thing: Brennan Boesch, vying for a spot off the bench, had a couple of singles and is now 4-for-7 this spring.
Fifth-most important thing: Brandon Lyon, competing with several other relievers for two bullpen spots, pitches a clean ninth inning, recording a strikeout. Lyon, 34, is an interesting name to watch because he has a good track record and gets hitters out a different way (with offspeed stuff).
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): To start the game, Pujols ranged into foul territory and made a nifty, over-the-shoulder basket catch to record the out. It wasn’t necessarily spectacular, but it was the kind of play he may not have made while hindered by plantar fasciitis last year.
Best quote: Pujols, when asked if Trout’s performance the last two years has pushed him to be at that same level to keep up with him: “I don’t need to keep up with anybody, buddy. Just look at my numbers. My job is to stay healthy and go out there and play. I don’t need anybody to motivate me. My job is to be out there and give 110 percent, and that’s what I’ve been doing [my whole] career.”
Angels’ record: 1-2
Most important thing: The Angels were dialed in. Yes, it’s only Spring Training, and it came against a bad Cubs team that was basically only playing with three regulars, but it’s important for the Angels to assert themselves early in hopes of avoiding another season-crippling start. And their offensive showing, after doing live batting practice for about a week week, was uplifting. Mike Trout hit a grand slam, Chris Iannetta fell three feet shy of a two-homer day, J.B. Shuck had a three-run triple and the Angels had two crooked-number innings, scoring four in the second and nine — nine! — in the fourth.
Second-most important thing: Jered Weaver looked good. He went three full innings in a Cactus League opener for the first time in his career and gave up only one hard-hit ball. Weaver threw 41 pitches and sat around 87 mph. That’s basically where he was last year, and he should build up from that as he continues to throw. His changeup looked great, and he felt like he could’ve kept pitching after three one-hit innings.
Third-most important thing: Maybe not important, but fun — Trout’s grand slam was a laser beam. He got a 2-0 fastball low and inside, kept his hands in beautifully and drove it over the picnic area in left field. In case you hadn’t noticed, he good.
Fourth-most important thing: All the everyday position players (except Josh Hamilton, who’s nursing a strained left calf) played five innings on defense. That included Albert Pujols (0-for-2 with a strikeout and a walk), who didn’t have any balls hit to him but was moving around well in pre-game infield.
Fifth-most important thing: Howie Kendrick singled in his first at-bat and has now hit safely in 27 of his last 29 Spring Training games. His Cactus League batting averages from 2007-13, respectively: .348, .382, .339, .313, .364, .383, .435.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): A tie between Andrew Romine and John McDonald, the two guys fighting to secure the utility infield spot. In the eighth, McDonald — playing second base — slid to his right to backhand a sharp Dan Vogelbach grounder and then made a nifty glove-flip to Romine in one motion, starting a 4-6-3 double play. In the ninth, Romine — playing shortstop — ranged deep in the hole to backhand an Albert Almora grounder and made a long, loopy throw to first to record the out just in time.
Best quote: Mike Scioscia, when sheepishly asked if he felt Trout’s ball had a chance to go out: “I think it was out before he got out of the batter’s box.”
Taco power rankings (updated every Friday): 1. Los Taquitos, 2. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 3. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 4. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 5. Poliberto’s Taco Shop
Albert Pujols arrived to Spring Training early, as usual. Is looking trim, as usual.
And is feeling unusually healthy.
“You’re going to see it when I run around and move around,” the Angels’ high-priced first baseman said with a big grin. “I’ll let your eyes judge. … I might sneak five or six [stolen bases] this year.”
Pujols is ready to go after a season that was cut to 99 games because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot and a right knee that still wasn’t fully recovered from offseason surgery. He arrived to the Angels’ Spring Training facility on Wednesday, the day before pitchers and catchers reported, about seven pounds lighter and doesn’t expect to have any restrictions running or playing first base when full workouts begin late next week.
“It was a great offseason,” Pujols said Thursday morning from Tempe Diablo Stadium. “Like I told you guys at the end of the season last year, everything happens for a reason. It sucked sitting on the bench for almost two and a half months last year, as competitive an athlete as I am. But at the same time, it happened for the best because I was able to not have the surgery on my heel and miss maybe some of my offseason training.”
Pujols had an unprecedented 11-year run to start his career, batting .328/.420/.617 with 445 homers. In his first season with the Angels in 2012 — the first of a 10-year, $240 million contract — the 34-year-old recovered from a rough start to bat .285/.343/.516. Last year, his numbers dipped to .258/.330/.437, with most of his games coming as a designated hitter, and his season ended on July 26 with a partial tear of his left plantar fascia.
“It was like playing with a flat tire and a broken rim,” is how Pujols described last season, referencing his left foot and right knee.
That, however, allowed Pujols to have a normal offseason, though he hit earlier than usual to make up for the lost time.
How much difference will that have on his numbers?
“You can’t read the future and put pressure on yourself and say, ‘I need to do this,’” Pujols said. “I didn’t change my program. I did the things that I’ve always done in the offseason to prepare myself to come to Spring Training. Obviously this year was a little bit better because I didn’t have to worry about the injuries, like I did in the offseason of 2012 after my knee surgery.
“But as long as I stay healthy, I know I’m going to hit and I’m going to play this game as hard as I can and try to have a big smile and try to help this organization win a championship. This is not about Albert Pujols.”
– Alden Gonzalez
The Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes are over, and after all the speculation and all the anticipation, he wound up with the team that seemed to make the most sense from the onset: The Yankees, who badly need pitching, can spend with the best of them, will hardly have to pay Alex Rodriguez in 2014 and have now abandoned any faint hopes to get under the $189 million luxury tax.
The Angels still hold on to those expectations.
They have roughly $15 million of wiggle room before surpassing that tax threshold, which is enough money to sign a free-agent starting pitcher but ultimately wasn’t enough to even compete for Tanaka. The Yankees got him on a seven-year, $155 million contract, with an opt-out after the fourth year, according to Ken Rosenthal.
The Angels knew Tanaka well and liked him a lot, but for them, any deal in excess of $100 million meant going over the tax. With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton combining to make $196 million over the next four years, and Mike Trout one year away from making major dollars, another mega contract was just too much of a gamble for them. That’s probably why they didn’t bother to meet with him in California two weeks ago, or why they weren’t among the five teams to reportedly submit an offer; the chances were too slim.
So, what now?
In a word (or two), Matt Garza.
The Angels have targeted Garza ever since Jason Vargas signed with the Royals in late November. The two actually share the same agent, Nez Balelo, who also represents third baseman David Freese, who filed an arbitration number $1.9 million higher than what the Angels filed last week. Small world, right? Garza has always seemed a lot more realistic than Tanaka because the contract and the amount of suitors are smaller, but the Angels still aren’t expected to overpay. Agree with it or not, they don’t feel they have to add another starter after acquiring two young, cost-controlled lefties in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago for Mark Trumbo, a duo that joins Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards in the projected rotation.
I don’t expect the Tanaka signing to impact Garza’s price. They’re on two completely different stratospheres. But one potential ripple effect is that the Diamondbacks have liked Garza for a while, and they have money to burn after not being able to sign Tanaka or Shin-Soo Choo. A resolution could come soon (you know, since we’re like three weeks away from Spring Training).
If Garza’s price demands don’t go down, then the Angels will move on to the next tier, to the likes of Bronson Arroyo and Chris Capuano and Paul Maholm. Chances are, they’ll add someone this month. But I think they’ll wait for a fair price (and this is the month for fair prices). They still aren’t expected to give up a Draft pick in order to sign Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.
Nobody wants to hear this, but if they don’t feel comfortable with any of the free-agent-salary demands, they can always keep their remaining funds and wait ’til next year, when Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester will make up a much more talented free-agent crop of starters.
On being traded for the first time in his career …
I think it’s all for the better. Hopefully for the better of all the teams and for the better of my career. It seems like the Angels are really happy to have me. And as long as they want me there, it’s nice to have that. As long as they want to have me, I’m happy to be there.
On whether it took him by surprise …
I had an idea that was going to happen, with having four lefties in the rotation. It’s the first time I’ve been traded in my career, so I really didn’t know how to react and don’t know how to go by it. But I kind of felt it coming. I heard a bunch of rumors and just people texting, like, ‘Hey, it’s possible.’ I kind of had an idea it was possible. I didn’t know if it was going to go through, especially talking to the White Sox, planning ahead, trying to get ready for 200 innings next year as a starter in the White Sox rotation. And then a week and a half, two weeks later, it was like, ‘Oh, you just got traded.’ But it’s for the better, so I’m happy.
On his comfort level in bouncing around from bullpen to rotation …
I’m really comfortable. I feel like I’ve done it all the time, through high school and college, Minor League Baseball and the big leagues. Forever. It’s to the point where it’s normal to me. Growing up as a kid in high school, playing summer ball, I would play center field for two innings and then pitch. It’s something I’ve done before, jumping all over the place. But it was definitely a fun experience, coming up from being a starter in the Minor Leagues and then the big leagues. I’ve had every role I think that you can have in the big leagues. It was definitely fun, because you came to the park not knowing what was going on. It was definitely a fun experience in coming to the field every day and not knowing what was going to happen.
On building off 2013 …
It was definitely a different year — innings-wise, strength-wise, learning how to pitch every fifth day. It was definitely a new experience. I don’t know if I made this many, but I had a bunch of starts in the Minor Leagues in 2011 and it definitely wasn’t as difficult as this, between the big league level and playing great teams every day. But I learned a lot. This year, I definitely want to improve on going after guys earlier in the count, get some earlier outs so I can get deeper in the game. It seemed like at the beginning of the game, in the first inning, I’d worry about starting the game with a zero instead of just pitching the same way later in the game. So, early in the game, if I attack the zone more, I felt like after the first, second inning, it was an easier inning for me. It was me putting pressure on myself to start off the game clean and making sure that I gave my team a 0-0 score, and hopefully we can get some runs early in the game. And I put a lot of pressure on myself with my stuff and with my command. That was a big thing of just getting used to the role of a starting pitcher. In the bullpen, you come in for one inning, so you have a little bit of leeway where you can waste a few pitches. But as a starter, you have to try to get as many early outs as you can.
On what he was told in his phone call with the Angels …
It was short, brief. [Jerry Dipoto] was just saying, ‘We’re happy to have you. We had to make a move, and I felt like you were the right move for what we needed and you fill a spot that needed to be filled.’ … They seem very excited to have me, and it seems like I’m going to hopefully be filling one of the voids that they need.
* Shortly after getting traded to the D-backs on Tuesday, Mark Trumbo reached out to the Angels’ PR department to ask about still attending the team’s annual Holiday Party at the ESPN Zone. They couldn’t believe it. And they were even more stunned when he actually showed up the next day, alongside Hank Conger, Chuck Finley, Adam Kennedy and others. (Photo on the left courtesy of Angels PR man Eric Kay.)
Angels broadcasters Jose Mota and Terry Smith left Trumbo for last during the introductions, and he got by far the loudest ovation.
“I’ve been attending these parties for as long as I’ve been here, 11 years,” Mota said, “but you know one thing — Trumbo has been going to these parties since he was in A ball, and that part doesn’t surprise me because he’s so invested in the community-outreach programs, which he’s done for so many years. And we’re talking about a guy who, because he’s local, he was accessible, good kid, the Angels felt comfortable calling him out of A ball and saying, ‘Come to this party.’ But to see a player who had just gotten traded, No. 1, putting away all the emotions, and then a guy that is not an Angel at that party, it was a bit strange.
“He didn’t put the jersey on, of course,” Mota added. “But he was Trumbo. He was just Mark Trumbo, that’s all you expected. And he had a huge ovation from the kids and all the adults that were there because they knew that this is quite a unique thing — a guy who’s not on the team, got traded, could’ve been mopy. He decided, ‘No, this is who I am.’ You talk about showing your true colors and who you really are, I don’t think it speaks any better than that action right there.”
* Trumbo, during a phone conversation with Lyle Spencer and I, admitted that he smiled when he realized he’d be ditching the Angel Stadium marine layer and was following Tuesday’s trade rumors via Twitter “more than I lead on, probably.”
“I knew that things were getting close from messages and phone calls I received,” Trumbo said, “but I did find out first on Twitter that things had become official, so that’s kind of some insight from a player’s perspective that, in this day and age, that’s how things work.”
* Spoke to yet another scout about Tyler Skaggs recently. Here’s what he said (and this guy knows him very well) …
People seem concerned about a loss of velocity. But if you go back to what you thought he was going to be, when you drafted, scouted and signed him, that’s exactly the fastball that he’s working with now. Maybe for a short time he peaked a little bit and worked at 93, 94 or whatever, but he’s 88 to 91, touches 92 occasional now. That’s plenty of fastball, when you consider his curveball and his changeup, and the belief that he’s been a strike-thrower. I know his strikeout numbers are all right. He’s got angle, he’s got plane, he’s got spin, he’s got some touch-and-feel, some back-and-forth with the changeup. This guy was well-regarded, highly regarded throughout the industry, had the numbers to match up. He had a mediocre year last year. … I think the comfort level of going back where he came from is going to help. He’s a Southern California kid. There’s going to be a comfort level, a familiarity level.
* You think coaching the Yankees, Cowboys or Lakers is a pressure-filled job? That’s nothing compared to managing winter ball, and Angels bench coach Dino Ebel experienced that recently. Ebel, promoted from third-base coach shortly after the season, was managing the Estrellas Orientales of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. But that lasted only 18 games. He went 6-12, and then was let go, done in time to join Mike Scioscia and several other members of the Angels’ coaching staff at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
* Someone who is still playing winter ball — for the Leones de Escogido in the D.R. — is C.J. Cron, who’s batting .212/.250/.364 through eight games. That’s a lot of baseball for Cron, who played a full season of Double-A (.746 OPS) and tore it up in the Arizona Fall League (1.167), but he’s a first baseman/designated hitter, so it’s not like he has to move around too much. The Angels view him as a potential option for them late in 2014.
* Some additional minutia on the Angels’ situation at the moment: Matt Garza is still “the guy they really want” a source said Friday, but the perception is that they won’t go above a four-year contract. … The Angels still aren’t expected to spend much on a bat. Right now, they’re budgeting a one-year deal worth less than $5 million. Can they get Raul Ibanez or Kevin Youkilis for that? We’ll see. … Santiago and Skaggs both have options left, but it looks like Santiago has a spot on the Major League roster (as a starter or a reliever) and Skaggs is more of a question. Either he starts in the Majors or in Triple-A. Both have options, nonetheless.
Winter Meetings stories …
Angels Notebook from Day 1, on Albert Pujols‘ health, Mike Trout extension talks and the evolving AL West
Phillip Wellman (this guy) will manage the Angels’ Double-A affiliate
Story on the three-team trade between the D-backs, White Sox and Angels
Spencer, on how the deal benefits the Angels
Trout’s cycle lands GIBBY for Hitting Performance
Trout likely to bat second again next season
Spencer, on Scioscia seeking chemistry on the field
Lefty specialist picked up in Rule 5 Draft
On what’s next, now that the Winter Meetings are over
On Tuesday’s trade, in which the Angels acquired Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago for Mark Trumbo …
I think it’s a big step in the right direction. It’s always tough to ‑‑ when you’re trying to find pitching and to have to lose a piece as important to us as Mark Trumbo was. It’s a little easier to sign a guy like Joe Smith, who we signed as a free agent. But our deficiencies, I think, were very evident, probably for the last couple of years on the pitching side, to be able to have starters that can get you to your game and have the lead and hold those leads. And we were very poor at that for the last couple of seasons and we paid a huge price for it. Hopefully we’re working back for that direction.
On whether the Angels still need to add to the rotation via free agency …
I don’t think Jerry [Dipoto] is done as far as trying to find pitching depth and adding to the rotation. He has a lot of things on the table that he’s looking at. And if we’re able to acquire someone, it’d probably be important; if we don’t, I think we’re in a much more solid side on the pitching end than we were for most season last year.
On Albert Pujols’ progress …
He’s swinging the bat. He’s taking batting practice. He feels very strong physically. I really feel that he’s going to be the healthiest he’s been, certainly from what he’s been out here with us, probably a couple of years before that in St. Louis where he was banged up. I think the foot will be a non-issue. And I think that he’ll take a lot of pressure off of his knee that kind of went hand-in-hand with having his foot issue. I’m going to be really surprised if he’s not the healthiest he’s been in a number of years. And that obviously is an important piece of what we need.
On the expectations for Josh Hamilton …
I think Josh is going to move back to left field and just stay in left field. And I think he’ll be more comfortable with that aspect as opposed to switching him to right field. But I do feel, from the way he finished up the second half of last season and made some adjustments, that he understands what his role is a little more, what our team is about and what he can bring. And Josh is going to have a big year for us next year.
On what kind of bat fits in the DH spot …
I think there’s a number of ways to go because we have versatility with a guy like Kole Calhoun that can play first base. It can be on the defensive side, a corner outfield and first base, to a player that might be just restricted to a DH spot or a leftfield spot. And so as far as the bat being left‑handed or right‑handed, I think you’re always happy to add left‑handed depth in your lineup. But there’s also, as we go through the whole exercise of looking at rosters and possibilities, there’s also a role for a right‑handed bat that can fit very nice.
On whether Pujols will still need a lot of time at DH …
I think we’ll probably be proactive with that and do it on a hopefully preventative basis. Albert is at his best when he’s playing first base. We’re a better team when he can play first base and bring that defensive component to our team. We’ll look at that first and just try to manage the health issue of how he feels on a daily basis. I do think we’ll use him DH days just to keep him fresh, as we will a lot of our guys. But I don’t think that he needs to be pigeonholed. And it’s not in our best interest as a team to pigeonhole him in the DH, because I think he’s going to be healthy and ready to play first.
On where C.J. Cron fits in …
I think C.J. is a guy that is working his way on to our depth chart. As far as breaking Spring Training and making our team, that might be a bit of a stretch. But I think we’re very comfortable with the fact that at some point next year, if he makes the same improvement that he made this year in the Fall League to where he was during the season this year to the Fall League, and in winter ball he’s swinging the bat well down in the Dominican. He will be in our depth chart, no doubt.
On whether the Angels can reach 93-94 wins …
If you analyze on the offensive side our season last year, although maybe we underachieved because maybe some guys were struggling a little. Still we scored enough runs to reach our goal. I think it’s real clear we’re going to be ‑‑ to go down very deep on the layers of our club to understand, our starters didn’t pitch at a certain point in the game, some of our starters, C.J. Wilson had a terrific season. Some guys struggled to get us there. Missed Jered Weaver for a long time. I think there are components on our club that will come together. And we’re very comfortable in the challenge of bridging that gap that you’re talking about in getting there. It’s definitely something we can achieve. And I think what Boston did is a great indication, two years ago, of what they did last year. I think we have the same potential to hopefully do what they did.
On Mike Trout’s first two years …
He’s done things that most players at that progression of Mike Trout are in Double‑A doing, and he’s doing them at a Major League level, or triple League level, getting their first taste. He’s been around a couple of years, and realize he’s not even 23. He’s ‑‑ this guy is just a kid. So I didn’t see Ken Griffey Jr. up close when he came up in Seattle when he was 19 and obviously had his Hall of Fame career. So I can’t say a guy like this has never been around, because I think there are some instances of guys that did it. But I can only say from a personal perspective, I’ve never seen anyone this young that is this ‑‑ that has this much poise and the ability to do the things that Mike can do on a baseball field. I just haven’t seen it. It’s going to be hopefully fun to watch for the next 15 or 20 years.
On where Mike Trout fits in the lineup …
I think a number of things for Mike Trout, if you look at what his potential is and what is the potential of the team, he has the capability of scoring a hundred‑plus runs and driving in a hundred‑plus runs for the season if we set the table well enough for him. I think in the American League in the lead‑off spot, where in the National League if you’re always having pitchers bunting, he might get more RBI opportunities in the 1 hole. That’s tougher to do, because your on‑base guys usually aren’t 8th or 9th in the American League. So you have to look at that, factor that in as far as who do you want hitting in front of him? Some higher on‑base guys like Calhoun and [J.B.] Shuck at times in front of Trout last year, his RBI chances totally picked up when we moved him to the 2 hole, if you look at the raw numbers of it. So I think that his future is definitely anywhere 2, 3 or 4 in the lineup. Where he ends up this year, I just think that from a leadoff spot it’s always sexy to talk about that type of leadoff hitter. But I don’t know if it’s as functional for Mike or our team if you’re not setting the table for him. So that’s probably why it bodes better for him to hit at least 2 and see where it goes from there.
On Masahiro Tanaka …
Yes, I have seen his video. I think he’s a unique talent and you can see why he’s coveted. And there will certainly be a lot of interest in Major League Baseball, if all the details are ironed out that he can come over. I think much like a lot of the Japanese pitchers we’ve seen over the years, particularly in the recent past with [Yu] Darvish, there was a lot of talent in Japan, and he’s certainly on the top of the list.
Here’s how it stacked up in combined wins …
AL East: 433
NL Central: 421
AL Central: 400
NL West: 399
NL East: 391
AL West: 387
And here’s where it ranked in run-differential …
AL East: 235
NL Central: 219
AL Central: 0
NL West: -137
AL West: -138
NL East: -179
But AL West teams have been particularly aggressive in the early portion of this offseason — and yes, it’s worth reminding all of you that it is, indeed, still early — which could make for an interesting dynamic in 2014, and should make the Angels’ return to the postseason that much tougher.
The Mariners just reeled in the biggest free agent of the offseason, snatching Robinson Cano from the Yankees via a reported 10-year, $240-million, Albert Pujols-like contract. No, they aren’t an instant contender. And as the Angels themselves have shown, throwing the most dollars at the best free agent in no way guarantees success. But this is an important building block for a Mariners team that has always struggled to land the big names (see: Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder). At some point, you have to overpay to lay a foundation (the Mets thought the same thing with Curtis Granderson). This reminds me of the Jayson Werth deal the Nationals made three offseasons ago. It was a vast overpay at seven years and $126 million. But at that time, it was the only way the Nats were going to land a premier free agent. Adding Werth — even if he isn’t a star to the magnitude of Cano — changed the expectations in Washington and ultimately helped make it a place where free agents wanted to play. Same can happen in Seattle, where the Mariners are showing a willingness to spend. And if they trade for David Price — they have the prospects to do it — watch out.
In the words of one executive, “The A’s may have one of the best bullpens in history.” It’s not much of an exaggeration when you consider that they added Luke Gregerson to a group that includes Jim Johnson, Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins, Sean Doolittle, etc. Their rotation — Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily, Sonny Gray, in whatever order — is darn good, as well. But here’s the most important part about the current A’s: After back-to-back exits in the Division Series, they’re going for it. You don’t trade for one season of Johnson, flip a talented prospect (Michael Choice) for Craig Gentry or give Kazmir a two-year, $22 million contract if you aren’t.
Then there are the Rangers, who you just know have another big more or two in them. I actually liked the Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler deal for them (and loved it for the Tigers). They’re paying Fielder $138 million over the next seven years, which is very reasonable for a guy whose home-run rate will inflate in Texas and who gives them the middle-of-the-order bat they’ve been missing since Hamilton left. Over the last four years, the Rangers have the third-best regular-season winning percentage in the Majors (.570, trailing only the Yankees and Braves) and have been to the World Series twice. They had the 10th-best staff ERA in baseball last year, and they surely aren’t done.
Even the Astros have made some moves. They reached agreement on a three-year, $30 million deal with starter Scott Feldman — a guy the Angels would’ve liked, but not for three years — and previously traded for former Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler. They were easily dead last in 2013 in winning percentage (.315) and run-differential (minus-238), so they’re a ways away. But they have the second-best farm system in the Majors, per Baseball America, and they’re on their way.
What does all this mean for the Angels?
Well, nothing. At least not now.
They have about $15 million and some trade chips — Howie Kendrick still chief among them — to fill two spots in their starting rotation. They still have baseball’s best player in Mike Trout, two premier superstars in Pujols and Hamilton, two legit starters at the top of their rotation in Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, and a bullpen that can be among the deepest in baseball if Sean Burnett returns to full health. If they can sign someone like Matt Garza, they’re no doubt a legit playoff contender, regardless of how bad this past season turned out for them.
But their competition just keeps getting better.