Results tagged ‘ Cubs ’
The Angels have hired former All-Star Don Baylor as their new hitting coach.
Baylor, who won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award with the Angels in 1979, spent the last three years as a hitting coach with the Diamondbacks and has been a big league manager for nine years, with the Rockies from 1993-98 and with the Cubs from 2000-02.
Baylor replaces Jim Eppard, who was dismissed along with bench coach Rob Picciolo on Oct. 8. He is the club’s third hitting coach in the last 17 months, dating back to Mickey Hatcher’s dismissal on May 15, 2012.
“Don enjoyed a distinguished playing career, highlighted by his tenure with the Angels during their first two division championships,” Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “As a coach, he brings us tremendous expertise in the areas of hitting, communication and presence. It’s nice to have him home.”
Dipoto spent time with Baylor when the Angels’ general manager played for Baylor in Colorado in the late 1990s and had him in his staff when he was an executive in Arizona.
Baylor will be entering his 22nd season in either a managing or coaching capacity in 2014. Along with his managerial tenure and his time with the D-backs, Baylor has been a hitting coach with the Brewers (1990-91), Cardinals (’92), Braves (’99), Mariners (’05) and Rockies (2009-10). He was also the Mets’ bench coach from 2003-04 and compiled a 627-689 record as skipper, earning National League Manager of the Year honors in 1995.
Before that, Baylor – a member of the Angels Hall of Fame – was a former All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner during a 19-year career as an outfielder that spanned from 1970-88. He joined the Angels as a free agent in November 1976 and posted a .262/.337/.448 slash line in a six-year career in Anaheim, adding 141 homers and 523 RBIs while leading them to their first playoff appearance in 1979.
The Angels are still searching for a new third-base coach and an additional coach.
C.J. Wilson pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Cubs in Wednesday night’s 13-2 thrashing at Wrigley Field. But that’s not what had him all giddy postgame. He got a base hit — his second in 20 Major League at-bats — and went first-to-third on a single to center field.
“I love running the bases,” Wilson said. “It’s just fun. You feel like it’s a full baseball game.”
That’s great and all, but Wilson isn’t paid to produce offensively. He’s paid to pitch, and lately, he’s done that well.
Wilson has posted a 2.04 ERA in his last six starts, giving up 12 runs (nine earned) while striking out 32 and walking 12 in 39 2/3 innings. Now — despite a rough start to the season and many an inning that has gotten away — he’s 9-6 with a 3.37 ERA while tied for eighth in the American League in innings (120 1/3).
In short, he’s starting to look a lot like the pitcher who mostly dominated at the start of last season.
“It seems like he’s committing to pitches and pitching with purpose during this good streak,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
It goes without saying that if Wilson can keep this going — and avoid the rough second half that plagued him in 2012 — the Angels will have a much better shot at making the uphill climb to the playoffs, especially with Jered Weaver (two earned runs in the last 20 2/3 innings of his last three starts) looking like his old self lately. You can talk all you want about Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, but if the Angels don’t get a lot of good starting pitching in the second half, they aren’t going anywhere this year.
“I would say that even in the starts where I didn’t have good results this year, I felt better than most of my starts last year, like in a sense that if I get behind in the count or something, I feel like my mechanics are more dialed in and I can throw various pitches,” Wilson said. “… I need to pitch. I don’t throw 100 [mph]. I can’t just go out there and throw four-seamers by people. I have to pitch and I have locate. And I feel like, overall, my location has been a lot better this year.”
Why is Joe Blanton STILL in the rotation? – @pattimelt95
I’ll spin this question back at you: Who would you like in the rotation instead of Blanton? … Still waiting. … In short, the Angels don’t have many options at this point. Not with Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson on the DL. Not with Jerome Williams struggling of late (and he’s already in the rotation). And not with their farm system barren, particularly in the way of pitching. Blanton is who he is. He’s going to get hit around. Problem is, he’s been hit around a lot more than the Angels would’ve expected. He went into his Tuesday outing with six quality starts in his previous eight turns, but then he gave up four home runs in five-plus innings, and his numbers are still unseemly: 2-11, 5.40 ERA and a Major League-leading 143 hits allowed (in 108 1/3 innings).
This prompts the obvious question: Could the Angels have signed someone better for what they gave Blanton (two years and $15 million?
Everything’s a lot easier in hindsight, obviously, but here’s a look at the notable free-agent pitchers who signed for a similar or lower AAV …
Brandon McCarthy (2 years, $15.5M): 2-4, 5.00 ERA, 11 GS, on the DL for D-backs
Shaun Marcum (1 year, $4M): 1-10, 5.29 ERA, 14 G (12 GS), having season-ending surgery with Mets
Jeff Francis (1 year, $1.5M): 2-5, 6.58 ERA, 11 GS, currently in AAA for Rockies*
Jeremy Guthrie (3 years, $25M): 8-6, 4.12 ERA, 18 GS for Royals*
Bartolo Colon (1 year, $3M): 12-3, 2.69 ERA, 18 GS — and an All-Star! — for the A’s*
Scott Feldman (1 year, $6M): 7-7, 3.87 ERA, 17 GS for the Cubs and O’s
Hisashi Iwakuma (2 years, $14M): 7-4, 2.60 ERA, 18 GS and an All-Star for the Mariners*
Scott Baker (1 year, $5.5M): Has yet to pitch for the Cubs
Joe Saunders (1 year, $7M): 7-8, 4.51 ERA, 18 GS for the Mariners
Francisco Liriano (2 years, $13M): 8-3, 2.20 ERA, 11 GS for the Pirates
* = resigned with 2012 club
- Trout said today that he was never asked to be part of the Home Run Derby, and later it was announced that Yoenis Cespedes would be the final entrant into the competition. Trout nonetheless hasn’t sounded very excited about taking part. he did it in A ball a couple years ago and had fun, but he hasn’t had too much interest in it. And Mike Scioscia isn’t a very big fan. “It would definitely be for the fans, to see it. I don’t know if I’ll do it this year, but maybe down the road. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it.”
- Tommy Hanson (right forearm strain) is slated to throw his first bullpen session tomorrow. Scioscia isn’t sure yet if he’ll require a rehab assignment before rejoining the team, but July 23 — the next time they need a fifth starter — is still a possibility.
- Sean Burnett (left elbow impigement) played catch today and will do that for a couple weeks before he’s off amound.
- Jason Vargas (blood clot in his left armpit area) is seeing the doctor today in hopes of getting cleared to throw.
- Could Pujols play first base in both of these NL games? “We’re going to play tonight and see what happens,” Scioscia said.
- As for why Hamilton is in left and Trumbo is in right? “Mark is more comfortable in right field, and Josh kind of welcomes the adversity of [switching positions]. … Most players really like playing one position, getting settled. Josh is fine bouncing around occasionally.”
- The Angels are still hopeful of coming to an agreement with Blake Goins, the high-school right-hander they took in the 12th round who’s weighing a pro contract or going to the University of Texas. Goins is their only unsigned Draft pick. They have until Friday.
- Shayne Kelley, Hamilton’s accountability partner, is out of the hospital after an emergency appendectomy and resting comfortable. Hamilton’s wife, Katie, is meeting him up in Seattle, where they’ll spend the All-Star break together.
Albert Pujols hit a first-inning homer off Ryan Dempster on Sunday, giving him eight for his career against his long time National League Central foe. And the next time Pujols came up, with first base open and two outs in the third inning, Dempster hit him, his 0-1 fastball grazing Pujols’ jersey and making contact with his ribcage.
Pujols glared at Dempster while on his way to first, and postgame, he admitted to being upset by the pitch.
“I was kind of mad,” Pujols said after his team’s 10-5 loss at Fenway Park. “After you hit a home run, then you come right back, up and in like that — I wasn’t too happy about it. … I know Dempster, he’s a great dude, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean to do it. But it just didn’t look right after my first at-bat, and with the base open to try to come in up and in, I didn’t appreciate it. I let him know. I told him. That wasn’t right.”
Pujols and Dempster have a long history, and it all leans in Pujols’ favor. The Angels’ first baseman has now hit eight homers against Dempster, more than he’s hit against any other pitcher. For his career against the 36-year-old right-hander, Pujols is 21-for-60 (a .350 batting average) with 17 RBIs, 13 walks and five doubles. This is the first time he’s ever been hit by one of his pitches.
“Did he stare?” Dempster began when asked about Pujols’ reaction. “I was just trying to throw a pitch on the inside part of the plate and, you know, you got to be able to get your plate and it just rode up a little hard and in.
“I’m not trying to put extra runners on base right there especially with Trumbo coming up and things like that. It’s just one of those things where a hit batter is part of the game. “
Pujols doesn’t believe Dempster was trying to hit him on purpose, but said he’s been thrown inside by him “many times.”
“That’s the way he pitches,” Pujols said. “He’s an intelligent guy. He’s a guy who was a closer, and he’s a guy who, now being a starter the last five, six years, he knows what the hitter wants to do out there. He’s really smart. But like I said, it’s not a big deal. I don’t think it can go farther than it did today.
“He was probably setting me up for his next pitch and the ball probably slipped away from him, but I wasn’t too happy about it.”
Mike Scioscia — his club 26-34, coming off losing five of six to the Astros and Cubs, and entering a brutal nine-game stretch against the Red Sox, Orioles and Yankees — made some drastic changes to his lineup for Game 1 of Saturday’s split doubleheader. Mike Trout is back at leadoff, Josh Hamilton is batting second for the first time in six years, Howie Kendrick has moved up to fifth and Erick Aybar is at the No. 8 spot.
Here, I’ll simplify it for you: This is all about Hamilton, and trying to find some way to get him going.
Will he get better pitches to hit simply because he’s batting between Trout and Albert Pujols (starting at designated hitter)?
Probably not. But it certainly won’t hurt.
Is this the kind of change that can finally get him going?
Who knows. But, hey, why not?
“It’s something we’ve talked about for the last couple weeks and it’s the lineup we talked about before,” Scioscia said. “Right now, it’d be a good spot for Josh to hit between Mike and Albert, and hopefully get him into a different neighborhood. We need Josh to get it going, and it might be something that can spark him.”
Hamilton heads into Saturday’s split doubleheader with a .216/.278/.383 slash line, with eight homers, 18 RBIs and 62 strikeouts in 59 games. He’s made six previous starts in the No. 2 spot, and all of them came during his rookie year of 2007, when the Reds simply had no idea what they’d get from Hamilton.
The Angels have tried everything with their slumping, $125 million slugger. On April 22, he batted fifth against a lefty. On April 30, he began to hit fifth against everybody. And on three separate occasions — May 4, May 18 and June 3 — he was given a day off to clear his head. Recently, he and hitting coach Jim Eppard talked about going back to his pregame routine of 2010.
Now, he’s batting second.
“If you’re looking at what makes sense on paper, obviously you’d want Josh somewhere in the middle of your lineup, but that’s not what we’re dealing with right now,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully with the emergence of Mark [Trumbo] and the emergence of Howie swinging like they can, we’ll be able to keep the middle of the lineup where we need it, and just give Josh a chance to get into a comfort zone where he is.”
Here are the full lineups for Game 1 …
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
J.B. Shuck, LF
SP: Tommy Hanson (2-2, 4.19 ERA)
Red Sox (37-24)
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Daniel Nava, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Mike Carp, LF
Stephen Drew, SS
Jose Iglesias, 3B
SP: Felix Doubront (4-2, 4.88 ERA)
Just before Thursday’s off-day, and an ensuing six-game road trip through Boston and Baltimore, the Angels — fresh off being swept in a four-game series by the Astros — will host a two-game series against the Cubs, who are making their second ever visit to Angel Stadium and first since 2004.
About a month ago, I identified this as a crucial 29-game stretch, with only seven games (vs. the Royals) coming against teams that were sub-.500 at the time. The Angels are currently 14-13 in that stretch, which ends once they arrive in Boston. Not bad, but certainly not what they needed after the slow start.
“What we need to do is get into our game,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think that our guys, as we were talking a week ago, we had a lot of things moving forward that were important to us, and some of them just evaporated for us. We need to get back in our game, and I think that everybody in the clubhouse is on board with that. We know what we have to do on the field, and we know what we have to execute. We just have to do a little better job of it.”
SP: Jered Weaver (1-1, 3.71 ERA)
- Hamilton — who drew a ninth-inning, pinch-hit walk despite falling behind 0-2 last night — came out for early batting practice on Tuesday. He talked yesterday about getting back to his pregame routine from 2010.
- Asked if starting Pujols at first base today was because he felt good or simply becuase he needs to stay acclimated with the position, Scioscia said: “I think it’s both. We’re using the DH with Albert both for preventative measures, and also if it’s needed where you want to keep him swinging in the batter’s box the way he needs to. There’s also that aspect of when he feels good, you definitely want him playing first base.”
- Garrett Richards‘ left ankle is feeling better, and he’s available tonight.
- Angels pitchers haven’t allowed a walk in consecutive games, marking the first time that’s happened since July 2011. Joe Blanton hasn’t issued a walk in his last three starts.
- Peter Bourjos will DH for Class A Inland Empire tonight and is expected to play center field for them on Wednesday. Scioscia wants him to play in Triple-A before returning to the big leagues.
- Right-hander Cam Bedrosian (1.80 ERA, .193 BAA), outfielder Zach Borenstein (1.085 OPS, .356 BA) and outfielder Randal Grichuck (.980 FLG %, 46 PO) were named Minor League Pitcher, Player and Defender of the Month, respectively.
- Weaver is 8-0 with a 1.94 ERA in his last 12 interleague starts.
Too long for Twitter, too short for a story …
* Joe Blanton and Sean Burnett are scheduled to undergo their physical examinations on Tuesday and their two-year contracts are expected to be official by Wednesday.
* Blanton’s deal will pay him $6.5 million in 2013 and $7.5 million in 2014, plus an $8 million club option (and $1 million buyout). The 31-year-old right-hander can also make an extra $500,000 each year for reaching 200 innings. Burnett signed a two-year, $8 million contract with a $4.5 million club option for 2015 (with a $500,000 buyout).
* Zack Greinke‘s six-year, $147 million deal with the Dodgers has been finalized. His press conference will take place Tuesday, at 1:30 p.m. PT, at Dodger Stadium. It’ll be streamed live on Dodgers.com, too.
* The first workout for Angels pitchers and catchers is Feb. 12. The first full-squad workout will take place Feb. 15. You can see the full Cactus League schedule here.
* Major League Baseball Advanced Media and StubHub.com announced a new five-year deal on Monday, but the Angels, Yankees and Cubs backed out of that extension. The Angels seek an alternative partnership in the secondary ticket market and are expected to announce a new deal soon.
In honor of Paul Simon, who told you about the 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, below are Five Ways To Leave Vernon Wells. Not as catchy, I know. And it’s not as easy as slipping out the back (Jack), or making a new plan (Stan), or hopping off the bus (Gus) — OK, I’ll stop.
The best way to get it done may be a little bad-contract swapping.
Look, it’s no secret the Angels would prefer to part ways with Wells, who’s owed $42 million through the 2014 season. At this point, they can’t expect much salary relief (if any) in the process, but what they can do is create some breathing room in a clogged-up outfield and perhaps get a player back who can help them in an area of need. At the same time, they’d probably be helping Wells, sending him to a place where he can play more regularly. The best way to do it, perhaps, is to try and find a match with a team that has a similarly unfriendly contract. The Cubs did it in 2009, sending the volatile Milton Bradley to the Mariners in exchange for Carlos Silva. The Angels themselves tried to do it last offseason, with Bobby Abreu slated to return to the Yankees before A.J. Burnett evoked his limited no-trade clause.
Is there a similar partner for Wells this offseason? Below are some possibilities. Two things to keep in mind: 1. This is merely speculative — nothing more than my own opinion; 2. The Angels may consider the next two years of Wells’ contract a wash, so perhaps they’ll have little issue with paying the difference in a trade. The benefit for them is creating flexibility in the outfield — perhaps easing a return for Torii Hunter — while getting a player who may help them. If they can save a couple million dollars, too, even better.
BOS SP John Lackey ($30.5M thru ’14)
After winning 102 games, posting a 3.81 ERA and having a few memorable postseason moments in eight seasons with the Angels, Lackey put up a 4.40 ERA in his first year with the Red Sox, followed by a 6.41 ERA in 2011, followed by Tommy John surgery in October that knocked him out for all of this past season. But the soon-to-be 34-year-old progressed towards the end of the year, should have a normal offseason and is expected to be ready to go by the start of Spring Training. Would Boston go for it? They have Jacoby Ellsbury in center and there appears to be strong mutual interest in Cody Ross returning. Other than that, though, they have several uncertainties in Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney and Ryan Kalish. Wells, meanwhile, may be a nice fit for the Green Monster, and to them, Lackey may represent part of that toxic clubhouse they’re still trying to fumigate.
NYY 3B Alex Rodriguez ($114M thru ’17)
It’s an easy place to go these days, since A-Rod is getting benched in the playoffs while being booed mercifully by the home crowd and the Angels could use an upgrade at third base. But A-Rod’s deal extends three years longer than Wells’, at $61 million. I’m thinking one $200 million deal (Albert Pujols) is enough in Anaheim.
CWS DH Adam Dunn ($30M thru ’14)
Bringing him on board as a lefty middle-of-the-order hitter could free up a trade for Kendrys Morales, who’s heading into his final year before free agency. But Dunn turned it around in 2012, raising his OPS from .569 to .800, and may claim AL Comeback Player of the Year honors for it (Morales is also in the running). This no longer looks like a salary dump for the White Sox.
SEA UT Chone Figgins ($8M in ’13, $9M vesting option in ’14)
This is one that seems to make sense for both sides. Figgins has said he wants out of Seattle, and he’d probably embrace a return to the place he thrived from 2002-09. The Angels could use a utility man with Maicer Izturis expected to depart via free agency (though Figgins doesn’t help them at shortstop). The Mariners, meanwhile, are in desperate need of power and Wells may be a nice fit now that they’re moving the fences in at Safeco Field. One problem: The money. In case you hadn’t noticed, Figgins’ deal is a lot friendlier than Wells’. But, hey, if the Angels see Wells’ contract as a wash, that may not be an issue. By the way, Figgins’ 2014 option automatically vests with 600 plate appearances in 2013 — meaning it probably won’t automatically vest.
SFG SP Barry Zito ($20M in ’13, $18M club option — and $7M buyout — in ’14)
Another one that may fill needs on both sides. Zito would move into the Angels’ rotation — a rotation that could lose up to three-fifths of the 2012 makeup — and Wells would go to a team that, like the Mariners, is perpetually looking for offense. Plus, Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan will hit free agency this offseason. But do the Giants really benefit from this? Though obviously no longer the same pitcher, Zito had a descent year with a 4.15 ERA in 184 1/3 innings. And in their desire to upgrade the offense, the Giants, three wins away from the World Series, may have higher aspirations than Wells. Zito, by the way, has a full no-trade clause — but he is a SoCal product.
Not mentioned: CHC LF Alfonso Soriano ($36M thru ’14); NYM LF Jason Bay ($16M in ’13, $17M club option in ’14); NYM SP Johan Santana ($25.5M in ’13, $25M club option in ’14); LAD SP Josh Beckett and 3B Hanley Ramirez ($31.5M thru ’14 each); LAD LF Carl Crawford ($102.5M thru ’17); MIA RP Heath Bell ($18M thru ’14).
Here’s all you need to know about the pitching staff lately: During a just-completed 10-game road trip, the Angels’ offense averaged seven runs per game, notched double-digit hits seven times and totaled 23 homers … and still lost six of those games. That’s because, of course, the pitching was that bad. Angels pitchers combined to post a 6.78 ERA, giving up 72 runs (66 earned) and 21 homers in 87 2/3 innings during that trip.
The rotation posted a 5.07 mark, getting only four quality starts (two by Jered Weaver, one each by Dan Haren and Ervin Santana) and watching as C.J. Wilson and Zack Greinke combined to give up 24 runs (21 earned) in 22 1/3 innings. The bullpen was even worse, combining to post a 10.54 mark (or, 32 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings), losing five games and blowing five save chances.
Now, through the second half, the Angels rank ninth in the American League in ERA from their starters (4.78) and dead last — by a wide margin — in ERA from their relievers (6.65).
Houston, we have a problem.
Now, how do you fix it?
We’ll get the easy one out of the way first. You don’t do anything to fix the rotation. You simply expect proven commodities like Wilson and Greinke to figure it out, continue to lean on Weaver (15-1, 2.13 ERA, Cy Young favorite), get encouragement out of the recent outings of Haren (2.00 ERA last three starts) and Santana (five earned runs last 11 innings), and rest easy with Garrett Richards as a fall-back option.
There’s no reason why this rotation shouldn’t turn it around. (If it doesn’t, then I would hate to be pitching coach Mike Butcher.)
The bullpen situation is a lot more dire. It looked set, as it rolled through May and June with a collective 3.02 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. But that was with Ernesto Frieri going on a ridiculous (unrealistic?) run and, most importantly, with Scott Downs healthy. You really notice just how thin this relief corps is when Downs isn’t there. Suddenly, you’re relying on two 39-year-olds (LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen), one guy who was in Triple-A a little over a month ago (Kevin Jepsen), two guys who would be in Triple-A if not for injuries (David Carpenter and Hisanori Takahashi) and one guy very few had heard of before May (Frieri) to hold leads.
The optimists’ view: Downs and Jordan Walden are slated to start rehab assignments soon and should be back shortly thereafter, and this latest rough stretch is only an anomaly for a bullpen that put together eight really solid weeks.
The cynics’ view: Downs is rehabbing a shoulder strain, was hit around right before landing on the DL and there’s no telling how effective he’ll be upon returning; Walden hasn’t looked right all year; and general manager Jerry Dipoto has to do something to address this ‘pen.
The Angels’ first-year GM didn’t find the reliever market very appealing in July, however. Granted, this was before the road-trip meltdown, but nontheless, here’s what Dipoto told me just after the non-waiver Trade Deadline when asked whether Downs’ injury made addressing the bullpen an even greater priority in August: ”Not at all. You’re always open to any way that you can get better. Scotty’s been terrific for us all year, we don’t anticipate this being a long, drawn-out process, but like I said, you never know. And as a result, like I said all along, you remain as flexible as you can be. We’ll keep turning over the stones.”
Will gold show up under any of them?
Keep in mind: Now that the non-waiver Deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings — with his own league first — and if he is claimed by someone, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.
I was personally shocked that ex-Royals lefty Jose Mijares slipped through 13 AL teams and landed with the Giants on Aug. 6, given his success and salary. Other names to keep in mind this month (and this is just a rough assumption): Darren Oliver (Blue Jays), Matt Reynolds (Rockies), Joe Thatcher (Padres, but out until mid-to-late August with knee tendinitis) and Wesley Wright (Astros) for lefties; Matt Belisle (Rockies), Rafael Betancourt (Rockies), Shawn Camp (Cubs) and Casey Janssen (Blue Jays) for righties.
Thing is, the Angels don’t have much flexibility on the payroll (especially not after taking on the pro-rated portion of Greinke’s expiring deal) or on the roster. Takahashi and Carpenter can be optioned, but that would be for when Walden and Downs are activated; adding someone extra before rosters expand would probably mean one of their out-of-options guys (Hawkins? Isringhausen? Jerome Williams?) are placed on waivers, since there’s no chance they option Frieri or Jepsen.
Perhaps that’s why the Angels’ front office is hesitant to add someone unless he’s a clear upgrade.
Question is: Is it too late to find that clear upgrade?