Results tagged ‘ C.J. Wilson ’

No Garrett Richards against the A’s …

Garrett RichardsGarrett Richards starts the series opener against the Rangers on Friday, which means his next turn will be Wednesday in Boston, which means his next turn after that will be Monday, at home against the Marlins.

And that means the Angels’ best starting pitcher of 2014 won’t be starting against the team they’re chasing.

The Angels are in Oakland next weekend, and it’ll be Hector Santiago, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver starting on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The only way Richards – 12-4 with a 2.54 ERA – could start against the first-place A’s would be to either skip his next turn or go on short rest.

It’s too early for that, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, and that’s too dangerous for someone who’s in his first full year in a Major League rotation.

“We have a lot of baseball left,” Scioscia added, “and I think you want to make sure guys are rested and they come back. Most of those guys are going to be going on five days’ rest now – we don’t have many breaks – and if we have to reserve the right to bring them back on three days at the very end, if it’s meaningful, that’s something for the last week to 10 days of the season.”

If Richards pitches every five games the rest of the season, he’d start against the A’s at home on Aug. 30, then miss them in Oakland during the second-to-last series of the regular season. But the Angels have an off day on Sept. 1, their last one until Sept. 25, which Scioscia could use to line up his rotation for the final month.

But it isn’t time for that yet.

“I think it’s too early,” Scioscia said, “and where our guys are, we still need five guys going out there and throwing the ball to their capabilities.”

Here’s the Angels lineup …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Brennan Boesch, DH
David Freese, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C

SP: RH Richards

Alden

CJ: ‘”I have my good stuff; I’m just not locating’ …

C.J. WilsonFor C.J. Wilson, it’s quite simple: He isn’t throwing strikes.

“I have my good stuff; I’m just not locating it precisely,” Wilson said. “Precision is the issue.”

Wilson threw 46 of his 100 pitches for balls in Thursday’s 7-0 loss to the Dodgers. Of the 26 batters he faced, he started off 1-0 10 times and got into three-ball counts nine times. His strike percentage is now 58.6, which would represent a career low (it was 61.4 percent in his previous four years as a starter). His walk rate is 3.94, on pace to be his highest since 2012. And over his last five starts, a stretch in which he’s posted an 11.10 ERA, Wilson has issued 14 walks and two hit batters in 18 2/3 innings.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said “this is probably the worst C.J. has struggled since he’s been a starting pitcher,” which is obvious. “But,” he added, “seeing how hard C.J. works, and seeing that it doesn’t look like it’s anything physical with him, we’re very confident that he’s going to get back on that beam and do what we need him to do.”

Stuff-wise, Chris Iannetta said, Wilson was “much better” from where he was in a six-run, 1 1/3-inning outing against the Rays on Saturday, his first since coming off the disabled list with a right ankle sprain.

“But that’s not saying much,” Wilson added, “because I think I could’ve thrown right-handed and pitched better last time.”

Wilson threw a 60-pitch bullpen session between starts, mainly because he only threw 50 of them in his previous game. Stamina-wise, he feels good. And besides a curveball that had way more bite than he wanted to on Thursday, his stuff is good. But he just can’t put it where he wants.

Here’s how Wilson explained it …

The location is the issue. There’s no issue with stuff or anything else; it’s just location. Today, you can watch the game, you can see the guys that are getting hits that are hitting the ball on the ground. They’re breaking their bats, balls are flaring in there. [Juan] Uribe hit the ball hard, but it’s not like dudes are taking Billy Madison swings and hitting balls off the rocks. The stuff is decent — making guys miss, striking guys out. It’s just the walks. It’s getting to the point where I’m throwing the ball at the corner and it’s not on the corner; it’s off the corner. Or trying to go in and it’s a little bit too far in. If you went through the video and watched every single pitch, the misses that I had tonight were pretty good misses for the most part.

Not good enough. Not by a long shot. Wilson is supposed to be the No. 2 starter in this rotation, a key cog for a team with World Series aspirations. But he’s 8-8 with a 4.82 ERA that’s the third-highest among qualified American League starters. And he’s scuffling at a time when the Angels need starting-pitching help more than ever.

Is he confident it’ll turn around?

“Very confident,” Wilson said, “because the quality of the stuff is there.”

Alden

Angels claim a reliever; can they claim a starter? …

The Angels claimed reliever Vinnie Pestano, a veteran sidearmer who was really good very recently (2.45 ERA in 137 appearances for the Indians from 2011-12) and who carries plenty of flexibility (he can be optioned this year and next year, and is under club control for three more years).

What would really be great is if they could acquire the Pestano equivalent as a starting pitcher.

That’s “really hard,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said.

“The idea that you can make the perfect acquisition for your rotation in August is not great, but there are going to be available options. We just have to determine what the right timing is, or if we need one.”

The Angels currently have Tyler Skaggs nursing a forearm strain that will put him out an indefinite amount of time and C.J. Wilson holding a 12.50 ERA in five starts leading up to tonight’s Freeway Series finale. That leaves their rotation very vulnerable, with Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker being counted on to step up in support of Jered Weaver and Garrett Richards, and very little available to them in their Minor League system.

Dipoto pointed out that left-hander Wade LeBlanc, reacquired on June 17, has been pitching well at Triple-A Salt Lake, where he has a 4.04 ERA in 18 starts. Chris Volstad is also there, with a 5.18 ERA in four starts. But the Angels — with money available — will continue to monitor the waiver wire in hopes of landing additional starting pitching depth.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the household name sitting in the 7 hole right now,” Dipoto said. “I don’t know that anyone really does. That’s what august waiver are for. That’s what our minor league system is for.”

It’s Mike Trout‘s 23rd birthday, in case you hadn’t heard. Here’s what he said about that pregame …

  • His best gift? “Nothing too crazy for my birthday. I got Cornhole. I played it over the All-Star break and I liked it. Parents got it. My mom’s brother builds them and he sent me one. Other than that, I don’t need gifts.”
  • Trout has homered in each of his last two games on his birthday. Pressure to hit one tonight? “Nah, no pressure to do so. If I hit one tonight, I hit one.”
  • Do you feel old? “Everyone keeps asking me that. I was talking to [Jered Weaver] about it, looking at how much time I have up here. After this year, over three years. It’s been quick. I’m having fun here; this is where you want to be. I can’t ask for anything else.”

And the lineups for tonight’s Freeway Series finale …

Dodgers (65-50)

Justin Turner, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, DH
Matt Kemp, RF
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Miguel Rojas, SS

SP: LH Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-5, 3.39 ERA)

Angels (67-46)

Erick Aybar, SS
Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
Josh Hamilton, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
C.J. Cron, 1B
Collin Cowgill, RF

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (8-7, 4.74 ERA)

Alden

Can the Angels ‘respond’ to the aggressive A’s? …

Arte Moreno, Jerry DipotoI asked Jerry Dipoto recently about watching the A’s, not just where they’re at in the standings but what moves they make, and how that affects whether the Angels win the division or have to play for one of those do-or-die Wild Card spots. He said they have to focus on what’s best for them, and that if you try to react to other teams and get wrapped up in a game of scenarios, “you’ll talk yourself into bad decisions.”

Fair enough.

But the A’s just got Jon Lester. It was the ultimate “win-now” move, sending fan favorite Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox in exchange and bringing former fan favorite Jonny Gomes back. Now Lester — three-time All-Star, big-time postseason performer — joins a rotation that includes recent addition Jeff Samardzija along with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez.

The A’s have better starting pitching than the Angels (that almost goes without saying). They also have a better record (leading by 2 1/2 games when play began on Thursday). On top of that, they have a far more favorable schedule (I went into that here). And the last thing the Angels want is for their season — a great season, with the second-best record in baseball, amid an ever-shrinking championship window — to come down to one elimination game because they had to settle for the Wild Card.

But here’s the problem: It would be really hard for the Angels to “react” to the aggressive A’s, even if they wanted to.

Lester going to Oakland won’t magically inject the Angels’ farm system with a bevy of prospects necessary to get a top-of-the-rotation starter. They just don’t have it. What little they had was sent to San Diego in exchange for closer Huston Street. Prior to getting Street, the Angels checked in on David Price (again), and they tried to acquire teammate Ian Kennedy. And the message they received was clear: Their farm system isn’t getting them a major rotation upgrade. So, they went the bullpen route, and created one of the best relief corps in baseball.

It seems there are only two ways for the Angels to truly beef up their rotation …

1. If they want to do it before 4 p.m. ET, they’d have to part ways with Major League players. Asked about that late last week, Dipoto said, “I don’t want to break up this group.” That, of course, was before the A’s traded for Lester. Maybe he changes his mind on this; but that remains doubtful.

2. Wait until August. And this is a legitimate possibility, because the Angels have money left over (they’re somewhere between $10 and $15 million under the luxury-tax threshold, if my math is correct) but don’t want to give up more prospects from a thin farm system they’re trying to cultivate. The former plays in August, when teams can put in claims on anybody who goes through waivers and players can’t be traded unless they clear; the ladder, not so much.

So this is where the Angels stand moving forward. Tonight, they’ll play another game against another contender, and they’ll try to avoid a sweep from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. They can look forward to the possibility of C.J. Wilson likely rejoining the rotation by Saturday, and hope that he’s fixed whatever it was that caused him to give up 19 runs in 16 2/3 innings from June 24 to July 9.

And that, still, may be the best acquisition they make.

Alden

Scioscia wouldn’t change playoff format …

Mike SciosciaA lot of season remains and a lot can still happen, but if the schedule ended today, the Angels would easily have the second-best record in the Majors – they were five games better than the third-place Tigers when play began Tuesday – and still their season would come down to one game.

It’s the misfortune that comes with playing in the same division as baseball’s best team – the A’s, who the Angels trail by 1 1/2 games – and it’s the bad timing of playing in an era with two Wild Card teams in each league.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has long been a proponent of divisional play, believing teams that win their division should have clear advantages over those that make the playoffs as a Wild Card. And the fact that his club is on the other side of that isn’t making him change his stance.

“I think the weight that is on winning a division is warranted,” Scioscia said prior to the series opener from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “I think that if you’re going to have divisional baseball, you have to really make winning a division the first objective of any team that’s contending. And if you don’t quite reach that goal, and you play well enough, then you have the opportunity to work your way into the playoffs.”

One alternative to a team running into the scenario the Angels are currently in is to extend the Wild Card into a three-game series, but Scioscia said that would penalize the division winners because “you will lose your edge, no doubt about it, with that much time off.”

Another would be to eliminate divisional play, which the Angels’ long-time skipper doesn’t like. And a more unconventional one would be to have four divisions, something Scioscia floated out as a possibility if more expansion takes place.

The ladder isn’t necessarily feasible right now, which makes the current goal pretty simple.

“Win your division,” Scioscia said. “Let’s just put it that way.”

Some notes from today …

  • C.J. Wilson gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings in a rehab start for Double-A Arkansas on Monday, scattering four hits, waling two and striking out seven. His ankle feels good, and he should be lined up to start this weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla., but Scioscia wants to wait until Wilson gets through his bullpen to make any determinations. Wilson also discovered some tightness in his left hip that was limiting a flexibility, a problem he fixed and an issue he believes will get him back on track.
  • Josh Hamilton moved from left field to designated hitter, but it wasn’t injury related. Hamilton didn’t get much sleep while flying to North Carolina to deal with a family emergency in his native North Carolina.
  • Grant Green (lower back) and Collin Cowgill (thumb, nose) stayed in Arizona rehabbing.
  • Mike Trout is currently in Baltimore, which is about a two-hour drive from his hometown of Millville, N.J., but he doesn’t expect a huge crowd. Trout said he left like 15 tickets.

Lineup …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Hamilton, LF
Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Efren Navarro, DH
David Freese, 3B
Hank Conger, C

SP: RH Jered Weaver (11-6, 3.36 ERA)

Alden

Wade LeBlanc DFA’d; Jarrett Grube called up …

Angels left-hander Wade LeBlanc was designated for assignment on Saturday, one day after a bullpen-saving performance in a 9-5 loss to the A’s, and called up right-hander Jarrett Grube to take his place on the roster.

LeBlanc, out of options, gave up four runs in 6 1/3 innings on Friday night in relief of Garrett Richards, who allowed five runs before recording the third out of the first inning. Now the Angels risk losing LeBlanc off waivers, unable to send him back down to Triple-A unless 29 other teams pass up a chance to acquire him.

Grube, 32, has a 3.52 ERA in 11 starts for Triple-A Salt Lake, posting a 1.14 WHIP and a 2.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61 1/3 innings. In the Major Leagues for the first time, Grube was a 10th-round Draft pick by the Rockies in 2004, spent half a season in independent ball, was in the Mariners organization two years and was acquired by the Angels as a Minor League in July 2012.

Grube has a 4.14 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and a 2.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his professional career.

It’s a tough break for LeBlanc — and may end up being a tough break to the Angels if they lose him — but he was basically out of commission to the Angels for the next four days because he threw 94 pitches. The Angels could’ve tried to bide their time with a six-man bullpen until then, especially since they’re off on Monday and are pushing back Matt Shoemaker (starting C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, respectively, in the three-game Houston series from Monday to Wednesday).

But apparently felt they needed that extra length right away.

Alden

Scioscia: Feldman ‘was working slow’ …

Scott FeldmanAngels manager Mike Scioscia felt Astros starter Scott Feldman may have been taking a little too long between pitches while throwing seven innings of one-run ball against the Angels on Saturday, though he doesn’t believe his pace was ultimately an issue.

“He’s certainly more deliberate,” Scioscia said. “And the umpires were aware of it. I don’t think there was an issue. It seemed like there was a lot of miscommunication with the catcher, and we looked at the catcher and definitely he was shaking a lot of signs off.”

Rule 8.04 states that when bases are empty “the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball.” Each time the pitcher goes over the allotted time, a ball is supposed to be called.

That rule, however, is rarely enforced. And when guys are on base, pitchers can take as long as they’d like.

Chris Guccione, the home-plate umpire, he tried to keep it going as best he could,” Scioscia said. “I think you’re going to have those times. He was working slow, no doubt about it.”

The Angels have seen Feldman a lot from his time with the Rangers, from 2005-12, and know he’s among the pitchers who usually takes a while. C.J. Wilson, who starts Monday’s series finale for the Angels, is similar.

Did Feldman’s pace affect the Angels hitters in Saturday’s 7-4 loss?

“I think if guys let it become a distraction, it could,” Scioscia said. “But I don’t think it was an issue.”

Here’s the Angels lineup, with David Freese sitting against a tough right-hander …

Angels (2-4)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, DH
Raul Ibanez, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Ian Stewart, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS

SP: LH Wilson (0-1, 9.53 ERA)

Astros (3-3)

Jonathan Villar, SS
Robbie Grossman, CF
Jose Altuve, 2B
Jason Castro, DH
Jesus Guzman, LF
Chris Carter, 1B
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Carlos Corporan, C
L.J. Hoes, RF

SP: RH Jarred Cosart (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Alden

Tuesday’s intentional walk of Robinson Cano …

Justin SmoakLefty C.J. Wilson clearly wasn’t on board with Mike Scioscia‘s decision to intentionally walk lefty Robinson Cano to face the switch-hitting Justin Smoak, who wound up hitting the three-run double that pretty much decided the game. Asked if it felt weird to walk a left-handed hitter to face someone batting from the right side of the plate, Wilson said: “Yes. No more questions on that one.”

So, no more questions were asked.

But we can examine it a little further.

First, the facts …

Situation: 2nd and 3rd, 2 outs, T3, Mariners lead 1-0

Cano vs. Wilson: .389/.450/.611, 40 PA
Cano lifetime: .309/.355/.505, 10 yrs
Smoak vs. Wilson: .207/.281/.517, 32 PA
Smoak as RHH: .223/.294/.362
Smoak as LHH: .230/.324/.401
LHH’s vs. Wilson: .196/.278/.274
RHH’s vs. Wilson: .252/.336/.382

So, not only is Cano one of the most dangerous hitters in the game; he’s one of few left-handed hitters who has actually had success against Wilson. Smoak, meanwhile, has never produced like a first baseman should — and isn’t necessarily a dangerous cleanup hitter. The only circumstances that made this scenario remotely debatable are (1) Smoak was 3-for-5 with a three-run homer heading into that at-bat and (2) the end result wasn’t good for the Angels.

If Scioscia would’ve done the opposite and pitched to Cano, and Cano would’ve brought in the runs, he would’ve been hammered for the decision — and rightfully so.

“Robinson Cano is the guy you want to try to minimize as much as you can,” Scioscia said. “Justin Smoak, give him credit – got some big hits last night, got some big hits tonight. If that continues, then Robinson Cano will get some pitches to hit. But right now, you’re going to want Justin Smoak to swing the bat instead of Robinson.”

Wilson clearly wanted to face Cano, which is fine. He’s a competitor; he should want to face Cano. But that doesn’t make it right. And the end result doesn’t mean the decision to walk Cano was a bad one. I’ll take my chances with Smoak over Cano, every single time.

And Smoak would, too.

“No doubt,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you? I don’t care if it’s lefty-on-lefty or what. There’s a reason why they do that.”

Alden

Door is open for a fast Angels start …

A strong belief in one’s roster is usually followed by a phrase like “as long as we stay healthy.”

Well, the American League West is anything but to start the season. The Rangers are littered with injuries, with starter Derek Holland (right knee), second baseman Jurickson Profar (right shoulder) and catcher Geovany Soto (knee) all out until midseason and Yu Darvish (neck) starting the year on the disabled list. A’s Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker will miss all of 2014 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery and A.J. Griffin (right flexor muscle strain) is on the shelf. And the Mariners — in town the next three days — have two starters on the DL in Hisashi Iwakuma (right middle finger) and Taijuan Walker (right shoulder).

The door is wide open for the Angels.

Mike Scioscia, Jerry DipotoThey’ve had the fourth-worst April winning percentage the last two years, crippling any chances they had of reaching the playoffs. But of the Angels’ 27 games through the month of April this year, only nine will come against teams that made the playoffs in 2013. Four will come against an Astros team that has lost 100 games three straight years (though, granted, they won 10 of 19 games against the Angels last year), and three will come against the Mets, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006. But there’s one really tough swing — a three-city trip from April 18-27, which will see the Angels visit the Tigers, Nationals and Yankees.

The Angels will also be off in each of their first six Thursdays. Yes, you’d rather have the days off at the end of the year, but a fast start is crucial this year, and those off days certainly won’t hurt that cause.

In hopes of facilitating a better start, the Angels tweaked their Spring Training program. Position players took more swings and focused more on situational hitting. Starting pitchers were stretched out earlier. Relievers attacked their bullpens more aggressively. Live BP was re-introduced after a one-year hiatus. And more shifting is taking place defensively, after the Angels went from 2nd to 27th in Defensive Runs Saved over the course of one season.

One year after having by far the worst Spring Training record and ERA in the Majors, the Angels had a much better camp. Here’s a look at the numbers …

Record: 19-11-2, 2nd in the Cactus League
Runs: 190, 4th in MLB
OPS: .803, 3rd in MLB
SP ERA: 4.01, 11th in MLB
RP WHIP: 4.20, 4th in MLB

Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Kole CalhounPositives from camp: Albert Pujols looked light on his feet around the bag and on the bases. … Josh Hamilton quickly got his timing back after missing time with a strained left hamstring. … Tyler Skaggs was mostly sitting at 95 mph, after having a hard time touching 90 mph last year. … Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun — batting ninth and first, respectively, and ahead of Mike Trout — drew a combined 21 walks. … C.J. Wilson had a 1.88 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. … Ernesto Frieri didn’t allow a run in 10 outings. … Trout batted .414/.460/.828. … The Angels rid themselves of two potential distractions, releasing Joe Blanton and signing Trout to the much-talked-about extension. … Out-of-options infielder Andrew Romine was turned into much-needed starting-pitching depth in Jose Alvarez.

Negatives from camp: Sean Burnett is still working his way back from August surgery, but he’s expected to face hitters for the first time in a sim game on Tuesday or Wednesday. … Dane De La Rosa is starting the season on the DL with a right forearm strain, but he could be back as soon as the weekend series in Houston. … Brian Moran is working his way back from left elbow inflammation, leaving Nick Maronde (1.89 Cactus League WHIP) as the only lefty in the bullpen to start the year. … Skaggs and Hector Santiago had their occasional long innings, an indication that there will be some growing pains. … Newcomers David Freese (one extra-base hit) and Raul Ibanez (.218 batting average) didn’t have great results at the plate, but both were happy with the way they were driving the ball.

Now, what does all this mean for the regular season?

I have no idea.

***

The Angels’ depth chart can be found here.

Now, if you’ve followed baseball long enough you know that a team never goes an entire season with the same 25-man roster (or even the same five-man rotation). So, here’s a look at who’s next in line at every position …

Catcher: Luis Martinez
Third base: Luis Jimenez
Shortstop: Tommy Field
Second base: Grant Green
First base: C.J. Cron
Left field: J.B. Shuck
Center field: Matt Long
Right field: Brennan Boesch
Starter: Wade LeBlanc or Alvarez
Reliever: Brandon Lyon

***

Mike TroutOn that Trout contract

For months, many wondered how much Trout would be worth in the open market and speculated what it would cost to lock up the best all-around player in baseball. They put his three arbitration years at upwards of $60 million, had him pegged as a $35 million free agent and believed he could be baseball’s first $300-million player.

But three are three important things to keep in mind about Trout’s situation …

1. He isn’t in his free-agent years yet. He still needed to get through three arbitration years, which greatly limits how much a player can make.

2. Being a $300-million player would’ve probably required a 10-year, contract, and that wouldn’t have been ideal because Trout wants to cash in on another monster contract by hitting the open market before age 30.

3. There’s just as much incentive for Trout as there is for the Angels, no matter how great he is. Why? Because free agency is a whole four years away, a lot can happen in four years, and it’s hard to turn down that much financial security so early.

So, Trout’s contract is $144.5 million over the course of six seasons, from 2015-20 (with a full no-trade clause, basic incentives and no additional option years or opt-outs). And I think it gives both sides what they want. It gives the Angels three additional years of Trout and some cost-certainty. It gives Trout a chance to be a free agent again at age 29 and makes him the highest-paid player relative to service time at every juncture.

Here’s a look at the year-by-year breakdown, and who Trout surpasses …

2014: $1M (Pujols in 2003 and Ryan Howard in ’07 with $900K for a pre-arbitration player)*
2015: $10.25M (Howard, $10M in ’08 for first-year arbitration)**
2016: $15.25M (Howard, $15M in ’09 for second-year arbitration)
2017: $19.25M (Howard, $19M in ’10 for third-year arbitration)
2018-20: $33.25M (Miguel Cabrera, $31M AAV in ’14 for a free agent)

* the $1M compensation was done before the contract
** $5M of that will be paid to Trout in 2014, as part of a signing bonus

***

Jered WeaverSome questions, answered …

Can the Angels stay competitive for the next seven seasons to keep Trout’s interest in the team? (@ryanwjsmyth)

One of the reasons Trout felt comfortable staying with the Angels long term is because he knows the owner, Arte Moreno, isn’t afraid to put his money into making this team competitive. One thing is for sure: The Angels will not be in rebuild mode over the life of Trout’s contract, or even while Moreno is around. But it’ll be harder and harder to stay below the luxury tax and put a World Series-contending product on the field as Hamilton and Pujols naturally decline. Jerry Dipoto has a tough task at hand — continue to build a contending team while also developing young pitching. Getting Santiago and Skaggs is a good start, though. Also, keep in mind: Trout’s decision to stay will be based more on how good the Angels can be after 2020, not necessarily what they’ve done leading up to it.

Will Albert Pujols hit 30+ home runs this season? (@adreamersview)

If healthy, I think you can bank on that. He hit 30 in 2012 even though he went a month and a half without hitting his first (and I don’t expect that to happen again). Plantar fasciitis didn’t just limit his defense and baserunning. It made his right knee, surgically repaired the previous offseason, swell up. And it sapped his power because a hitter is nothing without a healthy base. I’m never going to doubt Pujols’ ability to hit. He’s proven it long enough.

If the Angels make a run for the postseason what do you see them doing at the trade deadline? (@gizmosol)

Trying to get their hands on more starting pitching. Justin Masterson and Max Scherzer are heading into their final seasons before free agency, Cliff Lee and David Price may get shopped, and all sorts of other starters could become available in July. The Angels still have roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold that they’re willing to use. Yes, the farm system is still pretty barren. But the list of teams in the market for a starting-pitching rental in July is usually very short, and the Angels could dangle Cron or Taylor Lindsey or Kaleb Cowart or some of their (few) good pitching prospects if they feel they’re close (and hope for a better result than the 2012 trade for Zack Greinke).

***

Here are some links to our Opening Day coverage …

The Angels 2014 Season preview
Jered Weaver gets franchise-record sixth Opening Day nod
Ibanez reflects on what Opening Day means to him
Broadcaster Jose Mota talks about the upcoming season

Some feature stories from earlier in the spring, in case you missed them …

Weaver leads rotation’s quest for redemption
Pujols, Hamilton facing more doubt than ever
Mike Scioscia eager to reclaim winning formula
John McDonald “a magician” with the glove
The odyssey of De La Rosa, and a lesson in never giving up
Trout can’t believe how fast this is all happening

Alden

All’s still quiet on the Mike Trout extension front …

Mike TroutVery little has been reported with regards to a potential Mike Trout extension ever since the Angels’ 22-year-old center fielder agreed on a $1 million for 2014 (a record for a pre-arbitration player).

Is that good or bad?

“I haven’t heard anything, either,” Trout said. “Is that good or bad? Uh, I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I’m just getting ready for the season, worried about getting off to a good start.”

The Angels have been very tight-lipped about talks and Trout’s agent, Craig Landis, typically keeps everything close to the vest. Asked if there’s any reason to think things have hit a snag because it hasn’t happened yet, Trout, who’s uncomfortable talking contract, said, “No, no. … We’re getting ready for the season.”

Trout landed awkwardly on a dive attempt on Sunday, then struck out looking in his next two plate appearances and was the only everyday player who wasn’t in the Angels’ lineup on Monday.

But he felt fine.

“It was all right,” Trout said. “It scared me more than anything. But I think the rug burn hurt more than the fall. I’m not sore or anything today. Good to go. I dived, when I rolled, the glove came off my hand. That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me. Usually I just slide. If the glove didn’t come off, I would have caught it. Seen a lot of injuries happen like that.”

Here are some notes from Monday morning (lineup here) …

  • The tentative pitching schedule the rest of the week: Jered Weaver will pitch in a Minor League game on Tuesday, C.J. Wilson will start against the A’s in Phoenix on Wednesday, Hector Santiago will go against the Dodgers on Thursday, Joe Blanton will start against the Dodgers on Friday, Garrett Richards will start the Freeway Series finale on Saturday and Tyler Skaggs will start Sunday (an off day; so probably in a Minor League game or sim game of some sort).
  • Obviously, Weaver is the Opening Day starter. But Mike Scioscia won’t announce it until he comes out of his last session OK.
  • The Angels will not be opening the season with an eight-man bullpen. Scioscia floated the idea earlier in spring, but that was never really much of a possibility.
  • Asked about opening the season with an all-righty bullpen, with Brian Moran (left elbow inflammation) and Sean Burnett (recovery from August forearm surgery) slated to open the season on the disabled list, Scioscia said: “In our bullpen things are still taking shape. [Jose] Alvarez really looked good down there and he’ll pitch for us at some point this week. [Nick] Maronde has shown well. Those guys, I think they’re all in the general mix of pitchers. But again, we’re not going to take a lefty just to take a lefty. We’re going to take a lefty who’s functional and will get a lefty out to hold a lead. If that emerges, great. If it doesn’t, we’ll just see where our bullpen is.”
  • Asked if he needs to have somebody out of the bullpen who can pitch multiple innings, Scioscia said: “That’s ideal, but mainly we need a guy who can hold leads. With the off days we have in April [they have seven of the first eight Thursdays off], hopefully we can get going without having to have that traditional length in the bullpen.”
  • As for the bench? My prediction is the same one I’ve had since the start of spring: Hank Conger, John McDonald, Ian Stewart, Collin Cowgill. Obviously, though, J.B. Shuck is a prime candidate after a great rookie season last year. And Matt Long has had a very good spring (though he still looks like a longshot). Scioscia was, predictably, non-committal. “There’s so many combinations that we’re looking at right now,” Scioscia said. “Obviously we’re going to need a versatile infielder, your second catcher will be on the bench. And how those other bats fall in will be something that we’re going to determine this week.”
  • Chris Iannetta is expected to get the majority of time behind the plate this season, though Conger will get plenty of time. “Chris has shown the ability to catch a little bit more, but I think also the ability to have Hank to balance that and take a little pressure off Chris from having to extend himself will keep Chris fresh and keep Hank productive,” Scioscia said. “But they’re both going to get plenty of playing time.”
  • Most of the Angels will fly out of Tempe, Ariz., on Tuesday night and work out at Angel Stadium on Wednesday (the day of the last Cactus League game).

Alden

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