Results tagged ‘ Jerry DiPoto ’

X-rays negative on Pujols’ left wrist …

X-rays were negative on Albert Pujols’ left wrist, which was hit by a Drew Hutchison fastball that forced him to leave the game.

“He’s OK,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a text message late Wednesday night. “Day-to-day with a bruised hand.”

Pujols was noticeably in a lot of pain after getting plunked in the top of the fourth, but he stayed in the game, ran the bases and played the next half-inning on defense. In the top of the fifth, though, Marc Krauss pinch-hit for him – then drove in the game-winning run with a two-run double two innings later.

Pujols left Rogers Centre early to undergo further examination.

“It didn’t sound good,” Angels center fielder Mike Trout said after an eventual 4-3 win. “I was on first base and at first I thought it hit the knob. But after the replay, I heard everybody saying it hit the wrist. I just hope everything’s all right. He’s a big guy in our lineup.”

Pujols entered Wednesday’s game batting .232 with seven homers and 15 RBIs, but was nonetheless a crucial piece to an offense that had been limited to three runs or less in 22 of the previous 39 games.

The 35-year-old first baseman fractured his left wrist while with the Cardinals in June 2011, banging it against a runner while trying to field a one-hop throw up the first-base line. The injury forced him to miss two weeks, far less than what was initially expected.

“I don’t know if there’s anything residual from when he fractured it in St. Louis,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who wasn’t aware of the severity of Pujols’ latest injury immediately after the game.

“We’re naturally concerned. Just the area it was and some swelling in there. We hope it’s just a bruise and we’ll see how it lines up.”

Alden

Angels, Street agree on extension …

The allure of free agency never really tugged at Huston Street, even though he was less than six months away from hitting the open market as one of the game’s steadiest, most successful closers over the last decade.

“The point of free agency,” Street said, “is to end up where you want to be.”

And Street never wanted to be anywhere else.

He proved it Wednesday afternoon, after finalizing a two-year, $18 million extension that will keep him pitching the ninth inning for the Angels at least through the 2017 season. The deal will pay Street $8 million in 2016 and $9 million in 2017, and it includes a $10 million club option for the 2018 season, with a $1 million buyout.

Street will still make the $7 million he’s owed this season – on the last of a three-year, $21 million extension he signed with the Padres in July 2012 – and will make a total of $34 million in his four full seasons with the Angels if his option is picked up.

It falls a little short of the extension Street eyed at the start of Spring Training, at four years and somewhere between $36 million and $46 million – but it was enough.

“You can’t let your ego get involved,” Street said from the podium at Angel Stadium. “You have to make decisions based on reality and what you really want. I put a lot of value on a lot of other things. First and foremost is happiness of family. Second, my loyalty to winning. I told my teammates in there, ‘If I didn’t think you guys were worth a hill of beans, I wouldn’t have signed this contract.’”

Talks between Street and Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto began in November and never really stopped.

“There was always steady progress, throughout the whole time,” Street said.

“We spent many, many days and hours talking about this,” Dipoto said, “dating back to being in the middle of my vacation walking around in the beaches of Hawaii talking to Huston on a cell phone.”

It all turned early in Spring Training, when Dipoto and Street finally met face-to-face.

Street suggested Sushi Roku, a swanky, high-priced Japanese restaurant in West Scottsdale, and Dipoto obliged. They shared a bottle of wine, ran through an inordinate amount of sushi and spent the better part of four hours talking – about the Angels, about a potential extension, about the game, about life.

The bill was $600, and Dipoto insisted on paying.

“I came back into the office the next day and threw the receipt on the table,” Dipoto said. “It was pure fascination.”

And it was ultimately worth it.

Street has been as steady as they come throughout his 11-year career, posting a 2.83 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP, saving 286 games – tied with Rod Beck for 29th on the all-time list – and cracking two All-Star teams. Over the last five years, his 91.9-percent conversion rate leads the Majors.

“The thing that appeals to me about Huston is you have a three-pitch closer who understands how to carve the strike zone and isn’t ultra-reliant on any one thing,” Dipoto said. “He isn’t ultra-reliant on velocity, he isn’t ultra-reliant on one pitch being any more dominant than the other, he isn’t ultra-reliant on facing righties or lefties. He’s been very consistent in what he does, and he really brings a sense of calm to you.”

The Angels acquired Street from the Padres in a six-player deal last July, parting with four intriguing prospects – Taylor Lindsey, Elliot Morris, Jose Rondon, R.J. Alvarez – because they felt Street could change the makeup of their entire roster.

Then they watched it happen.

Street’s presence moved the reliable Joe Smith to the eighth inning and Kevin Jepsen to the seventh, giving the Angels a lethal back end of the bullpen for the first time in a long time. Jepsen is gone, but Smith is signed through the 2016 season, locking down the final six outs of a game.

“As a manager, your IQ is tied to your bullpen,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “A guy like Huston has a history of making his manager look smart.”

Street began contract negotiations as a self-represented player, then rehired his former agent, Alan Hendricks, to tackle the bulk of the negotiations when the regular season began, so Street could focus on his job on the field.

About a week ago, Street and his wife – six months pregnant with the couple’s third boy – decided to accept the dollars and years the Angels had been offering. The couple has grown fond of the house they rent in Sunset Beach, and as a closer, Street believes it’s necessary to be on a team that is committed to winning long term.

Free agency can wait.

“You want to be where you want to be,” Street said. “In free agency, the only thing you’re really going for is money, and you have to follow where the money is. That’s just not a position I want to be in. Winning is the thing that drove my position, first and foremost, from a professional standpoint. From a personal standpoint, I’m staring at the ocean when I wake up in the morning, with my wife and my kids. I’m very, very lucky to be where I am.”

Alden

Angels offiically send Hamilton back to Rangers …

Josh Hamilton‘s tumultuous stint in Southern California is over.

On Monday afternoon, the Angels and Rangers completed a trade that sent Hamilton back to Arlington and gave his most recent employers some salary relief. The deal was first reported on Friday, but the financial complexities that came with it — the Rangers sent money to the Angels and Hamilton agreed to give up some of his earnings — created a lag.

In the trade, a source said the Rangers will pay the Angels $2 million to $3 million in each of the remaining three years of Hamilton’s contract, which owed him $90.2 million through the 2017 season, including the signing bonus that was spread out over the course of the deal. Hamilton will reportedly sacrifice $6 million of his own, made up for by the fact Texas has no state income tax.

The release said the Angels received “a player to be named later or cash considerations,” but Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said that has yet to be determined.

“The best interest in the Angels’ organization,” Dipoto added, “was to move on.”

The Angels next play the Rangers on July 3-5, in Arlington.

“If I could put my finger on why Josh had a tough time here, we may have been able to help him solve those issues,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said on a conference call. “And I’m sure if he could put a finger on why it was such a struggle for him here, I’m sure he would’ve been able to contribute more than he did. But at the end of the day, this decision is about our 25-man roster, our organization, the health of this group as we move forward. We’re going to part ways with Josh Hamilton, let him rejoin the Texas Rangers, and we’re going to focus on Angels baseball as we move forward.”

Hamilton — the No. 1 overall Draft pick out of high school in 1999, before drug and alcohol addiction kept him out of baseball for three years — tapped into his potential with the Rangers, who initially acquired him from the Reds in December 2007.

From 2008-12 in Texas, Hamilton started five straight All-Star Games, played in back-to-back World Series and won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award. He batted .305/.363/.549 in that five-year span, averaging 28 homers and 101 RBIs per season. But his production slipped considerably after a signing a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels in December 2012.

During his introductory press conference at Globe Life Park, Hamilton said if he had to do it over again, “I probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere; I probably would’ve stayed here.”

“When it was made aware to me that the Angels wanted to move me, my first choice was the Rangers,” Hamilton said. “I’ve had a lot of good memories here.”

The 33-year-old outfielder batted .255/.316/.426 over the last two years, averaging 16 homers and 62 RBIs per season. He went 0-for-13 in the 2014 AL Division Series, generating boos from Angels fans.

Hamilton has been rehabbing from Feb. 4 surgery to his right shoulder in Houston all year, away from the team. His relationship with the Angels’ front office became contentious after he had a drug relapse late in the offseason.

An arbitrator ruled on April 3 that Hamilton did not violate the terms of his treatment program, mainly because he self-reported the relapse to Major League Baseball before a failed test; the Angels were openly upset by the decision. President John Carpino said the ruling “defies logic” and general manager Jerry Dipoto expressed the club’s “disappointment” in Hamilton’s actions with a statement.

The team did not issue Hamilton a locker at its Spring Training facility or at Angel Stadium, and promptly pulled all of his merchandise and likeness from the ballpark. Prior to the home opener on April 10, Angels owner Arte Moreno declined to say Hamilton would play for his team again and added that he hasn’t spoken to Hamilton since the end of the 2014 season.

Asked why, Moreno said, “Probably disappointment.”

Asked his reaction for those comments on Monday, Hamilton said, “I have no clue what he’s talking about.”

“Going into this season, I hadn’t been the player that they wanted me to be,” Hamilton continued. “I know I hadn’t been. But I worked my butt off to be that guy, this year, going into the season for the Angels. They just didn’t want that to happen for some reason. It doesn’t hurt my feelings, it doesn’t make me mad or anything like that. But I prepared. He knew what the deal was when he signed me. Hands down. He knew what he was getting, he knew what the risks were, he knew all those things. Under the [Joint Drug Agreement], it is what it is.”

Later in the press conference, Hamilton had asked if he’d still be with the Angels if they had been more accepting of his relapse.

“I would be,” he said. “I would’ve been in Spring Training, I would’ve rehabbed in Spring Training, and I would’ve been back [on the field] probably a month ago.”

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels expects Hamilton to be back on the field by the middle or end of May. Hamilton has been hitting and taking fly balls, but said he needs to get used to running around with spikes for an extended period of time.

He also said he has gone back to his support group from before 2012, which means, among other things, hiring Shayne Kelley back as his accountability partner. Hamilton is now getting tested five times a week, up from three.

Dipoto was asked on the conference call if this is a move that can come back to haunt the Angels.

“Why would it come back to haunt us?” Dipoto asked, then was told he was trading Hamilton to a division rival and he may have some good years ahead of him.

“Again,” Dipoto said, “we’re comfortable with the decision here.”

Alden

Angels preparing for Josh Hamilton’s next step …

Josh Hamilton was recently cleared for baseball activities and the Angels are putting together a plan that would involve him working out in their Arizona-based extended spring program “in the not-too-distant future,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said.

The team is still sorting through details and has yet to communicate them with Hamilton, who has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery in Houston since early February. An announcement is expected by the end of the week.

“Josh is now to the point where we’re beginning the process of preparing to return him to the field, and that’s going to begin at some point in the not-too-distant future in Tempe,” Dipoto said in a phone conversation on Tuesday morning.

“We don’t have a specific date for that, and we haven’t talked through the detail with Josh at this point. We’re still very much in the planning zone. Like any other player, he’s going to begin an on-field rehab process, and that will begin sooner rather than later. But we still don’t have any defined dates.”

Hamilton could work out there for a couple of weeks, then take part in a rehab assignment at one of their affiliates for up to 20 days – that’s the maximum amount of time allowed for position players on the disabled list – and perhaps be ready to return to the Majors around June.

The Angels still have to determine where Hamilton is in terms of his overall preparedness to play, particularly what kind of running exercises he’s been doing. They know he’s been hitting a lot, taking 200-plus swings a day since March, and teammates who recently saw him raved about his physical condition.

“He’s all of 250 pounds,” said Angels third baseman David Freese, who joined Collin Cowgill and Kole Calhoun for lunch with Hamilton on Thursday, while the team was in Houston. “But I think there’s a lot of things going on between him and the Angels that nobody knows about. That’s between them, and it’s really going on behind closed doors.”

Every option is still at play for Hamilton, who’s owed $83 million through the 2017 season and has a full no-trade clause. The Angels could look to trade him, could release him – which means they assume his entire remaining salary – or could eventually fold him back into the team.

Angels owner Arte Moreno said on April 10 that Hamilton’s contract contains language that gives the team recourse in the event of a drug- or alcohol-related relapse, a point the Major League Baseball Players Association quickly refuted. Moreno could try to act on those provisions, which would undoubtedly lead to an arbitration hearing between the MLBPA and the Commissioner’s Office, but has yet to decide on that, a source said.

The Angels didn’t issue Hamilton a locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Angel Stadium, where any merchandise or images depicting the five-time All-Star have been taken down. Asked if Hamilton will return to the team at some point, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”

If the Angels’ offense continues to struggle – they ranked 21st in runs and 26th in OPS after Monday’s 6-3 loss to the A’s – perhaps there will be more willingness to bring Hamilton back.

For now, all they can do is take the next step in his rehabilitation from Feb. 4 surgery to his right AC joint.

“We are prepared to begin the rehabilitation process on the field sooner rather than later,” said Dipoto, who wouldn’t comment further. “We don’t have a specific date that we’ve coordinated yet, but we’re getting to that.”

Alden

Scioscia reaches out to Hamilton, still ‘no clarity’ …

Angels manager Mike Scioscia touched base with Josh Hamilton when the team arrived in Houston for a weekend series, but said there’s still “no clarity that he’s getting the help he needs.”

“That’s a major concern,” Scioscia told MLBNetwork Radio on Friday morning, roughly nine hours before the series opener against the Astros from Minute Maid Park.

“Hopefully the frustration will start to evaporate as Josh gets through his first physical rehab of getting his shoulder where he needs to be,” Scioscia added. “He had surgery about eight weeks ago, and it seems like he’s turned the corner and it feels pretty good. And then we have to see when he’s able to get back out on the field and play baseball. There’s still some things that are open-ended and natural frustration that comes with uncertainty. That’s kind of what we’re dealing with.”

Hamilton has been in Houston, staying with a friend who acts as a part-time accountability partner, since undergoing surgery in his right A.C. joint on Feb. 4. The 33-year-old outfielder hasn’t been around the team all year – he wasn’t even given a locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Angel Stadium – and isn’t expected to make an appearance at Minute Maid Park this weekend.

On April 3, an arbitrator ruled that Hamilton did not violate the terms of his treatment program and would not be suspended for a self-reported drug relapse that occurred late in the offseason. The ruling noticeably angered the Angels, with president John Carpino saying it “defies logic” and general manager Jerry Dipoto expressing “disappointment” in Hamilton’s actions.

Angels owner Arte Moreno indicated prior to last Friday’s home opener that he’ll seek action against Hamilton, who has provisions in his contract that may give the team recourse in the event of drug or alcohol use. Asked if Hamilton will play another game for the Angels, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”

“It’s a unique situation,” Scioscia said. “First and foremost, we want to make sure Josh is getting the help and support he needs. It’s important to Josh getting back to where he needs to be and getting on the field and playing baseball.”

Scioscia, who will address the matter further from Minute Maid Park on Friday afternoon, did not specify what kind of help Hamilton is currently receiving and whether or not the two met face-to-face.

“He’s still doing his rehab, and we’ll see when he’s ready to get into full baseball activities,” Scioscia said. “Nothing much has changed.”

Alden

Moreno: Angels have recourse for Hamilton relapse …

Angels owner Arte Moreno said prior to Friday’s home opener that Josh Hamilton has language in his contract that gives the team an avenue for recourse if he drinks alcohol or uses drugs. Moreno didn’t go into specifics as to what that recourse would entail, but he did hint that the team is pursuing action against their high-priced outfielder, who had a drug-related relapse late in the offseason and has been rehabbing shoulder surgery in Houston ever since.

Seven days ago, an arbitrator ruled that Hamilton did not violate the terms of his treatment program, leaving Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred without any power to levy a suspension. That noticeably angered the Angels, with president John Carpino saying in a statement that the decision “defies logic” and general manager Jerry Dipoto saying the club is “disappointed” in Hamilton.

Hamilton hasn’t been with the team all year. He didn’t have a locker at their Spring Training facility and he doesn’t have one at Angel Stadium, either. Asked if he could say Hamilton will play another game for the Angels this season, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”

A buyout or a trade would be very difficult, given that Hamilton — entering his age-34 season, recovering from right AC joint surgery on Feb. 4 and coming off two unproductive season — is owed $83 million and has a full no-trade clause. The contract language Moreno mentioned could change everything, though.

Normally teams are not allowed to put any additional language to protect them against usage of drugs or performance-enhancing substances. That’s what the Joint Drug Agreement is intended to protect against.

Moreno said you can add additional language to a contract if all sides — the player, his agents, MLB and the MLB Players Association — agrees.

“We have a contract with Hamilton, and in that contract, there’s specific language that he signed, and his agents approved, that said he cannot drink and use drugs,” Moreno said”. So we have specific language in the agreement. … We have a couple of other players that have the same thing.”

Moreno said he hasn’t spoken to Hamilton. Asked why, Moreno said: “Probably disappointed. But I think more than anything, we look at accountability — with all of our players. … I think that’s probably the biggest word here. We understand that he’s had struggles, and obviously he’s still having struggles, but the reality is there’s accountability. When you make an agreement, you need to stand up.”

Alden

Lineups and Notes, Game 3 …

The Angels have been a target of heavy scrutiny of late, with many criticizing their response to news that Josh Hamilton wouldn’t be suspended and some even suggesting that they leaked news of Hamilton’s situation, which violates the collectively bargained Joint Drug Agreement.

But Commissioner Rob Manfred indicated Wednesday that Major League Baseball is not investigating the Angels for alleged leaks, saying, “I have no reason to believe that the Angels did anything inappropriate.”

An arbitrator ruled Friday that Hamilton would not be suspended for a drug-related relapse, mainly because he self-reported the issue before a failed drug test. A statement written under general manager Jerry Dipoto said the Angels were “disappointed” in Hamilton. President John Carpino said, “It defies logic that Josh’s reported behavior is not a violation of his current program.”

Asked if he believes those comments will make it difficult for Hamilton to play for the Angels, Manfred said: “I’m sure that the club and the player will find a way to work together going forward. I don’t think it’s as serious a problem as a go-forward basis as it might appear to some.”

The Angels don’t have any further updates on Hamilton, but they’ll be in Houston next week, where Hamilton has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery since the team began Spring Training.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t know if Hamilton will even be around the team then.

“I think right now the most important thing for Josh is to make sure he’s getting the help he needs, getting the support,” Scioscia said. “That’s where our concerns are. Well touch base with him.”

Angels (1-1)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, DH
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
Efren Navarro, LF
Johnny Giavotella, 2B

SP: RH Matt Shoemaker (0-0, -.– ERA)

Mariners (1-1)

Austin Jackson, CF
Dustin Ackley, LF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, RF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Rickie Weeks, DH
Logan Morrison, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Brad Miller, SS

SP: Hisashi Iwakuma (0-0, -.– ERA)

Brooks Baseball had Jered Weaver averaging 83.5 mph on his fastball on Opening Day, which would be the slowest average fastball velocity of his career. Scioscia said he isn’t concerned: “It points more toward being in sync mechanically than anything else. He was missing up a lot, never really got his changeup into the game like he can. I wouldn’t say there’s any red flags. The way he finished up last year and the crispness he showed at times in the spring, hell get it.”

Alden

Lines and Notes, Game 2 …

Angels manager Mike Scioscia called Matt Joyce into his office early Tuesday afternoon to let him know he wouldn’t be in the lineup against Mariners lefty James Paxton, and perhaps also to ensure him that he isn’t a strict platoon player.

Joyce — heading into his final year before free agency — entered the season hopeful that he would be used in more of an everyday role, contrary to how he was used with the Rays, who gave him only 93 plate appearances against lefties. But he’s sitting against the first lefty of the season, with Collin Cowgill playing left field and David Freese moving into the cleanup spot. Scioscia explained to Joyce that he wants to incorporate his bench players more frequently early in the season.

Down the road,

“I wouldn’t say that I’m really surprised,” Joyce said of not being in the lineup. “For the last week, I haven’t really been dialed in. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes. If I was squaring a lot of balls left and right and was feeling good this past week, I’d be a lot more surprised than I am. But that’s the way the game goes sometimes. It’s a tough game, and it’s even tougher to be really consistent at. But for me, I’m going to be prepared for later in the game, when the situation arises and he looks my way, to come in the clutch or whatever it may be.”

Joyce, a 30-year-old left-handed hitter, has a career .819 OPS against righties and a .573 OPS against lefties. It’s a double-edged sword: You’re not going to get at-bats against same-side pitchers if you aren’t good against them, but you can’t get good against them unless you see them often.

“It’s extremely tough,” Joyce said. “It’s extremely tough when you’re going well and you’re seeing them a lot. I don’t think it’s anything that I’m really frustrated with. I’ll take the at-bats from lefties as they come and just keep working, man. That’s all you can do. Keep preparing and keep grinding. It’s a long season, so I’m sure I’ll get plenty of at-bats against them.”

Here are the lineups …

Angels (0-1)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Freese, 3B
C.J. Cron, DH
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
Cowgill, LF
Johnny Giavotella, 2B

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Mariners (1-0)

Rickie Weeks, DH
Austin Jackson, CF
Robinson, Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, RF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Justin Ruggiano, LF
Logan Morrison, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Brad Miller, SS

SP: LH Paxton (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Huston Street didn’t want to talk about a potential extension on Monday, but was more than happy to take questions Tuesday and echoed the same sentiments Jerry Dipoto had prior to Opening Day: Talks have been good, and they will continue.

“We are close enough that I’m still engaged,” said Street, who was self represented but rehired his former agent, Alan Hendricks, to do the bulk of the negotiating with the team because the season has begun.

“I wanted to get it done before [the season], as every player does, for no other reason than it allows you to be singularly focused on your teammates. But the parameters are pretty clear based on timetables. The only thing that could shift anything is the amount of time it takes. Signing a contrat in April is a little different than signing in August. But we have a clear understanding of how timing of getting something done may or may not shift those parameters.”

Street wouldn’t go into specifics of how much of the deal is done and what the chances are that something will be done, but said, “I’m a blend of hopeful and optimistic.”

Alden

Extension with Street ‘still possible’ …

Opening Day is here, but a contract extension with Huston Street is “still possible,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said.

“There were no deadlines in place,” Dipoto said prior to Monday’s game from Safeco Field. ‘We’re continuing to discuss. He wants to be here, we want him here. We’re not in a rush to get to anything, and we never will.”

Street, self-represented, is entering his final season before free agency and has been in casual negotiations with the Angels about an extension since the early stages of the offseason. The veteran closer previously said he would only continue to negotiate an extension past Opening Day if both sides have the parameters in place, but there’s no indication if that’s the case.

Street, who declined to speak with the media prior to Monday’s game, was initially seeking a four-year deal between $36 million and $46 million. One of those years would ideally replace his $7 million salary for the 2015 season, and that can still happen, as long as he finishes the year making his new salary. A higher salary in 2015 would be more beneficial to the Angels because they have $10 million to $15 million of wiggle room below the luxury-tax threshold.

“We have all year to negotiate with Huston,” Dipoto said, “and as long as he’s going to remain open to the possibility, so are we. But it’s not something that we have predetermined is going to happen, nor has he. We’re staying open to the possibility.”

The Angels were previously in a holding pattern while waiting on clarity regarding Josh Hamilton‘s situation. The fact he won’t be suspended means they get no additional salary relief, which may impact how much they’re willing to pay Street. But both sides remain interested, and they seem willing to keep negotiating.

Dipoto said the talks have had a “friendly tone.”

“We’re not hard-core negotiation at a table staring at each other trying to find whether we will or we won’t,” he said.

Alden

And so it begins …

safeco-fieldOpening 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 …

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!

Alden

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166 other followers

%d bloggers like this: