Results tagged ‘ Diamondbacks ’

Pujols has his foundation back …

Albert Pujols has never really had a bad Spring Training. He’s hit at least .286 and as high as .407 over the last 10 years, because he always shows up in shape and it never takes him long to find his timing.

He just seems, well, different this spring.

More specifically, his legs look healthier than they have in the last three years.

Pujols entered Spring Training 2013 recovering from offseason surgery to his right knee, then suffered plantar fasciitis around the middle of camp, a condition that didn’t allow him to play past July of that season. That was followed by a prolonged offseason that allowed Pujols to get healthy, but the Angels’ first baseman wasn’t able to strengthen his right knee like he wanted to until this past winter.

Now, it seems, he has a strong foundation at the plate again.

“You could tell the difference when you’re in good health, and he is right now,” Angels shortstop Erick Aybar said.

“He looks strong right now,” third baseman David Freese added. “His lower half looks strong; as strong as I’ve seen it over the last few years, watching him and obviously seeing it in person. I think he’s taking care of himself.”

Pujols entered Friday’s game batting .326 (14-for-43) with four home runs in Cactus League play. All of those homers have come over his last six games, with the latest coming Thursday, a towering shot to left-center-field on a high-and-inside fastball from Cubs reliever Jason Motte.

But the 35-year-old has been driving the ball to the opposite field all spring, an indication that his right leg is feeling better and a positive sign considering he was shifted on more than any right-handed hitter in baseball last year.

“I think he’s found ways to manage what’s been bothering him with the experience of going through it,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s certainly in great shape and he’s moving well.”

Some additional notes from Friday …

  • Freese, who suffered a hyperextended left elbow on Tuesday, took batting practice and did some defensive work in the morning. He’s expected to return to the lineup on Saturday.
  • Marc Krauss, out since Sunday with back spasms, was expected to play later in Friday’s game.
  • Kole Calhoun, who exited Thursday’s game after taking a fastball to his right triceps muscle, played catch but stayed away from hitting. The Angels’ right fielder is expected to return to the lineup this weekend.
  • Drew Rucinski was slated to pitch in a Minor League game on Friday, throwing five innings and 75 pitches.
  • Mark Trumbo is in the lineup for the D-backs, marking the first time ever that he’ll face the Angels.
  • The Angels are still stretching Jose Alvarez out as a starter, but not to the point where he’ll be throwing 100-plus pitches. They want to give him enough length to potentially serve as starting-pitching depth, but Alvarez is also in the running for a bullpen spot. “With he, with Rucinski, with some of the swing guys, you have to find a balance,” Scioscia said. “… You want them to get enough length to be depth in your rotation but still maintain their stuff to where you can have them in your bullpen. He’s on the depth chart in two spots.”

Alden

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.”

Alden

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).

Alden

You can win in October without dominant starters …

Mike Scioscia, Dino EbelIt’s no secret. If the Angels — considering a three-man rotation for the American League Division Series — are to go far in the playoffs, they’ll have to rely heavily on their deep bullpen.

The question is: Will it work?

One of baseball’s dogmas says teams that are “built for the playoffs” are the ones that have dominant starting pitching. But in the Wild Card era, that hasn’t proven to be true. Consider: Since 1995, the Major League quality-start percentage has been 48.88 in the regular season, 48.88 in the postseason and 51.96 in the World Series; in terms of innings per start, it’s 5.91 in the regular season, 5.76 in the postseason and 5.88 in the World Series. That’s a very negligible difference, especially when you consider all the bad teams that are lumped into that regular-season category.

Now here’s a case-by-case look at each of the last 19 World Series champions, with the first stat being innings per start and the second being the amount of quality starts throughout the postseason …

2013 Red Sox: 5.81 IP, 8 of 16 QS
2012 Giants: 5.64 IP, 6 of 16 QS
2011 Cardinals: 5.11 IP, 7 of 18 QS
2010 Giants: 6.44 IP, 11 of 15 QS
2009 Yankees: 6.29 IP, 11 of 15 QS
2008 Phillies: 5.9 IP, 10 of 14 QS
2007 Red Sox: 6 IP, 6 of 14 QS
2006 Cardinals: 6.20 IP, 10 of 16 QS
2005 White Sox: 7.66 IP, 9 of 12 QS
2004 Red Sox: 5.61 IP, 9 of 14 QS
2003 Marlins: 5.66 IP, 8 of 17 QS
2002 Angels: 5.02 IP, 2 of 16 QS
2001 D-backs: 7.08 IP, 14 of 17 QS
2000 Yankees: 6.42 IP, 8 of 16 QS
1999 Yankees: 6.58 IP, 10 of 12 QS
1998 Yankees: 6.79 IP, 9 of 13 QS
1997 Marlins: 5.83 IP, 5 of 16 QS
1996 Yankees: 5.42 IP, 5 of 15 QS
1995 Braves: 6.64 IP, 10 of 14 QS

That’s nine of 19 champions that got less than six innings per start during the playoffs, and seven that won the World Series despite receiving a quality start in less than half of their postseason games. Look at the 2002 Angels. Stunning. Managers tend to have quick hooks in the playoffs, because it’s all hands on deck and because the off days tend to keep bullpens relatively fresh.

So, you can win in October with a deep bullpen, a good offense and a rotation that keeps you in the game. And the Angels have the potential for that. Since Garrett Richards went down, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago have allowed three earned runs or less in 20 of 23 starts (includes tonight).

Just something to think about.

Alden

What to make of the Angels’ run-differential …

Jerry DipotoJerry Dipoto is very familiar with the exception.

In 2007, he was the scouting director for a Diamondbacks team that made the playoffs despite having a negative run-differential. They ranked 17th in run-differential that year, at minus-23, but managed to win 90 games thanks in large part to a very deep bullpen.

Over the previous seven years, that D-backs team has been the only club to make the playoffs despite scoring less runs than they’ve allowed over the course of a full season. For the most part, the run-differential standings are a pretty good reflection of the winning-percentage standings.

So, what does Dipoto take away from a plus-40 run-differential through April from his current club, a mark that’s second only to the division-rival A’s?

“It beats the heck out of where we’ve been in recent years, that’s what I take out of it,” the Angels’ general manager said. “Run-differential is a real number. It’s the most basic way to look at in-season performance once you get past wins and losses. I think it’s fairly reflective of the talent of a team. … The overview of your team and of your season is simply how many runs do you score, and how well do you limit runs. Now what we’re working on is better sequence.”

The Angels finished April last year at minus-28 in run-differential, and finished the season at minus-4. They’re 14-13 now, but their Pythagorean record — used to estimate how many games a team should’ve won — is 17-10.

It sounds overly simplistic, but if they can keep up their current run-differential rate, there’s a very good chance they’ll be in the playoffs when it’s all said and done.

From 2007-13, 59 of the 60 teams that made the playoffs — all except that ’07 D-backs team — had a positive run-differential. In every single one of those years, the top three run-differential teams were playing meaningful games in October. In four of those years, at least each of the top five made the playoffs. In 2010, the top eight run-differential teams made up the eight playoff spots. In 2013?

Well, here’s a look at the top 10 run-differential teams …

1. Red Sox: World Series champs
2. Cardinals: National League champs
3. Tigers: Advanced to the American League Championship Series
4. Athletics: AL West champs
5. Braves: NL West champs
6. Reds: Won 90 games, reached the playoffs
7. Rangers: Won 91 games, missed the playoffs by one game
8. Indians: Won 92 games, reached the playoffs
9. Dodgers: Advanced to the NLCS
10: Pirates: Won 94 games, reached the playoffs

“You look at history, you look at the standings year in and year out, and the teams that matriculate to the top are usually the teams with the larger run-differentials,” Dipoto said. “I think it’s reflective of a more balanced team, and that’s what I take away from it. For a month, I think we’ve played pretty well, despite some injuries, and we’ve struggled through a very wobbly bullpen at times and came out of it with a positive run-differential, and I think that is reflective of the fact that we do have better balance. Despite the injuries, we’ve had some guys step up and do a nice job. It’s not been one player driving the train; it’s been a lot of contributors. And that’s a very encouraging sign.”

Obviously, the Angels’ run-differential is high because they’ve had a lot of blowout wins and suffered a lot of close losses. One of their most troubling stats of the first month is that they’re 2-7 in one-run games. That, essentially, points to their troubles holding leads at times. But Dipoto is among many who believes a team’s record in one-run games tends to even out over the course of a season, though there are some exceptions (like the 2012 Orioles, who had a ridiculous 29-9 record in one-run games).

The challenge now, of course, is keeping this run-differential thing going for the rest of the year. And that’s no small challenge. Small sample sizes can be tricky. And of the top 10 run-differential teams at the end of April last year, four — the second-ranked Rangers, fifth-ranked Orioles, sixth-ranked Rockies and 10th-ranked D-backs — did not make the playoffs.

Asked if he expects the Angels’ run-differential to spill out into the remaining five months, and eventually jibe a little better with their won-lost record, Dipoto said: “I don’t see why it wouldn’t. And honestly, I have every expectation that it will. I do believe that we have a better-balanced team than in recent years. And I do believe that run-differential is representative of a better-balanced team. I do believe that will translate into a more positive won-lost record. But to me, that’s baseball. Sometimes it works out in a 27-game stretch where it’s 14-13, sometimes it works out like it’s 17-10. And a lot of that is going to be reflective in those one-run decisions, and that’s where we have to get better. And it’s on us to figure out how. We can score runs, and we have. We can prevent runs, and we have. Now we just have to figure out how to bridge the gap in the middle of the game that will make those one-run games a little bit more of a positive thing for us.”

Alden

Division-by-division: NL West …

Yasiel PuigLeading up to Spring Training, I’ll take a look at each of the six divisions in hopes of providing an overview for what to expect this coming season. Next up, the NL West.

Diamondbacks
Last year’s record: 81-81, 2nd place
Key additions: LF Mark Trumbo, CL Addison Reed, C Henry Blanco, OF/1B Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B/1B Andy Marte, SP Alex Sanabia
Key subtractions: SP Tyler Skaggs, CF Adam Eaton, C Wil Nieves, 1B/OF Willie Bloomquist, 3B Matt Davidson, SP Daniel Hudson
Biggest strength: The bullpen. Kevin Towers has always had a reputation for building strong bullpens, and this year’s group should be much better with Reed added to the back end, J.J. Putz expected to be healthy, and the likes of Brad Ziegler, Josh Collmenter, David Hernandez, etc. coming back.
Biggest question: The rotation, though acquiring Bronson Arroyo would surely help. At 24, Patrick Corbin will be counted on to be the team’s ace, after entering last spring fighting for the No. 5 spot, while Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill need to bounce back from up-and-down seasons.
Most important player: Trumbo. The D-backs gave up two talented prospects in Skaggs and Eaton to get him. They need him to adequately adjust to left field and protect Paul Goldschmidt.
In 25 words or less: The D-backs look like a solid group all-around, but are at least a high-impact starting pitcher away from challenging the Dodgers.

Dodgers
Last year’s record: 92-70, 1st place (lost to Cardinals in NLCS)
Key additions: 2B Alexander Guerrero, SP Dan Haren, RP Chris Perez, RP Jamey Wright, OF Mike Baxter, C Miguel Olivo, INF Justin Turner, UT Chone Figgins
Key subtractions: SP Ricky Nolasco, 2B Mark Ellis, SP Chris Capuano, 2B/OF Skip Schumaker, INF Michael Young, INF Nick Punto, UT Jerry Hairston Jr., SP Edinson Volquez, RP Carlos Marmol
Biggest strength: Pitching. The rotation trio of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu is as good as anyone. In the bullpen, they have five experienced closers — Perez, Brian Wilson, Brandon League, J.P. Howell and their actual closer, Kenley Jansen.
Biggest question: Second base. The Dodgers signed Guerrero out of Cuba with a four-year, $28 million contract, but he’s only 26 and has not been exposed to this brand of baseball yet.
Most important player: Matt Kemp. He’s signed to big money through 2019 and needs to get healthy after being limited to 73 games and undergoing left ankle surgery. If he can return to his elite level, the Dodgers’ offense will be a force.
In 25 words or less: Their funds are unlimited, they have stars up and down the roster and they know how to win together. World Series or bust in Hollywood.

Giants
Last year’s record: 76-86, 3rd place
Key additions: LF Michael Morse, SP Tim Hudson, INF Brandon Hicks, SP/RP David Huff, RP Kameron Loe
Key subtractions: OF Andres Torres, SP Barry Zito, SP/RP Chad Gaudin
Biggest strength: The back end of the bullpen. Sergio Romo is coming off a 38-save season and has posted a 2.03 ERA since the start of 2010. Right-hander Santiago Casilla (2.16 ERA) and left-hander Javier Lopez (1.83) were lights out in 2013.
Biggest question: It appears to be the same every year — power. They’ll rely on Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval and Morse — each of whom carry varying levels of concern — to take some of the burden off superstar catcher Buster Posey.
Most important player: Matt Cain. The Giants’ ace needs to get back to being the Cy Young contender of 2009-12, not the guy who went a pedestrian 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 2013, to take some pressure off Tim Lincecum and make San Francisco’s rotation the strength it was a short time ago.
In 25 words or less: There are a lot of questions, from Cain and Lincecum to Morse and Sandoval, but also the ability to contend. It’ll rest on their pitching.

Padres
Last year’s record: 76-86, 3rd place
Key additions: SP Josh Johnson, OF Seth Smith, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Alex Torres, RP Patrick Schuster, IB/OF Xavier Nady, RP Tony Sipp
Key subtractions: RP Luke Gregerson, INF Ronny Cedeno, SP Jason Marquis, INF Logan Forsythe, SP/RP Anthony Bass
Biggest strength: The bullpen, even with Gregerson going to the A’s in exchange for Smith. Benoit and Torres help make up a solid group with closer Huston Street and middle relievers Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer and Tim Stauffer.
Biggest question: Health. The Padres have had 43 DL moves over the last two years. Each of their infielders were on the shelf at least once last year. Four pitchers — Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland, Jason Marquis and Casey Kelly — have undergone Tommy John surgery, with news coming out recently that Luebke will require a second such procedure in 20 months. And two of their outfielders, Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin, are coming off their own surgeries.
Most important player: Johnson. The Padres appeared to get a steal by signing the 30-year-old right-hander to a buy-low, $8 million contract in mid-November. If he can recapture the form he had in Miami, the Padres’ rotation suddenly looks a lot better.
In 25 words or less: There’s a nice young core in place in San Diego — if only it can stay healthy.

Rockies
Last year’s record: 74-88, 5th place
Key additions: 1B Justin Morneau, SP Brett Anderson, SP Franklin Morales, RP LaTroy Hawkins, RP Boone Logan, OF Brandon Barnes, OF Drew Stubbs, INF Paul Janish, SP Jordan Lyles
Key subtractions: 1B Todd Helton, SP Jeff Francis, SP Roy Oswalt, RP Rafael Betancourt, C Yorvit Torrealba, INF Jonathan Herrera, RP Josh Outman, SP Drew Pomeranz, CF Dexter Fowler
Biggest strength: Offense. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are two of the best players in the league, Michael Cuddyer quietly had a great 2013 season (.331/.389/.530), Morneau was a steal at $12.5 million over two years and Wilin Rosario (24 years old) and Nolan Arenado (22).
Biggest question: Pitching. The Rockies were active in addressing a pitching staff that ranked 28th in ERA last year, but I’m not sure how much Logan, Hawkins, Anderson, Morales and Lyles actually improve matters.
Most important player: Juan Nicasio. The 27-year-old struggled in his first full season, with a 5.14 ERA in 31 starts. But the Rockies expect big things, and if he improves, the rotation — with Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa at the top — may actually match the offense.
In 25 words or less: The Rockies made a variety of solid moves over the offseason, but spent little money and need a lot of help in the pitching staff.

Predicted order of finish …

  • Dodgers
  • Diamondbacks
  • Giants
  • Rockies
  • Padres

Previous entries: NL East | AL East | NL Central | AL Central

Alden

Angels fall short (OK, way short) on Tanaka …

MasahiroTanakaThe Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes are over, and after all the speculation and all the anticipation, he wound up with the team that seemed to make the most sense from the onset: The Yankees, who badly need pitching, can spend with the best of them, will hardly have to pay Alex Rodriguez in 2014 and have now abandoned any faint hopes to get under the $189 million luxury tax.

The Angels still hold on to those expectations.

They have roughly $15 million of wiggle room before surpassing that tax threshold, which is enough money to sign a free-agent starting pitcher but ultimately wasn’t enough to even compete for Tanaka. The Yankees got him on a seven-year, $155 million contract, with an opt-out after the fourth year, according to Ken Rosenthal.

The Angels knew Tanaka well and liked him a lot, but for them, any deal in excess of $100 million meant going over the tax. With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton combining to make $196 million over the next four years, and Mike Trout one year away from making major dollars, another mega contract was just too much of a gamble for them. That’s probably why they didn’t bother to meet with him in California two weeks ago, or why they weren’t among the five teams to reportedly submit an offer; the chances were too slim.

So, what now?

In a word (or two), Matt Garza.

The Angels have targeted Garza ever since Jason Vargas signed with the Royals in late November. The two actually share the same agent, Nez Balelo, who also represents third baseman David Freese, who filed an arbitration number $1.9 million higher than what the Angels filed last week. Small world, right? Garza has always seemed a lot more realistic than Tanaka because the contract and the amount of suitors are smaller, but the Angels still aren’t expected to overpay. Agree with it or not, they don’t feel they have to add another starter after acquiring two young, cost-controlled lefties in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago for Mark Trumbo, a duo that joins Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards in the projected rotation.

I don’t expect the Tanaka signing to impact Garza’s price. They’re on two completely different stratospheres. But one potential ripple effect is that the Diamondbacks have liked Garza for a while, and they have money to burn after not being able to sign Tanaka or Shin-Soo Choo. A resolution could come soon (you know, since we’re like three weeks away from Spring Training).

If Garza’s price demands don’t go down, then the Angels will move on to the next tier, to the likes of Bronson Arroyo and Chris Capuano and Paul Maholm. Chances are, they’ll add someone this month. But I think they’ll wait for a fair price (and this is the month for fair prices). They still aren’t expected to give up a Draft pick in order to sign Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.

Nobody wants to hear this, but if they don’t feel comfortable with any of the free-agent-salary demands, they can always keep their remaining funds and wait ’til next year, when Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester will make up a much more talented free-agent crop of starters.

Alden

Clearing out the Winter Meetings notebook …

hectorBelow is a Q&A with new pitcher Hector Santiago, and after that are plenty of other notes and links pertaining to the hectic four-day event that’s prone to make a lot of things fly under the radar.

On being traded for the first time in his career … 

I think it’s all for the better. Hopefully for the better of all the teams and for the better of my career. It seems like the Angels are really happy to have me. And as long as they want me there, it’s nice to have that. As long as they want to have me, I’m happy to be there.

On whether it took him by surprise … 

I had an idea that was going to happen, with having four lefties in the rotation. It’s the first time I’ve been traded in my career, so I really didn’t know how to react and don’t know how to go by it. But I kind of felt it coming. I heard a bunch of rumors and just people texting, like, ‘Hey, it’s possible.’ I kind of had an idea it was possible. I didn’t know if it was going to go through, especially talking to the White Sox, planning ahead, trying to get ready for 200 innings next year as a starter in the White Sox rotation. And then a week and a half, two weeks later, it was like, ‘Oh, you just got traded.’ But it’s for the better, so I’m happy.

On his comfort level in bouncing around from bullpen to rotation … 

I’m really comfortable. I feel like I’ve done it all the time, through high school and college, Minor League Baseball and the big leagues. Forever. It’s to the point where it’s normal to me. Growing up as a kid in high school, playing summer ball, I would play center field for two innings and then pitch. It’s something I’ve done before, jumping all over the place. But it was definitely a fun experience, coming up from being a starter in the Minor Leagues and then the big leagues. I’ve had every role I think that you can have in the big leagues. It was definitely fun, because you came to the park not knowing what was going on. It was definitely a fun experience in coming to the field every day and not knowing what was going to happen.

On building off 2013 … 

It was definitely a different year — innings-wise, strength-wise, learning how to pitch every fifth day. It was definitely a new experience. I don’t know if I made this many, but I had a bunch of starts in the Minor Leagues in 2011 and it definitely wasn’t as difficult as this, between the big league level and playing great teams every day. But I learned a lot. This year, I definitely want to improve on going after guys  earlier in the count, get some earlier outs so I can get deeper in the game. It seemed like at the beginning of the game, in the first inning, I’d worry about starting the game with a zero instead of just pitching the same way later in the game. So, early in the game, if I attack the zone more, I felt like after the first, second inning, it was an easier inning for me. It was me putting pressure on myself to start off the game clean and making sure that I gave my team a 0-0 score, and hopefully we can get some runs early in the game. And I put a lot of pressure on myself with my stuff and with my command. That was a big thing of just getting used to the role of a starting pitcher. In the bullpen, you come in for one inning, so you have a little bit of leeway where you can waste a few pitches. But as a starter, you have to try to get as many early outs as you can.

On what he was told in his phone call with the Angels … 

It was short, brief. [Jerry Dipoto] was just saying, ‘We’re happy to have you. We had to make a move, and I felt like you were the right move for what we needed and you fill a spot that needed to be filled.’ … They seem very excited to have me, and it seems like I’m going to hopefully be filling one of the voids that they need.

***

trum

* Shortly after getting traded to the D-backs on Tuesday, Mark Trumbo reached out to the Angels’ PR department to ask about still attending the team’s annual Holiday Party at the ESPN Zone. They couldn’t believe it. And they were even more stunned when he actually showed up the next day, alongside Hank CongerChuck FinleyAdam Kennedy and others. (Photo on the left courtesy of Angels PR man Eric Kay.)

Angels broadcasters Jose Mota and Terry Smith left Trumbo for last during the introductions, and he got by far the loudest ovation.

“I’ve been attending these parties for as long as I’ve been here, 11 years,” Mota said, “but you know one thing — Trumbo has been going to these parties since he was in A ball, and that part doesn’t surprise me because he’s so invested in the community-outreach programs, which he’s done for so many years. And we’re talking about a guy who, because he’s local, he was accessible, good kid, the Angels felt comfortable calling him out of A ball and saying, ‘Come to this party.’ But to see a player who had just gotten traded, No. 1, putting away all the emotions, and then a guy that is not an Angel at that party, it was a bit strange.

“He didn’t put the jersey on, of course,” Mota added. “But he was Trumbo. He was just Mark Trumbo, that’s all you expected. And he had a huge ovation from the kids and all the adults that were there because they knew that this is quite a unique thing — a guy who’s not on the team, got traded, could’ve been mopy. He decided, ‘No, this is who I am.’ You talk about showing your true colors and who you really are, I don’t think it speaks any better than that action right there.”

* Trumbo, during a phone conversation with Lyle Spencer and I, admitted that he smiled when he realized he’d be ditching the Angel Stadium marine layer and was following Tuesday’s trade rumors via Twitter “more than I lead on, probably.”

“I knew that things were getting close from messages and phone calls I received,” Trumbo said, “but I did find out first on Twitter that things had become official, so that’s kind of some insight from a player’s perspective that, in this day and age, that’s how things work.”

* Spoke to yet another scout about Tyler Skaggs recently. Here’s what he said (and this guy knows him very well) …

People seem concerned about a loss of velocity. But if you go back to what you thought he was going to be, when you drafted, scouted and signed him, that’s exactly the fastball that he’s working with now. Maybe for a short time he peaked a little bit and worked at 93, 94 or whatever, but he’s 88 to 91, touches 92 occasional now. That’s plenty of fastball, when you consider his curveball and his changeup, and the belief that he’s been a strike-thrower. I know his strikeout numbers are all right. He’s got angle, he’s got plane, he’s got spin, he’s got some touch-and-feel, some back-and-forth with the changeup. This guy was well-regarded, highly regarded throughout the industry, had the numbers to match up. He had a mediocre year last year. … I think the comfort level of going back where he came from is going to help. He’s a Southern California kid. There’s going to be a comfort level, a familiarity level. 

* You think coaching the Yankees, Cowboys or Lakers is a pressure-filled job? That’s nothing compared to managing winter ball, and Angels bench coach Dino Ebel experienced that recently. Ebel, promoted from third-base coach shortly after the season, was managing the Estrellas Orientales of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. But that lasted only 18 games. He went 6-12, and then was let go, done in time to join Mike Scioscia and several other members of the Angels’ coaching staff at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

* Someone who is still playing winter ball — for the Leones de Escogido in the D.R. — is C.J. Cron, who’s batting .212/.250/.364 through eight games. That’s a lot of baseball for Cron, who played a full season of Double-A (.746 OPS) and tore it up in the Arizona Fall League (1.167), but he’s a first baseman/designated hitter, so it’s not like he has to move around too much. The Angels view him as a potential option for them late in 2014.

* Some additional minutia on the Angels’ situation at the moment: Matt Garza is still “the guy they really want” a source said Friday, but the perception is that they won’t go above a four-year contract. … The Angels still aren’t expected to spend much on a bat. Right now, they’re budgeting a one-year deal worth less than $5 million. Can they get Raul Ibanez or Kevin Youkilis for that? We’ll see. … Santiago and Skaggs  both have options left, but it looks like Santiago has a spot on the Major League roster (as a starter or a reliever) and Skaggs is more of a question. Either he starts in the Majors or in Triple-A. Both have options, nonetheless.

Winter Meetings stories …

Angels Notebook from Day 1, on Albert Pujols‘ health, Mike Trout extension talks and the evolving AL West
Phillip Wellman (this guy) will manage the Angels’ Double-A affiliate
Story on the three-team trade between the D-backs, White Sox and Angels
Spencer, on how the deal benefits the Angels
Trout’s cycle lands GIBBY for Hitting Performance
Trout likely to bat second again next season
Spencer, on Scioscia seeking chemistry on the field
Lefty specialist picked up in Rule 5 Draft
On what’s next, now that the Winter Meetings are over

Alden

Dipoto, from Day 1 of the Winter Meetings …

DipotoAs reporters waited in the hallway for their scheduled session with Jerry Dipoto, the Angels’ general manager walked towards his suite while chatting with D-backs GM Kevin Towers. “Just friends talking,” Dipoto said. Maybe. But the D-backs are one team that could be interested in someone like Mark Trumbo, and may have some cost-controlled starting pitching they’re willing to give up (more on Trumbo’s potential availability in a trade here).

In any case, Dipoto said he doesn’t expect the Angels to make any moves on Monday, Day 1 of the Winter Meetings from the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort. But he did get the sense that more teams appear willing to access pitching via the trade market, rather than a free-agent market that has seen prices skyrocket.

Here are the highlights from Dipoto’s session with the media (with outstanding camera work provided by the iPhone of Angels PR man Eric Kay) …

On the most likely scenario to address the two holes in the rotation — free agency, trades or both …

I’m not really a prognosticator in that way. Any of them are all still possibilities. We’re open to the trade market, we’re open to free agency, we’re open to any combination of the two. Like I’ve said throughout, especially these last couple of weeks, we know what our needs are, they’re pretty clearly defined, and we’re going to go out and fill them the best we can.

On whether the Angels are a match with the D-backs …

Still trying to figure it out, like with a lot of teams.

On whether not signing a top-tier starter can impact who is available via trade …

Everything you do in a roster, all 25 players, work hand-in-hand. Often times one will define the next move, or what kind of flexibility you have available to make the next move. But in this particular case, as I’ve said throughout, we’re not particularly excited about the idea of losing our first-round Draft [pick]. That’s not Plan A. We’re going out, we’re looking at the rest of the market, we’ve not closed the door on any candidates specifically, we’re open-minded to how we’re going to fill our needs. And if that comes in some combination of trade or free agency, then that’s what we expect.

On whether he’d be willing to part ways with prospects …

If it makes sense in doing a deal, sure. With Major League players, with prospects in the system, you have to go in open-minded and see where it leads you. Obviously we’re not looking to unload our Minor League system to achieve anything in the big leagues, but you have to be open-minded to all the different ways you can access what you’re looking for. In this case, we know what we’re looking for – we’re looking for starting pitching, and however we get there, we’re going to learn a lot about that in these next couple of days.

On whether it’s easier when your needs are so clearly defined (starting pitching) …

We really do have a short shopping list, but that can change. As we’ve all talked about before, every move opens up a whole new avenue. Your roster looks one way today, it can look another way tomorrow. The same is true of 29 other teams. We’re trying to stay in tune with what’s happening in the market, even outside of what our specific shopping needs are, and be abreast of where it goes should our dynamic change, because it’s possible it could.

On if teams and free agents are generally waiting for Masahiro Tanaka to be posted/sign …

Not really. Just the conversations we’ve had today with other teams, it’s business as usual. I don’t think there’s any one person or event holding up the market.

On whether he has a sense he can get something done during the Winter Meetings …

Not yet. We haven’t been here 24 hours yet. But the way the Winter Meetings are now, you do so much prep work before you get here, dating back to well before the GM Meetings – conversations with teams, the discussions of what may or may not be out there trade-wise. Free agency has been open for quite some time now. We’ve had at least some exchange in rhetoric with free agent groups on their desires, what they’re looking for, both in contract and term for their player, and then the fit – the city, the team, the ballpark, etc.

On if teams still view the Angels as a ‘championship contender’ …

For the players out there, they know they’re getting into a competitive situation. This is the same team that won 89 games the year before last, and like I said, the talent that you can roll out there on paper, that just so happened to not be out there all the time in performance last year, whether it be due to injury, struggle, what-have-you, there’s still players that are respected with what they do presently, what they have done in their careers, and we are I think a very attractive destination for free agents as a result.

On if it’s safe to say Trumbo has been the most-inquired-about player …

We’ve been hit a fair amount on a number of our players, and particularly Mark. Mark’s been a popular name, Howie [Kendrick has] been a popular name, and there have been others. We’ve been asked in context about most of the players on our roster, which is not uncommon. It’s very similar for a lot of other teams. But I would say there’s been fairly heavy traffic on guys like Mark specifically.

On a potential Mike Trout extension …

It’s something we’re definitely aware of, I know it’s something Mike’s aware of, but it’s nothing that we’ll talk about publicly. Those are private conversations that we’ll have with Mike and his people at the appropriate time.

Alden

Don Baylor returns to Angels as new hitting coach …

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.

Alden

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 158 other followers

%d bloggers like this: