Results tagged ‘ Joe Blanton ’
The Draft starts today, and after going heavy-handed on pitching the last two years, the Angels are expected to target position players this time around. They — like any other team — want to set themselves up so that every time there’s a need on the Major League club, there’s a player in their farm system ready to take over. It’s too risky, not to mention expensive, to rely on the free-agent market to fill holes. Look no further than that brutal offseason heading into 2013, which saw the Angels sign Josh Hamilton, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett. Ouch.
The Cardinals are the gold standard when it comes to organizational depth, as evidenced by a Major League-leading plus-70 run-differential without Adam Wanwright or Matt Adams.
The Angels? Well, they’re working on it.
Their farm system was in need of a major replenishment right around the time Jerry Dipoto took over as general manager after the 2011 season, but major free-agent signings stripped the Angels of early-round picks and new CBA regulations limited how much teams can spend on amateur talent. It’s been a slow process. But over time, the Angels have at least done a good job of building some respectable starting-pitching depth. Some notables …
Triple-A: Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano
Double-A: Nate Smith, Kyle McGowin
Class A Advanced: Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis, Victor Alcantara
Class A: Jeremy Rhoades, Jake Jewell
Lower levels: Joe Gatto, Hunter Green
That brings us to the upcoming offseason, and why that starting-pitching depth could be so important. The Angels — losers of five straight games — could have up to five holes in their lineup once this season ends: catcher, second base, third base, left field, designated hitter. In the majority of those spots — perhaps all of them, if you’re being really cynical — the Angels don’t have players in their organization ready to come up and take over. And their big financial flexibility won’t come after the 2016 season, when C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver and Erick Aybar, among others, come off the books.
Dipoto, with a contract that carries a lingering club option for 2016, knows he’ll eventually have to part ways with some of the precious starting-pitching depth he’s worked so hard to compile. He may have to trade some of it within these next two months, with his club in desperate need of some offense. And he’s almost certain to do so over the winter, given all their upcoming needs.
Here’s a snapshot …
Current option: Chris Iannetta, in the final season of a three-year, $15.55 million extension
In-house replacement(s): Carlos Perez, Jett Bandy
Free-agent options: Iannetta, Alex Avila, John Jaso, Dioner Navarro, Jeff Mathis (!), Matt Wieters
Probable outcome: The rest of this season could play a big part in deciding how the Angels handle this position. They need to find out if Perez, basically a throw-in in the deal that sent Hank Conger to the Astros for Tropeano, is capable of being a semi-regular. Bandy has made some pretty big strides in the last year and is solid defensively, and that free-agent list is pretty compelling. But I’d guess that if the Angels splurge on a free agent, it’s an outfielder, not a catcher.
Current option: David Freese, making $6.425 million in his final arbitration year
In-house replacement(s): Kyle Kubitza
Free-agent options: Freese, Aramis Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Casey McGehee, Alberto Callaspo (!)
Probable outcome: The hope – the initial plan – is that Kubitza is ready to be the everyday third baseman in 2016. The likely scenario is that Kubitza is paired with a right-handed-hitting veteran who doesn’t mind sharing the job and can help Kubitza make the transition to the big leagues. I think it’s unlikely that they make a run at resigning Freese, especially since he’ll probably make good money given the lack of talent in the free-agent pool at third base.
Current option: Johnny Giavotella, controllable through 2019
In-house replacement(s): Giavotella, Josh Rutledge, Grant Green, Taylor Featherston, Alex Yarbrough
Free-agent options: Howie Kendrick (!), Ben Zobrist, Daniel Murphy
Probable outcome: Giavotella has been a revelation of sorts and is out of options. None of the other in-house options are all that appealing, as Spring Training might have shown, but the free-agent market isn’t deep here, either. The Angels don’t really do reunions, but Kendrick was huge for their lineup these last few years and he loves playing in Southern California. This is a position where they may ultimately have to get creative again.
Current option: Matt Joyce, making $4.75 million in his final arbitration year
In-house replacement(s): Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Collin Cowgill, Efren Navarro, Alfredo Marte
Free-agent options: Joyce, Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward, Torii Hunter (!), David Murphy, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Shane Victorino
Probable outcome: As you can see, this is a major, major problem. Outfield is by far the Angels’ biggest organizationally need and they’ll most certainly have to get somebody from the outside. That may happen before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, though. Dipoto has been looking for a left-handed-hitting left fielder for quite a while, and for obvious reasons, he’d like to get someone who’s controllable beyond this season. Upton would be a very appealing option, though.
Current option: C.J. Cron, controllable through 2020
In-house replacement(s): Cron, Marc Krauss
Free-agent options: Chris Davis, Mike Napoli (!), Delmon Young
Probable outcome: This situation is strikingly similar to left field. For the last two years, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been scrounging for that ninth bat, going from Raul Ibanez to Cron to Navarro to Krauss to Green to Cron again. Most teams have this problem, though. Perhaps the Angels remain patient with Cron, but I see them getting two bats before August.
He’s signing a one-day contract, so that he can officially retire with the Angels.
Guerrero is one of two players in Angels history to win an MVP, along with Don Baylor, who will catch the first pitch. Guerrero signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Angels in January 2004,won the American League MVP in his first year and spent six of his 16 seasons with the Angels, batting .319/.381/.546 with 173 home runs and 616 RBIs.
If Guerrero enters the Hall of Fame — he’s got a good chance, with a career .318/.379/.553 slash line, 449 homers, 181 stolen bases and one of the greatest arms in history — he could be the first to enter as an Angel. But he could also go in as a Montreal Expo (.323/.390/.580 with 234 homers in his first eight seasons).
Guerrero batted .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs with the Rangers in 2010, then .290 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs with the Orioles in 2011, which ended up being his last season.
Here are the Opening Day lineups …
Abraham Almonte, CF
Brad Miller, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Justin Smoak, 1B
Logan Morrison, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Michael Saunders, RF
Dustin Ackley, LF
Mike Zunino, C
SP: RH Felix Hernandez (0-0, -.– ERA)
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
David Freese, 3B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS
SP: RH Jered Weaver (0-0, -.– ERA)
Some pregame notes …
- Mike Scioscia is happy to report that he’s lost 40 1/2 pounds since Nov. 1, “and I’ve got 25 more to go.”
- In case you missed it, the A’s signed Joe Blanton to a Minor League contract. In semi-related news, the Mets signed Bobby Abreu to a Minor League deal.
- Dane De La Rosa (right forearm strain) threw an inning in a Minor League game on Thursday and Saturday and is slated to pitch in a sim game at Angel Stadium on Tuesday, just before venturing out on a rehab assignment. He looks lined up to be activated by the time the Angels return from a six-game trip, for the April 11 home game against the Mets.
- Sean Burnett (recovery from August elbow surgery) expects to pitch in a sim game on Wednesday, then probably head to Arizona to appear in games there. On not being active for Opening Day, Burnett said, “Yeah, it’s frustrating, but we’re going in the right direction.”
- Brian Moran (left elbow inflammation) is playing catch in Arizona, and Scioscia said he’s “close” to getting off a mound. Moran hasn’t since appearing in a game on March 12.
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
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).
If you’re coming to Tempe Diablo Stadium today, you’re going to see Josh Hamilton — back at his customary 240 pounds — make his Spring Training debut. He’s batting third and serving as the designated hitter, and will get two or three at-bats.
St. Patrick’s Day is exactly two weeks from Opening Day, but Hamilton said Sunday that starting the season on the disabled list “isn’t even on the table,” even though he typically likes to get somewhere between 45 and 55 at-bats to get ready for the regular season. He can load up on at-bats in Minor League games, and he’s been taking part in live batting practice in each of the previous three days.
- Raul Ibanez, as you might have noticed, debuts at first base today — a position he hasn’t started since 2005. If Ibanez and/or Calhoun can prove capable of playing first base, then Scioscia won’t have to change his lineup on the days Albert Pujols DH’s.
- Garrett Richards will pitch on the main field at Tempe Diablo Stadium at 1 p.m. PT during the Angels’ off day on Tuesday, against another organization’s Triple-A team. Hank Conger will catch, and Ernesto Frieri is also slated to pitch. Richards will get up at least six times.
- Pujols got permission to leave the team today in order to attend an event benefiting the Pujols Family Foundation in Chicago. He’s expected back on Tuesday.
- Speaking of Pujols, we’re five days away from the first official game of the regular season (in Australia), which is a good time to look at the Angels’ No. 5.
- The Angels optioned five players to Triple-A Salt Lake: Right-handed reliever Josh Wall, left-handed reliever Buddy Boshers, first baseman Efren Navarro, third baseman Luis Jimenez and shortstop Tommy Field. They’re now at 44 players.
- Mike Scioscia will stay at home to watch Hector Santiago; pitching coach Mike Butcher (and probably a ton of scouts) will go to Mesa, Ariz., to watch Joe Blanton.
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: Hector Santiago was crazy efficient, throwing four one-hit innings and then having to go to the bullpen for 15 extra pitches just so he can get all his work in. He didn’t walk any batters and struck out five. Yes, most of the guys he was facing were Minor Leaguers, but it was a good sign nonetheless. He says he’s 10-for-10 throwing his screwball for strikes, and I’ll have to take his word for it.
Second-most important thing: Joe Blanton struggled mightily at the other game against the Rockies in Salt River Fields, giving up seven runs on eight hits (four of them homers) in 3 1/3 innings.
Third-most important thing: Hitters are normally behind the pitchers this time of year, so perhaps it should be no surprise that the Angels starters have been shutout in the first five innings of five of their previous six games heading into today. Against the Cubs, they managed one run (a Raul Ibanez fielder’s choice) in those first five innings.
Fourth-most important thing: C.J. Cron came up with a clutch hit once again. One day after hitting a three-run, game-tying homer in the ninth inning, the power-hitting prospect hit a two-out single in the eighth inning to give the Angels the lead (albeit briefly).
Fifth-most important thing: Josh Wall gave up two ninth-inning runs to lose the game and has now given up four in three innings.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Cubs center fielder Junior Lake laid down a perfect bunt in the fourth, but third baseman David Freese charged hard and made a nice barehand play for the out.
Best quote: Mike Scioscia, on Cron’s clutch hitting: “C.J.’s looking very comfortable. The growth he’s had in the last year and a half of playing baseball has been very noticeable.”
Angels’ record: 3-5-1
Taco power rankings (updated every Friday): 1. Los Taquitos, 2. El Hefe, 3. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 4. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 5. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 6. Poliberto’s Taco Shop, 7. Salty Senorita
Dane De La Rosa‘s forearm injury, which caused a rough outing against the Dodgers on Thursday and prompted him to leave the game early, was diagnosed as a sprain, an MRI confirmed, and the Angels’ power reliever doesn’t believe he’ll start the season on the disabled list.
“I doubt it,” a relieved De La Rosa said Friday morning, while hooked up to an electronic muscle massager.
“I should be fine. I’m not sure about the timeline, I can’t really say, but it won’t be too long.”
Starting the sixth inning from Tempe Diablo Stadium, De La Rosa — the journeyman 31-year-old coming off a breakout season in 2013 — allowed five of the seven batters he faced to reach and served up a grand slam to Scott Van Slyke. With two outs in the inning, he was checked on by the Angels’ medical staff and removed from the game.
“I just didn’t feel the ball,” De La Rosa said. “There were a few times when I just had no idea where it was going. I just couldn’t feel fingertips. If you can’t feel your fingertips when you’re pitching, it’s not a good thing.”
De La Rosa said he and the Angels will “attack [rehab] pretty aggressively,” but he didn’t have a gauge on a timeline because he hasn’t visited with the team’s medical staff yet. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said a return by Opening Day, on March 31, is “still realistic because he’s a bullpen guy, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
De La Rosa earned the nickname “Everyday Dane” last season for the frequency of his usage. He pitched in 75 games, fifth-most in the American League, while posting a 2.86 ERA and emerging as the team’s setup man down the stretch.
Asked if all those appearances have caught up with De La Rosa, Scioscia said: “I mean, his bullpens have been great. He didn’t show any signs of anything last year. But I don’t know if you ever really know.”
- C.J. Wilson on Dr. Frank Jobe, who passed away on Thursday: “The pitcher’s elbow is like Humpty Dumpty, and he figured out how to put it back together again.” The Angels left-hander, like many, believes guys like Dr. Jobe and Dr. Lewis Yocum, who passed away last year, should be enshrined in Cooperstown.
- The Angels will meet with Major League Baseball at some point in the next week, where they’ll look at video of Thursday’s play at home plate. Scioscia said the meeting was pre-planned and not a reaction to yesterday’s play. Mike Trout was looking at pictures of his slide on his phone in the clubhouse and said he’s still confused about Rule 7.13 on home-plate collisions. Many are. “Guess I have to do my homework,” he said.
- Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is in full uniform today and was chatting up with Trout during warmups. He’ll shag fly balls and take batting practice. Albert Pujols has played golf with him several times and, not surprisingly, says he can drive the ball a long, long way.
- Catcher John Hester is fine after taking a fastball to his left wrist in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game. He didn’t require X-rays and may even play against the Rockies today.
- Today is the Angels’ first split-squad game of the spring. Triple-A manager Keith Johnson will focus on the offense, player information coach Rick Eckstein will handle the defense and Erik Bennett will be the pitching coach.
- Some notes for the game against the Cubs in Tempe today: Kole Calhoun has led off in six of the Angels’ seven Cactus League games, so, yes, he’ll be the leadoff hitter this year. “You kind of get caught in the middle, I guess, because I do like to be aggressive but right now you kind of have to take a step back and see some more pitches,” Calhoun said. … Trout, Pujols, David Freese, Howie Kendrick, J.B. Shuck, Hank Conger and Erick Aybar are also in that lineup, with Hector Santiago starting.
- Some notes for the game against the Rockies at Salt River Fields: Grant Green will get his first spring start at third base. … Bench competitors Andrew Romine (shortstop), Ian Stewart (first base), Collin Cowgill (center field) and Brennan Boesch (left field) are also in the lineup, with Joe Blanton starting.