Results tagged ‘ Josh Hamilton ’

The Angels’ uncertain, costly future …

dipotoThe 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 …

CATCHER

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.

THIRD BASE

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.

SECOND 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.

LEFT FIELD

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.

DESIGNATED HITTER

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.

Alden

Scioscia disappointed with Hamilton’s comments …

Angels manager Mike Scioscia, like owner Arte Moreno, wanted more “accountability” from Josh Hamilton.

Speaking Tuesday, a day after Hamilton’s introductory press conference at Globe Life Park, Scioscia made it a point to say he was disappointed Hamilton didn’t show “at least a little remorse towards his teammates” in his first public comments this season.

“The one thing that I think is sad and I’m a little bit disappointed in is the fact that there wasn’t any accountability, most importantly to his teammates,” Scioscia said prior to the start of a three-game series against the A’s at O.co Coliseum. “If you look at how much support he got in that clubhouse, when he was struggling, whatever was happening – no one ever questioned Josh’s work ethic and him wanting to play well. He played hard. Nobody ever questioned that. I know he got a lot of support from the guys that are in that clubhouse. For him not to show at least a little remorse towards his teammates I just think is wrong.”

Asked to clarify what he wanted to hear from Hamilton, Scioscia said: “I’m just leaving it at that. I think I said it all.”

The Angels ended what became an awkward, contentious relationship with Hamilton on Monday, by sending him to the Rangers for roughly $20 million in savings over the life of his contract. Moreno didn’t want Hamilton playing for the team any longer and Hamilton himself had made it clear to the Angels for quite a while that he wanted to return to the Rangers.

While the process was unfolding, Scioscia continually expressed concern that Hamilton wasn’t getting the help and support he needed.

Apparently those concerns are still there.

“First and foremost, I’m still concerned about Josh the person,” Scioscia said. “We had a bunch of tests and counseling ready to support him, and make sure that he had the tools to come back and meet the rigors of playing baseball. And obviously with the trade, that has fallen on whatever Texas is going to do. But I’m concerned with Josh the person. I think that he needs to get that help and support, and hopefully he’ll find that peace.”

Asked why it didn’t work out for Hamilton with the Angels, Scioscia brought up many of the popular theories. Like the fact that he went on cleansing juice diet heading into his first spring with the team, prompting him to shed 30 pounds over the offseason.

“He just didn’t seem like he had the same thunder in his swing,” Scioscia said.

He also brought up the thumb injury that sidelined Hamilton for 10 weeks early in the 2014 season, after a hot start, and the logistics of moving to Southern California.

“There were spots when he looked like he was comfortable and playing well,” Scioscia said, “but at times it seemed like there was turmoil in his life.”

Through it all, Scioscia wanted to make one thing clear: The Angels gave Hamilton all the support he needed.

“It’s unfortunate that he had his relapse,” Scioscia said, “but I know we supported him in every aspect, of whatever his needs were.”

Scioscia doesn’t believe the situation became a distraction in his clubhouse.

“There’s a strong bond in our clubhouse, and guys support each other,” Scioscia said. “That’s the same support they gave Josh. That’s why I was disturbed when he never addressed that or said anything about the players.”

Alden

Shoemaker on bereavement list, Tropeano up

Nick Tropeano was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake and will start Thursday’s series finale against the A’s, with C.J. Wilson getting pushed back to Saturday’s start against the Rangers. Wilson came out of his last start with stiffness in his left (pitching) elbow, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it’s nothing serious and he could’ve taken his normal turn on Thursday if needed.

Pushing Wilson back also buys extra time for Matt Shoemaker, who was placed on the bereavement list to deal with the death of his grandfather. Shoemaker was originally slated to make that Saturday start, but is now tentatively slated for next Wednesday’s game in Oakland, putting him on extended rest a second straight time. Shoemaker pitched on six days’ rest Monday, giving up five runs in three innings, and would be on eight days’ rest Wednesday.

Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Jered Weaver will keep their normal turns. So, here’s the order …

Thursday: Tropeano
Friday: Richards
Saturday: Wilson
Sunday: Santiago
Monday: OFF
Tuesday: Weaver (starting tonight)
Wednesday: Shoemaker

Tropeano has given up five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 11 innings during his first two starts for Triple-A Salt Lake, striking out 12.

“I think I just need to keep working hard and showing consistency,” Tropeano said. “Going down to Triple-A, getting those innings in and getting that work in kind of matured me and sent me into this spot now.”

Some additional notes …

  • Scioscia said the date of Josh Hamilton‘s arrival in Arizona for extended spring is “really fluid.” “It could happen this weekend, it could happen next week. But the process is there. He’s going to be evaluated. The process is starting.”
  • Cam Bedrosian pitched two scoreless innings of mop-up duty on Tuesday and has been used as a multi-inning reliever since going down to Minor League camp midway through Spring Training, compiling eight innings in four appearances. Scioscia said Bedrosian has “the potential to be in the back end of the bullpen, but right now he needs a little bit of length to do the kind of things he did last night.”
  • C.J. Cron had only his second multi-hit game of the season on Tuesday, then found himself out of the lineup on Wednesday. Scioscia opted to go with Collin Cowgill as his right-handed hitter against Sonny Gray — with the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce at DH, but dropped from fourth to sixth against a right-hander — to get better defense in left field for Weaver, a fly-ball pitcher.

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

Hamilton meets teammates, ‘wants to play baseball’ …

Josh Hamilton isn’t with the Angels at Minute Maid Park, but he isn’t forgotten.

Several Angels players went to go see the 33-year-old outfielder prior to Friday’s series finale in Houston, where Hamilton has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery since early February. Manager Mike Scioscia and bench coach Dino Ebel had dinner with him on Wednesday night; C.J. Wilson met with Hamilton at Wilson’s friend’s house, where the Angels starter stays during trips to Houston; David Freese, Collin Cowgill and Kole Calhoun met him for lunch during the Thursday off day.

“It was good to see him,” Freese said. “I thought he was good in really good spirits. The fact is he wants to play some baseball. And he’s ready to roll.”

Freese, Calhoun and Cowgill came away shocked at how good Hamilton looked — 250 pounds, chiseled, in good spirits and ready to play baseball. That last part, of course, is complicated, with Angels owner Arte Moreno all but saying he doesn’t want the embattled slugger around.

Wilson, Hamilton’s good friend dating back to their days with the Rangers, said he’s “100 percent” in a state of mind to play baseball.

Based on their conversation, Wilson believes Hamilton’s latest relapse — which occurred late in the offseason and reportedly involved cocaine — was a “tame scenario” compared to what he went through as a Minor League player in the Rays organization. He said Hamilton is “100 percent functional,” “in the right place” and “ready to go.”

“It’s my 100-percent opinion that Josh is not a risk to himself or anybody else,” Wilson added. “That’s what I feel having known him for 8 years. That’s the closest thing I can get to a factual opinion.”

Scioscia didn’t want to elaborate on his conversation with Hamilton.

“He’s on his way with his physical recovery,” Scioscia said. “He’s getting into more baseball activities and we’ll just see when he’s ready to get out and really get after it and play. We’re not sure yet.”

The situation has put Angels players in an awkward spot, because they want to express support for Hamilton but don’t want to appear critical of upper management. For the most part, the players — and, to some extent, the coaching staff — don’t really know what’s going on.

Seeing Hamilton, at least, provided a little clarity.

“We still don’t really know what’s going on,” Freese said. “All I know is what I saw, a guy that’s smiling a lot. We enjoyed a nice lunch. He’s got a routine going on right now, and he really just wants to play some baseball.

“The lack of knowledge that’s going on can be frustrating, because this is a guy we care about. This is our team. Sooner or later, things will come out and we’ll all know what’s going on and whether he’s coming back with the Angels or he’s not.”

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

Angels still undecided on Richards …

The Angels still aren’t sure if Garrett Richards start for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday night — five runs, seven hits, four walks, five innings — will be his last before returning to the Major League rotation. Richards will meet with the team in Houston on Wednesday night or Thursday afternoon to decide what the next step will be.

Richards left a lot of balls up in Fresno, Calif., but the Pacific Coast League has a tendency of being a little deceiving.

The important thing is he came out of it healthy — and even fielded a bunt.

“Stuff looked good,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think his command maybe wasn’t as crisp at some points, but he moved well. I think he felt good. We’ll evaluate him when he gets here and see what the next step will be.

“It took him a lot of work to get through the five innings, 90-plus pitches. But his stamina was there.”

Some additional notes from Wednesday, Jackie Robinson Day …

  • Scioscia is still confident he’ll touch base with Josh Hamilton when the Angels go to Houston this weekend, but isn’t sure if it’ll be face-to-face or over the phone. Scioscia said Hamilton’s rehab from shoulder surgery wouldn’t be any different if he were actually with the team — which he hasn’t been all season — but he has no idea where he’s at in his quest to return to baseball activities. “That’s part of the stuff that’s still open-ended,” Scioscia said. “I think it’s been open-ended for some time. A lot depends on where he is, what baseball activities he’s able to perform right now. The surgery he had, there’s a time he needs to heal and there’s a range. We’re still within that range. It’s not like he’s outside that range. But there’s a lot to take into account of just where he is.”
  • Kole Calhoun (right calf) is still out, as expected, with Erick Aybar leading off against Rangers right-hander Anthony Ranuado. Albert Pujols is making his first start at designated hitter, after starting the Angels’ first eight games at first base.
  • Jackie Robinson Day is still special to Scioscia. “I came up in the Dodger organization,” he said. “It was special for all of us young guys to hear the first-hand accounts from Roy Campanella and Carl Erskine and the guys who played on that Brooklyn Dodger team about what a special person Jackie Robinson was, not only as a ballplayer but as a human being and what he went through to make our game so great. A big reason our game is so great is what Jackie went through. It’s a story that needs to be told.”

Alden

Scioscia hopes to meet Hamilton ‘face-to-face’ …

The Angels are in Houston this weekend, and they hope to see Josh Hamilton for the first time in 2015.

“Hopefully we’ll connect with him face-to-face,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said prior to Monday’s game against Hamilton’s former team, the Rangers. “Everybody’s been in touch with him, but we want to connect with him and just see where everything is. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see him.”

Hamilton — without a locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Angel Stadium — has been in Houston since early February, rehabbing from surgery to his right A.C. joint while staying at a friend’s house. There’s a growing sense that Hamilton won’t play for the Angels this season, with the only question being whether the two sides can agree on a buyout for a contract that will pay him $83 million through the 2017 season.

The 33-year-old outfielder is not expected to stop by the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park during the upcoming weekend series in Houston, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Scioscia said the situation is “very frustrating” “on some levels.”

“It just seems like as you try to get more clarity, it seems like it’s getting foggier and foggier,” Scioscia said. “We’ll see where this is and where this leads, and just where Josh is. I think first and foremost, we’re hoping Josh is getting the help and support that he needs.”

Some additional notes from Monday …

  • Kole Calhoun is out of the lineup for a second straight game, with Collin Cowgill leading off and Matt Joyce starting against a lefty (both firsts). Calhoun took part in pregame activities, though, and expects to return Tuesday. He could be used as a pinch-hitter on Monday if needed, too.
  • Remember that Prince Fielder bunt against the Angels in Spring Training? Yeah, that won’t happen again. The Angels will have David Freese on the left side of the infield when he comes to bat tonight in case he tries it again. Freese will then move to where the shortstop is situated on two-strike counts.
  • Asked if Tuesday’s start for Triple-A Salt Lake will be Garrett Richards‘ last one before returning to the rotation, Scioscia said “possibly.” “We’re definitely going to err on the side of caution,” Scioscia added. “But if a guy is down there wasting pitches, you don’t want to get in that scenario. We’ll balance it out, see where Garrett is, get information from our medical staff and from our Triple-A staff and see where he is.”
  • Mike Trout didn’t hear from anybody on the Royals after his brief dust-up with Yordano Ventura on Sunday. “It was just one of those things,” Trout said. “I was playing my game. I hit a single, and things got a little chippy.”

Alden

Angels takeaways, Week 1 …

joshThe Angels just got swept! At home! To the team that swept them last October! And now they’re under .500! Another slow start! Why, God, why!?

Perspective is an invaluable trait this time of year. Six games have been played, which accounts for 3.09 percent of the regular season. Teams will get hot, then cold, then hot, then cold again. The season is that long. And the hope of every club, as Angels catcher Chris Iannetta likes to frequently point out, is to stay within reach for most of the year and get hot late. That’s what the 2014 Angels did, on their way to a Major League-best 98 wins. That’s what the 2015 Angels hope to do, at 2-4 entering a six-game road trip through Arlington and Houston.

Here are some takeaways from the first full week of real games …

Hamilton situation is getting ugly: For a while now, people around the team had been getting the impression that there was a strong chance Josh Hamilton would never play a game for the Angels again. Those sentiments were essentially confirmed on Friday, when owner Arte Moreno couldn’t guarantee that Hamilton would rejoin the team and talked about pursuing action against the high-priced outfielder for his drug-related relapse. Nobody from Hamilton’s camp — himself or his agent — has spoken up. But on Saturday, Angels starter C.J. Wilson expressed displeasure in the Angels’ comments, telling the LA Times, “It doesn’t seem like any bridges are being built,” and telling the OC Register, “If Josh was hitting .300 with 35 home runs a year, what’s the situation?”

From the outside, it seems as if this whole Hamilton saga — however it ends — is a huge distraction for the team, one that has divided the players from ownership. Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t think Wilson’s anger is necessarily felt by the rest of his teammates. They all love Hamilton as a person — how can you not? — but it’s not as if they’re clamoring to get him back, or are upset he isn’t being given a second chance. Sad as this may sound, it all comes back to production, and Hamilton hasn’t produced for them the last two years. Wilson is closer to Hamilton than anybody on the Angels, dating back to their days with the Rangers. He looks at it a little bit more personally. The rest of the team pretty much looks at it like this: We hope the best for Hamilton and his family off the field, but on the field, we’re fine without him.

That doesn’t mean this isn’t a contentious situation, however. Moreno clearly wants to negotiate some sort of buyout or trade here, but this could be a long, drawn-out battle. Hamilton is owed — no, guaranteed — $83 million through the 2017 season. So why would he take a penny less? Perhaps so he could join another team to continue his career, since Moreno has pretty much made it clear it won’t happen with the Angels. But how much is that worth, in terms of a discount for the Angels? Over the weekend, the Angels are in Houston, the city where Hamilton has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery since early February. The team doesn’t expect to see him. It’s awkward.

Weaver shaky: In his first two starts of the season, Jered Weaver has given up 10 runs on 15 hits (three of them homers) in 10 1/3 innings, prompting the national freakout that has pretty much become an April tradition. His velocity is down again, which is perhaps of most relevance. It’s 84.01 mph on his fastball, after being 87.5 mph in 2014, 87.3 mph in 2013, 88.7 mph in 2012 and 90.1 mph in 2011. Weaver has proven time and time again that he doesn’t need an overpowering fastball to be a reliable, top-of-the-rotation starter. And as Eric Hosmer pointed out to Lyle Spencer after Weaver’s rough start on Saturday, Weaver’s fastball plays up because of his length and delivery (even to a left-handed hitter, apparently).

The only thing you typically care about with Weaver — and the reason being three ticks down is a red flag — is that his right arm is healthy. He started slow last year, too, with a 5.79 ERA after three starts. And eventually he figured it out and turned in a very solid year. His velocity may not be debilitating, but it makes him have to be almost precise with his location and command. And because his delivery has so many moving parts, sometimes it takes him a while to get everything in sync with his release point and his landing leg. Eventually, though, he gets it. And when he does, his fastball velocity picks up a tick or two, like it did down the stretch last season. But the velo has never been as low as it has these last two starts. It’s worth monitoring.

Punchless out of the gate: So far, the same Angels offense that led the Majors in runs last season is 25th in the Majors in OPS (.577), tied for 25th in runs (16) and tied for 28th in batting average (.195). They have four hits in 23 at-bats with runners in scoring position and they haven’t stolen a single base. C.J. Cron is 0-for-13 after a hot spring, while Iannetta is 1-for-18 with 10 — yes, 10 — strikeouts. But hey, it’s really, really early. The Nationals have scored only 13 runs all year, and they’re going to be a juggernaut. The Angels’ offense should eventually be pretty darn good, too. A little slump coming out of spring is nothing six games in Texas can’t fix.

Reinforcements on the way: One aspect that was continually touted about the Angels heading in was their improved starting-pitching depth, and how they were no longer in deep trouble if one of their original five — or in this case, four — struggled. We may see that materialize pretty soon. Garrett Richards is slated for what very well could be his final step on Tuesday, a rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake, and could return to the rotation by early next week. And the two rotation candidates of Spring Training, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano, have thrown well in Triple-A. Heaney pitched seven shutout innings, giving up two hits, walking none and striking out eight. Tropeano pitched six innings of three-run ball, giving up two hits, walking none and striking out seven.

On the Major League side, Wilson was great on Tuesday (eight shutout innings with less than 100 pitches), but really bad on Sunday (seven runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings). Hector Santiago pitched well in Friday’s home opener, but he needed 100 pitches to record 16 outs. The Angels’ ideal pitching staff has Santiago in the bullpen as a dynamic lefty weapon, but that will only be the case if Heaney or Tropeano force their way into the big leagues. They need to prove that with more than one start.

Matchup bullpen taking shape: So far, though, their two current lefty relievers, Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez, are getting the job done. A real difference maker for the Angels this season is having Joe Smith and Huston Street entrenched as the eighth- and ninth-inning relievers. It not only solidifies the last six outs of a lead; it gives Mike Scioscia the freedom to match up in the seventh or earlier. That’s when Ramos and Alvarez can come into play against lefties, with Mike Morin being the go-to guy against righties. The two have combined to hold lefties to two hits and no walks in nine at-bats, striking out three. Neither are traditional lefty specialists. Alvarez is a last-minute converted starter; Ramos has been used mainly in multi-inning roles throughout his career. But it’d be big for the Angels if they can be effective against lefties. There are a lot of dangerous left-handed hitters in the American League West.

Alden

Lineups and Notes, Game 4 …

Garrett Richards came out of his last start saying, “I feel ready to go.” The 26-year-old right-hander threw seven innings of two-run ball in an intrasquad game on Thursday, the fourth rehab start in Richards’ recovery from left knee surgery. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he’ll make at least one more start, for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday. My guess is he returns to the Angels’ rotation on April 21.

“He still has some hurdles to get over,” Scioscia said.

The Angels are hosting the Royals team that swept them in the ALDS last year.

“Those guys just beat us,” Scioscia said. “Those plays they made defensively were not only game changers, but series changers at the time were made. Those guys made plays at every level. Sometimes it’s not so much what you haven’t done that lost a series or a game. Those guys played at a very, very high level. I’m proud of the season that we had. The disappointment of not going to the playoffs was there, but our guys gave it everything they had.”

Lineups …

Royals (3-0)

Alcides Escobar, SS
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Alex Rios, RF
Salvador Perez, C
Omar Infante, 2B

SP: LH Jason Vargas (0-0, -.– ERA)

Angels (2-1)

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

SP: LH Hector Santiago (0-0, -.– ERA)

  • Arte Moreno said the Angels had language in Josh Hamilton‘s contract that gave them recourse in the event of a drug-related relapse, even though that typically isn’t allowed. Asked if he can say Hamilton will play another game for them this season, Moreno said, “I will not say that.”
  • Matt Joyce, as you’ve probably noticed, is not in a lineup against a lefty for a second consecutive time.
  • The Angels are still “targeting” Drew Rucinski to start Tuesday’s game, which is the first time the Angels need a fifth starter.

Alden

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