Results tagged ‘ Billy Buckner ’

Game 127: Angels-Mariners …

The Angels begin a 10-day, three-city road trip under a dark cloud, and it has nothing to do with Seattle’s traditional overcast (it’s a beautiful day, actually). Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com tweeted that both Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia are not expected back next season; owner Arte Moreno is expected to fire one of them. And Scott Miller of CBSSports.com wrote about a near-fight between Albert Pujols and Torii Hunter last summer. Meanwhile, Mike Scioscia addressed the stress of this season and I asked him about more reports that his job is in jeopardy. Here’s what he said …

“You’re evaluated every day, not only in this position — in this game you’re evaluated. It doesn’t change anything that you can be about. You have to go out there and keep doing what you know is the right thing to do and move forward. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Angels (55-71)

ANAJ.B. Shuck, RF
Erick Aybar, SS
Mike Trout, DH
Josh Hamilton, LF
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Chris Nelson, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Grant Green, 2B
Peter Bourjos, CF

SP: RH Garrett Richards (3-5, 4.24 ERA)

Mariners (59-67)

SEABrad Miller, SS
Michael Saunders, CF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Raul Ibanez, LF
Justin Smoak, 1B
Endy Chavez, RF
Dustin Ackley, 2B
Henry Blanco, C

SP: RH Felix Hernandez (12-6, 2.62 ERA)

  • Trout, in case you hadn’t noticed, is in there. Scioscia told him that if he could run the bases, he could play. So he did, and he says he feels just fine. The Angels need him against King Felix. They’ve totaled four runs and hit .216/.300/.302 in the three games he missed against Cleveland.
  • The Howie Kendrick news is not as bright. He has yet to be able to run full speed, and there’s no timetable yet for his return. He was expected to be back by now, but every time he does running drills, his sprained left knee gets sore.
  • Cory Rasmus, acquired in exchange for Scott Downs, was called up today, with Billy Buckner getting DFA’d.
  • Mariners skipper Eric Wedge is back with the team for the first time since suffering a stroke in July. “Great to see Eric back,” Scioscia said. “He’s a really good baseball man, and I know he loves managing. It’s scary when something like that happens.”
  • In case you missed it yesterday, a look at where the Angels go from here.

Alden

Game 100: Angels-Athletics …

Welcome to the start of what could be a season-defining seven-game road trip, with four against the A’s and three against the Rangers …

Angels (47-52)

CALJ.B. Shuck, LF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
Josh Hamilton, RF
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Hank Conger, C
Erick Aybar, SS

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (10-6, 3.15 ERA)

Athletics (59-42)

OAKCoco Crisp, DH
Jed Lowrie, 2B
Josh Donaldson, 3B
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Nate Freiman, 1B
Chris Young, CF
Derek Norris, C
Josh Reddick, RF
Adam Rosales, SS

SP: RH Dan Straily (6-3, 4.14 ERA)

  • In order to create a spot for right-handed reliever J.C. Gutierrez, who was claimed off waivers from the Royals on Wednesday, the Angels designated Billy Buckner for assignment.
  • The Angels sent international slot bonus to the Mets in exchange for two Minor Leaguers, outfielder Julio Concepcion and right-hander Andres Perez. Concepcion will be assigned to rookie-level Orem and Perez goes to the Arizona Summer League. The Mets essentially get an extra $360,000 to spend in this international signing period.
  • Mike Scioscia, on Joe Blanton‘s role in the bullpen: “There’s no doubt we all feel Joe needed to be taken off that treadmill, he was banging into a wall, and maybe just exhale a little bit. If he throws strikes and has the ability to get strikeouts with his other pitches, we’ll see how his stuff plays out in the bullpen. … We’ll let the flow tell us what his best role would be.”
  • Blanton didn’t want to speak to the media today.
  • Asked the amount of time Garrett Richards will be in the rotation, Scioscia said it’ll be “start to start.” Jason Vargas‘ return — he still needs some time before starting a rehab assignment — could make things interesting.

Alden

Blanton’s rotation spot on the bubble …

Joe BlantonJoe Blanton‘s next turn through the rotation will come on Saturday. Will he take the ball that day? Angels manager Mike Scioscia wouldn’t say on Monday night, after Blanton gave up four runs in a 3 2/3-inning outing to move to 2-13 with a 5.66 ERA — but he also didn’t say Blanton would make that start.

Here’s what we do know about that turn through the rotation …

1. Somebody has to take the ball. The Angels are four games into a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, so they need a fifth starter.

2. It won’t be Jason Vargas, who’s still recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot. He hopes to start throwing bullpens Tuesday or Wednesday and return two weeks later. And obviously, Jerome Williams is already in the rotation.

It’s easy to say Blanton is having a bad season — easily the worst of his career — and that he should be at least temporarily removed from the rotation. It’s a whole other thing to replace him. First off, I don’t think Blanton would be much help out of the bullpen. The best bet would be to get him to agree to go to the Minor Leagues to iron out some things and hopefully come back in mid- to late-August. And no, you don’t release him. He’s owed $7.5 million in 2014 (plus a team option for 2015), so it’d be senseless to just eat it and give up on him for next season.

But, of course, here’s the most important part: The options to replace Blanton are slim, at best.

Here they are, perceivably …

Garrett Richards: He hasn’t started a game since April 30. Heck, he hasn’t thrown more than 3 2/3 innings in that span. And he has a 4.92 ERA in 16 career starts.

Michael Roth: He was starting in the Minor Leagues, but that was a month ago — and, you know, this is his first full season of pro baseball. Roth was optioned after Monday’s game.

Billy Buckner: He’s probably the likeliest candidate, if there is one at all at this point. But since pitching 4 1/3 innings against the Cardinals on July 3, he’s pitched one inning. And he has a 6.41 ERA in 23 career Major League starts.

Someone in Triple-A: Matt Shoemaker (5.10 ERA), A.J. Schugel (7.05) and Barry Enright (7.13), Jarrett Grube (4.24) and Dustin Richardson (eight earned runs last time out) have all struggled.

Brandon Hynick: Never heard of him? Well, he’s a 28-year-old Minor League journeyman who’s having a nice season in Double-A — 2.68 ERA in 16 starts — so that’s good.

Mark Sappington: He’s probably the Angels’ best pitching prospect right now and he’s 10-4 with a 3.47 ERA in 20 starts this season. But, um, that’s in A ball.

See what I mean?

Alden

Game 85: Cardinals-Angels …

Cardinals (50-33)

STLMatt Carpenter, 2B
Carlos Beltran, RF
Matt Holliday, DH
Allen Craig, LF
Yadier Molina, C
Matt Adams, 1B
David Freese, 3B
Daniel Descalso, SS
Jon Jay, CF

SP: RH Adam Wainwright (11-5, 2.22 ERA)

Angels (40-44)

CALJ.B. Shuck, LF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
Josh Hamilton, RF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Hank Conger, C
Erick Aybar, SS

SP: RH Joe Blanton (2-10, 5.07 ERA)

  • Mike Scioscia still won’t reveal who the Saturday starting pitcher is, but it’s still leaving heavily towards left-hander Michael Roth. Roth, once again, was not listed in the lineup sheet under the bullpen. He threw one inning on Wednesday, which would qualify as his bullpen day, and Scioscia said they won’t be calling someone up from Triple-A to make that start. “We have a couple contingencies we’re looking at,” Scioscia said, “but we’ll have a group of guys we can choose from for Saturday.” Billy Buckner worked 4 1/3 innings in Wednesday’s 12-2 loss, throwing 71 pitches, so no chance he gets the start. Garrett Richards pitched two innings, throwing 40 pitches. He could be a candidate, but Richards hasn’t been stretched out past three innings since moving back to the bullpen. Roth’s last seven appearances in Class A have been starts.
  • Conger is starting back-to-back games. He and Chris Iannetta now have the same amount of starts since June 12: 10.
  • Ryan Madson threw another bullpen session today. This is his fourth since he began getting off a mound every three days after a long stint of merely playing catch. Asked how many more bullpen sessions he needs before venturing out on a rehab assignment, Scioscia said: “It’s tough to say. We’ve tried to guess along the way and I think we’re past that. We just have to see how he comes out of it and we’ll go from there.”
  • Scioscia has been in awe of what Yasiel Puig has done with the Dodgers. He’s in agreement with a lot of others in that Puig many not have as much time in the big leagues to be All-Star worthy, but believes he may get in anyway, saying: “I think he’s got to go a little further to earn it. I don’t think Major League Baseball will discount what he’s done, even though it’s a limited amount of at-bats. There’s a pool now to bring the best talent into that game because of the bearing it has on getting home-field advantage for the World Series. That’s going to give him a deeper look than maybe it would’ve been in any other situation.”
  • Trout had 290 plate appearances in the first half last year; Puig has 116 with 11 games left. As for how their situations compare, Scioscia said: “These guys are doing things you very rarely see young players come up and do. He’s played to his potential at a young age. A lot of parallels you can draw in that regard.”
  • In case you hadn’t noticed, Trout has been wearing a shinguard on his left foot during plate appearances after fouling a ball off there on Tuesday. He said the shin is fine now, but he’s wearing the guard for extra protection because it doesn’t bother him when he hits.

Alden

Vargas has blood clot; Hamilton nursing wrist issue

Angels left-handed starter Jason Vargas was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday because of a blood clot in his left armpit area. Billy Buckner was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake to take Vargas’ place on the roster and will serve as a swing man. Jerome Williams will start in Vargas’ spot on Saturday, opposite Francisco Liriano. And Vargas himself won’t pick up a baseball for a minimum of two weeks.

At 1 p.m. PT on Monday, he’ll see a doctor at UCLA to get a second opinion and ultimately determine whether or not he needs surgery.

“I started to feel a difference in the way my [left] middle finger felt three or four days before my last start [on Monday],” Vargas said. “It didn’t really affect anything; we just treated it as it was. It didn’t really get a whole lot better, so we decided to take a look at it and found a blood clot in there. It’s good that we got it recognized early.”

Blood clots, of course, can be scary. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it’s something the medical staff believes can be addressed “in a short amount of time.” How long, exactly? That’s still up in the air.

Vargas, who’s never previously had a blood clot, said the issue didn’t affect him in his last start, when he pitched seven innings of two-run ball in a win over the Mariners. He was playing catch on Thursday just fine when informed of the diagnosis.

On a starting rotation that ranks 21st in ERA, and has already seen Jered Weaver miss seven weeks because of a broken left elbow, Vargas had been the most productive member, going 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 14 starts.

“There’s no doubt he can go and pitch with it right now if he had to,” Scioscia said, “but along the lines of a person’s well-being, and as further tests were done just to see what was causing the sensation he had, they discovered something there that needs to be addressed. He was throwing the ball great. But that’s not the issue. His issue is trying to take care of this so he can keep going forward.”

Hamilton out with right wrist injury

Josh Hamilton was out of the starting lineup against right-hander Gerrit Cole because of what Scioscia said was a sore right wrist that has been bothering him “on and off” for “the last 10 days or so.” Hamilton will not start at all in this three-game series against the Pirates — though Scioscia said he’ll be available off the bench “in a limited capacity” — and the Angels will see how he feels coming off the Monday off-day.

Hamilton is batting .171/.200/.343 in June and .207/.262/.378 for the season. He’s been getting treatment on the wrist the last three or four days and originally tweaked it while swinging a bat, according to Scioscia.

Asked how much the wrist issue might have affected his hitting, Scioscia said: “It’s probably less any kind of a wrist issue that’s causing a mechanical issue and more of a rhythm and timing issue and a comfort level in the box.”

Alden

Previewing the 2013 season …

ANGELS

Come Monday, Jered Weaver will be making his fourth straight Opening Day start, Josh Hamilton‘s reunion tour will begin and the Angels will (once again) try to cash in on the grand expectations they carry into the season.

Before that happens, here’s a station-to-station look at where they stand heading into what should be a very fun 2013 …

Position players: I don’t see a way this team won’t be among the top three in runs scored in the American League this season. From mid-May to the end of the season last year, when Mike Trout arrived in more ways than one and Albert Pujols remembered he’s Albert Freakin’ Pujols, the Angels led the Majors in runs per game. And that was without Hamilton, mind you. The Angels have three dynamic speed guys (Peter Bourjos-Trout-Erick Aybar) and three lethal power hitters (Pujols-Hamilton-Mark Trumbo) all conveniently lining up together. The rest of the guys (Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Iannetta) don’t need to be anything more than themselves for the Angels to be an offensive juggernaut. Defensively, Trout-Bourjos-Hamilton could be the best defensive outfield in baseball (which tailors perfectly to their flyball-heavy pitching staff) and the infield is solid at every position.

WEAVERStarters: Angels starters got their necessary work this spring, but just barely. Spring Training may not teach us much, but it certainly didn’t quell any apprehensions about this rotation. Everyone except the no-walks Joe Blanton struggled at some point, with Weaver, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson all bringing temporary concerns that they wouldn’t have enough stamina heading into the regular season. But they do, and most importantly, they’re all healthy. Are they good enough to match one of the best offenses in baseball? No. Will they be adequate enough to eat innings (so the ‘pen doesn’t get worn out) and keep the Angels in games (with the lineup taking care of the rest)? That’s the plan. The key: C.J. Wilson, the $77.5 million No. 2 starter who should be a lot better than his 2012 second half.

Relievers: The Angels are deeper here, with or without Ryan Madson (who is still on track to return in late April or early May, barring another setback). They’ve added arguably the best free-agent lefty available in Sean Burnett, will have a full season of Ernesto Frieri, are banking on Kevin Jepsen‘s last three months being no fluke and, along with Scott Downs, seemingly have four formidable options to protect leads late in games. There’s also the high-upside Garrett Richards, coming off a great spring, the hard-throwing Mark Lowe, who the Angels have targeted since November, and the veteran Jerome Williams. Many will point to last year’s 22 blown saves as the biggest reason the Angels ultimately missed the playoffs, and this year, they’re better in the ‘pen. But that’s on paper. Relievers are a very unpredictable species.

Reserves: If all their everyday players stay healthy, this won’t be much of a factor, particularly in the AL. Chances are, though, injuries will happen. And given that, the Angels took a step back with regards to their bench (though if you’re going to pick one area to downgrade, this would be it). Without Vernon Wells, they don’t have any real power threat in reserve — besides Hank Conger, but he’s the backup catcher — and are pretty darn young. Andrew Romine takes over for the seasoned Maicer Izturis and Conger, awfully talented but coming off a spring soured by throwing woes, has spent most of the last three years in Triple-A. Contact-hitting lefty outfielder J.B. Shuck is the third player on this bench making his first Opening Day roster. The last reserve, veteran infielder Brendan Harris, hasn’t been in the big leagues since 2010.

Depth: The Angels’ farm system is dead last in all of baseball, according to ESPN and Baseball America. But those in the organization will tell you that mostly has to do with pitching; their position-player talent is just fine. Furthermore, the Angels’ front office is confident they’ve built more depth in the upper levels to serve as insurance in 2013. The Triple-A roster has several players with Major League experience, such as Luis Rodriguez, Tommy Field, Scott Cousins, Trent Oeltjen, Chris Snyder (possibly), John Hester, Luke Carlin, Mitch Stetter and Fernando Cabrera. But with Richards’ length shortened in the ‘pen, and Williams’ workload unpredictable as a swing man, where do the Angels turn if something happens to one of their starters? Barry Enright, Billy Buckner, Matt Shoemaker and the young A.J. Schugel figure to make up the Salt Lake Bees’ rotation.

Financials: The Angels’ payroll sits under $150 million, thanks to the Yankees taking on $11.5 million of Wells’ 2013 salary in the recent trade. The deal also bought them some luxury tax flexibility. Prior to the deal, the Angels’ Competitive Balance Tax payroll — which takes into account the average annual value of all 40-man roster salaries, plus benefits and performance bonuses at the end of the season — was $178 million, the threshold at which first-time offenders are taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball. Now, it’s about $172M, giving them some flexibility to take on salary in an in-season trade. Last year, after acquiring Zack Greinke, their CBT payroll was at $178 million, which affected their pursuit of some necessary relief-pitching help.

Underlying theme: Expectations can do some funny things, and it’ll be interesting to see how the magnitude of it all will play into how the Angels go about — and react to — their second year under the microscope. Will it affect them out of the gate? Will it bring turmoil in the clubhouse, especially now that Torii Hunter is gone? Can it cause more tension between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, who have their philosophical differences and were at odds at times last season? And what will it lead Arte Moreno to do if they miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season?

Questions

In addition to Trumbo at DH, how much time do you think he will get a first base and right field, giving Pujols and Hamilton a day to rest their legs? (Stephen H., San Luis Obispo)

SOSHPlenty. And if I had to pin a number on it, I’d say there’s a very good chance — even if everyone stays healthy — that Trumbo spends about half his time playing the field. If he’s hitting, he’ll be in the lineup for all the Angels’ Interleague games. For a good chunk of April, with Pujols in the early stages of his return from offseason knee surgery, he figures to play plenty of first base. With Wells gone, he’s also the fourth outfielder. And fundamentally, with so much money tied to Hamilton and Pujols long-term, Scioscia will get them off their feet as often as necessary now that he has a revolving door at DH (that wasn’t very feasible with Kendrys Morales there last year).

Do you see the day when the Angels move Trout down in the batting order and put Bourjos, if he can cut it, in the leadoff spot? (Albert H., Los Angeles)

I do. Scioscia continues to say Trout profiles better in the middle of the order, the reason being that you want your best hitter to be in as many RBI situations as possible. The makeup of the Angels’ lineup right now — with Pujols, Hamilton and Trumbo in the middle of the order, and no clear solution in the leadoff spot just yet — means Trout is the best fit to bat first. You can argue that the Angels’ everyday lineup doesn’t figure to change much any time soon, with almost everyone in the books long term. But Trout is the kind of player you construct a lineup around, and his bat figures to eventually become too potent to not put in the 3 spot.

Is this the year the Angels finally get back to the playoffs and make a deep run? (Samuel M., Tempe, Ariz.)

Who knows. I do think that, on paper, they are the best team in the AL West and should win the division. Once you get in the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. The sample size is too small. But 162 games is not a small sample size, and if the Angels stay healthy, there is no excuse for not taking the division crown. The Rangers’ lineup took a step back, replacing Hamilton with Lance Berkman, and the pitching staff won’t have Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis or Joakim Soria to start the season. The A’s are deep, but will need a lot of guys to over-perform again. It’s nice to see the Mariners spending money, but they still have holes and concerns all over the place. And the Astros are a last-place team. But who am I kidding — predicting a baseball season is a foolish act.

Now, at last, we can see how it all plays out on the field.

Don’t forget, you can also follow me on Instagram and Google+.

Alden

Angels announce Spring Training invites …

The Angels announced 21 non-roster invitees who will be joining those on the 40-man roster in Spring Training. Here’s a look at who’s coming to camp … 

Pitchers: Billy Buckner, Kevin Johnson, Tony Pena, Jo-Jo Reyes, A.J. Schugel, Mitch Stetter

Catchers: Jett Bandy, Luke Carlin, Carlos Ramirez, Zach Wright

Infielders: Kaleb Cowart, Brendan Harris, Taylor Lindsey, Efren Navarro, Luis Rodriguez, Eric Stamets, Alex Yarbrough

Outfielders: Randal Grichuk, Trent Oeltjen, J.B. Shuck, Matt Young

* Note that veteran reliever Fernando Cabrera will also be in big league camp when his contract his official.

Here’s the 40-man roster, in case you’re wondering who else is joining them. 

Pitchers report Feb. 11, position players report Feb. 14. 

Alden 

Angels’ staff subs sizzle for substance …

I wrote Wednesday about the Angels’ rotation, which is seemingly the only uncertain, less-than-stellar department of the 2013 team. The down-the-stretch trio of Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana is being replaced by Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton, a new trio that costs less but should put more pressure on the revamped bullpen and a stellar offense.

But here’s one other thing worth noting about this less-sexy rotation: It’ll absorb a plentiful amount of innings, perhaps more so than that of any other club in the American League.

Consider the averages of each of the five starters …

  • Jered Weaver (2007-12): 200 IP
  • C.J. Wilson (2010-12): 210 IP
  • Vargas (2010-12): 204 IP
  • Hanson (2010-12): 169 IP
  • Blanton (05-12): 178 IP

Put another way: The Angels have a realistic chance of having five starters throw at least 170 innings in 2013. No other AL team was able to boast that in 2012. In fact, nine of the 14 clubs didn’t have more than two starters account for 170-plus frames (the Twins and playoff-bound Orioles only had one; the Angels, Rays and Yankees were the only ones with four).

Weaver (6.4), Wilson (6.1), Vargas (6) and Blanton (6.2) have each averaged at least six innings per start throughout their careers, while Hanson is at 5.9. So, if the quintet of Weaver, Wilson, Hanson, Vargas and Blanton stay healthy all year (a big “if” in every circumstance, of course), Angels starters will have absorbed about 991 innings combined, based on each of their career track records.

In 2012, 991 innings from a starting rotation would’ve ranked seventh in the Majors and fourth in the AL, behind only the Mariners, Yankees and Rays.

Yes, the Angels currently have just one — maybe two, if Wilson regroups — ace-like starter capable of single-handedly halting losing streaks and altering a short playoff series. But there’s something to be said about starters consistently pitching deep into games. It repeatedly gives an offense as potent as the Angels’ a chance to win, and it means a strong bullpen won’t have to account for so many innings.

It’s why Blanton doesn’t find the term “innings-eater” insulting.

“I’m fine with that, honestly,” said Blanton, who has actually averaged 198 innings since ’05 if you discount an injury-riddled 2011.

“In my personal opinion, I don’t feel like you throw 180, 190, 200 innings without being able to go deep into games. Just taking the ball every fifth day, if you weren’t getting the job done, you’d be done every five innings, and in 30 starts, that’s 150 innings. So you still have to go deep into games, and be successful enough and keep a team in the game enough to be able to rack up those innings.”

The Angels also have a little more overall starting-pitching depth than they entered with last season.

The high-upside Garrett Richards and the capable Jerome Williams, both of whom were competing for the fifth spot last spring, are now insurance policies; as are the likes of Brad Mills, Barry Enright and the two Minor League signings, Jo-Jo Reyes and Billy Buckner.

“The likelihood of having five starters go post-to-post and not miss a day is unlikely; it doesn’t happen very often,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “So you want to have that depth.”

Whatever the Angels’ rotation lacks in prestige is made up for in numbers — as in the number of innings absorbed and the number of viable arms.

Alden 

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