Results tagged ‘ Chris Iannetta ’

The Angels’ uncertain, costly future …

dipotoThe Draft starts today, and after going heavy-handed on pitching the last two years, the Angels are expected to target position players this time around. They — like any other team — want to set themselves up so that every time there’s a need on the Major League club, there’s a player in their farm system ready to take over. It’s too risky, not to mention expensive, to rely on the free-agent market to fill holes. Look no further than that brutal offseason heading into 2013, which saw the Angels sign Josh Hamilton, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett. Ouch.

The Cardinals are the gold standard when it comes to organizational depth, as evidenced by a Major League-leading plus-70 run-differential without Adam Wanwright or Matt Adams.

The Angels? Well, they’re working on it.

Their farm system was in need of a major replenishment right around the time Jerry Dipoto took over as general manager after the 2011 season, but major free-agent signings stripped the Angels of early-round picks and new CBA regulations limited how much teams can spend on amateur talent. It’s been a slow process. But over time, the Angels have at least done a good job of building some respectable starting-pitching depth. Some notables …

Triple-A: Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano
Double-A: Nate Smith, Kyle McGowin
Class A Advanced: Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis, Victor Alcantara
Class A: Jeremy Rhoades, Jake Jewell
Lower levels: Joe Gatto, Hunter Green

That brings us to the upcoming offseason, and why that starting-pitching depth could be so important. The Angels — losers of five straight games — could have up to five holes in their lineup once this season ends: catcher, second base, third base, left field, designated hitter. In the majority of those spots — perhaps all of them, if you’re being really cynical — the Angels don’t have players in their organization ready to come up and take over. And their big financial flexibility won’t come after the 2016 season, when C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver and Erick Aybar, among others, come off the books.

Dipoto, with a contract that carries a lingering club option for 2016, knows he’ll eventually have to part ways with some of the precious starting-pitching depth he’s worked so hard to compile. He may have to trade some of it within these next two months, with his club in desperate need of some offense. And he’s almost certain to do so over the winter, given all their upcoming needs.

Here’s a snapshot …


Current option: Chris Iannetta, in the final season of a three-year, $15.55 million extension
In-house replacement(s): Carlos Perez, Jett Bandy
Free-agent options: Iannetta, Alex Avila, John Jaso, Dioner Navarro, Jeff Mathis (!), Matt Wieters
Probable outcome: The rest of this season could play a big part in deciding how the Angels handle this position. They need to find out if Perez, basically a throw-in in the deal that sent Hank Conger to the Astros for Tropeano, is capable of being a semi-regular. Bandy has made some pretty big strides in the last year and is solid defensively, and that free-agent list is pretty compelling. But I’d guess that if the Angels splurge on a free agent, it’s an outfielder, not a catcher.


Current option: David Freese, making $6.425 million in his final arbitration year
In-house replacement(s): Kyle Kubitza
Free-agent options: Freese, Aramis Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Casey McGehee, Alberto Callaspo (!)
Probable outcome: The hope – the initial plan – is that Kubitza is ready to be the everyday third baseman in 2016. The likely scenario is that Kubitza is paired with a right-handed-hitting veteran who doesn’t mind sharing the job and can help Kubitza make the transition to the big leagues. I think it’s unlikely that they make a run at resigning Freese, especially since he’ll probably make good money given the lack of talent in the free-agent pool at third base.


Current option: Johnny Giavotella, controllable through 2019
In-house replacement(s): Giavotella, Josh Rutledge, Grant Green, Taylor Featherston, Alex Yarbrough
Free-agent options: Howie Kendrick (!), Ben Zobrist, Daniel Murphy
Probable outcome: Giavotella has been a revelation of sorts and is out of options. None of the other in-house options are all that appealing, as Spring Training might have shown, but the free-agent market isn’t deep here, either. The Angels don’t really do reunions, but Kendrick was huge for their lineup these last few years and he loves playing in Southern California. This is a position where they may ultimately have to get creative again.


Current option: Matt Joyce, making $4.75 million in his final arbitration year
In-house replacement(s): Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill, Efren Navarro, Alfredo Marte
Free-agent options: Joyce, Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward, Torii Hunter (!), David Murphy, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Shane Victorino
Probable outcome: As you can see, this is a major, major problem. Outfield is by far the Angels’ biggest organizationally need and they’ll most certainly have to get somebody from the outside. That may happen before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, though. Dipoto has been looking for a left-handed-hitting left fielder for quite a while, and for obvious reasons, he’d like to get someone who’s controllable beyond this season. Upton would be a very appealing option, though.


Current option: C.J. Cron, controllable through 2020
In-house replacement(s): Cron, Marc Krauss
Free-agent options: Chris Davis, Mike Napoli (!), Delmon Young
Probable outcome: This situation is strikingly similar to left field. For the last two years, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been scrounging for that ninth bat, going from Raul Ibanez to Cron to Navarro to Krauss to Green to Cron again. Most teams have this problem, though. Perhaps the Angels remain patient with Cron, but I see them getting two bats before August.


Pujols chasing Mantle in the Bronx …

Can Albert Pujols tie, and perhaps pass, Mickey Mantle at his old stomping grounds?

It’s possible.

Pujols, who tied Jimmie Foxx on Tuesday, enters the weekend series at Yankee Stadium — the new Yankee Stadium, of course — with 534 career home runs. Two more, and he ties Mantle for 16th on the all-time list. The Angels’ 35-year-old first baseman is batting .258 with 14 homers and 28 RBIs, and six of those homers have come over his last seven games.

“Every time Albert hits a home run, it’s kind of fun to just see what the notes say about who he’s catching,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s a Hall of Fame roster. If he catches Mickey Mantle in this park, that’d be a nice touch.”

  • The Angels are shuffling the rotation once again. Matt Shoemaker will start Tuesday’s series opener against the Rays and Hector Santiago will be pushed back to start next Friday. The Angels were coming off an off day on Thursday and have another one Monday.
  • Collin Cowgill (fractured left wrist) took some dry swings on Friday and will hit off a tee on Saturday. He’s feeling good, but is still weeks away and will have to eventually go on a rehab assignment.
  • The same can be said about Mike Morin, who’s nursing a left oblique strain. Morin played light catch on Wednesday and Friday, but is still in the early stages of his throwing progression.
  • Carlos Perez caught each of Jered Weaver‘s last five starts — five starts that has seen Weaver turn his season around with a 1.98 ERA. But Chris Iannetta was behind the plate on Friday (full lineup here).


Nieuwenhuis, Cowgill, Rasmus, Green, Morin, etc. …

The Angels acquired Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the Mets on Wednesday, and he’s expected to join the team for Thursday’s series opener against the Mets. The Angels will announce a corresponding move after the game. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he’ll get some at-bats against right-handed pitching.

Marc Krauss — another left-handed-hitting power bat — is the logical choice to get optioned to Triple-A for Nieuwenheuis, but that’s only if Collin Cowgill doesn’t instead land on the disabled list.Cowgill tried to swing the bat on Wednesday, but it appears he had some sort of setback. Cowgill is meeting with doctors again on Wednesday, and Scioscia called a DL stint “a possibility if he doesn’t turn the corner.”

Cowgill was scratched from the starting lineup on Sunday with pain in his right hand. An MRI on Monday called the ailment a joint sprain, and Cowgill took an anti-inflammatory shot that kept him away from baseball activities for 24 hours.

Some additional notes from today’s lineup, which has Grant Green starting over Johnny Giavotella at second base and both of Scioscia’s catchers — Chris Iannetta and Carlos Perez — playing together …

  • If Krauss gets optioned after Wednesday’s game, Green would essentially be the backup first baseman (though Kole Calhoun can also play first base). “He’s an infielder and he’s got range,” Scioscia said of Green at first base. “He’s been pretty comfortable at first base. He spent a lot of time there in the spring, and also down in Triple-A. He feels comfortable at first.”
  • Asked if second base is now based on day-to-day matchups, rather than Giavotella simply being the starter, Scioscia said: “Johnny’s still going to get a lot of playing time, but we’re still going to spot Grant in there and also Taylor [Featherston] at times. Johnny, even with this little downturn, there’s things he’s doing at the plate that are important. He’ll continue to get a lot of playing time at second.”
  • Scisocia started Iannetta at DH and Perez behind the plate, a risky move because if Perez somehow gets hurt, the Angels would lose their DH (or use an emergency third catcher, which is unlikely). Scioscia said he wants to get Chris some bats “because he was just kind of warming up and we hate to get him out of that rhythm when we also need to play Carlos.”
  • Cory Rasmus, out since undergoing surgery for what the team called a core injury in late March, is currently throwing in simulated games in Arizona. He’d still have to go out on a rehab assignment after that. “He would need a significant chunk of what Spring Training would be to get ready to pitch in the big leagues,” Scioscia said. Rasmus, the Angels’ long reliever last year, could start a rehab assignment in the next week or so.
  • Mike Morin, who landed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain on Saturday, “is getting better” but the recovery will take “weeks, not days,” Scisocia said. “It’s going to be a while.”


Perez earns another start; Joyce continues to sit …

Not surprisingly, Carlos Perez was back in the starting lineup on Wednesday, one day after capping his Major League debut with a walk-off home run. Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn’t declaring him the everyday catcher, though. He said once again that Chris Iannetta — batting .094 — will continue to get playing time.

But it’s hard to have a platoon with two right-handed-hitting catchers.

So basically, Scioscia will ride the hot bat. And though it’s only been one game for Perez, his bat is nonetheless hotter than Iannetta’s has been all year.

“The best way I can say it is if you play well you always earn more playing time, both ways,” Scioscia said. “If both those guys are playing well, it makes us better.”

Wednesday’s lineup also excluded the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce, who sat for a second straight day because the Angels faced a second straight lefty. Joyce was seemingly starting to turn the corner, hitting several balls hard in a weekend series in San Francisco and homering against Felix Hernandez on Monday.

“I talked to Matt,” Scioscia said. “Just because a lefty’s pitching doesn’t mean he’s not going to play. But right now, you’re trying to jump-start an offense with every little bit of offense you can, against lefties especially. … We just haven’t seen Matt get into his game yet. And when he does, you’re not going to want to sit him just because there’s a lefty in there. But right now, we’re just trying to get as much depth to our lineup as we can.”

Albert Pujols, who exited last Wednesday’s game with a tight left hamstring, made his fourth start of the year at designated hitter. Scioscia said it was precautionary.


Angels takeaways, Week 1 …

joshThe 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.


Smith returning from lower leg stiffness …

Rob Manfred couldn’t comment on Josh Hamilton‘s situation when asked about it from reporters at Dodgers camp on Monday morning. But Major League Baseball’s new Commissioner did state that he will be the one deciding on the length of a potential suspension from what sources say was a drug of abuse.

“I’m the decision maker on this one,” Manfred said.

The fact Hamilton is rehabbing from surgery on his right AC joint, and is in Houston rehabbing instead of being in Spring Training with the Angels, makes the timing of an eventual decision “a little more relaxed,” Manfred added.

Here’s the lineup against Hamilton’s former team, the Rangers …

Collin Cowgill, RF
Josh Rutledge, 3B
Matt Joyce, LF
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Efren Navarro, 1B
Taylor Featherston, SS
Johnny Giavotella, 2B
Daniel Robertson, CF

SP: RH Jered Weaver

Angels setup man Joe Smith will make his Cactus League debut on Monday, after taking his time to make sure he was fully recovered from lower leg stiffness. If he takes just one day off in between the rest of the spring, Smith would make 10 appearances (including Wednesday’s off day, which he’s slated to pitch in). Typically, Smith likes to make eight appearances to feel ready.

“My arm’s still in shape,” Smith said. “I’ve still obviously been doing stuff. It just hasn’t been on the mound or game related. I’m not worried about the time. I know my body’s ready. My leg’s feeling just like normal. It was just trying to get that tightness out.”

Some additional notes …

  • The Angels made three more Spring Training cuts on Monday morning, with right-handed relievers Danny Reynolds, Jeremy McBryde and Frank Herrmann heading to Minor League camp.
  • The Angels’ annual Prospect Game – which is, of course, an intrasquad game with all their prospects – will take place Wednesday, March 25, at Tempe Diablo Stadium at 6 p.m. MT. It’s open to the public.
  • Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus are also slated to pitch today. Mike Scioscia said Rasmus won’t be stretched out to the 100-pitch range this spring, so he won’t be treated as a traditional starter, but they’re making sure he has his length in case they need him for the rotation. I expect him to be in the bullpen as a long reliever to start the season.
  • Hector Santiago felt good a day after getting hit by a comebacker on the inside of his left forearm on Sunday, and Scioscia said he’ll throw his normal between-starts bullpen in anticipation of starting again on Friday.


Baldoquin arrives & the Angels get back to normal …

After Thursday’s Will Ferrell extravaganza, the Angels could finally get back to normal on Friday … right?

Billy Crystal‘s coming today, he’s going to play shortstop,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia joked.

Here’s the lineup on a day when most everyday players were off, as expected …

Collin Cowgill, CF
Efren Navarro, RF
Matt Joyce, DH
C.J. Cron, 1B
Chris Iannetta, C
Josh Rutledge, SS
Grant Green, 3B
Marc Krauss, LF
Alex Yarbrough, 2B

SP: RH Matt Shoemaker

  • Roberto Baldoquin is finally in Arizona after getting all his visa issues in order and is expected to work out in Minor League camp when they start full workouts Saturday. Right on time, despite all the headaches.
  • Joyce is back in the lineup after getting scratched on Thursday with some tightness in his hamstring. He missed two days earlier in camp with some soreness in his right side.
  • Garrett Richards is slated to get off a mound and do some PFP work on Friday. His first Cactus League start is tentatively scheduled for March 23 against the Mariners. The 26-year-old right-hander will have to face hitters in a controlled environment before then, likely in the off day on Wednesday (along with Shoemaker).
  • Joe Smith expects to make his Cactus League debut either Sunday or Monday. The Angels’ setup man typically only needs eight appearances to be ready for the regular season, so he has time.
  • C.J. Wilson, scratched from his Thursday start after tweaking his left knee, is still on track to start Tuesday.
  • Padres lineup here.


ST Game No. 6: D-backs 6, Angels 5 …

Jered WeaverMost important thing: While giving up three runs on five hits and two walks in three-plus innings, Jered Weaver sat mostly 83-84 mph with his fastball, which is slow even by his standards. His average fastball velocity was 86.8 mph last year. But he usually doesn’t go full intensity until the end of Spring Training, so probably nothing to be alarmed about right now. Weaver has done pretty darn well without much velocity.

Second-most important thing: Matt Joyce went 2-for-3 to put his Cactus League batting average at .500. More importantly, one of those hits came off a lefty, a line-drive, opposite field single off D-backs starter Robbie Ray. If Joyce wants to start against lefties, and not get benched by Collin Cowgill in those situations, he’ll have to show he’s comfortable against them this spring.

Third-most important thing: Grant Green booted a routine grounder at second base and also couldn’t stop a short-hop throw from catcher Chris Iannetta, allowing the runner to take an extra base. Normally that’s no big deal this time of year, but Green can’t have these defensive issues if he wants to win the job as an everyday second baseman.

Fourth-most important thing: Albert Pujols went 1-for-3 with a hard lineout to first base and is batting .462 this spring. The Angels’ first baseman has hit at least .321 in Spring Training each of the last three years.

Fifth-most important thing: Jeremy McBryde, given a spot on the 40-man roster this offseason, gave up two unearned runs in the eighth inning and has allowed six runs four earned) on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings thus far.

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Collin Cowgill made a nice diving catch on a sinking liner by Tuffy Gosewisch in the second inning.

Quotable: Mike Scioscia, when asked if Garrett Richards did his PFP at full intensity today: “For what he has, it’s enough. … He was never a burner anyway.”


Wilson scratched; Newcomb to start Thursday …

Angels starter C.J. Wilson has been scratched from his scheduled Thursday start against the Cubs after tweaking his left knee during pitchers’ fielding practice a couple days ago, Mike Scioscia said. Sean Newcomb, the 21-year-old left-hander who was drafted 15th overall last June, will start in his place.

Wilson didn’t take part in agility drills with his teammates Wednesday morning, but did play catch.

Scioscia said Wilson is “fine; we just want to give him a couple days to get over it.” The Angels’ manager isn’t concerned about this holding him back in spring.

“I think [pitching coach Mike Butcher] has a flexible program of where these guys need to be and they start early enough to where you can absorb a little bump like this,” Scioscia said. “We can even push him back a full five days and he’ll be OK.”

Here’s Wednesday’s lineup against the D-backs, which is their first time facing a lefty starter (Robbie Ray) this spring …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
Matt Joyce, DH
Collin Cowgill, LF
Grant Green, 2B

SP: RH Jered Weaver

  • This could very well be the Angels’ lineup against lefties, particularly with Freese at the cleanup spot and Joyce moved down to seventh. Scioscia said he’d like to get righties Cowgill and C.J. Cron at-bats against lefties, so Joyce could sit against some tough lefties. It’ll be up to him. His playing time against lefties could hinge largely on how he handles them this spring. “We’ll see how Matty handles it,” Scioscia said. “When he’s going well, you don’t want to take him out just because there’s two lefties in a row. You don’t want him sitting down for two days.”
  • Closer Huston Street is not with the team today. He started feeling really sick right before game time on Tuesday, was scratched from his scheduled appearance and stayed back Wednesday, recovering.
  • Setup man Joe Smith has yet to appear in his first game because of some “lower leg stiffness.” He was slated to throw a bullpen session on Thursday and should pitch in the next three to four days, Scioscia said.
  • Here is the D-backs lineup (no Mark Trumbo).


ST Game No. 5: Reds 7, Angels 5 …

Angels Spring BaseballMost important thing: Andrew Heaney (pictured) looked OK in his Cactus League debut, giving up a hit and a run, walking two and striking out three (including Joey Votto) in his three-inning outing. His main competition for a rotation spot, Nick Tropeano, struggled with his fastball command and it hurt with three straight long drives in the fifth — a double by Skip Schumaker off the right-center-field wall, a homer by Kyle Skipworth right around the same place and another homer to left by Jason Bourgoeis.

Second-most important thing: Up one with two on and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Mattheus — a long shot to make the Opening Day bullpen — served up a line-drive, walk-off three-run homer off the top of the right-field fence to Reds Minor League outfielder Juan Duran. It was the third straight game the Angels have lost in the ninth inning, after Edgar Ibarra gave up a couple of runs to the A’s on Saturday and Jeremy McBryde gave up four runs to the Royals on Sunday. You can officially get worried if it happens to Joe Smith and Huston Street.

Third-most important thing: Albert Pujols went 2-for-3 and drove in a couple with a line-drive single up the middle in the third. That’s four hits in the last two days for the Angels’ first baseman.

Fourth-most important thing: Johnny Giavotella sent a high fastball out to left-center field, Grant Green and Josh Rutledge each had opposite-field hits, and Taylor Featherston singled to left and stole a base. And that was your second base update for the day.

Fifth-most important thing: Mike Trout drew a walk on four straight pitches with first base open in the third and hit an infield single off Aroldis Chapman in the fifth. And that was your Mike Trout update for the day.

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Non-roster outfielder Roger Kieshnick tracked a long fly ball from Brayan Pena, leaped up against the right-field fence and made a nifty catch for the second out of the sixth.

Quotable: Mike Scioscia on Tropeano and Heaney: ““For their first outing, they did fine. Chris [Iannetta] is trying to work with them to understand their stuff a little bit. It’s gonna take a little time. But I think the first impressions were very good. Nick Tropeano has terrific stuff. He just missed with his fastballs and those guys crushed them. Heaney looked strong. He has a lot of his life to his fastball.”



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