Results tagged ‘ Erick Aybar ’

Calhoun back to cleanup, seemingly long-term …

For a little more than a year, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has enjoyed the luxury of receiving uncommon power from a traditionally powerless spot in his batting order. His lineup was deep enough, productive enough to keep Kole Calhoun in the leadoff spot, while leading the Majors in runs and receiving power from almost every position.

But those days are seemingly over.

The Angels’ current offense – 29th in the Majors in runs per game and 30th in OPS through the first six weeks of 2015 – can no longer sustain keeping Calhoun’s power left-handed bat at the top. Scioscia moved him back into the cleanup spot on Monday, prior to the opener of a four-game series against the Blue Jays, and this time it seems like a long-term move.

“We’re going to ride this out,” said Scioscia.

Calhoun at cleanup moved Erick Aybar into the leadoff spot, a lineup configuration Scioscia used for what he hoped was a short-term fix from April 30 to May 4. Aybar doesn’t walk a lot – he ranked 184th among qualified players in plate appearances per walk from 2009-14 – but Scioscia believes he can succeed batting in front of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, which would seemingly lead to getting more pitches to hit.

“What Erick doesn’t bring in patience, working counts, he brings in just athleticism and still gets on base at a rate which hopefully will set the table for Mike and Albert moving forward,” Scioscia said. “And also, we have Johnny Giavotella pushed back to ninth, to try to connect him with Mike. Hopefully there will be some table-setting there that’s happening, and we’ll get to the big guys in our lineup. “

The Angels have already been shut out three times, equaling their total from all of last season, and had scored three runs or less in 21 of their previous 37 games. The left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce continues to struggle, with a .143/.180/.219 slash line through his first 32 games, and the Angels’ lineup has several right-handed hitters who have historically struggled against right-handed pitching.

That’s why they need Calhoun in the middle of the order, to protect Pujols and maximize his opportunities with runners in scoring position.

Calhoun entered the series at Rogers Centre with a .327 batting average, three homers and 17 RBIs in his last 29 games. Last year, his .801 OPS from the leadoff spot was significantly higher than the Major League average of .715. It was an advantage that set the Angels’ lineup apart. So Scioscia tried for as long as he could to keep Calhoun at that leadoff spot, going so far as to bat Aybar cleanup on Saturday and Sunday.

But it’s a luxury the Angels can no longer afford.

“As much as we really like Kole in the leadoff spot, and in front of Mike, I think what we’re presented with right now just makes the most sense to go with it this way,” Scioscia said. “Guys have had a lot of time to get into their game and aren’t there yet, so we need to start to take a little pressure off our pitching staff.”

Alden

Pujols’ hamstring ‘no worse,’ but not much better …

Albert Pujols’ tight left hamstring was “no worse” on Thursday morning, which Angels manager Mike Scioscia considered a good sign. But there’s still no telling how long the veteran first baseman will be out.

Pujols only got treatment Thursday, hours after his hamstring grabbed on him while jogging down the first-base line on a sixth-inning single on Wednesday night. The Angels transition to a National League park in San Francisco for the weekend set, eliminating the designated hitter and potentially ruling Pujols out until Monday, at the earliest.

“It’s obviously sore,” Scioscia said of Pujols’ hamstring. “We’re going to take it day-by-day for now.”

Pujols’ absence had a pretty sizeable impact on Scioscia’s lineup, which was struggling to score runs even while he was in there. Mike Trout settled into the No. 3 spot, Erick Aybar moved from fifth to first, Johnny Giavotella went from ninth to second and Kole Calhoun – 13-for-32 in his last eight games heading into Thursday’s series finale – moved from leadoff to cleanup.

“Out of all the guys you’d want to hit behind Mike, right now it’s Kole,” Scioscia said. “… It’s a deviation from what we really want to do in our lineup, but I think the circumstances are very clear. Right now, there’s a lot of guys trying to find their game. And with Albert out of the lineup, we have to make some adjustments.”

Also …

Fernando Salas was initially credited with the win on Wednesday, but the official scorer and Elias Sports Bureau decided Thursday morning to instead give the win to Mike Morin, who retired the final batter in the bottom of the sixth before the Angels took a three-run lead in the top of the seventh. Salas kept the A’s scoreless in the bottom of the seventh of the Angels’ eventual 6-3 victory.

Alden

Pujols exits with hamstring injury …

Albert Pujols’ left hamstring grabbed on him after a sixth-inning single on Wednesday night, prompting the first baseman to exit early in the Angels’ eventual 6-3 win over the A’s.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t anticipate the hamstring injury to send Pujols to the disabled list, but said, “There’s some soreness in there, definitely.” Pujols isn’t expected to start Thursday’s day game and there’s a decent chance he won’t play the rest of this week, with the following three games coming in a National League venue – AT&T Park in San Francisco – that eliminates the designated hitter.

“It feels more like a cramp, but it’s really sore right now,” Pujols said after the game. “We’ll see tomorrow.”

Pujols screamed in pain while jogging halfway down the first-base line after a bloop single off Dan Otero and was immediately checked on by the Angels’ training staff. The 35-year-old felt a little better after loosening his left leg, but Grant Green took over as a pinch-runner nonetheless.

Initial tests checked out fine and Pujols probably won’t require an MRI – but he will need to sit out a little while.

“It’s weird,” said Pujols, batting .208 through the Angels’ first 21 games. “I don’t have that much history on the hamstring.”

For the Angels, it’s coming at a tough time.

Their offense has been slow out of the gate, Wednesday’s three-run seventh inning notwithstanding. They scored three runs or less in 12 of their first 20 games and entered Wednesday ranked 22nd in the Majors in runs and 25th in OPS.

With Pujols out, Mike Trout is expected to slide into the No. 3 spot and Erick Aybar could bat second, behind leadoff man Kole Calhoun.

“It’s tough losing Albert, one of our big guys,” Trout said. “Hopefully it’s just a cramp.”

Alden

Angels still undecided on Richards …

The Angels still aren’t sure if Garrett Richards start for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday night — five runs, seven hits, four walks, five innings — will be his last before returning to the Major League rotation. Richards will meet with the team in Houston on Wednesday night or Thursday afternoon to decide what the next step will be.

Richards left a lot of balls up in Fresno, Calif., but the Pacific Coast League has a tendency of being a little deceiving.

The important thing is he came out of it healthy — and even fielded a bunt.

“Stuff looked good,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think his command maybe wasn’t as crisp at some points, but he moved well. I think he felt good. We’ll evaluate him when he gets here and see what the next step will be.

“It took him a lot of work to get through the five innings, 90-plus pitches. But his stamina was there.”

Some additional notes from Wednesday, Jackie Robinson Day …

  • Scioscia is still confident he’ll touch base with Josh Hamilton when the Angels go to Houston this weekend, but isn’t sure if it’ll be face-to-face or over the phone. Scioscia said Hamilton’s rehab from shoulder surgery wouldn’t be any different if he were actually with the team — which he hasn’t been all season — but he has no idea where he’s at in his quest to return to baseball activities. “That’s part of the stuff that’s still open-ended,” Scioscia said. “I think it’s been open-ended for some time. A lot depends on where he is, what baseball activities he’s able to perform right now. The surgery he had, there’s a time he needs to heal and there’s a range. We’re still within that range. It’s not like he’s outside that range. But there’s a lot to take into account of just where he is.”
  • Kole Calhoun (right calf) is still out, as expected, with Erick Aybar leading off against Rangers right-hander Anthony Ranuado. Albert Pujols is making his first start at designated hitter, after starting the Angels’ first eight games at first base.
  • Jackie Robinson Day is still special to Scioscia. “I came up in the Dodger organization,” he said. “It was special for all of us young guys to hear the first-hand accounts from Roy Campanella and Carl Erskine and the guys who played on that Brooklyn Dodger team about what a special person Jackie Robinson was, not only as a ballplayer but as a human being and what he went through to make our game so great. A big reason our game is so great is what Jackie went through. It’s a story that needs to be told.”

Alden

Calhoun out until Friday, Richards slated for Sunday …

Kole Calhoun was hopeful to return to the lineup on Tuesday, but his strained right calf will keep him out at least until Friday. Calhoun also won’t start in a day game Wednesday, coupling it with the Thursday off day to make sure he’s 100-percent healthy for Friday’s series opener against the Astros.

That means the Angels’ leadoff hitter will miss four straight games.

“It’s just not there yet,” said Calhoun, who hit a pinch-hit RBI single in Monday’s ninth inning, then came out for pinch-runner Efren Navarro, as planned. “I’ll take it easy today.”

In Calhoun’s place, Erick Aybar led off and Collin Cowgill played right field, batting seventh against right-hander Nick Martinez.

Some additional notes …

  • Garrett Richards will start for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday night, in what will be his final rehab start if all goes well. The Angels plan to have Richards back in the Major League rotation on Sunday, the 19th, and continue to keep him on the normal four days’ rest throughout. That would push Matt Shoemaker to six days’ rest for Monday and Hector Santiago on five days’ rest for Tuesday.
  • Drew Rucinski won’t have any restrictions despite throwing more than 30 pitches in a relief appearance on Saturday. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that’s pretty much the length of his normal, between-starts bullpen session — though with more intensity, of course.

Alden

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. 8: Angels 10, Cubs 9 …

Spring Training Ferrell BaseballWill Ferrell took Mike Trout‘s glove and position, held up giant signs while coaching third base and struck out against a former Major League pitcher. It was an eventful day at Tempe Diablo Stadium, where professional baseball was also played.

Most important thing: Trout was on point, before and after being subbed out by Will Ferrell in center field. He went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored, also drawing a walk and picking up a stolen base. His Cactus League batting average is now at .500.

Second-most important thing: Sean Newcomb couldn’t finish his inning, giving up two runs on three hits and a walk and recording only two outs in the first. He topped out at 95 and broke a few bats; he just didn’t have much luck.

Third-most important thing: Bullpen candidates Matt Lindstrom and Frank Herrmann combined to give up six runs on seven hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. “Matt just missed with a couple pitches; his stuff is good and he’s having a good spring” Mike Scioscia said. “Herrmann was just missing with some pitches; got into bad counts. But both their arms are good.”

Fourth-most important thing: Albert Pujols, C.J. Cron, Collin Cowgill and Drew Butera each had two-hit games. Cron and Butera (!) homered.

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Erick Aybar dove full extension to his right to snag a Mike Olt liner in the first.

Quotable: Zach Stewart, on coming in to face Ferrell: “He’s a menacing figure at the plate, so I knew I had to bring my best stuff to get him out.”

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Alden

C.J. Wilson expects to take his next turn …

C.J. Wilson was supposed to start today, but he tweaked his left knee during a PFP drill and decided to take some time off. The Angels’ left-hander got a precautionary MRI that checked out fine. He’s slated to throw a bullpen session on Saturday and then take his next turn on Tuesday.

The lineups for Will Ferrell Day

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, LF
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
Drew Butera, C
Josh Rutledge, 2B

SP: LH Sean Newcomb

  • Newcomb won’t pitch that much. He’ll throw the first inning, then perhaps face a batter or two in the second. The 21-year-old left-hander, drafted 15th overall last June, will get stretched out in Minor League camp later in spring.
  • Matt Lindstrom, Cesar Ramos, Ryan Mattheus and Frank Herrmann are among those also slated to pitch.
  • Garrett Richards is tentatively slated to pitch in another two-inning simulated game over the weekend, this time with pitchers’ fielding practice mixed in, and then he’ll be ready to pitch in his first Cactus League game perhaps middle or late next week. Mike Scioscia said he’ll probably only just throw one inning in his first game. “Some parts of it he’s moving into more of a Spring Training environment, but that part of it is definitely something you want to watch closely,” Scioscia said.
  • Huston Street is back with the team after getting sick right before game time Tuesday and staying in his room on Wednesday. He’ll throw a bullpen session on Saturday and expects to pitch in a game on Sunday.
  • Joe Smith has yet to appear in his first Spring Training game because of lower leg stiffness. He said if it were the regular season, he would’ve only missed a couple days. “It’s just one of those things early in spring, they just wanted me out there with nothing,” Smith said. He should pitch in the next couple days. He’s got plenty of time to be ready for the season. “I think I’m still loose from last year.”
  • The overwhelming favorite Will Ferrell movie in the Angels clubhouse is “Step Brothers.” Calhoun said he watched it three times in theaters, twice on DVD. “It’s one of those movies that get funnier every time you watch it.” Most of the guys were bummed that they may not get much time with him, since he’s hitting up five different games.
  • The Angels completed their annual, Spring Training toy drive, raising $5,000 to purchase toys that will be donated to Children’s First Academy. Sherman Johnson was in charge of collecting money and purchasing the toys this year.
  • Cubs lineup is here.

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

Matt Joyce: ‘I’ll be in there tomorrow’ …

Angels outfielder Matt Joyce took the last couple of days off due to stiffness in his right side but expects to be back in the lineup on Tuesday, when the Angels host the Rangers at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Joyce took some swings on Monday morning and said he feels “great.” The 30-year-old left-handed hitter felt soreness from swinging the bat on Saturday and the Angels told him to take a couple of days off as a precaution.

“I guess it’s just one of those things — it’s early, and every time you deal with your side, there’s a chance of having the oblique involved,” Joyce said. “They really want to be cautious. I’m not worried about it.”

A lot of starters are playing in back-to-back games for the second time this spring, and traveling all the way to Goodyear to do it …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Collin Cowgill, LF
Josh Rutledge, 2B
Kyle Kubitza, 3B

SP: LH Andrew Heaney

  • Nick Tropeano will also pitch, which officially makes this the start of what should be a fun competition between Tropeano and Heaney for a rotation spot. With Garrett Richards slated to start the season on the disabled list and Hector Santiago having far more experience, it could very well come down to these two.
  • Richards is slated to do some more pitchers’ fielding practice on Monday morning, which involves covering first base and basically simulating the play that led to a ruptured left patellar tendon on Aug. 20. Richards will throw to hitters for the second time on Tuesday and looks to be on track for Cactus League games by early next week. Mike Scioscia said he’s doing the PFP drills “as hard as he can.” “He really showed no favoring of his gait,” Scioscia said. “Right now there’s a conditioning component he needs, but he’s doing fine.”
  • The Angels expect Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin to report for Spring Training at some point this week. Baldoquin has been delayed by visa issues in the Dominican Republic. He was slated to spend the spring in Minor League camp, which recently began, but Angels coaches were looking forward to having him on the Major League side for drills earlier in camp.
  • Cesar Ramos, Matt Lindstrom, Frank Herrmann, Ryan Mattheus, Danny Reynolds, Scott Snodgress and Edgar Ibarra are also slated to pitch today.
  • Reds lineup is here.

Alden

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