Results tagged ‘ Felix Hernandez ’
Not surprisingly, Carlos Perez was back in the starting lineup on Wednesday, one day after capping his Major League debut with a walk-off home run. Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn’t declaring him the everyday catcher, though. He said once again that Chris Iannetta — batting .094 — will continue to get playing time.
But it’s hard to have a platoon with two right-handed-hitting catchers.
So basically, Scioscia will ride the hot bat. And though it’s only been one game for Perez, his bat is nonetheless hotter than Iannetta’s has been all year.
“The best way I can say it is if you play well you always earn more playing time, both ways,” Scioscia said. “If both those guys are playing well, it makes us better.”
Wednesday’s lineup also excluded the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce, who sat for a second straight day because the Angels faced a second straight lefty. Joyce was seemingly starting to turn the corner, hitting several balls hard in a weekend series in San Francisco and homering against Felix Hernandez on Monday.
“I talked to Matt,” Scioscia said. “Just because a lefty’s pitching doesn’t mean he’s not going to play. But right now, you’re trying to jump-start an offense with every little bit of offense you can, against lefties especially. … We just haven’t seen Matt get into his game yet. And when he does, you’re not going to want to sit him just because there’s a lefty in there. But right now, we’re just trying to get as much depth to our lineup as we can.”
Albert Pujols, who exited last Wednesday’s game with a tight left hamstring, made his fourth start of the year at designated hitter. Scioscia said it was precautionary.
It sounds crazy, but this is the first time in seven years that Seattle — cool city, great ballpark, retractable roof — has hosted an Opening Day. On this day 38 years ago, Frank Tanana pitched a shutout in Seattle in a 7-0 win for the Angels. The Angels have won nine of their last 11 Opening Days, but lost last year. In fact, the Mariners swept the Angels at Angel Stadium to open the 2014 season, outscoring them by 18 runs in the process.
Jered Weaver (seven) is tied for the third-most Opening Day starts since 2006, along with James Shields, Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay. The only two ahead of him are CC Sabathia (nine) and his Monday opponent, Felix Hernandez (eight). With Johnny Giavotella, 2015 marks the first time the Angels have had an Opening Day second baseman not named Howie Kendrick since Maicer Izturis in 2006.
The Mariners have been the Angels’ most frequent Opening Day opponent. They’re 6-4 against them to start the season, but were 7-12 against them last year. Weaver is 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA on Opening Day, 14-10 with a 3.37 ERA against the Mariners and 7-8 with a 4.49 ERA at Safeco Field.
Here are the lineups …
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, LF
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
SP: RH Weaver (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Austin Jackson, CF
Seth Smith, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Logan Morrison, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Dustin Ackley, LF
Brad Miller, SS
SP: RH Hernandez (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
- It’ll be interesting to see how the Angels use Taylor Featherston. They like his skills defensively, but he’s never played above Double-A. I think we’re going to see him play some second base late, with the Angels pinch-hitting Giavotella against a tough right-handed reliever. “I think what he lacks in experience, his athleticism and talent will make up for,” Mike Scioscia said. “We’re not going to be afraid to use him.”
- Scioscia is leaning towards Drew Rucinski to start on April 14, the first day the Angels need a fifth starter. Jose Alvarez is not stretched out enough, and Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano are not on schedule for that day.
- Garrett Richards is here to take part in the Opening Day ceremonies. He’ll then pitch in a camp game on Thursday and start a rehab assignment April 14, though he could make only one start and then be available the next time through the order.
- The seventh inning “is going to be a matchup” with the bullpen, Scioscia said. I expect Mike Morin to get most of the time there, but we could see Fernando Salas being used against lefties. He was pretty effective against them last year.
- Will Cron be an everyday player, or will he sit against tough righties (today being an exception)? “I think C.J. will get a lion’s share of at-bats at first base and DH,” Scioscia said. “We gotta get bench guys in games, too, to make sure they’re sharp, keep starters fresh, but the plan is to get C.J. in there a lot. No doubt this spring he swung the bat better than last year. We want to give him a chance to contribute.”
Opening Day is finally here, and Safeco Field seems like a fitting place to start. It’s home to the team many have picked to win the American League West. And it kicks off with a matchup between Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver, the two guys who have made the most consecutive Opening Day starts in the Majors (Hernandez at seven, Weaver at six).
But Opening Day is only a ceremonial thing. “One of 162,” as many say. The season is long and arduous. And by the end of it, what happens on Opening Day or even in the first series will be nothing but a distant memory (like last year, when the Mariners embarrassed the Angels with a lopsided sweep in Southern California at the start of April).
If the Angels want to win another division title, they’ll have to answer several questions over the course of these next six months. And below are the seven most prominent …
1. What becomes of Josh Hamilton?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the Angels aren’t necessarily in a welcoming mood with Hamilton, who’s still recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t be suspended for a self-reported drug relapse. The tone of their statements after news broke — and what they’ve said privately leading up to it — made you wonder if they even want him around. He’s a very likable guy, but he hasn’t lived up to his massive contract and his latest relapse struck a nerve with the Angels’ brass (make of that what you will). He won’t be going away, though. He’s owed $83 million over the next three years, so the Angels have to see what they get out of him. How does he fit into the roster? What type of production does he provide in his age-34 season? And how does he mesh with a team that may be better off without him? It’ll be the most fascinating storyline this season.
2. How good is Garrett Richards?
Richards has yet to allow a run in three Minor League outings and could return to the rotation by April 19 if all goes well, which means he basically misses only two starts. How good will he be upon returning, though? As good as he was leading up to the season-ending left knee injury he suffered Aug. 20? If so, this Angels rotation — with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago set to open the season — is more dangerous than people think. If not, they’re very vulnerable. A lot rides on Richards’ 26-year-old right arm (not to mention that left knee).
3. What will the Angels get out of second base?
They aren’t fooling themselves into thinking they’ll replicate the production of Howie Kendrick. If C.J. Cron takes the next step in his maturation process (see: patience), David Freese stretches his last four months into a full season and Albert Pujols continues to look as good as he did this spring, they won’t need it. But replacement level production would be nice. Johnny Giavotella will get the first crack, but we may see many guys play second base this year.
4. Who gets the lefties out?
The Angels haven’t had a true lefty specialist since the 2012 version of Scott Downs, and Downs wasn’t really used as a lefty specialist. Last year, the Angels’ go-to reliever to get lefty hitters out was the right-handed Fernando Salas, who has a nice changeup that darts away from left-handed hitters. Ideally, they’d have that traditional left-on-lefty guy. Mike Scioscia has mentioned Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez as possibilities, but they’re multi-inning relievers who don’t have the big stuff that plays in that role. The next hope would be Santiago, but that would hinge on Andrew Heaney or Nick Tropeano developing well enough to warrant Santiago’s current rotation spot.
5. How do they upgrade the roster?
Even without saving any money on Hamilton’s contract, the Angels enter the season with $10 to $15 million of wiggle room. That’s what Arte Moreno said early in camp. It’s more payroll flexibility than they’ve had in a while, and they plan to use it. Question is, how? Do they get a second baseman, even though there aren’t many of them out there? (Chase Utley looks like a long shot, because of how intimidating his contract is and because of his no-trade clause). Do they get an outfield/DH bat? Do they get a starting pitcher (a lot of big names are entering their walk years)? Or do they add more bullpen pieces, like they did last year? June/July should be very eventful.
6. What kind of year does Mike Trout have?
You could reasonably expect a great one, considering he stays healthy. But how does he follow up a season that saw him win the AL MVP unanimously? We saw Trout transition into more of a power game last year, hitting more home runs and stealing fewer bases. But he’s only 23 years old, scary as that seems, and he’s still figuring out who he’s going to be in this game. My guess is he cuts down those strikeouts — I don’t know anyone who truly believes Trout is a 180-strikeout-a-year player — but doesn’t increase his stolen-base total by much. The Angels seem content with how often they sent Trout last year. Teams watch him closely and, far more relevant in this matter, steals cause a lot of wear and tear on the body.
7. Are the Angels better than the Mariners?
That’s probably what it’s going to come down to. The Mariners are a popular pick to win the division, because their rotation could be something fierce, their bullpen was one of the best in the game last season and their lineup got a big missing piece they needed in power hitter Nelson Cruz. But the Angels return the core group of a team that led the Majors in wins and finished second in run-differential last year. They’re starting a season with what should be a reliable bullpen for the first time since Jerry Dipoto came on board in October 2011 and they carry the confidence of succeeding with this group.
It should be interesting.
And to get you ready, here’s a look at our Opening Day content, in case you missed anything …
- Anticipated Angels-Mariners clash kicks off Opening Day
- Weaver, the forgotten ace, starts another Opening Day
- The simple question nobody can answer: What does Trout mean to the Angels?
- Kendrick is gone, Hamilton is a mystery — is the offense still elite?
- Scioscia, baseball’s longest-tenured manager, talks about his latest team
- Hamilton won’t be punished, and now the Angels have to see how he fits in
MORE LINKS! An updated depth chart is here, injury updates are here, pitching probables are here and a look at the top 30 prospects is here. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And you can subscribe to my weekly Angels podcast with Richard Justice here.
MLB.com compiled dozens of predictions on who will win each division, how the postseason will play out and where all the major individual awards will go. Below were my picks, if you’re interested …
NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: Angels
NL Wild Cards: Marlins, Pirates
AL Wild Cards: Mariners, Indians
NL champion: Nationals
AL champion: Angels
World Series champion: Nationals
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant
AL MVP: Josh Donaldson
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL Rookie of the Year: Steven Souza
Feliz Opening Day!
Mike Trout won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award on Thursday, collecting all 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association to become the youngest unanimous MVP in Major League history. In tune with that, I’ve compiled all the cool stuff Trout did this season in video form below. Enjoy.
March 31: Trout’s first at-bat of the season, after securing a six-year, $144.5 million extension, is a home run against King Felix …
April 4: Solo homer at Minute-Maid Park gets out in a mesmerizing 111.6 mph …
… Two innings later, he throws out a runner at home for his first outfield assist since September 2012 …
April 15: Trout does everything possible to win, hitting a ninth-inning, game-tying homer (shown here), then reaching on an infield single and stealing second in extra innings in an eventual loss to the division-rival A’s …
April 29: (Sort of?) robs a home run …
May 15: Diving catch in the first …
… first career walk-off in the ninth …
June 7: Game-tying grand slam off a dejected Chris Sale …
June 11: Robs Yoenis Cespedes of a home run (maybe) …
June 17: Trout hits two home runs in Cleveland, the last of which came on a low and inside pitch that shocked Hank Conger, who concluded Trout has “the fastest hands west of the Mississippi” …
June 27: Hits one 489 feet to dead center into the fountain at Kauffman Stadium, good for the longest home run in the Majors since 2012 …
July 3: Stumbling, shoestring catch, then finishes on his feet …
July 4: Another walk-off homer, this one on a Tony Sipp slider that almost hit the dirt (note: don’t pitch him low) …
Sept. 12: A triple on a standard liner in the gap …
Sept. 13: Another two-homer game …
Sept. 21: “I got hops,” Trout said, channeling the playground scene from “He Got Game” …
Oct. 5: Solo shot off James Shields, the lone highlight of a short-lived postseason debut …
Josh Hamilton is shut down again, this time with what the Angels’ outfielder described as “a sharp, stabbing pain” near his chest and right ribcage, underneath his armpit.
Hamilton first felt some pain in the area in the second round of early batting practice on Monday and continued to feel worse throughout Tuesday night, his first game back after missing 11 straight contests with stiffness around his right shoulder.
“As I played, as I ran, as I swung, it got worse and worse, to the point where it hurt to breathe,” Hamilton said. “It just felt like my shoulder blade and everything was pretty locked up.”
Hamilton wasn’t with his teammates when they clinched the American League West title on Wednesday. He had MRIs in the morning, all of which checked out fine, then left the team right around game time to see a chiropractor, having a 40-minute session at his office and then getting worked on again at Hamilton’s house later that night. Hamilton was still feeling pain on Thursday, but was going to try to throw.
Asked of his concern that this could prolong, and keep him out of the playoffs, Hamilton said: “You’re always concerned about it. If I woke up today and felt great, then I wouldn’t be concerned about it. I don’t know what to tell you as far as long-term, short-term or whatever, but the thing I’m going to do is whatever I need to do to get back on the field.”
Hamilton — batting .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs — has played in just one game over the last 14 days, and only nine games will remain before the AL Division Series after Thursday. The 33-year-old recently missed time with an injury that began in his right AC joint and spread to his trapezius muscle, prompting him to get three cortisone shots and a couple of trigger-point injections.
Asked if he considers Hamilton’s latest ailment is a setback, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, simply, “I consider it something new.”
“Hopefully it’s a minor blip,” he added, “and we’ll see where we are in a day or two.”
- Jered Weaver was scratched earlier today, with Wade LeBlanc taking his spot. Now, Weaver will start Saturday, the spot vacated by Matt Shoemaker and his left oblique strain, and then again on the last Friday of the regular season and then for Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday, Oct. 2. So, Weaver’s next three starts will come on six days’ rest, five days’ rest and five days’ rest, respectively.
- Shoemaker said his left oblique is “definitely better,” which marks the third straight day he’s said that. He’ll continue to get treatment these next few days and then see when he can pick up a ball again.
- As expected, the Angels trotted out a Triple-A lineup against Felix Hernandez, with none of the regulars playing. After the party died down at Angel Stadium on Wednesday, the players went to Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa, which shut down the bar after 2 a.m. and left it just for members of the Angels. Cabs were lined up outside to take guys home.
- The Angels entered today with a three-game lead on the Orioles for the best record in baseball. Scioscia, on the importance of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs: “It’s important. We’re going to keep our edge and keep playing hard. But I don’t think it has importance of putting guys at risk for injury.”
One night after clinching the American League West title, the Angels scratched Jered Weaver from his Thursday start against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, opting to go with left-hander Wade LeBlanc, instead.
The Angels also have an open spot on Saturday because Matt Shoemaker is nursing a strained left oblique. Weaver could presumably fill that spot, then start on five days’ rest in the last Friday of the regular season – against the Mariners at Safeco Field – and then be on five days’ rest again for Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Thursday, Oct. 2.
LeBlanc, 30, has gone 20-33 with a 4.60 ERA while accumulating 434 innings in the big leagues from 2008-14. With the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate this season, he posted a 4.43 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP and a 2.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 128 innings.
The only pitchers who have struck out Trout more often are Mariners ace Felix Hernandez and Rangers ace Yu Darvish. Both have fanned him 11 times. But both are division rivals who face him a lot more frequently (Trout has 40 career plate appearances against Darvish and 52 against Hernandez), and Trout has actually hit them well (1.063 OPS against Hernandez, 1.076 OPS against Darvish).
After Thursday’s 4-2 loss against the Tigers, Trout is now 3-for-16 in his career against Scherzer (albeit with a home run). Among the 16 other pitchers who have faced him more than 15 times, only six (Joe Saunders, A.J. Griffin, Matt Harrison, Dallas Keuchel, Tommy Milone and Hisashi Iwakuma) have held the Angels’ phenom to a batting average below .290. And none have come anywhere close to striking him out as frequently as the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner.
The biggest reason, perhaps: Scherzer is as good as anyone at changing the eye level of hitters, and is particularly dominant in the upper half of the strike zone. Trout’s weakness comes in the upper half of the zone. And though Scherzer hasn’t necessarily attached Trout chest-high, the threat is always there, and it’s hard to hit his fastball-changeup combination when you can’t sit on a particular zone.
Scherzer’s response, when asked about his approach against Trout …
“Attack him. You have to go after him. I absolutely respect everything he does on a baseball field and what he does at the plate. But when you face really good hitters, the elite hitters, like that, you have to be even more aggressive with them. You have to go right after them and make your pitches. He’s hit a home run, he’s had success off me, but when I have success against him is when I take the aggressive approach with him.”
The Angels and A’s are each playing their 100th game tonight, and when the day began, Oakland’s lead in the American League West remained at two. The Angels have been one of baseball’s best teams for most of the season, currently sporting the second-best record in the Majors, but they have the misfortune of playing in a division with the best team. And of playing in an era when winning your division is crucial (nobody wants their season to be decided by a singular Wild Card game, especially if that game comes against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez).
So it goes without saying that the Angels’ goal is to catch the A’s, who only got stronger by adding Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to their rotation. To do that, they’ll have to continue to make up ground.
And they’ll have to overcome a far less favorable schedule.
Below is a categorical look at the remaining games for each team, starting Thursday. The first line is the amount of games each has against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today, the second is the amount of games against teams with records above .500, the third is the amount of home games left, and the fourth is the combined number of games above/below .500 from each of their remaining 62 opponents.*
The Angels and A’s play each other 10 more times — Aug. 22-24 in Oakland, Aug. 28-31 in Anaheim and Sept. 22-24 in Oakland, making up the second-to-last series of the regular season. The A’s lead the season series, 6-3.
Combined: 246 games below .500
Combined: 2 games below .500
* a few teams hadn’t finished their Wednesday games by the time I tallied this
2012: 20-5, 2.81 ERA, 188 2/3 IP, 142 SO, 45 BB
2007-11: 14-9, 3.40 ERA, 202 IP, 174 SO, 55 BB
In the end, Weaver’s 2012 may have paled in comparison to 2011, when he posted a career-low 2.41 ERA in a career-high 235 2/3 innings. But despite a short stint on the DL with lower back tightness, and some biceps tendinitis down the stretch, the 30-year-old right-hander put together another Cy Young-caliber performance in a year decorated with personal milestones. He threw his first no-hitter (against the Twins on May 2), notched his first 20-win season and surpassed 100 career victories. Most importantly, when the rotation struggled early in the second half, Weaver kept the Angels afloat by continuing to be the one constant. Mike Scioscia will point to that as the biggest reason why he should beat out the likes of Justin Verlander, David Price and Felix Hernandez for the Cy Young. We’ll see.
Zack Greinke, RH
2012 (overall): 15-5, 3.48 ERA, 212 1/3 IP, 200 SO, 54 BB
2008-11: 14-10, 3.37 ERA, 206 IP, 202 SO, 52 BB
Greinke ran into a little funk early in his tenure with the Angels, giving up 20 runs in his first 25 innings of August. But he got it together down the stretch, with a 2.04 ERA in his final eight starts of the season, and showed why he’ll be so highly coveted as a free agent this offseason. The Angels are hopeful that being with the organization for a couple months will give them an upper-hand this winter. It certainly won’t hurt, but they’ll have plenty of competition, most notably from the Rangers. He’s got great stuff, he fields his position well, and he’ll probably be worth a five-year deal around $120 million.
C.J. Wilson, LH
2012: 13-10, 3.83 ERA, 202 1/3 IP, 173 SO, 91 BB
2010-11: 16-8, 3.14 ERA, 214 IP, 188 SO, 84 BB
Wilson was as advertised in the first half, posting a 2.43 ERA en route to a second straight All-Star Game invite. But while pitching with bone spurs in his left elbow, which he recently fixed with arthroscopic surgery, the 31-year-old struggled through a 5.54 ERA in the second half. The most frustrating thing about Wilson is his walks, especially when handed a lead. Wilson walked 91 batters this year, fourth-most in the Majors and two off his career high in 2010. He also came up small in several important starts down the stretch. But he gets somewhat of a pass, considering the elbow discomfort he was nursing over the last couple of months.
Dan Haren, RH
2012: 12-13, 4.33 ERA, 176 2/3 IP, 142 SO, 38 BB
2005-11: 14-11, 3.49 ERA, 226 IP, 195 SO, 45 BB
Pretty stunning when you put Haren’s career averages right next to his 2012 season. This really was his only bad year, but with a $15.5 million club option for 2013, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Haren had a fantastic spring, with a 2.05 ER, 25 strikeouts and two walks. Then, right before things got real, his lower back started barking, and he was never really the same since. Haren went on the DL for the first time in his career, lost another tick or two off his fastball, was getting pulled out of games before even hitting 90 pitches — a clear sign that Scioscia had lost trust in him — and most of the time took the mound with very little. But Haren did turn it around a bit towards the end, finishing the season with a 2.81 ERA in his last eight starts after he stopped trying to add velocity and focused on location. Was that an indication that Haren learned how to pitch with his limited repertoire and can be effective again? Perhaps. But he’s definitely not a $15 million pitcher anymore.
Ervin Santana, RH
2012: 9-13, 5.16 ERA, 178 IP, 133 SO, 61 BB
2006-11: 12-10, 4.17 ERA, 194 IP, 156 SO, 61 BB
Like Haren, Santana pitched better towards the end of the year, with a 3.76 ERA in his last 11 starts. But by that point, the damage had been done. Santana had a 6.00 ERA when that stretch began, finished giving up a Major League-high 39 homers and had three starts in which he lasted less than three innings and gave up at least six runs. Two of them came in the same month (July) and the other was his final start of the season, when he gave up six runs in 2 2/3 innings in the second of a doubleheader in Texas on Sept. 30, all but mathematically eliminating the Angels from postseason contention. Considering his $13 million club option, that could very well have been the final start of his Angels career.
This match-up sure doesn’t seem to favor the Angels on paper. C.J. Wilson is coming off an outing that saw him give up three runs and last 2 2/3 innings against the Rangers; Felix Hernandez is a clear Cy Young contender. But Wilson pitched six innings of one-run ball in his only start against the Mariners this year and the Angels, for some weird reason, have hit King Felix in 2012, scoring 15 runs in 20 1/3 innings against him.
Lineups, as the Angels look to build on a four-game winning streak and improve on a mark that has them two games back of the second Wild Card spot, with eight games left …
Pitching: RH Hernandez (13-8, 2.85 ERA)
Pitching: LH Wilson (12-10, 3.82 ERA)
- Trumbo showed some good signs on Tuesday, flying out to deep center field, getting robbed of a hit on a diving play by Ackley and lining out to right field. Mike Scioscia said he’s made a mechanical adjustments with his hands in order to have a shorter path to the ball and keep things simple. When you swing as hard as Mark does to try to elevate the ball, there’s a lot of moving parts, which can lead to hitters taking a step back and going to the fundamentals.
- Scott Downs had some rare struggles on Tuesday, giving up three quick runs while recording only two outs in the seventh inning. Scioscia felt location, not stuff, was the issue. Asked if his stuff is the same since returning from the shoulder injury, Scioscia said: “I think now it is. I think when he first got back, there were some things we was working through and he was healthy but maybe wasn’t quite where he was. I think right now, he’s throwing the ball with the same crispness as we’ve seen at any time during the season.”
- Callaspo is in no way a prototypical No. 5 hitter, but he’s started there in five of the last six games. “When Mark’s swinging it well, he’s a natural guy to hit fifth,” Scioscia said. “But right now, with the options that we have, I think Alberto’s going to work a tough at-bat, put the ball in play. he’s proved throughout the course of his career he can hit with guys in scoring position. When you combine Alberto, Howie and Erick, it gives you a good situational look through the middle of your lineup.”
- Kevin Jepsen is available, even after throwing 1 1/3 innings last night. So is everybody else.
- Jered Weaver is set to start Friday and Zack Greinke came out of his Tuesday start feeling fine. He’s slated to go Sunday, against Yu Darvish.