Results tagged ‘ Arte Moreno ’
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, like owner Arte Moreno, wanted more “accountability” from Josh Hamilton.
Speaking Tuesday, a day after Hamilton’s introductory press conference at Globe Life Park, Scioscia made it a point to say he was disappointed Hamilton didn’t show “at least a little remorse towards his teammates” in his first public comments this season.
“The one thing that I think is sad and I’m a little bit disappointed in is the fact that there wasn’t any accountability, most importantly to his teammates,” Scioscia said prior to the start of a three-game series against the A’s at O.co Coliseum. “If you look at how much support he got in that clubhouse, when he was struggling, whatever was happening – no one ever questioned Josh’s work ethic and him wanting to play well. He played hard. Nobody ever questioned that. I know he got a lot of support from the guys that are in that clubhouse. For him not to show at least a little remorse towards his teammates I just think is wrong.”
Asked to clarify what he wanted to hear from Hamilton, Scioscia said: “I’m just leaving it at that. I think I said it all.”
The Angels ended what became an awkward, contentious relationship with Hamilton on Monday, by sending him to the Rangers for roughly $20 million in savings over the life of his contract. Moreno didn’t want Hamilton playing for the team any longer and Hamilton himself had made it clear to the Angels for quite a while that he wanted to return to the Rangers.
While the process was unfolding, Scioscia continually expressed concern that Hamilton wasn’t getting the help and support he needed.
Apparently those concerns are still there.
“First and foremost, I’m still concerned about Josh the person,” Scioscia said. “We had a bunch of tests and counseling ready to support him, and make sure that he had the tools to come back and meet the rigors of playing baseball. And obviously with the trade, that has fallen on whatever Texas is going to do. But I’m concerned with Josh the person. I think that he needs to get that help and support, and hopefully he’ll find that peace.”
Asked why it didn’t work out for Hamilton with the Angels, Scioscia brought up many of the popular theories. Like the fact that he went on cleansing juice diet heading into his first spring with the team, prompting him to shed 30 pounds over the offseason.
“He just didn’t seem like he had the same thunder in his swing,” Scioscia said.
He also brought up the thumb injury that sidelined Hamilton for 10 weeks early in the 2014 season, after a hot start, and the logistics of moving to Southern California.
“There were spots when he looked like he was comfortable and playing well,” Scioscia said, “but at times it seemed like there was turmoil in his life.”
Through it all, Scioscia wanted to make one thing clear: The Angels gave Hamilton all the support he needed.
“It’s unfortunate that he had his relapse,” Scioscia said, “but I know we supported him in every aspect, of whatever his needs were.”
Scioscia doesn’t believe the situation became a distraction in his clubhouse.
“There’s a strong bond in our clubhouse, and guys support each other,” Scioscia said. “That’s the same support they gave Josh. That’s why I was disturbed when he never addressed that or said anything about the players.”
Josh Hamilton‘s tumultuous stint in Southern California is over.
On Monday afternoon, the Angels and Rangers completed a trade that sent Hamilton back to Arlington and gave his most recent employers some salary relief. The deal was first reported on Friday, but the financial complexities that came with it — the Rangers sent money to the Angels and Hamilton agreed to give up some of his earnings — created a lag.
In the trade, a source said the Rangers will pay the Angels $2 million to $3 million in each of the remaining three years of Hamilton’s contract, which owed him $90.2 million through the 2017 season, including the signing bonus that was spread out over the course of the deal. Hamilton will reportedly sacrifice $6 million of his own, made up for by the fact Texas has no state income tax.
The release said the Angels received “a player to be named later or cash considerations,” but Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said that has yet to be determined.
“The best interest in the Angels’ organization,” Dipoto added, “was to move on.”
The Angels next play the Rangers on July 3-5, in Arlington.
“If I could put my finger on why Josh had a tough time here, we may have been able to help him solve those issues,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said on a conference call. “And I’m sure if he could put a finger on why it was such a struggle for him here, I’m sure he would’ve been able to contribute more than he did. But at the end of the day, this decision is about our 25-man roster, our organization, the health of this group as we move forward. We’re going to part ways with Josh Hamilton, let him rejoin the Texas Rangers, and we’re going to focus on Angels baseball as we move forward.”
Hamilton — the No. 1 overall Draft pick out of high school in 1999, before drug and alcohol addiction kept him out of baseball for three years — tapped into his potential with the Rangers, who initially acquired him from the Reds in December 2007.
From 2008-12 in Texas, Hamilton started five straight All-Star Games, played in back-to-back World Series and won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award. He batted .305/.363/.549 in that five-year span, averaging 28 homers and 101 RBIs per season. But his production slipped considerably after a signing a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels in December 2012.
During his introductory press conference at Globe Life Park, Hamilton said if he had to do it over again, “I probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere; I probably would’ve stayed here.”
“When it was made aware to me that the Angels wanted to move me, my first choice was the Rangers,” Hamilton said. “I’ve had a lot of good memories here.”
The 33-year-old outfielder batted .255/.316/.426 over the last two years, averaging 16 homers and 62 RBIs per season. He went 0-for-13 in the 2014 AL Division Series, generating boos from Angels fans.
Hamilton has been rehabbing from Feb. 4 surgery to his right shoulder in Houston all year, away from the team. His relationship with the Angels’ front office became contentious after he had a drug relapse late in the offseason.
An arbitrator ruled on April 3 that Hamilton did not violate the terms of his treatment program, mainly because he self-reported the relapse to Major League Baseball before a failed test; the Angels were openly upset by the decision. President John Carpino said the ruling “defies logic” and general manager Jerry Dipoto expressed the club’s “disappointment” in Hamilton’s actions with a statement.
The team did not issue Hamilton a locker at its Spring Training facility or at Angel Stadium, and promptly pulled all of his merchandise and likeness from the ballpark. Prior to the home opener on April 10, Angels owner Arte Moreno declined to say Hamilton would play for his team again and added that he hasn’t spoken to Hamilton since the end of the 2014 season.
Asked why, Moreno said, “Probably disappointment.”
Asked his reaction for those comments on Monday, Hamilton said, “I have no clue what he’s talking about.”
“Going into this season, I hadn’t been the player that they wanted me to be,” Hamilton continued. “I know I hadn’t been. But I worked my butt off to be that guy, this year, going into the season for the Angels. They just didn’t want that to happen for some reason. It doesn’t hurt my feelings, it doesn’t make me mad or anything like that. But I prepared. He knew what the deal was when he signed me. Hands down. He knew what he was getting, he knew what the risks were, he knew all those things. Under the [Joint Drug Agreement], it is what it is.”
Later in the press conference, Hamilton had asked if he’d still be with the Angels if they had been more accepting of his relapse.
“I would be,” he said. “I would’ve been in Spring Training, I would’ve rehabbed in Spring Training, and I would’ve been back [on the field] probably a month ago.”
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels expects Hamilton to be back on the field by the middle or end of May. Hamilton has been hitting and taking fly balls, but said he needs to get used to running around with spikes for an extended period of time.
He also said he has gone back to his support group from before 2012, which means, among other things, hiring Shayne Kelley back as his accountability partner. Hamilton is now getting tested five times a week, up from three.
Dipoto was asked on the conference call if this is a move that can come back to haunt the Angels.
“Why would it come back to haunt us?” Dipoto asked, then was told he was trading Hamilton to a division rival and he may have some good years ahead of him.
“Again,” Dipoto said, “we’re comfortable with the decision here.”
Josh Hamilton was recently cleared for baseball activities and the Angels are putting together a plan that would involve him working out in their Arizona-based extended spring program “in the not-too-distant future,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said.
The team is still sorting through details and has yet to communicate them with Hamilton, who has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery in Houston since early February. An announcement is expected by the end of the week.
“Josh is now to the point where we’re beginning the process of preparing to return him to the field, and that’s going to begin at some point in the not-too-distant future in Tempe,” Dipoto said in a phone conversation on Tuesday morning.
“We don’t have a specific date for that, and we haven’t talked through the detail with Josh at this point. We’re still very much in the planning zone. Like any other player, he’s going to begin an on-field rehab process, and that will begin sooner rather than later. But we still don’t have any defined dates.”
Hamilton could work out there for a couple of weeks, then take part in a rehab assignment at one of their affiliates for up to 20 days – that’s the maximum amount of time allowed for position players on the disabled list – and perhaps be ready to return to the Majors around June.
The Angels still have to determine where Hamilton is in terms of his overall preparedness to play, particularly what kind of running exercises he’s been doing. They know he’s been hitting a lot, taking 200-plus swings a day since March, and teammates who recently saw him raved about his physical condition.
“He’s all of 250 pounds,” said Angels third baseman David Freese, who joined Collin Cowgill and Kole Calhoun for lunch with Hamilton on Thursday, while the team was in Houston. “But I think there’s a lot of things going on between him and the Angels that nobody knows about. That’s between them, and it’s really going on behind closed doors.”
Every option is still at play for Hamilton, who’s owed $83 million through the 2017 season and has a full no-trade clause. The Angels could look to trade him, could release him – which means they assume his entire remaining salary – or could eventually fold him back into the team.
Angels owner Arte Moreno said on April 10 that Hamilton’s contract contains language that gives the team recourse in the event of a drug- or alcohol-related relapse, a point the Major League Baseball Players Association quickly refuted. Moreno could try to act on those provisions, which would undoubtedly lead to an arbitration hearing between the MLBPA and the Commissioner’s Office, but has yet to decide on that, a source said.
The Angels didn’t issue Hamilton a locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Angel Stadium, where any merchandise or images depicting the five-time All-Star have been taken down. Asked if Hamilton will return to the team at some point, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”
If the Angels’ offense continues to struggle – they ranked 21st in runs and 26th in OPS after Monday’s 6-3 loss to the A’s – perhaps there will be more willingness to bring Hamilton back.
For now, all they can do is take the next step in his rehabilitation from Feb. 4 surgery to his right AC joint.
“We are prepared to begin the rehabilitation process on the field sooner rather than later,” said Dipoto, who wouldn’t comment further. “We don’t have a specific date that we’ve coordinated yet, but we’re getting to that.”
Josh Hamilton isn’t with the Angels at Minute Maid Park, but he isn’t forgotten.
Several Angels players went to go see the 33-year-old outfielder prior to Friday’s series finale in Houston, where Hamilton has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery since early February. Manager Mike Scioscia and bench coach Dino Ebel had dinner with him on Wednesday night; C.J. Wilson met with Hamilton at Wilson’s friend’s house, where the Angels starter stays during trips to Houston; David Freese, Collin Cowgill and Kole Calhoun met him for lunch during the Thursday off day.
“It was good to see him,” Freese said. “I thought he was good in really good spirits. The fact is he wants to play some baseball. And he’s ready to roll.”
Freese, Calhoun and Cowgill came away shocked at how good Hamilton looked — 250 pounds, chiseled, in good spirits and ready to play baseball. That last part, of course, is complicated, with Angels owner Arte Moreno all but saying he doesn’t want the embattled slugger around.
Wilson, Hamilton’s good friend dating back to their days with the Rangers, said he’s “100 percent” in a state of mind to play baseball.
Based on their conversation, Wilson believes Hamilton’s latest relapse — which occurred late in the offseason and reportedly involved cocaine — was a “tame scenario” compared to what he went through as a Minor League player in the Rays organization. He said Hamilton is “100 percent functional,” “in the right place” and “ready to go.”
“It’s my 100-percent opinion that Josh is not a risk to himself or anybody else,” Wilson added. “That’s what I feel having known him for 8 years. That’s the closest thing I can get to a factual opinion.”
Scioscia didn’t want to elaborate on his conversation with Hamilton.
“He’s on his way with his physical recovery,” Scioscia said. “He’s getting into more baseball activities and we’ll just see when he’s ready to get out and really get after it and play. We’re not sure yet.”
The situation has put Angels players in an awkward spot, because they want to express support for Hamilton but don’t want to appear critical of upper management. For the most part, the players — and, to some extent, the coaching staff — don’t really know what’s going on.
Seeing Hamilton, at least, provided a little clarity.
“We still don’t really know what’s going on,” Freese said. “All I know is what I saw, a guy that’s smiling a lot. We enjoyed a nice lunch. He’s got a routine going on right now, and he really just wants to play some baseball.
“The lack of knowledge that’s going on can be frustrating, because this is a guy we care about. This is our team. Sooner or later, things will come out and we’ll all know what’s going on and whether he’s coming back with the Angels or he’s not.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia touched base with Josh Hamilton when the team arrived in Houston for a weekend series, but said there’s still “no clarity that he’s getting the help he needs.”
“That’s a major concern,” Scioscia told MLBNetwork Radio on Friday morning, roughly nine hours before the series opener against the Astros from Minute Maid Park.
“Hopefully the frustration will start to evaporate as Josh gets through his first physical rehab of getting his shoulder where he needs to be,” Scioscia added. “He had surgery about eight weeks ago, and it seems like he’s turned the corner and it feels pretty good. And then we have to see when he’s able to get back out on the field and play baseball. There’s still some things that are open-ended and natural frustration that comes with uncertainty. That’s kind of what we’re dealing with.”
Hamilton has been in Houston, staying with a friend who acts as a part-time accountability partner, since undergoing surgery in his right A.C. joint on Feb. 4. The 33-year-old outfielder hasn’t been around the team all year – he wasn’t even given a locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Angel Stadium – and isn’t expected to make an appearance at Minute Maid Park this weekend.
On April 3, an arbitrator ruled that Hamilton did not violate the terms of his treatment program and would not be suspended for a self-reported drug relapse that occurred late in the offseason. The ruling noticeably angered the Angels, with president John Carpino saying it “defies logic” and general manager Jerry Dipoto expressing “disappointment” in Hamilton’s actions.
Angels owner Arte Moreno indicated prior to last Friday’s home opener that he’ll seek action against Hamilton, who has provisions in his contract that may give the team recourse in the event of drug or alcohol use. Asked if Hamilton will play another game for the Angels, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”
“It’s a unique situation,” Scioscia said. “First and foremost, we want to make sure Josh is getting the help and support he needs. It’s important to Josh getting back to where he needs to be and getting on the field and playing baseball.”
Scioscia, who will address the matter further from Minute Maid Park on Friday afternoon, did not specify what kind of help Hamilton is currently receiving and whether or not the two met face-to-face.
“He’s still doing his rehab, and we’ll see when he’s ready to get into full baseball activities,” Scioscia said. “Nothing much has changed.”
The Angels just got swept! At home! To the team that swept them last October! And now they’re under .500! Another slow start! Why, God, why!?
Perspective is an invaluable trait this time of year. Six games have been played, which accounts for 3.09 percent of the regular season. Teams will get hot, then cold, then hot, then cold again. The season is that long. And the hope of every club, as Angels catcher Chris Iannetta likes to frequently point out, is to stay within reach for most of the year and get hot late. That’s what the 2014 Angels did, on their way to a Major League-best 98 wins. That’s what the 2015 Angels hope to do, at 2-4 entering a six-game road trip through Arlington and Houston.
Here are some takeaways from the first full week of real games …
Hamilton situation is getting ugly: For a while now, people around the team had been getting the impression that there was a strong chance Josh Hamilton would never play a game for the Angels again. Those sentiments were essentially confirmed on Friday, when owner Arte Moreno couldn’t guarantee that Hamilton would rejoin the team and talked about pursuing action against the high-priced outfielder for his drug-related relapse. Nobody from Hamilton’s camp — himself or his agent — has spoken up. But on Saturday, Angels starter C.J. Wilson expressed displeasure in the Angels’ comments, telling the LA Times, “It doesn’t seem like any bridges are being built,” and telling the OC Register, “If Josh was hitting .300 with 35 home runs a year, what’s the situation?”
From the outside, it seems as if this whole Hamilton saga — however it ends — is a huge distraction for the team, one that has divided the players from ownership. Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t think Wilson’s anger is necessarily felt by the rest of his teammates. They all love Hamilton as a person — how can you not? — but it’s not as if they’re clamoring to get him back, or are upset he isn’t being given a second chance. Sad as this may sound, it all comes back to production, and Hamilton hasn’t produced for them the last two years. Wilson is closer to Hamilton than anybody on the Angels, dating back to their days with the Rangers. He looks at it a little bit more personally. The rest of the team pretty much looks at it like this: We hope the best for Hamilton and his family off the field, but on the field, we’re fine without him.
That doesn’t mean this isn’t a contentious situation, however. Moreno clearly wants to negotiate some sort of buyout or trade here, but this could be a long, drawn-out battle. Hamilton is owed — no, guaranteed — $83 million through the 2017 season. So why would he take a penny less? Perhaps so he could join another team to continue his career, since Moreno has pretty much made it clear it won’t happen with the Angels. But how much is that worth, in terms of a discount for the Angels? Over the weekend, the Angels are in Houston, the city where Hamilton has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery since early February. The team doesn’t expect to see him. It’s awkward.
Weaver shaky: In his first two starts of the season, Jered Weaver has given up 10 runs on 15 hits (three of them homers) in 10 1/3 innings, prompting the national freakout that has pretty much become an April tradition. His velocity is down again, which is perhaps of most relevance. It’s 84.01 mph on his fastball, after being 87.5 mph in 2014, 87.3 mph in 2013, 88.7 mph in 2012 and 90.1 mph in 2011. Weaver has proven time and time again that he doesn’t need an overpowering fastball to be a reliable, top-of-the-rotation starter. And as Eric Hosmer pointed out to Lyle Spencer after Weaver’s rough start on Saturday, Weaver’s fastball plays up because of his length and delivery (even to a left-handed hitter, apparently).
The only thing you typically care about with Weaver — and the reason being three ticks down is a red flag — is that his right arm is healthy. He started slow last year, too, with a 5.79 ERA after three starts. And eventually he figured it out and turned in a very solid year. His velocity may not be debilitating, but it makes him have to be almost precise with his location and command. And because his delivery has so many moving parts, sometimes it takes him a while to get everything in sync with his release point and his landing leg. Eventually, though, he gets it. And when he does, his fastball velocity picks up a tick or two, like it did down the stretch last season. But the velo has never been as low as it has these last two starts. It’s worth monitoring.
Punchless out of the gate: So far, the same Angels offense that led the Majors in runs last season is 25th in the Majors in OPS (.577), tied for 25th in runs (16) and tied for 28th in batting average (.195). They have four hits in 23 at-bats with runners in scoring position and they haven’t stolen a single base. C.J. Cron is 0-for-13 after a hot spring, while Iannetta is 1-for-18 with 10 — yes, 10 — strikeouts. But hey, it’s really, really early. The Nationals have scored only 13 runs all year, and they’re going to be a juggernaut. The Angels’ offense should eventually be pretty darn good, too. A little slump coming out of spring is nothing six games in Texas can’t fix.
Reinforcements on the way: One aspect that was continually touted about the Angels heading in was their improved starting-pitching depth, and how they were no longer in deep trouble if one of their original five — or in this case, four — struggled. We may see that materialize pretty soon. Garrett Richards is slated for what very well could be his final step on Tuesday, a rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake, and could return to the rotation by early next week. And the two rotation candidates of Spring Training, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano, have thrown well in Triple-A. Heaney pitched seven shutout innings, giving up two hits, walking none and striking out eight. Tropeano pitched six innings of three-run ball, giving up two hits, walking none and striking out seven.
On the Major League side, Wilson was great on Tuesday (eight shutout innings with less than 100 pitches), but really bad on Sunday (seven runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings). Hector Santiago pitched well in Friday’s home opener, but he needed 100 pitches to record 16 outs. The Angels’ ideal pitching staff has Santiago in the bullpen as a dynamic lefty weapon, but that will only be the case if Heaney or Tropeano force their way into the big leagues. They need to prove that with more than one start.
Matchup bullpen taking shape: So far, though, their two current lefty relievers, Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez, are getting the job done. A real difference maker for the Angels this season is having Joe Smith and Huston Street entrenched as the eighth- and ninth-inning relievers. It not only solidifies the last six outs of a lead; it gives Mike Scioscia the freedom to match up in the seventh or earlier. That’s when Ramos and Alvarez can come into play against lefties, with Mike Morin being the go-to guy against righties. The two have combined to hold lefties to two hits and no walks in nine at-bats, striking out three. Neither are traditional lefty specialists. Alvarez is a last-minute converted starter; Ramos has been used mainly in multi-inning roles throughout his career. But it’d be big for the Angels if they can be effective against lefties. There are a lot of dangerous left-handed hitters in the American League West.
Garrett Richards came out of his last start saying, “I feel ready to go.” The 26-year-old right-hander threw seven innings of two-run ball in an intrasquad game on Thursday, the fourth rehab start in Richards’ recovery from left knee surgery. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he’ll make at least one more start, for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday. My guess is he returns to the Angels’ rotation on April 21.
“He still has some hurdles to get over,” Scioscia said.
The Angels are hosting the Royals team that swept them in the ALDS last year.
“Those guys just beat us,” Scioscia said. “Those plays they made defensively were not only game changers, but series changers at the time were made. Those guys made plays at every level. Sometimes it’s not so much what you haven’t done that lost a series or a game. Those guys played at a very, very high level. I’m proud of the season that we had. The disappointment of not going to the playoffs was there, but our guys gave it everything they had.”
Alcides Escobar, SS
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Alex Rios, RF
Salvador Perez, C
Omar Infante, 2B
SP: LH Jason Vargas (0-0, -.– ERA)
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
David Freese, 3B
C.J. Cron, DH
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
Collin Cowgill, LF
Johnny Giavotella, 2B
SP: LH Hector Santiago (0-0, -.– ERA)
- Arte Moreno said the Angels had language in Josh Hamilton‘s contract that gave them recourse in the event of a drug-related relapse, even though that typically isn’t allowed. Asked if he can say Hamilton will play another game for them this season, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”
- Matt Joyce, as you’ve probably noticed, is not in a lineup against a lefty for a second consecutive time.
- The Angels are still “targeting” Drew Rucinski to start Tuesday’s game, which is the first time the Angels need a fifth starter.
Angels owner Arte Moreno said prior to Friday’s home opener that Josh Hamilton has language in his contract that gives the team an avenue for recourse if he drinks alcohol or uses drugs. Moreno didn’t go into specifics as to what that recourse would entail, but he did hint that the team is pursuing action against their high-priced outfielder, who had a drug-related relapse late in the offseason and has been rehabbing shoulder surgery in Houston ever since.
Seven days ago, an arbitrator ruled that Hamilton did not violate the terms of his treatment program, leaving Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred without any power to levy a suspension. That noticeably angered the Angels, with president John Carpino saying in a statement that the decision “defies logic” and general manager Jerry Dipoto saying the club is “disappointed” in Hamilton.
Hamilton hasn’t been with the team all year. He didn’t have a locker at their Spring Training facility and he doesn’t have one at Angel Stadium, either. Asked if he could say Hamilton will play another game for the Angels this season, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”
A buyout or a trade would be very difficult, given that Hamilton — entering his age-34 season, recovering from right AC joint surgery on Feb. 4 and coming off two unproductive season — is owed $83 million and has a full no-trade clause. The contract language Moreno mentioned could change everything, though.
Normally teams are not allowed to put any additional language to protect them against usage of drugs or performance-enhancing substances. That’s what the Joint Drug Agreement is intended to protect against.
Moreno said you can add additional language to a contract if all sides — the player, his agents, MLB and the MLB Players Association — agrees.
“We have a contract with Hamilton, and in that contract, there’s specific language that he signed, and his agents approved, that said he cannot drink and use drugs,” Moreno said”. So we have specific language in the agreement. … We have a couple of other players that have the same thing.”
Moreno said he hasn’t spoken to Hamilton. Asked why, Moreno said: “Probably disappointed. But I think more than anything, we look at accountability — with all of our players. … I think that’s probably the biggest word here. We understand that he’s had struggles, and obviously he’s still having struggles, but the reality is there’s accountability. When you make an agreement, you need to stand up.”
Opening Day is finally here, and Safeco Field seems like a fitting place to start. It’s home to the team many have picked to win the American League West. And it kicks off with a matchup between Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver, the two guys who have made the most consecutive Opening Day starts in the Majors (Hernandez at seven, Weaver at six).
But Opening Day is only a ceremonial thing. “One of 162,” as many say. The season is long and arduous. And by the end of it, what happens on Opening Day or even in the first series will be nothing but a distant memory (like last year, when the Mariners embarrassed the Angels with a lopsided sweep in Southern California at the start of April).
If the Angels want to win another division title, they’ll have to answer several questions over the course of these next six months. And below are the seven most prominent …
1. What becomes of Josh Hamilton?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the Angels aren’t necessarily in a welcoming mood with Hamilton, who’s still recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t be suspended for a self-reported drug relapse. The tone of their statements after news broke — and what they’ve said privately leading up to it — made you wonder if they even want him around. He’s a very likable guy, but he hasn’t lived up to his massive contract and his latest relapse struck a nerve with the Angels’ brass (make of that what you will). He won’t be going away, though. He’s owed $83 million over the next three years, so the Angels have to see what they get out of him. How does he fit into the roster? What type of production does he provide in his age-34 season? And how does he mesh with a team that may be better off without him? It’ll be the most fascinating storyline this season.
2. How good is Garrett Richards?
Richards has yet to allow a run in three Minor League outings and could return to the rotation by April 19 if all goes well, which means he basically misses only two starts. How good will he be upon returning, though? As good as he was leading up to the season-ending left knee injury he suffered Aug. 20? If so, this Angels rotation — with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago set to open the season — is more dangerous than people think. If not, they’re very vulnerable. A lot rides on Richards’ 26-year-old right arm (not to mention that left knee).
3. What will the Angels get out of second base?
They aren’t fooling themselves into thinking they’ll replicate the production of Howie Kendrick. If C.J. Cron takes the next step in his maturation process (see: patience), David Freese stretches his last four months into a full season and Albert Pujols continues to look as good as he did this spring, they won’t need it. But replacement level production would be nice. Johnny Giavotella will get the first crack, but we may see many guys play second base this year.
4. Who gets the lefties out?
The Angels haven’t had a true lefty specialist since the 2012 version of Scott Downs, and Downs wasn’t really used as a lefty specialist. Last year, the Angels’ go-to reliever to get lefty hitters out was the right-handed Fernando Salas, who has a nice changeup that darts away from left-handed hitters. Ideally, they’d have that traditional left-on-lefty guy. Mike Scioscia has mentioned Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez as possibilities, but they’re multi-inning relievers who don’t have the big stuff that plays in that role. The next hope would be Santiago, but that would hinge on Andrew Heaney or Nick Tropeano developing well enough to warrant Santiago’s current rotation spot.
5. How do they upgrade the roster?
Even without saving any money on Hamilton’s contract, the Angels enter the season with $10 to $15 million of wiggle room. That’s what Arte Moreno said early in camp. It’s more payroll flexibility than they’ve had in a while, and they plan to use it. Question is, how? Do they get a second baseman, even though there aren’t many of them out there? (Chase Utley looks like a long shot, because of how intimidating his contract is and because of his no-trade clause). Do they get an outfield/DH bat? Do they get a starting pitcher (a lot of big names are entering their walk years)? Or do they add more bullpen pieces, like they did last year? June/July should be very eventful.
6. What kind of year does Mike Trout have?
You could reasonably expect a great one, considering he stays healthy. But how does he follow up a season that saw him win the AL MVP unanimously? We saw Trout transition into more of a power game last year, hitting more home runs and stealing fewer bases. But he’s only 23 years old, scary as that seems, and he’s still figuring out who he’s going to be in this game. My guess is he cuts down those strikeouts — I don’t know anyone who truly believes Trout is a 180-strikeout-a-year player — but doesn’t increase his stolen-base total by much. The Angels seem content with how often they sent Trout last year. Teams watch him closely and, far more relevant in this matter, steals cause a lot of wear and tear on the body.
7. Are the Angels better than the Mariners?
That’s probably what it’s going to come down to. The Mariners are a popular pick to win the division, because their rotation could be something fierce, their bullpen was one of the best in the game last season and their lineup got a big missing piece they needed in power hitter Nelson Cruz. But the Angels return the core group of a team that led the Majors in wins and finished second in run-differential last year. They’re starting a season with what should be a reliable bullpen for the first time since Jerry Dipoto came on board in October 2011 and they carry the confidence of succeeding with this group.
It should be interesting.
And to get you ready, here’s a look at our Opening Day content, in case you missed anything …
- Anticipated Angels-Mariners clash kicks off Opening Day
- Weaver, the forgotten ace, starts another Opening Day
- The simple question nobody can answer: What does Trout mean to the Angels?
- Kendrick is gone, Hamilton is a mystery — is the offense still elite?
- Scioscia, baseball’s longest-tenured manager, talks about his latest team
- Hamilton won’t be punished, and now the Angels have to see how he fits in
MORE LINKS! An updated depth chart is here, injury updates are here, pitching probables are here and a look at the top 30 prospects is here. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And you can subscribe to my weekly Angels podcast with Richard Justice here.
MLB.com compiled dozens of predictions on who will win each division, how the postseason will play out and where all the major individual awards will go. Below were my picks, if you’re interested …
NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: Angels
NL Wild Cards: Marlins, Pirates
AL Wild Cards: Mariners, Indians
NL champion: Nationals
AL champion: Angels
World Series champion: Nationals
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant
AL MVP: Josh Donaldson
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL Rookie of the Year: Steven Souza
Feliz Opening Day!
Wednesday was only an off day on the schedule.
The Angels got a lot done at Tempe Diablo Stadium, playing an intrasquad game that featured five of the 12 guys projected to crack the Opening Day pitching staff.
Garrett Richards — in the late stages of his recovery from left knee surgery — threw 44 pitches in three shutout innings, giving up only one hit, walking none and striking out four. C.J. Wilson — scratched from his last two starts, first because he tweaked his left knee and then because he was sick on Tuesday — followed with a three-inning, 40-pitch, scoreless outing of his own.
Wilson is slated to start Sunday against the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz., on three days rest because Wednesday’s workload was like a power bullpen. He’ll have three Cactus League starts before likely taking the ball in the second game of the regular season.
Richards will pitch in a Minor League game on Monday, so this isn’t really the end of his rehab just yet.
Here’s what Richards had to say …
I wouldn’t say the end. I would say this was a big stepping stone in the process to getting back where I want to be. Everything went well today. I still treat this as a day-to-day thing. I can’t get too high on one performance and I can’t beat myself up on a bad one, either. My knee may feel good one day, it may feel a little sore the next day for whatever reason. But we regulate that in the morning whenever I get here. So as far as my workload goes on a day-to-day basis, it’s based on how I feel in the morning. But today went great, I felt good, and I felt like I could compete. I felt like I could go more than three innings today, so that felt good.
Matt Shoemaker also pitched, giving up two runs in five innings. So did veteran relievers Huston Street and Cesar Ramos. Joe Smith, who has pitched in only one Cactus League game because of tightness in his lower body early in camp, worked out in the morning.
Roberto Baldoquin played shortstop for one of the teams, and Arte Moreno and several of the Angels’ front office members were on hand.
This was no typical off day.