Results tagged ‘ Fernando Cabrera ’

Previewing the 2013 season …

ANGELS

Come Monday, Jered Weaver will be making his fourth straight Opening Day start, Josh Hamilton‘s reunion tour will begin and the Angels will (once again) try to cash in on the grand expectations they carry into the season.

Before that happens, here’s a station-to-station look at where they stand heading into what should be a very fun 2013 …

Position players: I don’t see a way this team won’t be among the top three in runs scored in the American League this season. From mid-May to the end of the season last year, when Mike Trout arrived in more ways than one and Albert Pujols remembered he’s Albert Freakin’ Pujols, the Angels led the Majors in runs per game. And that was without Hamilton, mind you. The Angels have three dynamic speed guys (Peter Bourjos-Trout-Erick Aybar) and three lethal power hitters (Pujols-Hamilton-Mark Trumbo) all conveniently lining up together. The rest of the guys (Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Iannetta) don’t need to be anything more than themselves for the Angels to be an offensive juggernaut. Defensively, Trout-Bourjos-Hamilton could be the best defensive outfield in baseball (which tailors perfectly to their flyball-heavy pitching staff) and the infield is solid at every position.

WEAVERStarters: Angels starters got their necessary work this spring, but just barely. Spring Training may not teach us much, but it certainly didn’t quell any apprehensions about this rotation. Everyone except the no-walks Joe Blanton struggled at some point, with Weaver, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson all bringing temporary concerns that they wouldn’t have enough stamina heading into the regular season. But they do, and most importantly, they’re all healthy. Are they good enough to match one of the best offenses in baseball? No. Will they be adequate enough to eat innings (so the ‘pen doesn’t get worn out) and keep the Angels in games (with the lineup taking care of the rest)? That’s the plan. The key: C.J. Wilson, the $77.5 million No. 2 starter who should be a lot better than his 2012 second half.

Relievers: The Angels are deeper here, with or without Ryan Madson (who is still on track to return in late April or early May, barring another setback). They’ve added arguably the best free-agent lefty available in Sean Burnett, will have a full season of Ernesto Frieri, are banking on Kevin Jepsen‘s last three months being no fluke and, along with Scott Downs, seemingly have four formidable options to protect leads late in games. There’s also the high-upside Garrett Richards, coming off a great spring, the hard-throwing Mark Lowe, who the Angels have targeted since November, and the veteran Jerome Williams. Many will point to last year’s 22 blown saves as the biggest reason the Angels ultimately missed the playoffs, and this year, they’re better in the ‘pen. But that’s on paper. Relievers are a very unpredictable species.

Reserves: If all their everyday players stay healthy, this won’t be much of a factor, particularly in the AL. Chances are, though, injuries will happen. And given that, the Angels took a step back with regards to their bench (though if you’re going to pick one area to downgrade, this would be it). Without Vernon Wells, they don’t have any real power threat in reserve — besides Hank Conger, but he’s the backup catcher — and are pretty darn young. Andrew Romine takes over for the seasoned Maicer Izturis and Conger, awfully talented but coming off a spring soured by throwing woes, has spent most of the last three years in Triple-A. Contact-hitting lefty outfielder J.B. Shuck is the third player on this bench making his first Opening Day roster. The last reserve, veteran infielder Brendan Harris, hasn’t been in the big leagues since 2010.

Depth: The Angels’ farm system is dead last in all of baseball, according to ESPN and Baseball America. But those in the organization will tell you that mostly has to do with pitching; their position-player talent is just fine. Furthermore, the Angels’ front office is confident they’ve built more depth in the upper levels to serve as insurance in 2013. The Triple-A roster has several players with Major League experience, such as Luis Rodriguez, Tommy Field, Scott Cousins, Trent Oeltjen, Chris Snyder (possibly), John Hester, Luke Carlin, Mitch Stetter and Fernando Cabrera. But with Richards’ length shortened in the ‘pen, and Williams’ workload unpredictable as a swing man, where do the Angels turn if something happens to one of their starters? Barry Enright, Billy Buckner, Matt Shoemaker and the young A.J. Schugel figure to make up the Salt Lake Bees’ rotation.

Financials: The Angels’ payroll sits under $150 million, thanks to the Yankees taking on $11.5 million of Wells’ 2013 salary in the recent trade. The deal also bought them some luxury tax flexibility. Prior to the deal, the Angels’ Competitive Balance Tax payroll — which takes into account the average annual value of all 40-man roster salaries, plus benefits and performance bonuses at the end of the season — was $178 million, the threshold at which first-time offenders are taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball. Now, it’s about $172M, giving them some flexibility to take on salary in an in-season trade. Last year, after acquiring Zack Greinke, their CBT payroll was at $178 million, which affected their pursuit of some necessary relief-pitching help.

Underlying theme: Expectations can do some funny things, and it’ll be interesting to see how the magnitude of it all will play into how the Angels go about — and react to — their second year under the microscope. Will it affect them out of the gate? Will it bring turmoil in the clubhouse, especially now that Torii Hunter is gone? Can it cause more tension between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, who have their philosophical differences and were at odds at times last season? And what will it lead Arte Moreno to do if they miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season?

Questions

In addition to Trumbo at DH, how much time do you think he will get a first base and right field, giving Pujols and Hamilton a day to rest their legs? (Stephen H., San Luis Obispo)

SOSHPlenty. And if I had to pin a number on it, I’d say there’s a very good chance — even if everyone stays healthy — that Trumbo spends about half his time playing the field. If he’s hitting, he’ll be in the lineup for all the Angels’ Interleague games. For a good chunk of April, with Pujols in the early stages of his return from offseason knee surgery, he figures to play plenty of first base. With Wells gone, he’s also the fourth outfielder. And fundamentally, with so much money tied to Hamilton and Pujols long-term, Scioscia will get them off their feet as often as necessary now that he has a revolving door at DH (that wasn’t very feasible with Kendrys Morales there last year).

Do you see the day when the Angels move Trout down in the batting order and put Bourjos, if he can cut it, in the leadoff spot? (Albert H., Los Angeles)

I do. Scioscia continues to say Trout profiles better in the middle of the order, the reason being that you want your best hitter to be in as many RBI situations as possible. The makeup of the Angels’ lineup right now — with Pujols, Hamilton and Trumbo in the middle of the order, and no clear solution in the leadoff spot just yet — means Trout is the best fit to bat first. You can argue that the Angels’ everyday lineup doesn’t figure to change much any time soon, with almost everyone in the books long term. But Trout is the kind of player you construct a lineup around, and his bat figures to eventually become too potent to not put in the 3 spot.

Is this the year the Angels finally get back to the playoffs and make a deep run? (Samuel M., Tempe, Ariz.)

Who knows. I do think that, on paper, they are the best team in the AL West and should win the division. Once you get in the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. The sample size is too small. But 162 games is not a small sample size, and if the Angels stay healthy, there is no excuse for not taking the division crown. The Rangers’ lineup took a step back, replacing Hamilton with Lance Berkman, and the pitching staff won’t have Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis or Joakim Soria to start the season. The A’s are deep, but will need a lot of guys to over-perform again. It’s nice to see the Mariners spending money, but they still have holes and concerns all over the place. And the Astros are a last-place team. But who am I kidding — predicting a baseball season is a foolish act.

Now, at last, we can see how it all plays out on the field.

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Alden

Rangers claim Mills, Angels make cuts …

The Rangers claimed left-handed starting pitcher Brad Mills off waivers from the Angels on Sunday.

Mills, 28, was out of options and had to clear waivers in order for the Angels to option him to the Minor Leagues. Mills has spent his six-year pro career pitching almost entirely in the Minors, going 41-38 with a 3.97 ERA in 112 games (106 starts). Acquired from the Blue Jays in exchange for Jeff Mathis in December 2011, Mills has logged 53 1/3 innings in parts of four seasons in the Majors, posting a 7.76 ERA. He has given up four runs in six Cactus League innings this spring.

Additionally, the Angels sent outfielders Scott Cousins and Matt Young, infielder Tommy Field, catcher Luke Carlin, and pitchers Nick Maronde, Fernando Cabrera, Chad Cordero and Kevin Johnson to Minor League camp. Their spring roster is now at 35.

Maronde, the Angels’ top pitching prospect, came into came battling for a spot in the bullpen, and even though he didn’t win it, the 23-year-old left-hander will remain in that role in Double-A. Maronde was primarily a starter in the Minors, going 11-4 with a 2.22 ERA in 31 games (29 starts) in the Minors. But he pitched well as a reliever with the Angels as a September callup, giving up one run in 12 appearances (six innings) and that’s where the organization sees his future.

“He’s got to maintain his velocity a little better in the ‘pen,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I don’t think he has to go face hitters three, four times with just a fasteball slider, a changeup coming. He’s a guy that’s going to be go in in one-inning spurts and just do what you would hope a guy could posssilby pitch at the back end would do. He’s got that upsdide.”

Alden

Royals 13, Angels 9 …

C.J. WilsonRecords and stats can be very deceiving in Spring Training. But with 10 days left before Opening Day, there are some concerns about how Angels starters have thrown of late.

Jered Weaver gave up eight runs in two innings against the A’s in his last Cactus League start — then threw in an intrasquad game five days later — Tommy Hanson has an 8.25 ERA in 12 innings, Jason Vargas has given up at least four runs on eight hits two of his last three times out, long reliever Jerome Williams was charged with seven runs on 11 hits in 1 1/3 innings against the Rangers on Thursday and, on Friday, C.J. Wilson gave up seven runs in a third inning he didn’t finish. That leaves Joe Blanton (3.86 ERA in seven frames) as the most impressive starter so far.

The Angels’ starting-pitcher ERA this spring: 8.21, dead last in the Majors. The A’s are 29th, at 6.85.

“I sure hope that as we get to the latter stages of our work in Arizona and into the Freeway Series, we’ll see some guys come alive and repeat some pitches,” Mike Scioscia said.

Asked how much more important these last 10 days are for the starters, the Angels’ skipper added: “To be honest with you, if we could get them at least lengthened out and get them deep into games, you’re not going to read as much from your performance as you are getting into their length. … I think just making pitches. That’s how we’re trying to evaluate these guys.”

Some notes from today …

The good

We know the Angels can score runs, at least. One day after notching a four-homer, six-run fourth inning, they pounded out seven runs against James Shields in the first two innings.

Mike Trout hit two doubles to center field, scored two runs and was robbed of a hit. Albert Pujols scored from first base on an opposite-field triple. Josh Hamilton hit an opposite-field triple. Vernon Wells went 2-for-3, putting his spring batting average at .394. Mark Trumbo went 2-for-2 with a couple of RBIs. Alberto Callaspo had two hits and has his average at .317.

Sean Burnett pitched a clean fifth inning, one outing after giving up three runs and recording one out. Kevin Jepsen, out since March 9 with a triceps injury, gave up a run in an inning during a Minor League game.

The bad

Wilson gave up eight runs (six earned) on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings in what was his first dud of the spring. One of those runs came on a home run by Jeff Francoeur that’s still orbiting the solar system. First, it cleared the 30-foot-tall batting eye that sits behind the center field fence, which is already 420 feet from home plate.

Fernando Cabrera gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in his first outing since returning from the World Baseball Classic.

Howie Kendrick went 0-for-3, ending his 16-game spring hitting streak — it’s 21 if you go back to last spring — and putting his batting average at .490.

Best play (that I saw)

In the bottom of the fifth, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas dove full extension to his left to snare a bullet off the bat of Trout.

Best quote

Wilson, on Frenchy’s home run: “That was the furthest home run I’ve given up in a couple years. … It was wind-aided, though, I will say that.”

Alden

So, who rounds out the Angels’ bullpen? …

Remember all that talk about the Angels’ bullpen being deeper, better heading into 2013? Well, that’ll probably be the case eventually, but leading up to Opening Day, a setback and some spring disappointments have made it a bit difficult to identify the seven relievers who will begin the regular season with the big club.

With 17 days left until the April 1 opener in Cincinnati, and Ryan Madson opening the season on the disabled list, five relievers are still set: righties Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri, lefties Sean Burnett and Scott Downs, and long man Jerome Williams.

That leaves two spots and some haziness because …

Michael Kohn, who progressed very quickly from April 2012 Tommy John surgery, has struggled with mechanics and off-speed pitches in recent outings and was optioned to Minor League camp on Friday.

Hiroyuki Kobayashi, signed as a Minor League free agent from Japan, was released in early March because he wasn’t throwing as hard as they expected.

Bobby Cassevah — homegrown, out of options and coming off a rough 2012 — cleared waivers and opted for free agency, eventually hooking on with the Rockies.

Veteran Tony Pena had a setback from Tommy John and is trying to work through it in Minor League camp.

Lefty Brandon Sisk, acquired for Ervin Santana and most of his salary, was sent down about a week ago.

Fernando Cabrera, another veteran obtained on a Minor League deal, has spent most of the spring pitching for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic (2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 SO).

Andrew Taylor, the lefty who had a very brief stint with the Angels as a September callup, has a slight tear in his labrum and won’t pitch for a while. Granted, he didn’t really have a chance anyway.

With that out of the way, here are the options the Angels are left with (keep in mind that the seventh relief spot — the team hopes — may only be relevant for a few weeks, until Madson comes off the DL) …

Garrett Richards

I identified him early in camp as a guy who seems poised to land a full-year bullpen spot, and more than a month in, there’s no reason to change my mind. Yes, his future is best as a starter. Yes, the Angels will preserve starting-pitching depth by keeping Richards stretched out in the Minors. Yes, Richards struggled as a reliever last year. But Richards’ stuff plays as a reliever, he should be better if his role remains consistent, it’s time for him to be up in the big leagues for a full season, and putting him on the roster gives the Angels their best 25 heading into the season (I don’t think that’s up for dispute). Besides, they have better rotation depth 6-10 than they did last year.

Nick Maronde

In some ways, Maronde’s situation is quite the opposite of Richards’ — his future is probably as a reliever, but it’s probably best to keep him stretched out in the Minors. Why? He’s still developing and the Angels don’t need another lefty. Even with how camp has gone, I still expect Maronde to start for Triple-A Salt Lake, getting some valuable experience heading into a potential bullpen role in 2014 (with Downs a lingering free agent).

David Carpenter

That last spot may be Carpenter’s to lose at this point. In 2012, the 25-year-old right-hander posted a 4.76 ERA in 39 2/3 innings in the big leagues and a 2.75 ERA in 19 2/3 innings in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. But he hasn’t really stuck out this spring, giving up three runs on seven hits and four walks in 6 1/3 innings.

Chad Cordero

“The Chief” is a fantastic story, but he can’t really make the team out of Spring Training … right? “Never say never,” one member of the organization said. He is still in camp, and he bounced back in his last outing five days ago. Still, though, a long, long shot.

Others

Lefty Mitch Stetter, the longtime Brewers reliever, hasn’t pitched yet because of a bulging disk in his back that was bothering him early in camp, but he’s expected to get in a game at some point this weekend. … Robert Coello, 28, appeared in six games with the Blue Jays last year and has given up five runs in 2 2/3 innings this spring. … Kevin Johnson, who posted a 3.69 ERA in the Angels’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates last year, has given up four runs in 5 2/3 Cactus League innings.

Outside help? 

The likes of Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Valverde and Brian Wilson, among others, are still out there, and the Angels do have an open spot on the 40-man. Not sure anyone available is an upgrade, though.

 – Alden 

Angels 16, Dodgers (SS) 8 …

Jered WeaverJered Weaver was about an hour removed from his first spring training start and his right shoulder was twitching. It wasn’t any sort of nerves or health condition, though. Weaver was testing out a new shock therapy machine called “H-Wave,” which massages the muscles, is supposed to knock out inflammation and could remove the need to ice your shoulder postgame.

Weaver was still getting used to it.

“I’m the guinea pic on this new little contraption,” Weaver said, “so we’re going to give it a shot and see how that works.”

Some more notes from a game that included the Angels’ (1-5-2) first win of the spring and the most star-studded lineup they’ve trotted out …

The good

Josh Hamilton hit his first homer of the spring, a two-run homer to right-center field, and followed up with a single to left field, beating the shift.

Weaver gave up just one run on two hits in two innings, striking out two batters in first inning and going through the order 1-2-3 in the second with three flyouts. Most importantly, as he said, the Angels’ ace came out of it healthy.

Peter Bourjos hit a three-run, bases-loaded triple in the right-center field, capping a seven-run third inning. Heading into that at-bat, he had struck out four straight times, then hit a first-pitch pop-out to the catcher.

Luis Rodriguez, competing for the Angels’ reserve infield spot, went 3-for-3.

The bad

Kevin Jepsen was roughed up in his first spring outing, giving up a couple of runs on a couple of doubles in the left-center field.

Fernando Cabrera probably won’t win one of those vacant spots in the Angels’ bullpen. He gave up four runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings and Jwill leave for the World Baseball Classic this weekend.

Best play (that I saw)

Luis Jimenez ranged to his right to field a hard short-hop, stepped on the bag and fired to first base to complete the double play. He also went 2-for-2 with a couple of RBIs.

Best quote

Weaver, on Dodgers Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig: “He’s a big kid, man. It felt like Frank Thomas in the box.”

Alden

Trout gives back to alma mater, plus other notes …

MV4!Mike Trout, three years removed from high school, is giving his alma mater some Major League treatment.

As part of winning the Player’s Choice Award for the American League’s Outstanding Rookie, the Major League Baseball Players Association offered to reward $20,000 to a foundation of his choice. Trout chose the Millville High School baseball program, where he starred as a Thunderbolt before being the Angels’ first-round pick in 2009.

Millville baseball coach Roy Hallenbeck said he’s going to “try to make it stretch as long as we can,” but the team has already purchased new gray uniforms and alternate tops, and on Friday, they finished sodding the field in anticipation for the start of practice in March.

Don’t worry, there’s more coming.

In January, BODYARMOR SuperDrink, the company that signed Trout to its first major endorsement deal, decided to get involved, too.

“Mike was on board from the beginning,” Hallenbeck said, “and every time I talk to those guys [at BODYARMOR], they say he brings it up all the time. He’s really excited about that project working out and helping us out.”

BODYARMOR hasn’t said exactly how much they plan to contribute, but their involvement — which could include sprucing up the press box, adding a big net behind home plate, providing “L” screens and, most importantly, renovating the batting cages — was recently approved by the board of education.

By the end of March, Hallenbeck believes, everything will be finished.

And by early June, the field will be rededicated to bear Trout’s name.

“There’s no major construction differences,” Hallenbeck said, “but it’s just going to be adding a lot of really nice bells and whistles to what we already have.”

With Cactus League games starting on Saturday, here are some notes to get you caught up on the first 11 days of camp …

  • Josh HamiltonRyan Madson had a setback after a Feb. 1 bullpen session and is taking it slow. He won’t be ready by Opening Day and there’s a chance he won’t pitch in any Spring Training games in March, but the Angels are hopeful they’ll have him at some point in the early portion of the season.
  • Albert Pujols is still working his way back from arthroscopic right knee surgery. Don’t expect him to appear in games until mid-March.
  • The early start of camp has prompted Angels manager Mike Scioscia to change things up a bit, with no intrasquad games, very little live batting practice and plenty of rest for the regulars. The starting pitchers won’t start until March 1, which makes it even harder to find bodies for the split-squad opener. The elimination of the third-to-first move has also forced Scioscia to tinker.
  • Josh Hamilton came in lighter than normal, maintaining his end-of-season weight of 225 thanks to a healthier diet. Trout did the opposite.
  • Hamilton can expect to hear loud boos when he returns to Texas on April 5, thanks to some comments he made on TV.
  • Here’s what we know about the lineup: Trout will lead off, Pujols will bat third, Hamilton will bat fourth and Trumbo — at least at the start — will bat fifth. It may be a revolving door between Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar in the No. 2 spot, with Chris Iannetta and Peter Bourjos hitting lower in the lineup.
  • Scioscia doesn’t sound like a man who’s ready to fully commit to Bourjos as his starting center fielder, continuing to leave the door open for Vernon Wells to get some playing time in left field, which would move Trout to center. But some of that may be the Angels’ skipper trying to be sensitive to Wells’ situation. Scioscia has also said Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams are fighting for spots in the rotation, even though the five are already set.
  • The Angels have two big lingering free agents in Jason Vargas and Scott Downs.
  • Ernesto Frieri is trying to add a cutter, and thinks it can do wonders.
  • Sean Burnett is dealing with a back ailment, but it isn’t expected to hinder him much. Michael Kohn is looking great after Tommy John surgery. Veteran relievers Tony Pena (setback after Tommy John) and Mitch Stetter (bulging disk) are working themselves back slowly, currently throwing off flat ground. First base prospect C.J. Cron (shoulder surgery) is doing everything but throwing and is targeting Opening Day, in Double-A.
  • Kendrick and C.J. Wilson don’t expect to be hindered by offseason elbow surgery.
  • Two reclamation projects are currently working out in Minor League camp — former Nationals closer Chad Cordero and former A’s first-round pick Ben Fritz.
  • Aybar (Dominican Republic), reliever Fernando Cabrera (Puerto Rico) and first baseman Efren Navarro (Mexico) will leave camp early to take part in the World Baseball Classic.
  • The Angels have a new partnership with Ticketmaster. Individual tickets go on sale tomorrow.
  • In case you missed them, here are stories on Trout, Pujols, Wells, Bourjos, Jered Weaver, the new rotation trio, The Big Three, Trumbo, Hamilton, Omar Vizquel, Chris Iannetta, Hank Conger, Scott Cousins, Bill Hall, Randal Grichuk, Kaleb Cowart, Kole Calhoun, Bobby Cassevah, Hiroyuki Kobayashi and Travis Witherspoon.
  • For a breakdown of the Angels’ Spring Training roster, click here. … For the videos we’ve put together, click here. … For photos, click here.

Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout

Alden

Angels announce Spring Training invites …

The Angels announced 21 non-roster invitees who will be joining those on the 40-man roster in Spring Training. Here’s a look at who’s coming to camp … 

Pitchers: Billy Buckner, Kevin Johnson, Tony Pena, Jo-Jo Reyes, A.J. Schugel, Mitch Stetter

Catchers: Jett Bandy, Luke Carlin, Carlos Ramirez, Zach Wright

Infielders: Kaleb Cowart, Brendan Harris, Taylor Lindsey, Efren Navarro, Luis Rodriguez, Eric Stamets, Alex Yarbrough

Outfielders: Randal Grichuk, Trent Oeltjen, J.B. Shuck, Matt Young

* Note that veteran reliever Fernando Cabrera will also be in big league camp when his contract his official.

Here’s the 40-man roster, in case you’re wondering who else is joining them. 

Pitchers report Feb. 11, position players report Feb. 14. 

Alden 

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