Results tagged ‘ Josh Hamilton ’

The Angels and next winter’s free-agent starters …

David PriceBarring a drastic, last-minute change in strategy, the Angels will not pursue James Shields, just like they didn’t pursue Max Scherzer and they didn’t pursue Jon Lester. They bowed out of the free-agent market for starting pitchers this winter — the free-agent market in general, actually — because they already have a top-heavy payroll and they didn’t deem another splurge practical.

What about next winter?

The next free-agent crop of starters is a doozy. David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Hisashi Iwakuma, Mat Latos and Doug Fister are all slated to headline one of the deepest groups we’ve ever seen. Will the Angels be a player in that market, with David Freese, Chris Iannetta, Matt Joyce and Huston Street all in line to come off the books? (They’d like to extend Street.)

Maybe — but probably not.

“I wouldn’t say no, and at this point I wouldn’t say yes,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said when asked about going after the top starters in next year’s market. “One of the things we like a lot about the way the team is currently built is the level of depth we have among starting pitchers. While we do have the potential departure of some free agents, we’re looking at a projected payroll number next year that’s similar to the one we’re operating at now.”

It’s true. Despite the potential departures, Mike Trout‘s salary will go from $6.08 million to $16.08 million; Josh Hamilton‘s will go from $25.4 million to $32.4 million; incremental jumps will come for Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver; and natural arbitration hikes will follow.

The Angels’ projected Opening Day payroll is $145 million for 2015, third-highest in team history but $9 million smaller than last year (which means there’s room for in-season upgrades). For 2016, their Competitive Balance Tax payroll (which takes the average annual value of all 40-man-roster contracts, plus benefits and bonuses, and is used by Major League Baseball to determine which teams exceed the $189 million tax threshold) is already almost $120 million for just seven players

More importantly, the Angels will have every current starter back — Weaver, Wilson, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney — plus Tyler Skaggs, who should be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.

But Weaver and Wilson will be heading into the final year before free agency. And look at what the Nationals just did. They didn’t need starting pitching, but they signed Scherzer because he was available now and because Zimmermann and Fister will be free agents at season’s end. Now they can comfortably trade Zimmermann or Fister (or perhaps Stephen Strasburg), or hold onto all of them and have the ultimate rotation, 2011 Phillies style.

Can the Angels do something similar?

I wouldn’t rule it out, but I also wouldn’t count on it.

“While I won’t say we have expectation that most or any of [the Angels’ starters] are going to be the quality of David Price, understanding that we need to continue to grow the foundation, at some point you have to provide those guys with the innings to grow,” Dipoto said. “Next year, we’re looking at the same group of starting pitchers; we won’t lose control of anyone. We like our group and like their upside.”

Alden

Weaver gets bigger to pitch deeper …

At one point last season, Jered Weaver stepped on the scale, saw “199” and committed himself to getting bigger.

On Sunday night, 25 days before reporting for Spring Training, the Angels’ ace weighed in at a career-high 224.

“I’ve never been higher than 218,” Weaver said. “I don’t know if my metabolism is slowing down from getting older or what, but I feel good.”

For Weaver, heading into his age-32 season, it’s all about having the strength to pitch deeper in games.

While going 18-9 with a 3.59 ERA last year, the 6-foot-7 right-hander averaged about 6 1/3 innings per start, which basically coincides with his career rate. But he has his sights set on something similar to his 2011 mark, when he averaged 7.13 innings while finishing second in American League Cy Young Award voting.

“Numbers-wise it was all right,” Weaver said of 2014, “but from a personal standpoint, me being me and ultra competitive, I want to get deeper in games. The bullpen helped me a lot last year. I just want to gain some strength. I went to different lifting last year. It’s been paying off. I’m going to stick with it.”

Weaver was one of several current and former Angels – along with Josh Hamilton, Adam Kennedy and Troy Percival – attending a charitable bowling event at Bowlmor Lanes to benefit The Eddie Guardado Foundation, which helps children with autism.

While trying to ease the tension of a balky biceps tendon the last handful of years, Weaver pretty much chose resistance training over free weights. In mid-April, though, he scrapped that program, incorporated more heavy lifting and immediately noticed the results.

This offseason was simply the continuation of that, with more snacks in between.

“It’s easier to maintain it now,” said Weaver, who threw his first bullpen session on Sunday. “Once you get on the field and put the cleats on, start running around, that will be the true test, especially when it heats up in Arizona. I’m going to try to maintain it and see what happens.”

Weaver doesn’t know if it’ll help with his fastball velocity – “I don’t care about velocity,” he said, as usually – but is curious to see how much stronger it makes him throughout the season.

“I just want to be stronger for the whole nine innings,” he said. “If velocity comes along, so be it. I think I’ve shown I can pitch from 83 to 93 [mph].”

Weaver tries not to pay much attention to offseason moves, but he couldn’t ignore the Howie Kendrick trade of Dec. 11, a move that sent the veteran second baseman to the Dodgers for young starter Andrew Heaney. Weaver and Kendrick had been together since their Class A days, and Weaver admitted it was “a little tough to swallow.”

“Offensively it will be tough to make up those numbers, but the organization is going to try to fill in the pieces,” Weaver said. “We’re going to have a pretty good squad.”

Alden

Dipoto: ‘We haven’t discussed C.J. Wilson at all’ …

C.J. Wilson was a late entry into the starting-pitching market, but general manager Jerry Dipoto said the Angels aren’t shopping the veteran left-hander, or have even received calls on him.

“We haven’t discussed C.J. Wilson at all,” Dipoto said from his suite at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego on Monday, Day 1 of the Winter Meetings.

“We had one club within the week of the end of the World Series ask if we would consider moving C.J. and that was the only discussion. That discussion lasted all of 10 minutes. We moved on; never revisited it.”

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on Sunday that the Angels are shopping Wilson and industry sources told MLB.com on Monday that a few teams checked in on Wilson, but were only interested if the Angels ate some of the money still owed to him.

Wilson is coming off his worst season as a starting pitcher, is owed $38 million over the last two years of his contract and can block a trade to eight different teams this offseason. Those factors, not to mention what’s still a robust starting-pitching market, make it very difficult to move him.

For the Angels, it would only make sense to move Wilson if it freed up enough payroll space so they can then sign a top-tier free-agent starter. Considering they’re less than $10 million below the luxury-tax threshold, which continues to act as their spending limit, that would probably require a team to take on all of Wilson’s remaining salary.

Nobody’s lining up to do that, and Dipoto stressed he has a lot of confidence in a bounceback year.

“He had a bad second half,” Dipoto said. “Wasn’t a great one. He’ll come back, and he’ll find a way to refocus himself. He wasn’t great in the second half of 2012. In 2013, he couldn’t have been better post to post. He was outstanding.”

Some other notes from today’s session with Dipoto …

  • Dipoto is still looking to find a backup infielder, but the only free agent he’s interested in is Gordon Beckham. Dipoto said Beckham’s interest in a return is “fair,” but he’ll probably want to test the market to see if he can get an everyday job somewhere. If not Beckham, Dipoto would seek a trade, and would likely use his excess of right-handed relief pitching — Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Salas, Vinnie Pestano, etc. — to acquire it.
  • The Angels could have some news on Cuban middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin on Tuesday. They’ve been waiting for the 22-year-old to obtain his visa from the Dominican Republic so he can take his physical and sign the deal.
  • Dipoto would also like to add some depth at backup catcher, and will look to free agency in hopes of acquiring someone on a Minor League deal.
  • As far as Major League free agents? “Right now, we’re not engaged with any free agents, and we haven’t been engaged with any free agents. And right now, as we sit here today, our intention is to avoid that. We have a shorter list of needs. We’re open to any kind of creative suggestions in terms of trades, but we’re not openly shopping players. We’re not engaged with any team on a specific discussion regarding any of our primary players, including those who I’ve heard have been heavy on the Twitter wire.”
  • The Angels are waiting to finalize a Minor League deal with a lefty reliever.
  • This is a normal offseason for Josh Hamilton, who spent last winter trying to regain weight while working with a functional-movement coach. “Nothing special or significant,” Dipoto said. “He’s a pro. He’ll come in, he’ll work, he’ll be ready to play. Josh, I know he left on a sour note, but I have no doubt that Josh went home and he’s getting himself prepared to play baseball. It’s what he does.”
  • Dipoto also made it sound like he isn’t all that interested in trading any of his infielders.
  • Is the DH spot resolved? “Yes. Our game plan going in was to use the DH position to rotate position players through. … The primary bulk of DH at-bats will go to Cron, but this [the acquisition of Marc Krauss] gives us another alternative, someone who can compete for at-bats, gives us another in-season alternative.”

Alden

Mike Trout wins AL MVP Award …

Mike Trout has often been considered the best all-around player in the game, and now the Angels’ center fielder has the trophy to help back that claim.

Trout was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player on Thursday, an honor that became a foregone conclusion after yet another superb season. Trout got all 30 first-place votes by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, becoming the youngest unanimous MVP in Major League history. His 420 points easily the topped the two fellow finalists, with Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez getting 229 points and Indians outfielder Michael Brantley amassing 185 points.

“It’s unbelievable, just to think about it,” Trout told MLB Network via satellite from his parents’ house in New Jersey. “If you would’ve told me this before, when the season started, I would’ve just laughed at you. This is an unbelievable feeling. It’s awesome.”

Trout joins Vladimir Guerrero (2004) and Don Baylor (1979) as the only AL MVP Award winners in Angels history and is the 17th player to win it unanimously, with Frank Robinson doing it twice and Albert Pujols – with the Cardinals in 2009 – being the latest.

“So exciting to see another AL MVP wearing the Angels’ uniform,” said Guerrero, who, like Trout, wore No. 27. “I also want to thank Mike for wearing my favorite number.”

“It may be his first MVP,” Baylor added, “but it won’t be his last.”

Trout, who didn’t turn 23 until this past Aug. 7, now has a unanimous MVP Award to join his unanimous AL Rookie of the Year Award selection three years earlier. He is the fifth-youngest MVP in history and the youngest since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1983 — a year in which the former Orioles shortstop didn’t turn 23 until Aug. 24.

Trout led the Majors in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for the third straight season with a score of 7.8, according to FanGraphs.com. He posted a .287/.377/.561 slash line, hit a career-high 36 homers, led the AL in RBIs (111) and runs scored (115), and paced the Majors in total bases (338) and extra-base hits (84). In the process, he became the first player in baseball history with at least 300 runs, 75 homers and 75 steals in his first 400 games.

“Mike has had an incredible start to his career,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said in a statement. “His play this year totally embodies what an MVP is all about. His terrific performance, along with his selfless style of play, has made him a tremendous leader on this team.”

Trout is the fourth AL player to finish in the top two of MVP ballots three or more straight years, joining Mickey Mantle (1960-62), Yogi Berra (1953-56) and Hal Newhouser (1944-46). The three-time All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner is also the sixth player to win All-Star Game MVP and regular-season MVP in the same season.

“The sky is the limit for Mike,” Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton said.

“Mike respects the game and plays it the right way,” Pujols said. “It’s a privilege to have him as a teammate and a friend.”

Trout burst onto the scene with an improbable rookie season in 2012 (.326 average, .963 OPS, 30 homers, 49 steals, 10.1 WAR) and avoided a sophomore slump with a similarly impressive 2013 season (.323 average, .988 OPS, 27 homers, 33 steals, 10.5 WAR). But he lost out to Miguel Cabrera, who posted better power numbers for division-champion Tigers teams (including the Triple Crown in ’12) but produced a lower WAR.

This season, Trout led the AL with 184 strikeouts, stole a relatively low 16 bases, reached base less frequently — a .416 on-base percentage from 2012-13; a .377 on-base percentage in 2014 — and had a minus-9.8 Ultimate Zone Rating in center field. But the power numbers increased, no other players particularly stood out, and the Angels led the Majors with 98 wins during the regular season.

Unlike the last two years, there was no debate this time around.

“Mike Trout has been an all-around force over the past three seasons,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “This honor is well deserved and further affirms his position as the premier player in the game.”

Alden

‘All hands on deck’ for the Angels tonight …

C.J. WilsonGame 3 is a big start for C.J. Wilson, which may make you a little uncomfortable considering how his season has gone (4.51 ERA, 4.4 walk rate) and who his opponent is (Royals ace James Shields).

But keep this in mind: Mike Scioscia is not going to let Wilson be the reason the Angels are eliminated.

In other words, his leash will be very short.

Teams rarely carry a 12-man pitching staff in the five-game American League Division Series, but Scioscia felt he needed to because his rotation was such a big question mark heading into it. The fact he’s received good starts out of Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker means No. 4 starter Hector Santiago and long reliever Cory Rasmus are very fresh. Rasmus can go up to four innings, Santiago can throw 100-plus pitches. And at the first hint of trouble, Scioscia will no doubt go to them tonight.

“If it comes to a point where it obviously looks like he’s not getting it done, we’ll make a decision and try to get an arm in there to get us out of a jam if need be,” Scioscia said. “We’ll see. We don’t have a crystal ball for what’s going to happen, but I think we’ve all been very clear on what we’re looking for in this game, and it won’t be a game where your starting pitcher is into the second, third inning really struggling and it’s April and you’re going to let him work through some things. That’s not the time for that tactic right now.”

Some other highlights from Scioscia’s pregame press conference (lineup here) …

  • Josh Hamilton is in the lineup, as expected. Asked about it again on Sunday, Scioscia said Hamilton’s defensive presence is important, too.: “He’s important, especially on a big field like at our ballpark and here. He has a presence out there, and that’s important. On the offensive side, I think that it’s definitely worth getting him the at‑bats to see if he’s going to find it because when he does find it, he’s a difference maker. Josh is helping us to win games, even though maybe it’s not happened in the batter’s box, and there’s a lot of focus on that.”
  • Mike Trout is also struggling. He’s 0-for-8 with a couple of walks, and hasn’t really hit the ball hard yet. But Scioscia doesn’t believe Trout is “pressing,” saying: “There’s certainly some pitches that he’s put some good swings on and missed, and there’s some pitches that he’s taken that maybe he gets a little bit passive. He’s caught in between a little bit. Those guys have done a good job pitching against him, but I really don’t see him as tight. I just think sometimes you’re not squaring balls up like you can.”
  • The current Royals look like the Angels teams Scioscia used to manage. They don’t have a lot of power, but they also don’t strike out a lot and they’re a big threat to steal bases. The Angels are the opposite. “This is definitely the team we’ve had that is most structured in batter’s box offense and built on batter’s box offense in the 15 years we’ve been here,” Scioscia said. “It doesn’t mean the offense is worse or better. We’ve scored a lot of runs with batter’s box offense this year. … The cards that you have in front of you are the ones you’re going to play, and we’re very confident in our offense. Even though maybe the straight steal isn’t there, we do have enough team speed where we led our league in first-to-thirds. I think we create a lot on the bases that scored runs with outs, and that all adds up to the type of offense that we have.”

Alden

Scioscia is sticking with Hamilton …

Josh Hamilton admitted after Thursday’s loss in Game 1 of the American League Division Series that “the game was obviously moving a little fast.” It was to be expected, after playing in only one of the Angels’ last 23 regular-season games and hardly seeing any live pitching in the meantime. And it didn’t bode well for Friday’s matchup against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, who had the highest fastball velocity among starters this year.

But Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn’t ready to give up on Hamilton just yet.

“Right now, looking at all the alternatives, it’s definitely worth playing Josh out now to see where it’s going to lead; there’s no doubt about that,” said Scioscia, who kept Hamilton in the No. 7 spot and also elected to stick with the right-handed-hitting C.J. Cron at designated hitter, rather than going to the left-handed-hitting Efren Navarro.

Scioscia’s alternatives for Hamilton were to start Navarro or the right-handed-hitting Collin Cowgill in left field, the latter of whom would’ve made more sense against soft-tossing lefty Jason Vargas in Game 1. Prior to Game 1, Hamilton had seen velocity only twice since Sept. 4 – during three plate appearances as a designated hitter on Sept. 16, and during a workout on Tuesday.

Hamilton, who rehabbed ailments in his right shoulder and right side in the meantime, took some early batting-practice in 100-degree heat at Angel Stadium early Friday afternoon, trying to find the hot stretch Scioscia keeps anticipating.

“He’s a guy that’s a game changer when he’s on,” Scioscia said. “There is nobody on the bench that we’re looking at that’s going to go in there and potentially do what Josh can do. If it comes to a point where it’s really going the wrong way, or we don’t see it happening, I think that’s a valid question and something you’ll look at. But we’re not there yet. He needs to get some at-bats.”

Here’s the full lineup …

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
David Freese, 3B
Josh Hamilton, LF
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C

Alden

Josh Hamilton struggles in return to Angels’ lineup …

Josh Hamilton, Gary DiSarcinaJosh Hamilton, who played in only one of the Angels’ last 23 regular-season games due to ailments in his right shoulder and right side, went 0-for-4 in the Angels’ 3-2, 11-inning loss in Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday night.

He lined out to the left side of the infield in the third, grounded out to second base in his next two plate appearance and struck out swinging in the ninth, failing to come through with one out and a runner on second in his last two at-bats. Angels manager Mike Scioscia batted Hamilton seventh, because he figured he’d be rusty after so much time off.

He was.

“The game was obviously moving a little fast,” Hamilton said. “I went back and looked at a couple of at-bats and I was actually starting to load too early. So, tomorrow, try to slow it down even more.”

Hamilton banged up against the left-field fence while catching Salvador Perez‘s fifth-inning fly ball, but all he came away with was “a headache.” He expects his legs to be sore when he wakes up on Friday, but he’s also expected to be back in the lineup against Yordano Ventura and his triple-digit fastball.

“Physically I feel good,” Hamilton said. “I’ll be a little sore tomorrow. It’s been a while since I played nine innings. But I’ll come in, get treatment, things like that, and be ready for tomorrow.”

Alden

Hamilton seventh, Cron eighth vs. Vargas …

The Angels trotted out basically the same lineup they fielded down the stretch for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday, with a couple of notable, expected tweaks: Josh Hamilton batting seventh and playing left field, and C.J. Cron batting eighth while serving as the designated hitter.

Hamilton played in only one of the team’s last 23 regular-season games due to ailments in his right shoulder and right side and has hardly seen any live pitching in the meantime, so Angels manager Mike Scioscia is batting him lower in the lineup to put less pressure on him. Scioscia also went with the right-handed bat of Cron against Royals starter Jason Vargas, a lefty who held opposing lefties to a .661 OPS during the regular season.

Howie Kendrick has been red hot since taking over for Hamilton in the cleanup spot on Sept. 5, batting .403 with 18 RBIs over that 21-game stretch. David Freese, batting fifth, finished September with a .315/.367/.562 slash line. Scioscia opted to go with Chris Iannetta’s high on-base percentage (.373) in hopes of turning the lineup over to Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout.

Here’s the full lineup behind starter Jered Weaver (first pitch from Angel Stadium is 6:07 p.m. PT on TBS):

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Josh Hamilton, LF
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C

Alden

Stories, Twitter handles leading up to the ALDS …

Royals Angels Baseball

The American League Division Series is finally here, and we’ve had a lot of content leading up to it. So, I thought it’d be a good idea to organize it all in one spot, in case you missed anything along the way and would like to give something a read …

Angels

A look at Mike Trout’s likely MVP season and who he’s evolving to as a hitter
On Jered Weaver — his success without velocity and why he may be at his best right now
Odds are against Josh Hamilton in the ALDS, and maybe that’s what finally gets him going
How “Win For GRich” became a rallying cry for the Angels this season
Q&A with Jerry Dipoto, on Mike Scioscia, ALDS chances and keeping the Angels relevant
Good friends Erick Aybar and Albert Pujols, guiding each other through their 30s
Five reasons the Angels won the American League West
Five reasons the Angels can win the World Series
A look at how the Angels were constructed
A look at the Angels’ postseason history
Finally, Mike Trout gets to play in the postseason
The Angels have a plan to counter a questionable rotation
The Angels’ 2014 season, by the numbers

ALDS

A preview for Game 1
Position-by-position breakdown of the ALDS
Royals-Angels Did You Know
Three Keys for the Angels to beat the Royals in the ALDS
Tale Of The Tape for Game 1
Angels face a big challenge taming the Royals’ running game
Will rust affect the Angels in the ALDS?

We have a great crew for the ALDS, and below are their Twitter handles …

Bill Hill (series editor)
Dick Kaegel (Royals beat reporter)
Lyle Spencer (columnist)
Phil Rogers (columnist)
Matthew DeFranks (Angels in Anaheim)
T.R. Sullivan (Royals)
AJ Cassavell (Royals in Anaheim)
Jesse Sanchez (covering both clubs)
Jackson Alexander (Royals in Kansas City)

Alden

Shoemaker to start Game 2; Weaver on short rest …

The Angels will go with a three-man rotation for their American League Division Series matchup against the Royals, with Matt Shoemaker starting Game 2, C.J. Wilson starting Game 3 and Game 1 starter Jered Weaver coming back on short rest to start Game 4.

The setup, announced by Angels manager Mike Scioscia during a pre-workout press conference on Wednesday, gives Weaver and Shoemaker the potential to pitch twice in the five-game series. Hector Santiago, with a 3.75 ERA but a walk rate of 3.7, will be available out of the bullpen. Wilson, coming off a season in which he posted a 4.51 ERA, will only start one game.

Scioscia also announced that Josh Hamilton will start in left field and bat seventh in Game 1, after playing only one of the Angels’ last 23 games due to pain around his right shoulder and ribcage. Right-handed hitter C.J. Cron will start at designated hitter against lefty Jason Vargas, and Scioscia will have a 12-man pitching staff.

Shoemaker, who won 16 games and posted a 3.04 ERA in a surprising rookie season, has been rehabbing from a mild strain in his left oblique, but threw bullpen sessions on Sunday and Tuesday and is “doing remarkably well,” Scioscia said.

“We’re expecting Matt to be fine and pitch as deep as he can into the game,” Scioscia said. “That is one consideration. The other is we really like the matchups. We like the way Matt has been pitching, and I think Weaver getting out in Game 1, followed with Matt, gives us the best look here in the first couple games. C.J. will pitch in Kansas City [on Sunday].”

Weaver has started on three days’ rest only twice before, both times in 2011, when he gave up seven runs in six innings on Aug. 28 and two runs in six innings on Sept. 18. But his last three starts, including the ALDS opener on Thursday, will come on six days’ rest, five days’ rest and five days’ rest, respectively.

The Dodgers pitched ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest for the National League Division Series last year.

“[Pitching coach] Mike Butcher feels really good at the prospects of how Weaver was throwing his ‘pens in between starts, how he was bouncing back, and really feeling that if he had to pitch at all on three days’ rest, he’s ready for it,” Scioscia said. “Most importantly, our medical staff feels really good at where Jered is, and Jered feels 100 percent behind the fact of coming back on three days and being effective. That’s what we’ll look at doing, and we don’t have any reservations at all about wanting to get Jered out there again in Game 4.”

Alden

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