Results tagged ‘ Erick Aybar ’
The Angels’ impressive four-game sweep of the A’s put them 30 games above .500, five games up in the American League West and 3 1/2 up (on the Orioles) for the best record in baseball. They’ll start September with five more wins than they had all of last year and a realistic chance of capturing the franchise record in wins. They’d have to play .692 ball over the season’s final month; they’ve played .610 ball through the season’s first five months.
Here’s a look at how the Angels have to fare in September for certain milestones.
90 wins: 7-19
95 wins: 12-14
100 wins: 17-9
101 wins (club record): 18-8
This is the ninth time the Angels have held sole possession of first place in the AL West to start September. On five of the previous eight occasions, they went on to win the division. They blew 2 1/2-game leads in 1985 and ’98, and epically blew a 7 1/2-game lead with one month left in ’95.
So Angels manager Mike Scioscia has good reason to not look ahead.
“I know a lot of people are counting down, under 30 games — not us,” he said. “We know we have a long way to go. You want to ask me [about the standings] in about three weeks, we’ll sit down and talk. Right now, we are still in the heart of the pennant race. We need to chew this off one inning, one pitch, one game at a time.”
The Angels are off on Monday, then start a bizarre 10-game, four-city road trip through Houston (two games), Minnesota (four games), Cleveland (one game) and Arlington (three games). The Angels’ bullpen will continue to do some heavy lifting in September.
Some additional tidbits from Sunday …
- Angels pitchers had a streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings snapped in the eighth inning. It was tied for the longest in team history. … Sunday marked the fourth four-game sweep by the Angels this season, the most in their history. … Nineteen wins in August matched a franchise best (also done in 1986 and 2004). … This is the Angels’ largest division lead and their most games above .500 since the end of the 2009 season (10 games up, 32 games over). … At 83-53, the Angels have matched the best pace in club history after 136 games.
- Mike Trout hit his 31st homer on Sunday and drove in three runs, giving him 97 on the year. All of those home runs and all but two of those RBIs have come from the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Among No. 2 hitters throughout history, the 23-year-old center fielder heads into September tied for ninth in homers (Eddie Mathews leads with 46 in 1959) and 10th in RBIs (Mathews and Alex Rodriguez in 1998 each had 114).
- Matt Shoemaker is the first rookie with 14-plus wins and 115-plus strikeouts before September since CC Sabathia in 2001. He’s been a great story.
- Chris Iannetta now leads the Angels in on-base percentage at .380 — six points higher than Trout.
- Erick Aybar‘s hitting streak is now at a career-high 16 games. The veteran shortstop is batting .458 (27-for-59) during that span.
Garrett Richards’ left knee buckled while sprinting to cover first base in Wednesday’s second inning at Fenway Park and had to be carted off the field in a stretcher. The Angels initially called it a left patellar injury, awaiting further evaluations before announcing anything more definitive.
Nonetheless, the ailment looks serious.
And now the first-place Angels — sporting a one-game lead on the A’s for the best record in the Majors when play began — are facing the scenario of potentially being without their best starting pitcher for the rest of the season, with little help available in their Minor League system.
With one out, runners on first and second and the Red Sox leading, 2-0, in the bottom of the second, Brock Holt hit a grounder to the right side that Albert Pujols fielded and fired to shortstop Erick Aybar at second. Richards came over for the potential inning-ending double play, but collapsed just before reaching the bag and was on the ground for about eight minutes.
All of the Angels starters surrounded Richards, with Pujols momentarily holding Richards’ hand and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz came out to show his support as they lifted the 26-year-old right-hander onto the stretcher, a moment that drew a standing ovation from Red Sox fans in attendance.
Richards entered Wednesday’s start 13-4 with a 2.53 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 167 innings, numbers that made him a candidate for the AL’s Cy Young Award. The Angels have already lost 23-year-old starter Tyler Skaggs to Tommy John surgery, and are thin on starting pitching in their farm system. Potential call-ups from Triple-A include lefty Wade LeBlanc (4.00 ERA in 21 starts), lefty Randy Wolf (5.26 ERA in 25 2/3 innings) and righty Chris Volstad (5.45 ERA in six starts). Another option could be lefty Michael Roth, who is 10-6 with a 2.82 ERA in 20 starts for Double-A Arkansas.
Below are some of the tweets that have been sent out in support of Richards …
Prayers out to @GRICHARDS26 stay strong bro! Man this crushes me to see this
— Tyler Skaggs (@TylerSkaggs37) August 20, 2014
Tough to watch a friend go down, please pray for a speedy recovery for @GRICHARDS26
— David Carpenter (@DCarp_52) August 21, 2014
Sending prayers out for @GRICHARDS26 🙏🙏
— Michael Kohn (@MichaelKohn58) August 21, 2014
Horrible to see.. Hang in there brother @GRICHARDS26
— C.J. Cron (@CCron24) August 21, 2014
All prayers out to @GRICHARDS26 stay strong Bruddah. This is tough to watch.
— Grant Green (@GreenieLocks8) August 21, 2014
No no no!!! Get up Grich!
— Mark Sappington (@sappDIESEL) August 20, 2014
The Angels have a deep offense; one of the deepest in the game. They have Albert Pujols, a Hall of Famer if he retired today. They have Josh Hamilton, one of the most dynamic players in the game (at least that’s what he was in Texas). They have Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Kole Calhoun, David Freese, etc. — all solid hitters in their own right. They’re more than just Mike Trout.
But even they struggle to produce when the game’s best all-around player isn’t right.
The Angels — losers of back-to-back games after a 4-3 defeat on Wednesday — have averaged 3.25 runs per game since the start of the second half, all while Trout has found himself in the midst of a rare (and perhaps short) slump.
“We have to be more than Mike,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “and we know we are.”
But here’s a breakdown of how the team has fared along with Trout so far this season (Trout’s slash line is in parenthesis, followed by the Angels’ runs per game and their record during that stretch) …
March 31 to April 28 (.327/.391/.606): 5.44 RPG; 12-13
April 29 to May 19 (.164/.314/.358): 4.21 RPG; 12-7
May 20 to July 13 (.356/.440/.701): 5.24 RPG; 33-17
July 18 to July 30 (.220/.304/.420): 3.25 RPG; 6-6
The league average for runs per game this season is 4.11, so the Angels still manage to do pretty well when Trout struggles from the No. 2 spot. Clearly, though, they’re at a completely different level when he’s on point. And luckily for them, his hot streaks tend to last a lot longer than his cold ones.
Asked how he feels at the plate these days, Trout said: “Timing’s a little late right now. Just picking the ball up late. Ones that I should be hitting I’m seeing late and I’m rushing my swing. That’s a little fix; nothing to worry about.”
Erick Aybar was out of the starting lineup for a third straight day on Monday, a precaution for the sore right groin the Angels’ shortstop suffered while reaching first base on a ninth-inning single against the Mariners on Friday night.
Prior to batting practice, though, Aybar did some light agility drills on the field with strength-and-conditioning coordinator T.J. Harrington, then took some BP and felt good. The 30-year-old — an All-Star for the first time while sporting a .283/.320/.409 slash line — expects to return to the starting lineup on Tuesday and should be available off the bench for Monday’s series opener against the Orioles.
The groin initially bothered the switch-hitter while batting from the right side of the plate.
“But I’m good now, from both sides,” Aybar said in Spanish. “I’ll be ready to go tomorrow. They told me one more day, and then tomorrow I’ll [return to the starting lineup]. But I’m ready for whatever they need today, too.”
Some other notes as the Angels look to build on a Major League-best .824 winning percentage in July …
- As I type this, C.J. Wilson is throwing his first bullpen session since landing on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle on July 10. Wilson said he has “no idea” how much longer he’ll have to be on the shelf. “It’s going to be how does it feel today throwing, and then after throwing tomorrow.” Wilson will eventually have to go out onto a rehab assignment. “I’m going to have to adjust to how it feels, because it’s not just going to heal itself in a week,” he added. “Some of the adjustment is going to have to be pain tolerance and things like that. And just learning how to use a somewhat-destabilized ankle.”
- From Matthew DeFranks: Collin Cowgill rejoined the Angels on Monday and said he should return from the disabled list in a couple of weeks, barring an unforeseen setback. Cowgill broke his nose and thumb after he was hit by a Matt West pitch trying to bunt on July 13. Cowgill, who flew in from his home Kentucky on Sunday night, had stitches removed from his nose on Monday and said it would probably be another few days before he can take any swings.
- The Angels signed veteran catcher John Buck to a Minor League deal and assigned him to Triple-A Salt Lake, where they currently have three active catchers. Buck, 34, was released from the Mariners on Tuesday after batting .226/.293/.286. For the Angels, he can be a third catcher when rosters expand in September — unless he finds an immediate Major League opportunity before then.
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Efren Navarro, LF
Hank Conger, C
John McDonald, SS
SP: RH Matt Shoemaker (7-2, 4.38 ERA)
The Angels passed the halfway point of their season on Tuesday, and did so emphatically with their first doubleheader sweep since 2009.
It’s perhaps as good a time as any to see how many All-Stars they have.
They produced their most All-Stars in 1979, when Rod Carew, Bobby Grich, Brian Downing, Don Baylor, Nolan Ryan and Mark Clear were all chosen for the Midsummer Classic. They probably won’t have that many going to Target Field this year, but they’ll have a few. Below are some names worth mentioning, with statistical comps to those who play their positions in the American League (I excluded Josh Hamilton because he missed so much time) …
OF Mike Trout
BA: .315 (T-1st)
OBP: .410 (2nd)
SLG: .617 (1st)
WAR: 5.0 (1st)
HR: 19 (2nd)
SB: 10 (12th)
Chances: He’s a sure thing. Trout ranks second in the AL in fan votes, trailing only Jose Bautista and already notching more than 4 million, and will start his second straight All-Star Game at 22 years old.
1B Albert Pujols
BA: .257 (8th)
OBP: .312 (10th)
SLG: .467 (6th)
HR: 17 (4th)
WAR: 1.5 (7th)
Chances: He looked like an All-Star again in April, but has dropped off ever since and now there are a handful of other first basemen putting up better numbers. His reputation will have to carry him. If it doesn’t, it will be three straight All-Star Game absences for Pujols.
SS Erick Aybar
BA: .277 (4th)
OBP: .316 (9th)
SLG: .419 (2nd)
HR: 4 (T-4th)
SB: 8 (6th)
WAR: 2.9 (1st)
Chances: Tough to say. Aybar has had a terrific first half, but Derek Jeter is going to start his final All-Star Game, and Aybar typically loses the popularity contests. Alexei Ramirez is also deserving.
SP Garrett Richards
ERA: 2.81 (8th)
WHIP: 1.07 (5th)
W: 9 (T-5th)
SO: 108 (8th)
IP: 109 (14th)
Chances: In my opinion, he should. But like Aybar, he’s just not as big a name — yet. I still think Richards finds a way onto the staff, especially when you consider that so many pitchers back out every year. Winning AL Player of the Month for June wouldn’t hurt, either.
SP Jered Weaver
ERA: 3.56 (20th)
WHIP: 1.16 (T-9th)
W: 9 (T-5th)
SO: 92 (T-12th)
IP: 116 1/3 (5th)
Chances: Like Pujols, he’ll need his track record to carry him to his fourth All-Star Game. Solid year so far, but by no means great.
Albert Pujols won’t be playing in 162 games this season. Angels manager Mike Scioscia made sure of that on Wednesday, when he told his superstar first baseman he’d be sitting for the first time in Thursday’s series finale at Safeco Field and didn’t let Pujols talk his way out of it.
He tried though.
“Yeah, but they said no,” Pujols admitted, laughing. “They don’t even want me to hit. I’m just going to go to the cage just to get loose. I’m not taking batting practice, either.”
The primary goal – more so than having him in the lineup for every game – is to make sure they keep Pujols fresh throughout the season, especially after he missed the last two months of 2013 with a partial tear of his left plantar fascia. Pujols said his lower half is “good” and “better than it was on the last road trip,” when the hard turf at Rogers Centre took its toll on the 34-year-old.
Scioscia wanted to give Pujols the day off “just to get him to recharge.”
“Albert will go out and play till the cows come home,” Scioscia added. “It’s time for him to take a day today.”
Pujols is batting .262 with a team-leading 14 homers, but his production has dipped over the last month or so, with a .236/.298/.445 slash line, five homers and 19 strikeouts in his last 28 games. In his last at-bat against Felix Hernandez on Wednesday night, though, Pujols stayed back on a 93-mph fastball and drove it to right field for a two-out RBI double in the ninth.
“It was middle-out, and that was a ball I was pulling a little bit,” said Pujols, who has started at designated hitter 11 times this year. “I was able to stay through it. Hopefully I can take it to the next series, and hopefully I get an opportunity to play tonight.”
- Josh Hamilton was slated to take live batting practice on the field Thursday, and if that went well, he’d re-start his rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. Scioscia is hopeful that Hamilton will return before the end of this road trip (Thursday in Houston).
- Dane De La Rosa (right s/c joint irritation) appeared in back-to-back outings for Triple-A Salt Lake for the first time on Wednesday and Thursday, giving up a run in each one-inning outing. He isn’t ready to join the Angels just yet. Scioscia said his “stuff looked good,” but he’s “slowly making progress” and “to get the confidence to know he’s where he needs to be might take a couple more outings.”
- Grant Green (.388/.404/.510) started over Collin Cowgill because, frankly, Scioscia wants to get him as many at-bats as possible since he’s swinging the bat so well (full lineup here).
- Also, Kole Calhoun is back at leadoff. Scioscia: “With Albert out, we definitely want Mike [Trout] third. If you look at his ability to work counts, even though obviously he hasn’t been locked in since he came off the DL, I think hell be a positive in the leadoff spot, and with Erick [Aybar] in there, it will give us a good look before the heart of our lineup.”
David Freese had come over from St. Louis, Erick Aybar was entrenched at shortstop and utility man Andrew Romine was out of options, so Grant Green went into 2014 figuring he’d just stay at second base for the Angels, to start there in the Minor Leagues and be ready on the off chance Howie Kendrick was traded.
“I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Green said from the Angel Stadium clubhouse on Friday afternoon, shortly after being recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake.
Green started the season with the Salt Lake Bees, played two games at second base, then spent the rest of the time getting re-acclimated with the left side of the infield, playing a lot of shortstop and a little bit of third base.
A week ago, he was told he’d start playing left field, and Green didn’t know what to think. He asked Triple-A manager Keith Johnson what was going on, and couldn’t get an answer.
“You’re kind of thinking, ‘Did I not do a good job at third and short that they have to put me in the outfield now?’” Green said. “But as long as you’re in this clubhouse over that one, I guess you’re doing something right.”
The Angels just wanted Green to be as versatile as possible to make him more appealing in the big leagues, and give them more options to get his bat in the lineup – a bat that was responsible for a .349/.395/.505 slash line in 119 plate appearances in the Pacific Coast League.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he’s “very comfortable” starting Green in left field, a position he spent 49 games at in the A’s system in 2012. The 26-year-old right-handed hitter, acquired from Oakland in exchange for third baseman Alberto Callaspo last July, wasn’t in the lineup against right-hander Colby Lewis, but will probably start on Saturday against Matt Harrison and most other lefties moving forward.
Left field figures to be Green’s primary position with the Angels right now, but Scioscia said “his versatility is something that will come into play.”
Green credited former Angels second baseman Bobby Grich for his success at the plate early on. The two met at a Make-A-Wish event, exchanged numbers and started working together in a local batting cage. Grich taught Green to finish his swing a little lower, which Green believes has “allowed me to stay on the plane of the ball a lot longer.”
Left field “feels good,” Green said.
Everything does in the big leagues.
“It was just getting used to not reacting right away; taking a couple seconds to see where the ball goes first,” Green said. “But it felt fine. The throw’s a little bit longer, the batter’s a little further away. Other than that, it’s the same.”
Shin-Soo Choo, LF
Elvis Andrus, SS
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Prince Fielder, 1B
Alex Rios, RF
Donnie Murphy, 2B
Leonys Martin, CF
Michael Choice, DH
Robinson Chirinos, C
SP: RH Colby Lewis (1-1, 4.60 ERA)
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Hank Conger, C
Collin Cowgill, RF
J.B. Shuck, LF
SP: LH Hector Santiago (0-4, 4.44 ERA)
He needed a change.
So he took the mound against the A’s on Monday with his socks up high for the first time.
“You gotta change it up sometimes,” Santiago said, trying to crack a smile despite a crushing 3-2 loss. “Actually, it was kind of scary, because the last two times I did that with the White Sox it didn’t go so well.”
The more tangible difference was that Santiago had much better command in the opener of a three-game series, while pitching seven innings of one-run ball in what ended up being a no-decision because of John Jaso‘s two-run, ninth-inning homer off Ernesto Frieri. Against an A’s team that came in ranked third in the American League in walks, Santiago — with his career walk rate at 4.6 — didn’t issue a free pass until the seventh inning and didn’t allow much hard contact besides Yoenis Cespedes‘ fourth-inning solo homer.
Santiago felt “more in control of myself,” and that was particularly obvious while working out of jams in the sixth and seventh.
The Angels’ defense extended Santiago’s inning in the sixth, when Erick Aybar had a tough time reading Craig Gentry’s liner off the bat and Albert Pujols threw high of second on an ensuing pickoff. But Santiago got Jed Lowrie to line out and struck out Josh Donaldson for his third punchout. The A’s put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh, but Santiago induced a flyout of Nick Punto and came back from down 3-0 to get Josh Reddick to pop out behind the plate.
This was the kind of outing the 26-year-old left-hander badly needed.
“Definitely; there’s no doubt,” Santiago said after lowering his ERA from 7.71 to 4.96. “Coming into today I was like, ‘I need some positive [momentum] moving forward. [First start of the season], I was antsy, man. I had a lot of adrenaline going. First game as an Angel. Last game I think I was just like, ‘OK, forget about it and let’s attack. Let’s go at ‘em, let’s go as hard as I can as long as I can.’ Today I was like, ‘Let’s attack, but let’s be under control.’ I took a little bit from each of those first two games and made it work in this game.”
And for next game, the high socks will return.
“Oh, there’s no doubt,” Santiago said. “I’m going to stick with it until it tells me not to. … I love the look, you know. I love the look for sure. And sometimes you just have to mix it up.”
A strong belief in one’s roster is usually followed by a phrase like “as long as we stay healthy.”
Well, the American League West is anything but to start the season. The Rangers are littered with injuries, with starter Derek Holland (right knee), second baseman Jurickson Profar (right shoulder) and catcher Geovany Soto (knee) all out until midseason and Yu Darvish (neck) starting the year on the disabled list. A’s Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker will miss all of 2014 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery and A.J. Griffin (right flexor muscle strain) is on the shelf. And the Mariners — in town the next three days — have two starters on the DL in Hisashi Iwakuma (right middle finger) and Taijuan Walker (right shoulder).
The door is wide open for the Angels.
They’ve had the fourth-worst April winning percentage the last two years, crippling any chances they had of reaching the playoffs. But of the Angels’ 27 games through the month of April this year, only nine will come against teams that made the playoffs in 2013. Four will come against an Astros team that has lost 100 games three straight years (though, granted, they won 10 of 19 games against the Angels last year), and three will come against the Mets, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006. But there’s one really tough swing — a three-city trip from April 18-27, which will see the Angels visit the Tigers, Nationals and Yankees.
The Angels will also be off in each of their first six Thursdays. Yes, you’d rather have the days off at the end of the year, but a fast start is crucial this year, and those off days certainly won’t hurt that cause.
In hopes of facilitating a better start, the Angels tweaked their Spring Training program. Position players took more swings and focused more on situational hitting. Starting pitchers were stretched out earlier. Relievers attacked their bullpens more aggressively. Live BP was re-introduced after a one-year hiatus. And more shifting is taking place defensively, after the Angels went from 2nd to 27th in Defensive Runs Saved over the course of one season.
One year after having by far the worst Spring Training record and ERA in the Majors, the Angels had a much better camp. Here’s a look at the numbers …
Record: 19-11-2, 2nd in the Cactus League
Runs: 190, 4th in MLB
OPS: .803, 3rd in MLB
SP ERA: 4.01, 11th in MLB
RP WHIP: 4.20, 4th in MLB
Positives from camp: Albert Pujols looked light on his feet around the bag and on the bases. … Josh Hamilton quickly got his timing back after missing time with a strained left hamstring. … Tyler Skaggs was mostly sitting at 95 mph, after having a hard time touching 90 mph last year. … Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun — batting ninth and first, respectively, and ahead of Mike Trout — drew a combined 21 walks. … C.J. Wilson had a 1.88 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. … Ernesto Frieri didn’t allow a run in 10 outings. … Trout batted .414/.460/.828. … The Angels rid themselves of two potential distractions, releasing Joe Blanton and signing Trout to the much-talked-about extension. … Out-of-options infielder Andrew Romine was turned into much-needed starting-pitching depth in Jose Alvarez.
Negatives from camp: Sean Burnett is still working his way back from August surgery, but he’s expected to face hitters for the first time in a sim game on Tuesday or Wednesday. … Dane De La Rosa is starting the season on the DL with a right forearm strain, but he could be back as soon as the weekend series in Houston. … Brian Moran is working his way back from left elbow inflammation, leaving Nick Maronde (1.89 Cactus League WHIP) as the only lefty in the bullpen to start the year. … Skaggs and Hector Santiago had their occasional long innings, an indication that there will be some growing pains. … Newcomers David Freese (one extra-base hit) and Raul Ibanez (.218 batting average) didn’t have great results at the plate, but both were happy with the way they were driving the ball.
Now, what does all this mean for the regular season?
I have no idea.
The Angels’ depth chart can be found here.
Now, if you’ve followed baseball long enough you know that a team never goes an entire season with the same 25-man roster (or even the same five-man rotation). So, here’s a look at who’s next in line at every position …
Catcher: Luis Martinez
Third base: Luis Jimenez
Shortstop: Tommy Field
Second base: Grant Green
First base: C.J. Cron
Left field: J.B. Shuck
Center field: Matt Long
Right field: Brennan Boesch
Starter: Wade LeBlanc or Alvarez
Reliever: Brandon Lyon
On that Trout contract …
For months, many wondered how much Trout would be worth in the open market and speculated what it would cost to lock up the best all-around player in baseball. They put his three arbitration years at upwards of $60 million, had him pegged as a $35 million free agent and believed he could be baseball’s first $300-million player.
But three are three important things to keep in mind about Trout’s situation …
1. He isn’t in his free-agent years yet. He still needed to get through three arbitration years, which greatly limits how much a player can make.
2. Being a $300-million player would’ve probably required a 10-year, contract, and that wouldn’t have been ideal because Trout wants to cash in on another monster contract by hitting the open market before age 30.
3. There’s just as much incentive for Trout as there is for the Angels, no matter how great he is. Why? Because free agency is a whole four years away, a lot can happen in four years, and it’s hard to turn down that much financial security so early.
So, Trout’s contract is $144.5 million over the course of six seasons, from 2015-20 (with a full no-trade clause, basic incentives and no additional option years or opt-outs). And I think it gives both sides what they want. It gives the Angels three additional years of Trout and some cost-certainty. It gives Trout a chance to be a free agent again at age 29 and makes him the highest-paid player relative to service time at every juncture.
Here’s a look at the year-by-year breakdown, and who Trout surpasses …
2014: $1M (Pujols in 2003 and Ryan Howard in ’07 with $900K for a pre-arbitration player)*
2015: $10.25M (Howard, $10M in ’08 for first-year arbitration)**
2016: $15.25M (Howard, $15M in ’09 for second-year arbitration)
2017: $19.25M (Howard, $19M in ’10 for third-year arbitration)
2018-20: $33.25M (Miguel Cabrera, $31M AAV in ’14 for a free agent)
* the $1M compensation was done before the contract
** $5M of that will be paid to Trout in 2014, as part of a signing bonus
Can the Angels stay competitive for the next seven seasons to keep Trout’s interest in the team? (@ryanwjsmyth)
One of the reasons Trout felt comfortable staying with the Angels long term is because he knows the owner, Arte Moreno, isn’t afraid to put his money into making this team competitive. One thing is for sure: The Angels will not be in rebuild mode over the life of Trout’s contract, or even while Moreno is around. But it’ll be harder and harder to stay below the luxury tax and put a World Series-contending product on the field as Hamilton and Pujols naturally decline. Jerry Dipoto has a tough task at hand — continue to build a contending team while also developing young pitching. Getting Santiago and Skaggs is a good start, though. Also, keep in mind: Trout’s decision to stay will be based more on how good the Angels can be after 2020, not necessarily what they’ve done leading up to it.
Will Albert Pujols hit 30+ home runs this season? (@adreamersview)
If healthy, I think you can bank on that. He hit 30 in 2012 even though he went a month and a half without hitting his first (and I don’t expect that to happen again). Plantar fasciitis didn’t just limit his defense and baserunning. It made his right knee, surgically repaired the previous offseason, swell up. And it sapped his power because a hitter is nothing without a healthy base. I’m never going to doubt Pujols’ ability to hit. He’s proven it long enough.
If the Angels make a run for the postseason what do you see them doing at the trade deadline? (@gizmosol)
Trying to get their hands on more starting pitching. Justin Masterson and Max Scherzer are heading into their final seasons before free agency, Cliff Lee and David Price may get shopped, and all sorts of other starters could become available in July. The Angels still have roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold that they’re willing to use. Yes, the farm system is still pretty barren. But the list of teams in the market for a starting-pitching rental in July is usually very short, and the Angels could dangle Cron or Taylor Lindsey or Kaleb Cowart or some of their (few) good pitching prospects if they feel they’re close (and hope for a better result than the 2012 trade for Zack Greinke).
Here are some links to our Opening Day coverage …
Some feature stories from earlier in the spring, in case you missed them …
Weaver leads rotation’s quest for redemption
Pujols, Hamilton facing more doubt than ever
Mike Scioscia eager to reclaim winning formula
John McDonald “a magician” with the glove
The odyssey of De La Rosa, and a lesson in never giving up
Trout can’t believe how fast this is all happening
Most important thing: The Angels’ offense continues to roll. They entered fourth in the Majors in runs and scored a combined six in the second and third inning. Mike Trout (2-for-4) is batting .409, Howie Kendrick (ground-rule double) is batting .400, Chris Iannetta (three-run homer) is batting .360, Erick Aybar (1-for-3) is batting .324, Kole Calhoun (solo homer) is batting .300 and Albert Pujols (1-for-4 with a deep lineout) has his batting average up to .293.
Second-most important thing: C.J. Wilson went 5 1/3 innings despite a long first and second inning, giving up three runs (one earned) on seven hits and two walks while striking out nine. He actually pitched even better than that. There weren’t very many hard-hit balls against him and he was the victim of some shaky defense early. His spring ERA is 2.49.
Third-most important thing: Josh Hamilton, playing in his fourth game since returning from a strained left calf, went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored and ran around a lot. He looks perfectly healthy, and not like a guy who’s going to need to start the season on the disabled list to get more at-bats.
Fourth-most important thing: Kevin Jepsen and Joe Smith pitched on back-to-back days for the first time this spring and turned in scoreless outings.
Fifth-most important thing: David Freese went 2-for-2 and has eight hits in his last 21 at-bats, raising his Cactus League batting average to .257.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Aybar might have turned in the Angels’ best catch of the spring, diving full extension to his right to snag a really hard liner off the bat of Brett Hayes.
Best quote: Mike Scioscia on Wilson’s outing: “We didn’t help him much in the field in the first couple innings, but he settled in and really pitched well. He needed a lot of pitches to get through the first couple of innings, but then he really got the ball in the zone in good spots and finished strong. He’s on track.”
Angels’ record: 12-10-2
Taco power rankings (updated every Friday): 1. Los Taquitos, 2. El Hefe, 3. America’s Taco Shop, 4. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 5. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 6. Senor Taco, 7. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 8. Poliberto’s Taco Shop, 9. Dos Gringos (at the ballpark), 10. Salty Senorita