Results tagged ‘ J.B. Shuck ’
Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton, one of the hottest hitters in baseball, is expected to have surgery on his left thumb that could put him on the shelf until June.
An MRI on Hamilton’s left thumb, which he injured while sliding headfirst into first base in the seventh inning at Safeco Field on Tuesday, revealed that he suffered a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament along with a torn capsule.
Hamilton has already been told by the Angels’ medical staff that he will likely undergo surgery, which carries an estimated recovery time of 6-8 weeks, but it won’t be official until he meets with Dr. Steven Shin on Friday.
With Hamilton headed for the disabled list, outfielder J.B. Shuck has been recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake.
“The news sucks,” Hamilton said prior to Wednesday’s game against the Mariners. “Any time you play and you’re playing hard and you’re having fun, the last thing you want to do is do something that’s going to cost you to miss time and maybe hurts your team in the long run. If I could see a future, obviously I wouldn’t do it. But in the moment, when my mind and my body tells me to do something and react some way, I’ve always done it. That’s what I do. I can’t change that.”
Hamilton – delayed earlier in Spring Training with a strained left calf – was finally starting to display the tools that made him a five-time All-Star in Texas, entering Tuesday’s game with a .500 batting average, a couple of homers and a team-leading six walks.
But he banged his left thumb up against the first-base bag while trying to beat out a slow roller to shortstop, had a hard time throwing in the outfield, didn’t feel good while taking dry swings in the batting cage and asked Angels manager Mike Scioscia to pinch-hit for him with two on and none out in the ninth inning of an eventual 5-3 loss.
This is the first time he’s injured his thumb.
“When I got in the dugout, it didn’t feel like anything different than I’ve had before in terms of a jammed finger. When I went out to the outfield and gripped the ball and threw the first three 30 feet to the left of where I was aiming, that was an indication something might be wrong.”
Hamilton is confident he can pick up where he left off because the thumb injury allows him to continue to work out and even swing the bat one-handed. Injuring the left thumb, as opposed to the right thumb, is more ideal for a left-handed hitter, Hamilton noted.
“I don’t plan on being as far behind as people think I’ll be,” Hamilton said. “Everyone thought I’d be far behind in Spring Training without as many at-bats. It’ll be good.”
With Hamilton gone, I expect Collin Cowgill (RHH) and Shuck (LHH) to platoon at left field and leadoff, with Kole Calhoun sliding down in the order to give the middle of the lineup more pop. But I’ll know more when Scioscia talks pregame. Here are today’s lineups …
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Chris Iannetta, C
Ian Stewart, 1B
Erick Aybar, SS
SP: RH Garrett Richards (1-0, 1.80 ERA)
Abraham Almonte, CF
Brad Miller, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Justin Smoak, 1B
Corey Hart, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Logan Morrison, RF
Dustin Ackley, LF
Mike Zunino, C
SP: LH Roenis Elias (0-0, 1.80 ERA)
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
Second-most important thing: Tyler Skaggs pitched around seven hits and three walks to give up only two runs (one earned) in 5 1/3 innings. His stuff looked much better than it did five days ago, when he gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings against the White Sox.
Third-most important thing: The Angels have won six games in a row. I know Spring Training records mean next to nothing, but every starter looks on track, their key relievers have pitched well and the offense looks very good. Let’s see how it translates into the regular season.
Fourth-most important thing: One guy who hasn’t been clicking much is Raul Ibanez, but he got an RBI single and hit two balls hard on Monday. A good sign for someone who entered with only eight hits in 42 at-bats.
Fifth-most important thing: It’s getting close to decision time, and Grant Green (2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs, putting his batting average at .349) and J.B. Shuck (2-for-2 with a double and two RBIs, now batting at a .283 clip) had strong games.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Two good plays, actually — one to Skaggs for avoiding a broken bat that was flying at his face in the first, one for Howie Kendrick for diving up the middle to get a force out on a Michael Morse grounder.
Best quote: Mike Scioscia on the Angels’ winning streak: “We’re doing a lot of things that we’re going to need to do to win ballgames during the season. We’re playing defense, our pitching has been really, really strong all spring, and on the offensive side you can see the potential depth of our lineup when you have a guy like Howie hitting sixth or seventh. There’s some good things that we’ve been doing the last couple weeks and we just need to keep going these last few days; keep pushing and get ready for Opening Day.”
Angels’ record: 15-10-2
Very little has been reported with regards to a potential Mike Trout extension ever since the Angels’ 22-year-old center fielder agreed on a $1 million for 2014 (a record for a pre-arbitration player).
Is that good or bad?
“I haven’t heard anything, either,” Trout said. “Is that good or bad? Uh, I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I’m just getting ready for the season, worried about getting off to a good start.”
The Angels have been very tight-lipped about talks and Trout’s agent, Craig Landis, typically keeps everything close to the vest. Asked if there’s any reason to think things have hit a snag because it hasn’t happened yet, Trout, who’s uncomfortable talking contract, said, “No, no. … We’re getting ready for the season.”
Trout landed awkwardly on a dive attempt on Sunday, then struck out looking in his next two plate appearances and was the only everyday player who wasn’t in the Angels’ lineup on Monday.
But he felt fine.
“It was all right,” Trout said. “It scared me more than anything. But I think the rug burn hurt more than the fall. I’m not sore or anything today. Good to go. I dived, when I rolled, the glove came off my hand. That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me. Usually I just slide. If the glove didn’t come off, I would have caught it. Seen a lot of injuries happen like that.”
Here are some notes from Monday morning (lineup here) …
- The tentative pitching schedule the rest of the week: Jered Weaver will pitch in a Minor League game on Tuesday, C.J. Wilson will start against the A’s in Phoenix on Wednesday, Hector Santiago will go against the Dodgers on Thursday, Joe Blanton will start against the Dodgers on Friday, Garrett Richards will start the Freeway Series finale on Saturday and Tyler Skaggs will start Sunday (an off day; so probably in a Minor League game or sim game of some sort).
- Obviously, Weaver is the Opening Day starter. But Mike Scioscia won’t announce it until he comes out of his last session OK.
- The Angels will not be opening the season with an eight-man bullpen. Scioscia floated the idea earlier in spring, but that was never really much of a possibility.
- Asked about opening the season with an all-righty bullpen, with Brian Moran (left elbow inflammation) and Sean Burnett (recovery from August forearm surgery) slated to open the season on the disabled list, Scioscia said: “In our bullpen things are still taking shape. [Jose] Alvarez really looked good down there and he’ll pitch for us at some point this week. [Nick] Maronde has shown well. Those guys, I think they’re all in the general mix of pitchers. But again, we’re not going to take a lefty just to take a lefty. We’re going to take a lefty who’s functional and will get a lefty out to hold a lead. If that emerges, great. If it doesn’t, we’ll just see where our bullpen is.”
- Asked if he needs to have somebody out of the bullpen who can pitch multiple innings, Scioscia said: “That’s ideal, but mainly we need a guy who can hold leads. With the off days we have in April [they have seven of the first eight Thursdays off], hopefully we can get going without having to have that traditional length in the bullpen.”
- As for the bench? My prediction is the same one I’ve had since the start of spring: Hank Conger, John McDonald, Ian Stewart, Collin Cowgill. Obviously, though, J.B. Shuck is a prime candidate after a great rookie season last year. And Matt Long has had a very good spring (though he still looks like a longshot). Scioscia was, predictably, non-committal. “There’s so many combinations that we’re looking at right now,” Scioscia said. “Obviously we’re going to need a versatile infielder, your second catcher will be on the bench. And how those other bats fall in will be something that we’re going to determine this week.”
- Chris Iannetta is expected to get the majority of time behind the plate this season, though Conger will get plenty of time. “Chris has shown the ability to catch a little bit more, but I think also the ability to have Hank to balance that and take a little pressure off Chris from having to extend himself will keep Chris fresh and keep Hank productive,” Scioscia said. “But they’re both going to get plenty of playing time.”
- Most of the Angels will fly out of Tempe, Ariz., on Tuesday night and work out at Angel Stadium on Wednesday (the day of the last Cactus League game).
Most important thing: The Angels unveiled their everyday lineup on Wednesday, and it did some serious damage. In the six innings the starting nine was together, they plated nine runs and scored in every frame. Albert Pujols lined two doubles to right-center field, Mike Trout hit a solo homer to left-center, Kole Calhoun and Howie Kendrick each notched a couple of hits, Josh Hamilton and David Freese contributed RBI singles, and Erick Aybar brought in a run with a suicide squeeze.
Second-most important thing: Tyler Skaggs struggled once again, despite being given a big lead. The 22-year-old left-hander gave up five runs on seven hits and three walks, striking out two in 4 1/3 innings. Skaggs has now given up 11 runs in his last 11 1/3 innings, putting his Cactus League ERA at 6.14. Two starts remain.
Third-most important thing: Michael Kohn walked the first two batters he faced in the seventh, then gave up an RBI single to Jose Abreu before recording back-to-back outs and exiting. Cory Rasmus immediately gave up a three-run homer to Matt Davidson, charging two more runs to Kohn and making his 8.53 spring ERA deceiving. Mike Scioscia said that while the ball is coming out of Kohn’s hand well, he’s “yanking” the ball, which means he’s flying open with his left shoulder and it’s causing him to miss outside on right-handers.
Fourth-most important thing: Trout took a first-pitch curveball from right-hander Erik Johnson to the left wrist, then stole second base two pitchers later. On Saturday, Trout was hit in the back and stole second base on the next pitch. He loves doing that.
Fifth-most important thing: Some bench hopefuls did some good things. J.B. Shuck hit his fourth triple of the spring, Ian Stewart hit a long home run and Grant Green handled two grounders at shortstop, one of which was a slow roller.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): With two on and two outs in the fifth, Calhoun crashed up against the right-field fence to catch a long line drive off the bat of Dayan Viciedo.
Best quote: Skaggs on his outing: “The command was definitely not what I wanted it to be. I made some good pitches in tough times, but one that you definitely build off as a learning experience today, kind of not going out there and having the command of any of my pitches.”
Angels’ record: 10-10-2
Most important thing: Tyler Skaggs had a long fourth inning, and expended 83 pitches to get only 12 outs, giving up four runs on eight hits (and one solo homer) in Peoria. But he also didn’t walk anybody, threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 19 batters he faced and displayed a very sharp curveball.
Second-most important thing: J.B. Shuck had a monster day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a triple and hitting everything hard. He’s got five hits in his last two games (nine at-bats) after mustering none in his previous five.
Third-most important thing: Kevin Jepsen pitched a scoreless sixth inning, striking out two batters and walking only one — three days after giving up two runs in a relief outing.
Fourth-most important thing: We actually had a smooth replay review. Padres skipper Bud Black challenged a close play at first base on what was originally deemed a Matt Long infield single, and the call was overturned. Mike Scioscia, who has now had two calls overturned on him this spring, didn’t even argue.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): John McDonald, playing his first game at third base, made two solid defensive plays (he’s pretty good at this defense thing). To start the fourth, McDonald slid to his right to field a hard-hit one-hopper by Carlos Quentin and made a quick one-hop throw to first. To end the fourth, he short-hopped a backhand on an Everth Cabrera chopper — a ball that would’ve eaten up a lot of third basemen.
Best quote: Scioscia, on Friday showing the good and bad of a 22-year-old Skaggs: “He’s growing and he’s learning with every outing, and he’s ready for the challenge. He’s going to keep getting better. He’s not the finished product, but his stuff is good.”
Taco power rankings (updated every Friday): 1. Los Taquitos, 2. El Hefe, 3. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 4. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 5. Senor Taco, 6. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 7. Poliberto’s Taco Shop, 8. Salty Senorita
Angels’ record: 8-8-1
Sean Burnett doesn’t know what the difference was between his first “official” bullpen session on Thursday and that supposedly fake one from Sunday.
All he knows is that it felt good, again.
Burnett threw 30 fastballs off the rubber on Thursday morning, just like he had four days earlier, at an estimated 80- to 90-percent intensity. He still has to work in off-speed pitches — which he’s been throwing off flat ground — and estimates he’ll need roughly three of these before he can progress to a live BP session and then ultimately get in games. Burnett expects to throw another one on Sunday, giving him two days of rest in between.
Burnett said it felt “phenomenal.”
I still think he’ll start the season on the disabled list, simply because there’s no need to rush him and you can backdate it. But he’s clearing major hurdles seven months removed from August forearm surgery. Simply throwing off a downhill plane is not something his arm was able to stand up to last season.
“The biggest step probably isn’t physically; it’s more emotionally and mentally,” Burnett said. “Last year I felt so good, and then every time I would get off the mound it would go downhill after a couple of pitches. So it’s a big mental step for me, more than physically. Obviously for the training staff it’s physical, but for the player it’s mental. Today was a big hurdle. I didn’t fatigue, like I did [on Sunday]. Hopefully it progresses, just like my throwing program.”
Some other notes prior to the Angels’ home game against the White Sox (lineup here) …
- Joe Blanton made significant progress against the Rangers, throwing five innings of one-hit ball, walking none and striking out five. The big reason for the improvement, five days after giving up seven runs — and four homers — in 3 1/3 innings against the Rockies, was the decision to pitch from the third-base side of the rubber, rather than the first-base side. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that from the third-base side “he gets a chance to create angles both to lefties and righties, especially with his fastball to be able to get it cross-corner or down or in to a lefty. Also with his breaking ball, whether it’s getting it under a lefty’s swing or having more angle to a righty. They had some good hitters out there, and he looked good.”
- Josh Hamilton (strained left calf) is expected to run cuts and take some live batting practice after regular BP today to see some velocity. The Angels, Scioscia said, “are targeting early next week.”
- Dane De La Rosa (right forearm strain) will be evaluated by the Angels’ medical staff today to see when he can pick up a baseball. “He’s feeling much better,” Scioscia said.
- Scioscia said it isn’t necessary for the backup outfielder to play all three outfield spots, because each of the three starting outfielders — Hamilton, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun — is capable of playing center field. That points favorably to J.B. Shuck, who’s really only a left fielder.
Most important thing: It didn’t happen at home, but Joe Blanton was lights out while playing with the other half of the team in Surprise, Ariz., limiting the Rangers to one lonesome hit in five innings, striking out five. The outing followed one in which he gave up seven runs, and four homers, in 3 1/3 innings against the Rockies.
Second-most important thing: At home, the Angels’ everyday players had their best offensive showing since the Spring Training opener nearly two weeks ago. Albert Pujols (2-for-3 with his second straight line-drive double), David Freese (3-for-3, after going 1-for-his-previous-14), Mike Trout (two runs scored, two RBIs), Kole Calhoun (2-for-4) and Erick Aybar (2-for-3) all had nice games, and the Angels scored eight runs in the second inning off Matt Garza.
Third-most important thing: Hector Santiago was solid, giving up two runs while scattering five hits, walking one and striking out six in 4 1/3 innings. He threw 83 pitches, but he threw 90 before he even showed up to Spring Training.
Fourth-most important thing: The Angels’ offense came alive against the Rangers, too, winning 12-1 and plating eight runs in the first four innings. J.B. Shuck went 2-for-5, Collin Cowgill hit a three-run homer off Alexi Ogando, and Chad Tracy (2-for-4, three RBIs), Efren Navarro (2-for-2), Grant Green (2-for-4) and John McDonald (2-for-2, 3 RBIs) also had multi-hit games.
Fifth-most important thing: Matt Long continues to hit. He went 2-for-4 in Tempe — while playing all three outfield spots — and is batting .536 this spring, with nine hits in his last 13 at-bats.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): In the second, Lyle Overbay smoked a line drive, but Freese dove to his right to snag it.
Best quote: Santiago, on his long wait between the end of the top of the second to the start of the top of the third: “Last year, when I was pitching [for the White Sox], we didn’t have very many big innings. So, it’s been a while. Now I know what it feels like to sit down for so long, and it seems like we’re going to do that a lot. I’ll take 40-minute innings all the time, as long as we’re scoring some runs.”
Angels’ record: 7-7-1
Yep, he’s traveling.
Most of the starters are playing at home against the Brewers, including Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Hector Santiago (both lineups here). But Joe Blanton is starting in Surprise, Ariz, five days after giving up seven runs — and four mammoth homers, according to people who actually watched the road half of the Angels’ first split-squad game — in 3 1/3 innings against the Rockies.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Blanton is only one “minor” reason he’s traveling (most of the time the manager stays at home and sends other coaches). Some potential bench guys (Chad Tracy in left, J.B. Shuck in right, Grant Green at shortstop) are playing positions they’re still getting used to, and the game is against the division-rival Rangers.
“All of us can’t be in one spot all the time,” Scioscia said. “I want to get acclimated with some things.”
Asked how important this start is for Blanton, who’s owed $8.5 million and is without a role right now, Scioscia said: “Every time you’re out there, it’s a proving ground and you need to perform well. Joe, just like most pitchers in spring, your performance is not going to be your line score. Your performance is going to be the execution of pitches, the progress, things like that. In that regard, it’s critical for every pitcher, because we’re opening up in  days. Every pitcher really needs to get that performance locked down, and that performance isn’t their line score. It’s going to be just from a scouting perspective — are they making progress and are they executing their pitches.”
Most important thing: C.J. Wilson was solid once again, giving up only one unearned run in five innings and — most importantly for him — issuing zero walks. The Angels’ No. 2 starter hasn’t allowed an earned run in each of his last two starts, spanning nine innings. This was already Wilson’s second time facing the division-rival Mariners this spring, and he’s slated to see them a third time in five days. Weird.
Second-most important thing: A call was overturned, with Andrew Romine‘s bobble of a force out at second going from an out to a safe call after umpire’s reviewed the replay in the eighth inning. Afterwards, Mike Scioscia spent about 15 minutes talking to umpire Dale Scott to get some clarity on the transfer. With replay now used to confirm, umpires will be more strict with how they call outs on bobbled transfers. Now, Scioscia said, you have to have the ball in your bare hand and out of your glove in order for it to be ruled an out. “Before,” Scioscia added, “it was called really loosely where if you had the ball in your glove and you moved your glove to get it to your bare hand, it was [called an out]. That’s going to change the mechanics of how you turn a double play.”
Third-most important thing: Matt Long, who’s really putting an imprint on this spring, went 3-for-4 with two doubles, one day after going 4-for-5. I still think he’s a longshot to make the team, with J.B. Shuck, Collin Cowgill and Brennan Boesch all ahead of him. But it’s not like this is some fluke. Long has hit at every level in the Minor Leagues (look it up), and he’s very versatile, playing all three outfield positions and second base while batting left-handed. It could get interesting if he keeps this up.
Fourth-most important thing: Albert Pujols made his third diving stop at first base in the first inning, then hit an RBI double in the second that was the first time I’ve seen him really square up the ball all spring.
Fifth-most important thing: Erick Aybar drew another walk today. He now has seven in eight games this spring, a good sign for the speedy shortstop who typically doesn’t display much patience.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Grant Green, who spent all nine innings at third base, ranged slightly to his left to snag a hard-hit line drive off the bat of Humberto Quintero in the fifth. It wasn’t a spectacular play, but it’s a difficult one for someone who isn’t used to playing the hot corner and having to react so quickly.
Best quote: Wilson: “I need to learn to be more efficient. Today was a good example of that. I didn’t walk anybody, so I was popping apple-cider ginger ale in the dugout for that one.”
Angels’ record: 5-7-1