Results tagged ‘ Chris Iannetta ’

Hamilton seventh, Cron eighth vs. Vargas …

The Angels trotted out basically the same lineup they fielded down the stretch for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday, with a couple of notable, expected tweaks: Josh Hamilton batting seventh and playing left field, and C.J. Cron batting eighth while serving as the designated hitter.

Hamilton played in only one of the team’s last 23 regular-season games due to ailments in his right shoulder and right side and has hardly seen any live pitching in the meantime, so Angels manager Mike Scioscia is batting him lower in the lineup to put less pressure on him. Scioscia also went with the right-handed bat of Cron against Royals starter Jason Vargas, a lefty who held opposing lefties to a .661 OPS during the regular season.

Howie Kendrick has been red hot since taking over for Hamilton in the cleanup spot on Sept. 5, batting .403 with 18 RBIs over that 21-game stretch. David Freese, batting fifth, finished September with a .315/.367/.562 slash line. Scioscia opted to go with Chris Iannetta’s high on-base percentage (.373) in hopes of turning the lineup over to Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout.

Here’s the full lineup behind starter Jered Weaver (first pitch from Angel Stadium is 6:07 p.m. PT on TBS):

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

Alden

Angels’ 2014 regular season, by the numbers

Mike Trout

The Angels’ regular season ended on Sunday, and now all that stands before the postseason are an off day and a couple of mandatory workouts from Angel Stadium. Rosters are due by Thursday morning, and before then, Matt Shoemaker (left oblique) is expected to get off a mound at least one more time and Josh Hamilton (right chest/ribcage) will have to see some velocity (latest here). Before all the ALDS madness ensues, let’s take a numerical look back at the 162-game grind. And before we get into the objective, here’s a little bit of the subjective …

Award Candidates

MVP: Mike Trout
Gold Glove: Erick Aybar (SS), Albert Pujols (1B), C.J. Wilson (P), Kole Calhoun (RF)
Silver Slugger: Trout, Aybar
Rookie: Matt Shoemaker
Comeback Player: Pujols
Rolaids Relief: Huston Street
Executive: Jerry Dipoto
Manager: Mike Scioscia

Trout looks like almost a lock to nab the AL MVP Award, but Shoemaker probably doesn’t stand a chance to win AL Rookie of the Year over Jose Abreu. I can’t really think of a better candidate for Comeback Player of the Year than Pujols, and there’s a good chance Dipoto or Scioscia — not both — win their respective awards. I’d lean towards Dipoto, since Buck Showalter seems to be a popular pick for top AL manager (keep in mind there’s only one Executive of the Year Award, not one per league). Of the Gold Glove list, Pujols seems like the most likely to get one. Aybar had a great year at shortstop, but so did J.J. Hardy and Alexei Ramirez. Trout is a lock for his third straight Silver Slugger. Street has had a great year, but he split it within two leagues, so he’s a long shot for the Rolaids Relief Man Award.

American League Top 10s

BA: Howie Kendrick (10, .293)
OBP: Trout (T7, .377)
SLG: Trout (3, .561)
HR: Trout (T3, 36)
RBI: Trout (1, 111); Pujols (5, 105)
BB: Trout (4, 83)
SO: Trout (1, 184)
fWAR: Trout (1, 8.1)
FanGraphs defense: Aybar (T8, 14.0)
ERA: Garrett Richards (5, 2.61)
W: Jered Weaver (T1, 18); Shoemaker (T4, 16)
IP: Weaver (9, 213 1/3)
WHIP: Richards (3, 1.04)
BB: Wilson (1, 85)

MLB Team Rankings

WPCT: 1, .605
R/DIFF: 2, 143
fWAR: 2, 30.3
R: 1, 773
OPS: 7, .728
SP ERA: 13, 3.62
RP WHIP: 8, 1.22
FLG%: T3, .986
DRS: 20, -16

Angels fWAR Standings

Trout: 8.1
Kendrick: 4.4
Richards: 4.3
Aybar: 4.0
Calhoun: 3.6
Pujols: 3.2
Chris Iannetta: 3.0
David Freese: 2.2
Shoemaker: 2.1
Collin Cowgill: 2.1
Weaver: 1.5
Tyler Skaggs: 1.5
Hamilton: 1.1
Joe Smith: 1.0

Top 10 Prospects

LH Sean Newcomb (Rk, A): 6.14 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 3.0 SO/BB, 14 2/3 IP
RH Joe Gatto (Rk): 5.33 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 1.78 SO/BB, 27 IP
RH Chris Ellis (Rk): 6.89 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 2.00 SO/BB, 15 2/3 IP
3B Kaleb Cowart (AA): .223/.295/.324, 6 HR, 54 RBI, 26 SB (stopped switch-hitting during season)
RH Cam Bedrosian: 6.52 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 1.67 SO/BB, 19 1/3 IP (MLB); 2.00 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 4.56 SO/BB, 45 IP (A+, AA, AAA)
LH Hunter Green: did not pitch
LH Ricardo Sanchez (Rk): 3.49 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 1.95 SO/BB, 38 2/3 IP
2B Alex Yarbrough (AA): .285/.321/.397, 5 HR, 77 RBI, 6 SB
RH Mark Sappington (A+, AA): 6.02 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 1.44 SO/BB, 113 2/3 IP (moved to bullpen during season)
RH Jeremy Rhoades (Rk): 4.42 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 2.67 SO/BB, 38 2/3 IP

Team Records Set

Most strikeouts by a player: Trout tied Mark Trumbo (184 in 2013)
Most wins by a rookie: Shoemaker, 16 (previously 14 by Dean Chance, Marcelino Lopez and Frank Tanana)
Scoreless appearances in a season: Smith (67) and Kevin Jepsen (65), topping Francisco Rodriguez (63 in ’08)
Pitchers used: 31 (previously 29 in 1996)
Fewest errors: 83 (previously 85 in ’09, for a non-strike season)
Strikeouts by a pithing staff: 1,342 (previously 1,200 in 2013)

Some other interesting tidbits …

  • Second time in club history that they finish the regular season with the best record and lock up home-field advantage throughout the postseason (also 2008).
  • 98 wins is the third-most in club history, two shy of the club record set in ’08.
  • The Angels went an entire season without being shutout on the road.
  • Angels drew 3 million fans at home for the 12th consecutive season, a streak only matched in the AL by the Yankees. Their average attendance (38,221) was the highest since 2011.
  • Pujols led the Majors with 33 go-ahead RBIs, finishing one shy of the club record (34, by Vladimir Guerrero in ’06).
  • Trout became just the second RBI champion in team history (also Don Baylor, with 139 during his MVP season in 1979).
  • Trout is the first player in Major League history to lead either league in runs scored in his first three full seasons (115 in 2014). The last player to do that at any age was Mickey Mantle (1956-58).
  • Since 2011, Street has converted 126 of 136 save opportunities (93 percent), which is the best mark over that span (minimum: 50 innings).
  • Pujols is the 16th player with 2,500 hits, 1,500 runs and 500 homers, all marks he accomplished this season. The only others to do it by their age-34 season are Jimmie Foxx, Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez.
  • Trout is the first player since 1901 with 100 career steals and 90-plus career homers by his age-22-or-younger season.
  • All eight of the Angels’ everyday position players finished with an OPS+ over 100. Only the 1973 Orioles, ’09 Angels and ’13 Red Sox had more.
  • John McDonald turned 40 on Wednesday, and hit an RBI double in what could’ve been his final Major League at-bat. If it is the end, hats off to a great career by a truly great person.

Alden

‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ …

Josh Hamilton, Mike TroutThe Angels’ impressive four-game sweep of the A’s put them 30 games above .500, five games up in the American League West and 3 1/2 up (on the Orioles) for the best record in baseball. They’ll start September with five more wins than they had all of last year and a realistic chance of capturing the franchise record in wins. They’d have to play .692 ball over the season’s final month; they’ve played .610 ball through the season’s first five months.

Here’s a look at how the Angels have to fare in September for certain milestones.

90 wins: 7-19
95 wins: 12-14
100 wins: 17-9
101 wins (club record): 18-8

This is the ninth time the Angels have held sole possession of first place in the AL West to start September. On five of the previous eight occasions, they went on to win the division. They blew 2 1/2-game leads in 1985 and ’98, and epically blew a 7 1/2-game lead with one month left in ’95.

So Angels manager Mike Scioscia has good reason to not look ahead.

“I know a lot of people are counting down, under 30 games — not us,” he said. “We know we have a long way to go. You want to ask me [about the standings] in about three weeks, we’ll sit down and talk. Right now, we are still in the heart of the pennant race. We need to chew this off one inning, one pitch, one game at a time.”

The Angels are off on Monday, then start a bizarre 10-game, four-city road trip through Houston (two games), Minnesota (four games), Cleveland (one game) and Arlington (three games). The Angels’ bullpen will continue to do some heavy lifting in September.

Some additional tidbits from Sunday …

  • Angels pitchers had a streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings snapped in the eighth inning. It was tied for the longest in team history. … Sunday marked the fourth four-game sweep by the Angels this season, the most in their history. … Nineteen wins in August matched a franchise best (also done in 1986 and 2004). … This is the Angels’ largest division lead and their most games above .500 since the end of the 2009 season (10 games up, 32 games over). … At 83-53, the Angels have matched the best pace in club history after 136 games.
  • Mike Trout hit his 31st homer on Sunday and drove in three runs, giving him 97 on the year. All of those home runs and all but two of those RBIs have come from the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Among No. 2 hitters throughout history, the 23-year-old center fielder heads into September tied for ninth in homers (Eddie Mathews leads with 46 in 1959) and 10th in RBIs (Mathews and Alex Rodriguez in 1998 each had 114).
  • Matt Shoemaker is the first rookie with 14-plus wins and 115-plus strikeouts before September since CC Sabathia in 2001. He’s been a great story.
  • Chris Iannetta now leads the Angels in on-base percentage at .380 — six points higher than Trout.
  • Erick Aybar‘s hitting streak is now at a career-high 16 games. The veteran shortstop is batting .458 (27-for-59) during that span.

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

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

ST Game 24: Angels 7, Royals 3 …

Josh Hamilton, Raul IbanezMost important thing: The Angels’ offense continues to roll. They entered fourth in the Majors in runs and scored a combined six in the second and third inning. Mike Trout (2-for-4) is batting .409, Howie Kendrick (ground-rule double) is batting .400, Chris Iannetta (three-run homer) is batting .360, Erick Aybar (1-for-3) is batting .324, Kole Calhoun (solo homer) is batting .300 and Albert Pujols (1-for-4 with a deep lineout) has his batting average up to .293.

Second-most important thing: C.J. Wilson went 5 1/3 innings despite a long first and second inning, giving up three runs (one earned) on seven hits and two walks while striking out nine. He actually pitched even better than that. There weren’t very many hard-hit balls against him and he was the victim of some shaky defense early. His spring ERA is 2.49.

Third-most important thing: Josh Hamilton, playing in his fourth game since returning from a strained left calf, went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored and ran around a lot. He looks perfectly healthy, and not like a guy who’s going to need to start the season on the disabled list to get more at-bats.

Fourth-most important thing: Kevin Jepsen and Joe Smith pitched on back-to-back days for the first time this spring and turned in scoreless outings.

Fifth-most important thing: David Freese went 2-for-2 and has eight hits in his last 21 at-bats, raising his Cactus League batting average to .257.

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Aybar might have turned in the Angels’ best catch of the spring, diving full extension to his right to snag a really hard liner off the bat of Brett Hayes.

Best quote: Mike Scioscia on Wilson’s outing: “We didn’t help him much in the field in the first couple innings, but he settled in and really pitched well. He needed a lot of pitches to get through the first couple of innings, but then he really got the ball in the zone in good spots and finished strong. He’s on track.”

Angels’ record: 12-10-2

Taco power rankings (updated every Friday): 1. Los Taquitos, 2. El Hefe, 3. America’s Taco Shop, 4. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 5. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 6. Senor Taco, 7. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 8. Poliberto’s Taco Shop, 9. Dos Gringos (at the ballpark), 10. Salty Senorita

Alden

ST Game 19: Mariners 5, Angels 3 …

C.J. WilsonMost important thing: C.J. Wilson gave up two runs and faced eight batters in the first inning, but rebounded in the next four frames, retiring 12 of 15 batters (including five on strikeouts) in a 91-pitch, five-plus-inning outing. Wilson was charged with four runs (two earned) and has a 2.81 ERA in 16 innings this spring.

Second-most important thing: The Angels had all their starters (minus Josh Hamilton and Raul Ibanez) in the lineup against 25-year-old Cuban left-hander Roenis Elias, but they didn’t do much. Erick Aybar went 2-for-3 with a triple, Chris Iannetta had a long sacrifice fly and David Freese notched an RBI single. That was pretty much it.

Third-most important thing: It came mostly against Mariners prospects, but Michael Kohn had a clean ninth inning with two strikeouts — three days after giving up three runs and recording only two outs against the White Sox.

Fourth-most important thing: Kole Calhoun subbed in for Albert Pujols in the sixth and got his first action at first base this spring. He immediately let a hard grounder go by him, then made a bad flip to Fernando Salas two innings later. Not easy going from outfield to first base from one inning to the next, especially when you haven’t seen much action there all spring. It’ll be Ibanez’s turn tomorrow.

Fifth-most important thing: Salas gave up a solo homer to Tyler Smith in the eighth. It was only the second run he’s given up in six one-inning outings this spring.

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): With one out in the eighth, Calhoun cleanly fielded an Humberto Quintero grounder, but flipped low and wide of Salas as he Mexican reliever sprinted to cover first. Salas dove, toughed the bag with his glove, rolled, and luckily was not injured on the play.

Best quote: Wilson, on the ideal number of innings for a starter: “Your goal is to go out there and throw like eight, realistically. It’s a nice, round number. Like a snowman.

Angels’ record: 8-9-2

Alden

ST Game 12: Angels 8, Indians 3 …

Jered WeaverMost important thing: Jered Weaver labored through 4 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks. But he finished strong, striking out three of the last five batters he faced, and felt perfectly healthy afterwards. Weaver sat at mostly 86 to 88 mph with his fastball, hitting 89 mph twice, which is normal for him.

Second-most important thing: A lot of the guys fighting for bench spots had nice showings. Andrew Romine drew three walks and drove in two runs. Grant Green went 2-for-4 with a double (though he misplayed a grounder at second base and hardly got any action at third). And Collin Cowgill hit a long two-run homer against Trevor Bauer.

Third-most important thing: C.J. Cron continues to hit, and he’s handling himself pretty well defensively at first base. The 24-year-old spent the summer trying to gain a better strike zone awareness in Double-A and had an up-and-down season for the Arkansas Travelers. But he raked in the Arizona Fall League and is having a very nice spring, going 2-for-4 on Monday to put his Cactus League batting average at .545.

Fourth-most important thing: Matt Long is a longshot to make the team, but he went on a tear on Monday, getting four hits and falling a homer shy of the cycle to lead an Angels offense that was low on everyday players — Chris Iannetta and Raul Ibanez were the only ones — but in need of some production.

Fifth-most important thing: Five relievers fighting for jobs (Buddy Boshers, Robert Carson, Josh Wall, Brandon Lyon and Michael Kohn) had scoreless outings, combining to give up only two hits while walking two and striking out four in 4 2/3 innings.

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): John McDonald, a frequent contributor to this section, dove to his left and quickly flipped across his body to get a force out at second base and rob Carlos Santana of a single in the third inning.

Best quote: Weaver, on his spring results: “I don’t worry about that until the last start before the season. … Until then, I’m just trying to work on stuff.”

Angels’ record: 5-6-1

Alden

ST Game 3: Athletics 3, Angels 2 …

Hector SantiagoMost important thing: Joe Blanton, entering in the fifth, started his spring by giving up back-to-back singles and a two-run double to Yoenis Cespedes. But he retired seven of the next eight batters, striking out two of them, and Mike Scioscia called it “a step forward.”

Second-most important thing: The Angels had most of their starters in the lineup, but they were shut out in the five innings they were on the field. Mike Trout walked to load the bases with one out in the fifth, but Albert Pujols (now 0-for-5 with a walk this spring) grounded into an inning-ending 5-3 double play.

Third-most important thing: Screwball master Hector Santiago was a little erratic to start the game — his first pitch sailed way wide of Chris Iannetta — but was able to navigate through two Angels misplays and his own two walks to allow just one unearned run in 2 2/3 innings.

Fourth-most important thing: Brennan Boesch, vying for a spot off the bench, had a couple of singles and is now 4-for-7 this spring.

Fifth-most important thing: Brandon Lyon, competing with several other relievers for two bullpen spots, pitches a clean ninth inning, recording a strikeout. Lyon, 34, is an interesting name to watch because he has a good track record and gets hitters out a different way (with offspeed stuff).

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): To start the game, Pujols ranged into foul territory and made a nifty, over-the-shoulder basket catch to record the out. It wasn’t necessarily spectacular, but it was the kind of play he may not have made while hindered by plantar fasciitis last year.

Best quote:  Pujols, when asked if Trout’s performance the last two years has pushed him to be at that same level to keep up with him: “I don’t need to keep up with anybody, buddy. Just look at my numbers. My job is to stay healthy and go out there and play. I don’t need anybody to motivate me. My job is to be out there and give 110 percent, and that’s what I’ve been doing [my whole] career.”

Angels’ record: 1-2

Alden

ST Game 1: Angels 15, Cubs 3 …

Mike TroutMost important thing: The Angels were dialed in. Yes, it’s only Spring Training, and it came against a bad Cubs team that was basically only playing with three regulars, but it’s important for the Angels to assert themselves early in hopes of avoiding another season-crippling start. And their offensive showing, after doing live batting practice for about a week week, was uplifting. Mike Trout hit a grand slam, Chris Iannetta fell three feet shy of a two-homer day, J.B. Shuck had a three-run triple and the Angels had two crooked-number innings, scoring four in the second and nine — nine! — in the fourth.

Second-most important thing: Jered Weaver looked good. He went three full innings in a Cactus League opener for the first time in his career and gave up only one hard-hit ball. Weaver threw 41 pitches and sat around 87 mph. That’s basically where he was last year, and he should build up from that as he continues to throw. His changeup looked great, and he felt like he could’ve kept pitching after three one-hit innings.

Third-most important thing: Maybe not important, but fun — Trout’s grand slam was a laser beam. He got a 2-0 fastball low and inside, kept his hands in beautifully and drove it over the picnic area in left field. In case you hadn’t noticed, he good.

Fourth-most important thing: All the everyday position players (except Josh Hamilton, who’s nursing a strained left calf) played five innings on defense. That included Albert Pujols (0-for-2 with a strikeout and a walk), who didn’t have any balls hit to him but was moving around well in pre-game infield.

Fifth-most important thing: Howie Kendrick singled in his first at-bat and has now hit safely in 27 of his last 29 Spring Training games. His Cactus League batting averages from 2007-13, respectively: .348, .382, .339, .313, .364, .383, .435.

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): A tie between Andrew Romine and John McDonald, the two guys fighting to secure the utility infield spot. In the eighth, McDonald — playing second base — slid to his right to backhand a sharp Dan Vogelbach grounder and then made a nifty glove-flip to Romine in one motion, starting a 4-6-3 double play. In the ninth, Romine — playing shortstop — ranged deep in the hole to backhand an Albert Almora grounder and made a long, loopy throw to first to record the out just in time.

Best quote: Mike Scioscia, when sheepishly asked if he felt Trout’s ball had a chance to go out: “I think it was out before he got out of the batter’s box.”

Taco power rankings (updated every Friday): 1. Los Taquitos, 2. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 3. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 4. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 5. Poliberto’s Taco Shop

Alden

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