Results tagged ‘ Josh Hamilton ’

Narrowing down the Angels’ postseason roster …

The Angels have a lot of questions to sort through before their postseason roster must be submitted to Major League Baseball on the morning of Oct. 2, must prominent of which is the health of Josh Hamilton and Matt Shoemaker. Assuming Hamilton and Shoemaker are healthy (-ish), here’s a look at the players I deem locks to crack Mike Scioscia‘s ALDS roster …

Starting lineup

Chris Iannetta
Albert Pujols
Howie Kendrick
David Freese
Erick Aybar
Hamilton
Mike Trout
Kole Calhoun

Starting rotation

Jered Weaver
C.J. Wilson
Shoemaker
Hector Santiago

Relievers

Huston Street
Joe Smith
Kevin Jepsen
Jason Grilli
Fernando Salas
Mike Morin

Reserves

Hank Conger
Gordon Beckham
Collin Cowgill

That’s 21 of 25 spots. Now here’s a look at the guys who are perceivably on the bubble (again, just my educated guess here) …

SS/3B/2B John McDonald: The 39-year-old has had a very set role all year, as a late-game defensive replacement for Freese at third base, but it would be tough to carry him given the fact Beckham — acquired with the playoffs in mind — can essentially fill the same role.

DH/LF/RF Brennan Boesch: The power left-handed hitter has started 10 games in September, and entered Monday with six hits (and two homers) in his last 16 at-bats. Scioscia clearly likes playing him, but not in the field, and he may have to if Hamilton can only DH.

1B/LF/RF Efren Navarro: He doesn’t bring as much power as Boesch, but he’s another lefty bat who has adjusted quickly to the outfield and is a very disciplined hitter.

1B/DH C.J. Cron: I expect at least one of Boesch or Navarro to make the team, and I’d be shocked if Cron didn’t make it as a right-handed power bat who can start (or pinch-hit) against a lefty.

CF/LF/RF Tony Campana: Campana can play a very particular role on this team, as a Chone Figgins-esque pinch-runner. His placement on the roster could hinge greatly on whether the Angels go with a 12-man pitching staff (commonplace for the regular season) or 11-man pitching staff (commonplace for the shorter ALDS).

LH Joe Thatcher: It seemed like a given that Thatcher would crack the roster as that critical lefty specialist when the Angels traded for him in July, but he’s been slowed by an ankle injury and hasn’t fared well against lefties this year, and Scioscia has often said he won’t carry a lefty if he isn’t getting outs.

RH Cory Rasmus: The Angels have plenty of right-handed power arms in their bullpen, but Rasmus has pitched well and provides length. Who knows, maybe he even starts a playoff game.

LH Wade LeBlanc: LeBlanc doesn’t seem to have a chance at cracking the roster if Shoemaker is healthy, but what if he has another solid start on Tuesday?

Alden

Hamilton, Shoemaker progressing; Kendrick fine …

Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton “feels pretty good today,” manager Mike Scioscia said prior to Monday’s series opener in Oakland. The 33-year-old hasn’t started doing baseball activities, but he did hit off a tee. Hamilton previously said he hopes to play on Wednesday, but Scioscia said that’s “a little aggressive.” Friday looks like his earliest return date.

Matt Shoemaker, out since last Monday with a strained oblique, said he’s “very optimistic about getting on a mound again.” The 27-year-old rookie continues to make steady progress and played light catch prior to Monday’s game, Scioscia said.

“Last two days,” Shoemaker said, “I’ve noticed the best progress, getting into a lot of physical activity, moving around, getting ready to go.”

Still, Scioscia said it’s “very remote” that Shoemaker appears in a game before the end of the regular season. So he’d probably have to throw in some sort of simulated game to get ready for the postseason, if healthy.

Howie Kendrick was held out of the lineup as a precautionary measure for the left hamstring injury that forced him out of Sunday’s game. Kendrick said he felt good enough to play, and went through all the pregame activities.

“I don’t think it’s anything major,” Kendrick said. “I’m going to go out and do what I would normally do. He just told me I wasn’t going to play today. There was no need to really push it.”

Alden

Hamilton dealing with ‘sharp pain’ in chest area

Josh Hamilton is shut down again, this time with what the Angels’ outfielder described as “a sharp, stabbing pain” near his chest and right ribcage, underneath his armpit.

Hamilton first felt some pain in the area in the second round of early batting practice on Monday and continued to feel worse throughout Tuesday night, his first game back after missing 11 straight contests with stiffness around his right shoulder.

“As I played, as I ran, as I swung, it got worse and worse, to the point where it hurt to breathe,” Hamilton said. “It just felt like my shoulder blade and everything was pretty locked up.”

Hamilton wasn’t with his teammates when they clinched the American League West title on Wednesday. He had MRIs in the morning, all of which checked out fine, then left the team right around game time to see a chiropractor, having a 40-minute session at his office and then getting worked on again at Hamilton’s house later that night. Hamilton was still feeling pain on Thursday, but was going to try to throw.

Asked of his concern that this could prolong, and keep him out of the playoffs, Hamilton said: “You’re always concerned about it. If I woke up today and felt great, then I wouldn’t be concerned about it. I don’t know what to tell you as far as long-term, short-term or whatever, but the thing I’m going to do is whatever I need to do to get back on the field.”

Hamilton — batting .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs — has played in just one game over the last 14 days, and only nine games will remain before the AL Division Series after Thursday. The 33-year-old recently missed time with an injury that began in his right AC joint and spread to his trapezius muscle, prompting him to get three cortisone shots and a couple of trigger-point injections.

Asked if he considers Hamilton’s latest ailment is a setback, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, simply, “I consider it something new.”

“Hopefully it’s a minor blip,” he added, “and we’ll see where we are in a day or two.”

  • Jered Weaver was scratched earlier today, with Wade LeBlanc taking his spot. Now, Weaver will start Saturday, the spot vacated by Matt Shoemaker and his left oblique strain, and then again on the last Friday of the regular season and then for Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday, Oct. 2. So, Weaver’s next three starts will come on six days’ rest, five days’ rest and five days’ rest, respectively.
  • Shoemaker said his left oblique is “definitely better,” which marks the third straight day he’s said that. He’ll continue to get treatment these next few days and then see when he can pick up a ball again.
  • As expected, the Angels trotted out a Triple-A lineup against Felix Hernandez, with none of the regulars playing. After the party died down at Angel Stadium on Wednesday, the players went to Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa, which shut down the bar after 2 a.m. and left it just for members of the Angels. Cabs were lined up outside to take guys home.
  • The Angels entered today with a three-game lead on the Orioles for the best record in baseball. Scioscia, on the importance of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs: “It’s important. We’re going to keep our edge and keep playing hard. But I don’t think it has importance of putting guys at risk for injury.”

Alden

Shoemaker has ‘very mild’ left oblique strain …

Matt ShoemakerTuesday’s MRI revealed what Matt Shoemaker said was a “very mild” strain in his left oblique, an injury that occurred while facing his final hitter in 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Mariners on Monday. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Shoemaker will miss his next scheduled start on Saturday, with yet another bullpen game likely taking place.

Everything else, including Shoemaker’s availability for the postseason, is up in the air.

“The good thing about it is they said it’s mild, so we’re going to literally take it day-by-day,” Shoemaker said. “It’s all by feel. I feel better than I did yesterday, which is a good thing. It’s just soreness, which is to be expected.”

Scioscia isn’t addressing any questions about the Angels in the playoffs because, in his mind, they haven’t clinched a postseason berth until they nail down the American League West title and thus avoid a do-or-die Wild Card game (the Angels’ magic number is three heading into Tuesday). Asked if he’s at least been assured that he can be ready to pitch in the playoffs, Shoemaker said: “Very optimistically, yeah. There’s not been one thing set in stone that says you’re going to be ready in one week, you’re going to be ready in two weeks. There’s none of that. I’m going to show up tomorrow, do more treatment and see how it feels. So, we’ll know something each day.”

The Angels’ standing allows them to rest Shoemaker as long as possible, and they can back him up as deep as Game 4 of the AL Division Series, which would be slated for Oct. 6. Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago would start the first three games.

Shoemaker suffered the injury while throwing a couple of sliders to Mariners catcher Humberto Quintero with two outs in the eighth inning at Angel Stadium on Monday, ultimately forcing him into an RBI groundout and then exiting with 96 pitches under his belt. The 27-year-old rookie, now 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 136 innings, only feels the oblique injury when he does “abnormal movements,” and was encouraged by the fact he already feels better than he did on Monday night.

“The news,” Scioscia said, “could’ve been much worse.”

But oblique strains are tricky. Their time frames can vary, and sometimes, when players think they’ve fully recovered from them, they creep back up. Shoemaker will continue to get treatment and right now, Scioscia said, “it’s open-ended” as to when he can pick up a baseball again.

“You never know where these things go with pitchers,” Scioscia said. “Like hamstring injuries, they have a life of their own, can go a lot of different ways. But Matt does feel that there’s not that much discomfort today. We’ll monitor it these next few days and see where it goes.”

The Angels have already lost two key starters in Garrett Richards (left knee surgery) and Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) since the start of August, and don’t have a fifth starter to take the ball on the days Richards’ spot comes up (reliever Cory Rasmus will start in his place for the fourth straight time, with Scioscia hopeful of getting the usual three to four innings).

Shoemaker’s absence would be crippling in October.

“Unfortunately, right now, you’re talking about three-fifths of your rotation you’re depending a lot on that are out,” Scioscia said. “But you have to move forward, you have to keep pitching, you have to keep getting outs, and we’re confident we will. It just might be a little bit unconventional right now how we do so.”

Additional injury notes …

  • After missing the last 11 games with stiffness near his right shoulder, Josh Hamilton returned to the Angels lineup on Tuesday, batting sixth and serving as the designated hitter. The 33-year-old had what Scioscia hoped was a “breakthrough” workout on Monday, taking batting practice on the field and running the bases. He planned to return on Wednesday, but Scioscia said he “felt great after working in the cage.”
  • Albert Pujols exited Monday’s game in the third inning because of a cramp in his left hamstring, but was right back in the lineup and starting at first base the following day. “Albert is adamant that there’s no pull,” Scioscia said. “The medical staff feels there’s nothing there but a cramp that, really, was gone after the game. We just wanted to err on the side of caution last night. We’ll monitor him in pregame closely today, but right now he feels good to go.”

Angels (94-56)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Pujols, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Hamilton, DH
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
Collin Cowgill, LF

SP: RH Rasmus (3-1, 2.80 ERA)

Alden

Hamilton has ‘incredible’ workout …

Josh HamiltonJosh Hamilton finally took a turn in a positive direction early Monday afternoon, when he took batting practice on the field and ran the bases prior to the series opener against the Mariners.

Hamilton, out since Sept. 4 with stiffness that began in his right AC joint and moved to the area around his trapezius muscle, could return to the Angels’ lineup as soon as Wednesday.

“Hopefully this is a breakthrough day for him as far as his health,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “His workout was incredible.”

Hamilton took swings off the tee in the batting cage, then three rounds of early BP on the field. There was “no pain, no soreness, just a little tightness,” Hamilton said.

“If I do what I did today tomorrow,” Hamilton added, “and you come back the next day feeling like I came in today, then I wouldn’t see a problem with at least DHing the first couple of games. I hadn’t picked up a glove since Texas because I hit in Texas [on Tuesday], it tightened up a little bit and I started throwing and just the movement of the glove fired it up. That’ll be something to work in here in the next couple of days.”

Hamilton has taken two rounds of cortisone shots and eight days ago received some trigger-point injections to relieve some of the knots in his muscle. Lately, though, they’ve backed up on a lot of the treatment to “let the body try to heal itself,” Hamilton said.

The 33-year-old — batting .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 88 games — made a link to 2010, when he missed 24 games with a rib injury and didn’t return until the start of October, playing three games against the Angels and then finding his timing again in the postseason.

“I talked to Scioscia about, even before this injury, kind of having the same approach of Spring Training — have good at-bats, see pitches, barrel balls up,” Hamilton said. “During the season, you kind of get caught up in the numbers aspect of things. I’m at that point in the season now that I’m coming back and it’s going to be like Spring Training.”

Hamilton won’t bat cleanup when he returns, with Scioscia saying he’ll “most likely get in the lineup in a spot where he can get some at-bats without carrying the burden of hitting in the middle of the lineup.” The question is whether Hamilton will be the cleanup hitter once the postseason begins.

That’ll depend on how he looks over these next couple weeks.

“At some point,” Scioscia said, “we know our lineup needs him in the middle.”

Here’s the lefty-stacked lineup against Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma, who’s 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 49 1/3 career innings against the Angels (Mariners lineup). With a win, the Angels clinch a playoff berth …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
David Freese, 3B
Brennan Boesch, DH
Hank Conger, C
Efren Navarro, LF

SP: RH Matt Shoemaker (15-4, 3.16 ERA)

Alden

Hamilton sits again in Boston …

Angels cleanup hitter Josh Hamilton was out of the starting lineup for a second straight day on Monday, with manager Mike Scioscia wanting to give him some extra time to recover from his ongoing slump.

Hamilton has five hits and 18 strikeouts in his last 38 at-bats, dropping his batting average to .266 while keeping him stuck on eight home runs in 72 games. He’s scheduled to come to Fenway Park early on Tuesday to have a one-on-one session with hitting coaches Don Baylor and Dave Hansen “to try to find a comfortable concept in the batter’s box that he can take to the game,” Scioscia said.

“I’m all right,” Hamilton said, “but I don’t make the lineup. … I’m gonna do some early work tomorrow, see how it goes. If I hit enough out, I’ll play.”

With Hamilton out, Howie Kendrick – with 10 hits in his last 30 at-bats – batted in the No. 4 spot for the second straight day and Brennan Boesch started in left field, with Albert Pujols at designated hitter and Efren Navarro at first base. Scioscia will try to stay away from Hamilton in the series opener against the Red Sox.

The 33-year-old slugger has missed five games in the last nine days, if you count two Angels off days on Tuesday and Thursday. Hamilton got mental breaks Monday and each of the last two Sundays.

“It brings a lot of attention to what you’re trying to do when a guy you count on to hit in the middle of your lineup is struggling for a long period of time. We have every confidence, and I know Josh does, that he’s going to find it and he’s going to contribute. Any concern would just be short term trying to find a path that’s going to get him where he needs to be. This guy’s going to hit.”

Alden

Scioscia, running out of ideas, sits Hamilton, again …

Josh HamiltonAfter a three-strikeout performance during Saturday’s 5-4 win over the Rangers, which followed a four-strikeout performance during Friday’s 5-4 win over the Rangers, Angels manager Mike Scioscia gave the slumping Josh Hamilton a day off for Sunday’s series finale from Globe Life Park. It’s his second day off in a week, after also sitting last Sunday against the Red Sox, and the fourth time in seven days that Hamilton hasn’t played in a game if you count the two off days.

“Just give him a little refresher; give him just a mental break, let him exhale a little bit,” Scioscia said. “This guy’s working really hard trying to find it. We have to get him back to where we need him. Sometimes just exhaling is something that can help him. We’ve seen the struggles recently, and today is just a good day.”

Hamilton has just five hits, and 18 strikeouts, in his last 38 at-bats. His batting average is down to .266, and he’s stuck on eight home runs in 72 games.

Asked if Hamilton will return to the cleanup spot when he returns to the lineup Monday, Scioscia was somewhat non-committal.

“We’re going to let him exhale a day and see where we are,” Scioscia said, “but our lineup long range has him in the middle of it.”

Hamilton, in the second of a five-year, $125 million contract, has displayed flashes of the player he was in Texas. He batted .444/.545/.741 in his first eight games, showing signs of bouncing back from a down 2013 season in which he batted .250 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs. But then he broke his left thumb, missed nearly two months and went on a 23-game homerless drought shortly after returning. He maintained a .288 batting average by Aug. 3, then re-introduced the toe-tap in his load and started displaying some of his trademark power, hitting a ball out of Dodger Stadium on Aug. 4 and then homering in the game later that afternoon.

Ever since then, things have gone south.

Why?

“That’s the $64,000 question,” Scioscia said. “… There have been some periods here, particularly in the second half, where it looks like he’s putting it together. But this last week has been tough for him, and I think it’s just time to let him exhale a little bit. Hopefully it’s something that can be a quick fix. He’s just not playing with the same confidence that he’s had. I don’t know if he’s as confident in the box as he needs to be, and that’s where we need him to get.”

Alden

Angels ‘not seeing the aggressive Josh Hamilton’

Josh HamiltonJosh Hamilton struck out four times in Friday’s 5-4 win. The Golden Sombrero, all on fastballs for a guy who has struggled through an American League-leading amount of breaking balls this season. He watched a 1-2, 91-mph fastball at his chest go by in the first. He swung through a 2-2, 92-mph fastball down the middle in the third. He swung through a chest-high, 90-mph fastball in the fifth, going down on three straight pitches. And he swung through a 2-2, up-and-away, 94-mph fastball in the ninth, stranding the bases loaded.

Hamilton went 1-for-5, adding an opposite-field single in the eighth, and now has five hits and 16 strikeouts in his last 38 at-bats.

His slash line is down to .266/.340/.412.

“We’re not seeing the aggressive Josh Hamilton we saw when he played for Texas,” Mike Scioscia said. “We’re not seeing it. There are lot of things he’s trying. He’s working hard, and nobody feels this worse than Josh. We need him in the middle of the lineup doing what he can do. He’s the type of player who can take the pressure off of guys when he’s driving the ball like he can. Right now, we’re not seeing it.”

“Aggressive” is a tricky word for a guy who’s been criticized in the past for chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone. But Scioscia means “aggressive swings, attacking the ball.”

“We started to see some glimpes of it [a couple weeks ago], trying to get more rhythm with the toe-tap, getting a better load,” Scioscia said. “But it just doesn’t seem like he’s exploding on pitches the way we know he can, and that’s something that would give us a big lift.”

Hamilton has hit cleanup pretty consistently all year, except those first couple of weeks when David Freese would bat fourth against lefties. Scioscia moved Hamilton all over the place last year — second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, even seventh for a couple of games — but has been reluctant to do so this year. Part of the reason is because he doesn’t really have anybody else to bat in that spot, and because he doesn’t want to mess up the flow of Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the top three spots.

Does he have to now?

“You look at a whole lineup, see what’s best for team,” Scioscia said. “If it comes to that, it does. But right now, we want to play it out. With Josh there, we know Albert will get some pitches.”

Alden

As Trout goes, so does the offense …

Mike TroutThe Angels have a deep offense; one of the deepest in the game. They have Albert Pujols, a Hall of Famer if he retired today. They have Josh Hamilton, one of the most dynamic players in the game (at least that’s what he was in Texas). They have Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Kole Calhoun, David Freese, etc. — all solid hitters in their own right. They’re more than just Mike Trout.

But even they struggle to produce when the game’s best all-around player isn’t right.

The Angels — losers of back-to-back games after a 4-3 defeat on Wednesday — have averaged 3.25 runs per game since the start of the second half, all while Trout has found himself in the midst of a rare (and perhaps short) slump.

“We have to be more than Mike,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “and we know we are.”

But here’s a breakdown of how the team has fared along with Trout so far this season (Trout’s slash line is in parenthesis, followed by the Angels’ runs per game and their record during that stretch) …

March 31 to April 28 (.327/.391/.606): 5.44 RPG; 12-13
April 29 to May 19 (.164/.314/.358): 4.21 RPG; 12-7
May 20 to July 13 (.356/.440/.701): 5.24 RPG; 33-17
July 18 to July 30 (.220/.304/.420): 3.25 RPG; 6-6

The league average for runs per game this season is 4.11, so the Angels still manage to do pretty well when Trout struggles from the No. 2 spot. Clearly, though, they’re at a completely different level when he’s on point. And luckily for them, his hot streaks tend to last a lot longer than his cold ones.

Asked how he feels at the plate these days, Trout said: “Timing’s a little late right now. Just picking the ball up late. Ones that I should be hitting I’m seeing late and I’m rushing my swing. That’s a little fix; nothing to worry about.”

Alden

Hamilton’s power re-emerges in defeat …

Josh HamiltonThe Angels lost in walk-off fashion, and dropped a game in the standings, but Josh Hamilton‘s power re-emerged at Oriole Park, and that’s always a good sign.

“That was great to see, and we need him,” Mike Scioscia said. “That was very encouraging, to see him square the ball up like he did.”

Hamilton homered in the fifth, for the first time since July 2 and just the fourth time since recovering from a surgically repaired left thumb on June 3. He also laced a double into the right-center field gap in the 12th, and lined out hard to left in the third. Entering the game, Hamilton’s isolated power score was .134, which would’ve been tied for 91st in the Majors (with Gordon Beckham, Matt Dominguez and Billy Hamilton) if he had enough at-bats to qualify.

“I’ve always felt really good at this stadium,” Hamilton said of the place that once saw him hit four home runs in one game.

“I talked with ‘Groove’ [hitting coach Don Baylor] before the game today and just talked about hitting strikes, and waiting until you get a strike, and when you do, just swing. Don’t try to do anymore with it than you need to, and try not to do too much with it. I’ve been fighting that a little bit, because obviously the power hadn’t been there. Since the All-Star break, I’ve felt like I’ve been trying to do a little bit too much.”

Hit strikes — seems simple enough.

Sometimes you just need a reminder.

“We fight that our whole career, as far as trying to do a little extra, a little much,” said Hamilton, who moved from left field to designated hitter a few hours before the game. “You try to muscle up or getting a little big. We’re always fighting against that. We need a reminder sometimes.”

Alden

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