Results tagged ‘ Garrett Richards ’
Nick Tropeano was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake and will start Thursday’s series finale against the A’s, with C.J. Wilson getting pushed back to Saturday’s start against the Rangers. Wilson came out of his last start with stiffness in his left (pitching) elbow, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it’s nothing serious and he could’ve taken his normal turn on Thursday if needed.
Pushing Wilson back also buys extra time for Matt Shoemaker, who was placed on the bereavement list to deal with the death of his grandfather. Shoemaker was originally slated to make that Saturday start, but is now tentatively slated for next Wednesday’s game in Oakland, putting him on extended rest a second straight time. Shoemaker pitched on six days’ rest Monday, giving up five runs in three innings, and would be on eight days’ rest Wednesday.
Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Jered Weaver will keep their normal turns. So, here’s the order …
Tuesday: Weaver (starting tonight)
Tropeano has given up five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 11 innings during his first two starts for Triple-A Salt Lake, striking out 12.
“I think I just need to keep working hard and showing consistency,” Tropeano said. “Going down to Triple-A, getting those innings in and getting that work in kind of matured me and sent me into this spot now.”
Some additional notes …
- Scioscia said the date of Josh Hamilton‘s arrival in Arizona for extended spring is “really fluid.” “It could happen this weekend, it could happen next week. But the process is there. He’s going to be evaluated. The process is starting.”
- Cam Bedrosian pitched two scoreless innings of mop-up duty on Tuesday and has been used as a multi-inning reliever since going down to Minor League camp midway through Spring Training, compiling eight innings in four appearances. Scioscia said Bedrosian has “the potential to be in the back end of the bullpen, but right now he needs a little bit of length to do the kind of things he did last night.”
- C.J. Cron had only his second multi-hit game of the season on Tuesday, then found himself out of the lineup on Wednesday. Scioscia opted to go with Collin Cowgill as his right-handed hitter against Sonny Gray — with the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce at DH, but dropped from fourth to sixth against a right-hander — to get better defense in left field for Weaver, a fly-ball pitcher.
UPDATE: Angels manager Mike Scioscia made it official prior to Saturday’s game, saying Garrett Richards will start Sunday’s series finale against the Astros. The Angels wanted to keep Richards on an every-five-days schedule in large part so that he doesn’t pitch in a National League park and, thus, have to bat.
Richards is slated to start on April 19, 24 and 29, then May 4, which means he’d skip the three-game series in San Francisco, against the Giants, May 1-3.
It looks like Richards will indeed be making his long-awaited return from knee surgery on Sunday, the series finale against the Astros from Minute Maid Park.
The decision hasn’t been announced yet, but the Angels have Matt Shoemaker listed for Monday’s series opener against the A’s at home — on six days’ rest — and there’s strong indication that Richards will be the one taking the ball on Sunday. Richards gave up five runs in five innings at Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, then threw a between-starts bullpen session in Houston on Friday and said he feels ready to return to the big leagues.
Adam Wilk, temporarily serving as a long reliever, is expected to be sent back to the Minors when Richards is activated.
Richards’ return would be a big boost to the club.
“When teams play us, they wonder if they’re going to miss G-Rich or not,” Angels third baseman David Freese said in a recent story. “He’s that type of pitcher. He’s big to our rotation. What he did last year, hopefully he can build on that. From the looks of it, he’s ready to go.”
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.”
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.”
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.
The Angels are in Houston this weekend, and they hope to see Josh Hamilton for the first time in 2015.
“Hopefully we’ll connect with him face-to-face,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said prior to Monday’s game against Hamilton’s former team, the Rangers. “Everybody’s been in touch with him, but we want to connect with him and just see where everything is. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see him.”
Hamilton — without a locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Angel Stadium — has been in Houston since early February, rehabbing from surgery to his right A.C. joint while staying at a friend’s house. There’s a growing sense that Hamilton won’t play for the Angels this season, with the only question being whether the two sides can agree on a buyout for a contract that will pay him $83 million through the 2017 season.
The 33-year-old outfielder is not expected to stop by the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park during the upcoming weekend series in Houston, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Scioscia said the situation is “very frustrating” “on some levels.”
“It just seems like as you try to get more clarity, it seems like it’s getting foggier and foggier,” Scioscia said. “We’ll see where this is and where this leads, and just where Josh is. I think first and foremost, we’re hoping Josh is getting the help and support that he needs.”
Some additional notes from Monday …
- Kole Calhoun is out of the lineup for a second straight game, with Collin Cowgill leading off and Matt Joyce starting against a lefty (both firsts). Calhoun took part in pregame activities, though, and expects to return Tuesday. He could be used as a pinch-hitter on Monday if needed, too.
- Remember that Prince Fielder bunt against the Angels in Spring Training? Yeah, that won’t happen again. The Angels will have David Freese on the left side of the infield when he comes to bat tonight in case he tries it again. Freese will then move to where the shortstop is situated on two-strike counts.
- Asked if Tuesday’s start for Triple-A Salt Lake will be Garrett Richards‘ last one before returning to the rotation, Scioscia said “possibly.” “We’re definitely going to err on the side of caution,” Scioscia added. “But if a guy is down there wasting pitches, you don’t want to get in that scenario. We’ll balance it out, see where Garrett is, get information from our medical staff and from our Triple-A staff and see where he is.”
- Mike Trout didn’t hear from anybody on the Royals after his brief dust-up with Yordano Ventura on Sunday. “It was just one of those things,” Trout said. “I was playing my game. I hit a single, and things got a little chippy.”
The Angels just got swept! At home! To the team that swept them last October! And now they’re under .500! Another slow start! Why, God, why!?
Perspective is an invaluable trait this time of year. Six games have been played, which accounts for 3.09 percent of the regular season. Teams will get hot, then cold, then hot, then cold again. The season is that long. And the hope of every club, as Angels catcher Chris Iannetta likes to frequently point out, is to stay within reach for most of the year and get hot late. That’s what the 2014 Angels did, on their way to a Major League-best 98 wins. That’s what the 2015 Angels hope to do, at 2-4 entering a six-game road trip through Arlington and Houston.
Here are some takeaways from the first full week of real games …
Hamilton situation is getting ugly: For a while now, people around the team had been getting the impression that there was a strong chance Josh Hamilton would never play a game for the Angels again. Those sentiments were essentially confirmed on Friday, when owner Arte Moreno couldn’t guarantee that Hamilton would rejoin the team and talked about pursuing action against the high-priced outfielder for his drug-related relapse. Nobody from Hamilton’s camp — himself or his agent — has spoken up. But on Saturday, Angels starter C.J. Wilson expressed displeasure in the Angels’ comments, telling the LA Times, “It doesn’t seem like any bridges are being built,” and telling the OC Register, “If Josh was hitting .300 with 35 home runs a year, what’s the situation?”
From the outside, it seems as if this whole Hamilton saga — however it ends — is a huge distraction for the team, one that has divided the players from ownership. Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t think Wilson’s anger is necessarily felt by the rest of his teammates. They all love Hamilton as a person — how can you not? — but it’s not as if they’re clamoring to get him back, or are upset he isn’t being given a second chance. Sad as this may sound, it all comes back to production, and Hamilton hasn’t produced for them the last two years. Wilson is closer to Hamilton than anybody on the Angels, dating back to their days with the Rangers. He looks at it a little bit more personally. The rest of the team pretty much looks at it like this: We hope the best for Hamilton and his family off the field, but on the field, we’re fine without him.
That doesn’t mean this isn’t a contentious situation, however. Moreno clearly wants to negotiate some sort of buyout or trade here, but this could be a long, drawn-out battle. Hamilton is owed — no, guaranteed — $83 million through the 2017 season. So why would he take a penny less? Perhaps so he could join another team to continue his career, since Moreno has pretty much made it clear it won’t happen with the Angels. But how much is that worth, in terms of a discount for the Angels? Over the weekend, the Angels are in Houston, the city where Hamilton has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery since early February. The team doesn’t expect to see him. It’s awkward.
Weaver shaky: In his first two starts of the season, Jered Weaver has given up 10 runs on 15 hits (three of them homers) in 10 1/3 innings, prompting the national freakout that has pretty much become an April tradition. His velocity is down again, which is perhaps of most relevance. It’s 84.01 mph on his fastball, after being 87.5 mph in 2014, 87.3 mph in 2013, 88.7 mph in 2012 and 90.1 mph in 2011. Weaver has proven time and time again that he doesn’t need an overpowering fastball to be a reliable, top-of-the-rotation starter. And as Eric Hosmer pointed out to Lyle Spencer after Weaver’s rough start on Saturday, Weaver’s fastball plays up because of his length and delivery (even to a left-handed hitter, apparently).
The only thing you typically care about with Weaver — and the reason being three ticks down is a red flag — is that his right arm is healthy. He started slow last year, too, with a 5.79 ERA after three starts. And eventually he figured it out and turned in a very solid year. His velocity may not be debilitating, but it makes him have to be almost precise with his location and command. And because his delivery has so many moving parts, sometimes it takes him a while to get everything in sync with his release point and his landing leg. Eventually, though, he gets it. And when he does, his fastball velocity picks up a tick or two, like it did down the stretch last season. But the velo has never been as low as it has these last two starts. It’s worth monitoring.
Punchless out of the gate: So far, the same Angels offense that led the Majors in runs last season is 25th in the Majors in OPS (.577), tied for 25th in runs (16) and tied for 28th in batting average (.195). They have four hits in 23 at-bats with runners in scoring position and they haven’t stolen a single base. C.J. Cron is 0-for-13 after a hot spring, while Iannetta is 1-for-18 with 10 — yes, 10 — strikeouts. But hey, it’s really, really early. The Nationals have scored only 13 runs all year, and they’re going to be a juggernaut. The Angels’ offense should eventually be pretty darn good, too. A little slump coming out of spring is nothing six games in Texas can’t fix.
Reinforcements on the way: One aspect that was continually touted about the Angels heading in was their improved starting-pitching depth, and how they were no longer in deep trouble if one of their original five — or in this case, four — struggled. We may see that materialize pretty soon. Garrett Richards is slated for what very well could be his final step on Tuesday, a rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake, and could return to the rotation by early next week. And the two rotation candidates of Spring Training, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano, have thrown well in Triple-A. Heaney pitched seven shutout innings, giving up two hits, walking none and striking out eight. Tropeano pitched six innings of three-run ball, giving up two hits, walking none and striking out seven.
On the Major League side, Wilson was great on Tuesday (eight shutout innings with less than 100 pitches), but really bad on Sunday (seven runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings). Hector Santiago pitched well in Friday’s home opener, but he needed 100 pitches to record 16 outs. The Angels’ ideal pitching staff has Santiago in the bullpen as a dynamic lefty weapon, but that will only be the case if Heaney or Tropeano force their way into the big leagues. They need to prove that with more than one start.
Matchup bullpen taking shape: So far, though, their two current lefty relievers, Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez, are getting the job done. A real difference maker for the Angels this season is having Joe Smith and Huston Street entrenched as the eighth- and ninth-inning relievers. It not only solidifies the last six outs of a lead; it gives Mike Scioscia the freedom to match up in the seventh or earlier. That’s when Ramos and Alvarez can come into play against lefties, with Mike Morin being the go-to guy against righties. The two have combined to hold lefties to two hits and no walks in nine at-bats, striking out three. Neither are traditional lefty specialists. Alvarez is a last-minute converted starter; Ramos has been used mainly in multi-inning roles throughout his career. But it’d be big for the Angels if they can be effective against lefties. There are a lot of dangerous left-handed hitters in the American League West.
Garrett Richards came out of his last start saying, “I feel ready to go.” The 26-year-old right-hander threw seven innings of two-run ball in an intrasquad game on Thursday, the fourth rehab start in Richards’ recovery from left knee surgery. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he’ll make at least one more start, for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday. My guess is he returns to the Angels’ rotation on April 21.
“He still has some hurdles to get over,” Scioscia said.
The Angels are hosting the Royals team that swept them in the ALDS last year.
“Those guys just beat us,” Scioscia said. “Those plays they made defensively were not only game changers, but series changers at the time were made. Those guys made plays at every level. Sometimes it’s not so much what you haven’t done that lost a series or a game. Those guys played at a very, very high level. I’m proud of the season that we had. The disappointment of not going to the playoffs was there, but our guys gave it everything they had.”
Alcides Escobar, SS
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Alex Rios, RF
Salvador Perez, C
Omar Infante, 2B
SP: LH Jason Vargas (0-0, -.– ERA)
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
David Freese, 3B
C.J. Cron, DH
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
Collin Cowgill, LF
Johnny Giavotella, 2B
SP: LH Hector Santiago (0-0, -.– ERA)
- Arte Moreno said the Angels had language in Josh Hamilton‘s contract that gave them recourse in the event of a drug-related relapse, even though that typically isn’t allowed. Asked if he can say Hamilton will play another game for them this season, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”
- Matt Joyce, as you’ve probably noticed, is not in a lineup against a lefty for a second consecutive time.
- The Angels are still “targeting” Drew Rucinski to start Tuesday’s game, which is the first time the Angels need a fifth starter.
The 26-year-old right-hander is next slated to make a Minor League start on April 14 (the first day the Angels need a fifth starter, with Drew Rucinski likely taking the ball in Texas that day). If all goes well, the next step after that for Richards would be returning to the rotation.
My educated guess on when Richards returns to the rotation: April 21.
Another off day on the 16th creates a lot of flexibility, but I’d guess Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Matt Shoemaker pitch the three-game, weekend series in Houston April 17-19 on five days’ rest, then Hector Santiago takes the ball at home against the A’s on Monday, April 20, on the regular four days’ rest. That means Richards starts the next day (again, barring a setback). It would put Richards on six days’ rest heading into his first start, which is time to throw a longer bullpen session to make certain that he’s right.
The Minor League season began Thursday, while the Angels were off. Here’s a look at what the Triple-A Salt Lake roster looks like (this is as strong a group as they’ve had in a while; a testament to the depth the front office has built) …
Catchers: Jett Bandy, Charlie Cutler, Carlos Perez
Infielders: Travis Adair (2B)*, Marc Krauss (1B/LF/RF), Kyle Kubitza (3B), Josh Rutledge (SS), Ryan Wheeler (1B/3B), Alex Yarbrough (2B)
Outfielders: Grant Green (LF/2B/3B/SS), Roger Kieschnick (LF/CF/RF), Alfredo Marte (LF/CF/RF), Daniel Robertson (LF/CF/RF)
Rotation (in order): LH Adam Wilk, LH Andrew Heaney, RH Nick Tropeano, RH Alex Sanabia, RH Zach Stewart
Bullpen: RH Cam Bedrosian, RH Steve Hensley, RH Frank Herrmann, LH Edgar Ibarra, RH Ryan Mattheus, RH Jeremy McBryde, LH Atahualpa Severino, LH Scott Snodgress
And here’s a look at how each of the Angels’ Top 30 Prospects did in their 2015 debuts (the top prospect, Heaney, starts Friday) …
2: SP Sean Newcomb (Class A Burlington): 5 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 9 SO
3: SS Roberto Baldoquin (Class A Inland Empire): 0-for-4, 3 SO
6: Bedrosian (Triple-A Salt Lake): 1 2/3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 SO
7: Kubitza (Triple-A Salt Lake): 1-for-3, 2B, BB, SO
8: SP Nate Smith (Double-A Arkansas): 6 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 SO
10: SP Chris Ellis (Class A Inland Empire): 5 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 7 SO
14: Yarbrough (Triple-A Salt Lake): 2-for-5, 2 SO
16: 3B Kaleb Cowart (Class A Inland Empire): 2-for-4
18: OF Natanael Delgado (Class A Burlington): 0-for-4, RBI, 2 SO
20: Perez (Triple-A Salt Lake): 1-for-4
23: SS Eric Stamets (Double-A Arkansas): 1-for-4
28: 2B Kody Eaves (Class A Inland Empire): 0-for-4, 2 SO
* on the 7-day DL
The Angels’ home opener is today, against the Royals team that swept them out of the ALDS last year. Mike Witt will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. In response to Major League Baseball’s screening mandate, metal detectors have been installed throughout the ballpark. To allow for more time, gates are opening two hours before game time this year, an extra half-hour.
Here’s a look at what’s new with Angels concessions, with information passed along by the Angels’ catering company, Legends Hospitality …
Smoke Ring BBQ Express: Located on Section 237, on the Terrace Level; previously a video game location; features their signature Smoke Ring BBQ Brisket Sandwich.
“A” Wine Cellar: Positioned next to the Oakley store in Section 111 on the main Field Level; features a wide variety of wine by the bottle, served in a souvenir Angels-branded wine decanter; Great American Wine and Woodwork wines offered by the glass; new lounge space located directly across, with three flat-screen TV’s showing the game.
SHOCK TOP Brew Pub: Previously Knothole Club; new items — beer-battered jidori chicken breast, with smoked jalapeño aoli and pickled cabbage slaw on a brioche bun; house-made Bavarian-style soft pretzel sticks, with sweet butter, meld on sea salt and SHOCK TOP beer cheese.
Battered Up: Located at the first- and third-base food courts; previously Jack In The Box; features OC Fair-type food, like funnel cake fries, corn dogs, churros, garlic and regular fries and chicken tenders.
Burger Bites: Previously Jack In The Box; now a destination for burger sliders, served on Hawaiian King Rolls with cheddar cheese and special sauce.
Acai Bowls: Located at Melissa’s window on the third-base food court on Field Level; healthy Brazilian power fruit dessert, with fresh bananas, strawberries, granola and honey.
Hand Dipped Ice Cream: Both club level concession stands, in Sections 317 and 334, will now feature hand-dipped ice cream on waffle bowls.
Nicky Enzo’s Italian Water Ice: Frozen dessert now available on the Terrace Level Concourse on Section 229.
Legends Dog: A foot-long hot dog topped with Smoke Ring BBQ brisket; it was a “secret” item last year that became a favorite, so they’ve added it to the Smoke Ring BBQ on Gate 1 and the Farmer John BBQ stand in Section 242.
Nacho Dog: Available at the Nacho Nachos stand on Section 424, View Level; a foot long hot dog topped with nacho cheese, guacamole and pico de gallo.
Ketel One Club: Previously HALO CLUB; new happy-hour pricing, with hand-rolled sushi station.
Diamond Club: New offerings — nachos with queso fundido, house-made chorizo, pickled onion, cilantro and avocado salsa; fried cashews; house-made potato chips; and carnitas tostadas, with pork cheek, pickled onion and salsa verde.
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!