Results tagged ‘ Josh Hamilton ’

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

Scioscia wouldn’t change playoff format …

Mike SciosciaA lot of season remains and a lot can still happen, but if the schedule ended today, the Angels would easily have the second-best record in the Majors – they were five games better than the third-place Tigers when play began Tuesday – and still their season would come down to one game.

It’s the misfortune that comes with playing in the same division as baseball’s best team – the A’s, who the Angels trail by 1 1/2 games – and it’s the bad timing of playing in an era with two Wild Card teams in each league.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has long been a proponent of divisional play, believing teams that win their division should have clear advantages over those that make the playoffs as a Wild Card. And the fact that his club is on the other side of that isn’t making him change his stance.

“I think the weight that is on winning a division is warranted,” Scioscia said prior to the series opener from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “I think that if you’re going to have divisional baseball, you have to really make winning a division the first objective of any team that’s contending. And if you don’t quite reach that goal, and you play well enough, then you have the opportunity to work your way into the playoffs.”

One alternative to a team running into the scenario the Angels are currently in is to extend the Wild Card into a three-game series, but Scioscia said that would penalize the division winners because “you will lose your edge, no doubt about it, with that much time off.”

Another would be to eliminate divisional play, which the Angels’ long-time skipper doesn’t like. And a more unconventional one would be to have four divisions, something Scioscia floated out as a possibility if more expansion takes place.

The ladder isn’t necessarily feasible right now, which makes the current goal pretty simple.

“Win your division,” Scioscia said. “Let’s just put it that way.”

Some notes from today …

  • C.J. Wilson gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings in a rehab start for Double-A Arkansas on Monday, scattering four hits, waling two and striking out seven. His ankle feels good, and he should be lined up to start this weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla., but Scioscia wants to wait until Wilson gets through his bullpen to make any determinations. Wilson also discovered some tightness in his left hip that was limiting a flexibility, a problem he fixed and an issue he believes will get him back on track.
  • Josh Hamilton moved from left field to designated hitter, but it wasn’t injury related. Hamilton didn’t get much sleep while flying to North Carolina to deal with a family emergency in his native North Carolina.
  • Grant Green (lower back) and Collin Cowgill (thumb, nose) stayed in Arizona rehabbing.
  • Mike Trout is currently in Baltimore, which is about a two-hour drive from his hometown of Millville, N.J., but he doesn’t expect a huge crowd. Trout said he left like 15 tickets.

Lineup …

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

SP: RH Jered Weaver (11-6, 3.36 ERA)

Alden

Green on DL with back strain; Cron back up …

Angels utility man Grant Green was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday because of what was initially diagnosed as a strain in his lumbar, a region that makes up his lower back.

First baseman C.J. Cron – basically the everyday designated hitter until he was sent down on Saturday – was called back up from Triple-A as the corresponding move, and Green spent the afternoon visiting team doctors to get a sense for how long he’ll be out.

Green hit the game-winning single on Sunday, then was unavailable the last couple of games. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Green tweaked his back while working out in the weight room; not amid the walk-off celebration.

“It seemed like today it was going in the wrong direction,” Scioscia said, “so we’re going to shut him down for a little bit.”

The Angels will continue to rotate at left field, first base and DH, with Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols getting starts at DH as needed, and the left-handed-hitting Efren Navarro and the right-handed-hitting Cron filling in. The Angels currently have a short bench due to an eight-man bullpen, which is expected to continue until Monday’s off day.

Cron, a 24-year-old rookie, batted .295 with nine homers and 27 RBIs in his first 47 games, a big reason why the 42-year-old Raul Ibanez was released. But he went 3-for-26 with seven strikeouts and no walks in his next six contests before getting optioned back to the Minors. Scioscia called it “the cyclical nature of hitting.”

“C.J. can hit,” Scioscia said. “He’s always hit. It’s just that there’s going to be some periods when you don’t get those balls to fall in, and I think more than anything that’s what you were seeing with C.J.

“The original plan with C.J. was really just to let him exhale. He was really pressing up here a little bit before he got sent down, and hopefully he’s been able to exhale a little bit and be ready to contribute.”

Cron was expected to land about 90 minutes prior to game time, so he’ll be available off the bench.

Lineup …

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

SP: RH Jered Weaver (10-6, 3.43 ERA)

Alden

Josh Hamilton has his home-run swing back …

Josh Hamilton, Kyle GibsonJosh Hamilton went 23 consecutive games without hitting a home run, a stretch in which he posted a .266/.324/.330 slash line.

In Wednesday’s 3-2, walk-off loss to the White Sox, Hamilton homered for the second time in as many days — and the fifth time this year — by taking a John Danks changeup out to right field to temporarily tie the game in the eighth.

“Been a while since I hit a home run,” Hamilton said. “They usually come in bunches. It’s good to finally see that changeup up and put a good swing on it. It was a 2-0 changeup. A week ago, I would have missed it because I would have cut my swing off. It’s starting to get there.”

By “cut my swing off,” Hamilton means he wasn’t turning on inside pitches because he was subconsciously compensating for his surgically repaired left thumb, which prompted him to miss nearly two months on the disabled list. For evidence of that, the Angels’ left fielder pointed to a swing he took against hard-throwing Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura on Saturday.

Ventura challenged him with a 96-mph fastball inside, and the left-handed-hitting Hamilton wound up hitting a lazy pop-up to third base.

“Sometimes you do things you don’t know you’re doing until one day you see it and you’re like, ‘Oh man,'” Hamilton said. “Tonight, pitch was in, let it loose.”

Alden

How many All-Stars are on the Angels? …

The Angels passed the halfway point of their season on Tuesday, and did so emphatically with their first doubleheader sweep since 2009.

It’s perhaps as good a time as any to see how many All-Stars they have.

They produced their most All-Stars in 1979, when Rod Carew, Bobby Grich, Brian Downing, Don Baylor, Nolan Ryan and Mark Clear were all chosen for the Midsummer Classic. They probably won’t have that many going to Target Field this year, but they’ll have a few. Below are some names worth mentioning, with statistical comps to those who play their positions in the American League (I excluded Josh Hamilton because he missed so much time) …

OF Mike Trout

BA: .315 (T-1st)
OBP: .410 (2nd)
SLG: .617 (1st)
WAR: 5.0 (1st)
HR: 19 (2nd)
SB: 10 (12th)

Chances: He’s a sure thing. Trout ranks second in the AL in fan votes, trailing only Jose Bautista and already notching more than 4 million, and will start his second straight All-Star Game at 22 years old.

1B Albert Pujols

BA: .257 (8th)
OBP: .312 (10th)
SLG: .467 (6th)
HR: 17 (4th)
WAR: 1.5 (7th)

Chances: He looked like an All-Star again in April, but has dropped off ever since and now there are a handful of other first basemen putting up better numbers. His reputation will have to carry him. If it doesn’t, it will be three straight All-Star Game absences for Pujols.

SS Erick Aybar

BA: .277 (4th)
OBP: .316 (9th)
SLG: .419 (2nd)
HR: 4 (T-4th)
SB: 8 (6th)
WAR: 2.9 (1st)

Chances: Tough to say. Aybar has had a terrific first half, but Derek Jeter is going to start his final All-Star Game, and Aybar typically loses the popularity contests. Alexei Ramirez is also deserving.

SP Garrett Richards

ERA: 2.81 (8th)
WHIP: 1.07 (5th)
W: 9 (T-5th)
SO: 108 (8th)
IP: 109 (14th)

Chances: In my opinion, he should. But like Aybar, he’s just not as big a name — yet. I still think Richards finds a way onto the staff, especially when you consider that so many pitchers back out every year. Winning AL Player of the Month for June wouldn’t hurt, either.

SP Jered Weaver

ERA: 3.56 (20th)
WHIP: 1.16 (T-9th)
W: 9 (T-5th)
SO: 92 (T-12th)
IP: 116 1/3 (5th)

Chances: Like Pujols, he’ll need his track record to carry him to his fourth All-Star Game. Solid year so far, but by no means great.

Alden

Takeaways from a 14-inning thriller …

Collin CowgillTuesday night’s game will be remembered mostly for Collin Cowgill‘s walk-off homer, which set up the Angels’ fifth straight win and put them 2 1/2 games back in the American League West, and for Yoenis Cespdes‘ throw, one of the best anybody has ever seen. But here are some other takeaways from one of the most interesting games of the season …

  • This was the Angels’ best pitching performance of the year. Hector Santiago provided six scoreless innings in his return from Triple-A Salt Lake, scattering three hits while walking one and striking out eight. Then, six relievers (Kevin Jepsen, Mike Morin, Joe Smith, Cam Bedrosian, Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus) combined to give up one run in eight innings, scattering five hits, walking two and striking out six, going toe-to-toe with an A’s bullpen that ranks third in the Majors in relief-pitcher WHIP.
  • The Angels, as Mike Scioscia said, “were fortunate tonight.” They made two critical baserunning blunders, with Albert Pujols running through a Gary DiSarcina stop sign in the sixth to easily get thrown out at home by Brandon Moss, and Kole Calhoun trying to advance to third in the 11th on a ground ball to shortstop Jed Lowrie, who flipped to Josh Donaldson for the easy out.
  • Scioscia made a questionable decision to have Calhoun bunt in the 13th, after Mike Trout drew a leadoff walk. Calhoun did his job, which meant Trout advanced to second, but with first base open, the A’s opted to walk Josh Hamilton (even though they had a lefty, Jeff Francis, pitching). The sac bunt took the bat out of the hands of one of the Angels’ best players, and paved the way for an inning-ending double play from David Freese.
  • The Angels and A’s play a lot of extra innings. In five matchups between the two at Angel Stadium, they’ve now gone to extra innings three times. That, in addition to the 19-inning game played in Oakland on April 29 of last year.

Alden

Hamilton returns, will probably be ‘a little antsy’ …

Josh HamiltonJosh Hamilton, as expected, was activated off the disabled list after an eight-week recovery from surgery on his left thumb Tuesday, giving the Angels a full lineup for the first time since he went down on April 8. Here’s a partial transcript of what he had to say …

Did it feel like eight weeks?

No, it didn’t. If I didn’t have my family with me it would’ve probably felt really long. That was the thing that made it pass by quickly.

Any changes in your approach sliding into first base?

I’m going to give it a break for a while. … I’m not going to change the way I play. I’ll get smarter as far as trying to know when to do things and when not to do things. … Know the situation, know the importance of the game. All of those things. … You want to be here for the long haul, you want to play as many games as possible. I never thought about it as far as sliding, because I’ve never been hurt sliding.

What were your thoughts the way they played while you were out?

I told [Mike Scioscia] I’ll sit out for a while [joking]. But it’s good to see young guys come in and fill a spot and do it well enough to keep you where you are in the standings or moving forward. The guys have done a good job moving us forward. And that’s what being on a championship team is all about. You have depth and guys come in and do that.

Can you play the field every day?

I told [Scioscia], ‘When I come up, don’t be taking me out of the lineup. Just let me go out there and play.’ That’s the way I’ve always felt.

Is your rehab assignment enough time to know if your rhythm and timing are there like it was early in the year?

You go by the at-bats you had. I’ve been having good results, good swings. It felt good. I hit the ball the other way — line drives, six-hole, left field, pulled the ball, hit balls up the middle, hit changeups, fastballs, curveballs, all of the above.

Do you expect a learning curve?

I don’t know about a learning curve. Probably a little antsy. That’s the biggest thing. Because you’ve been out of the mix as far as being in the stadiums, the crowds, all of the above. So, coming back, slowing the game down and being relaxed is key.

What are your expectations on this lineup at full strength?

Just continue to build what they’ve been doing. Throwing me back in the mix should help, but as a team, collectively, you still have to produce and perform on a consistent basis. That’s what I hope and expect, as we continue to get better and perform, and the chemistry continues to get better and better. And if it does that, we’ll be right there at the end.

  • In a pretty surprising move, the Angels called up right-handed reliever Cam Bedrosian from Double-A Arkansas and optioned Michael Kohn. Bedrosian, ranked 13th in the Angels’ system by MLB.com, had a 1.12 ERA in 24 appearances for Class A Advanced Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas this year. The 22-year-old struck out 45 batters in 24 innings. Kohn had given up six runs in his last 4 1/3 innings, walking nine batters in that stretch.
  • Mike Trout returned to the lineup after missing the Saturday and Sunday game due to a back injury. The Angels’ center fielder got some stem-cell therapy done during the team’s off day on Monday, took some early batting practice in the cage on Tuesday and “didn’t feel it at all.” “I was worried about it for a little bit,” Trout said. “But I felt good in early BP. I’m in there. That’s always good.”
  • Dane De La Rosa exceeded the maximum amount of time he can be on a rehab assignment, so the Angels activated him off the DL — then optioned him to Triple-A because they don’t deem him ready to rejoin their bullpen just yet.
  • The Yankees claimed left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who was designated for assignment on Saturday because the Angels needed some length out of the bullpen to cover them for a couple of days. That’s a tough blow to their organizational starting pitching depth, and they only ended up needing two-thirds of an inning out of Jarrett Grube.

Angels (30-26)

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

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (6-4, 3.05 ERA)

Astros (24-34)

Dexter Fowler, CF
Jose Altuve, 2B
George Springer, RF
Jason Castro, C
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Jonathan Singleton, 1B
Chris Carter, DH
Robbie Grossman, LF
Jonathan Villar, SS

SP: RH Collin McHugh (3-3, 2.80 ERA)

Alden

For the first time in 2014, Pujols sits …

Albert PujolsAlbert Pujols won’t be playing in 162 games this season. Angels manager Mike Scioscia made sure of that on Wednesday, when he told his superstar first baseman he’d be sitting for the first time in Thursday’s series finale at Safeco Field and didn’t let Pujols talk his way out of it.

He tried though.

“Yeah, but they said no,” Pujols admitted, laughing. “They don’t even want me to hit. I’m just going to go to the cage just to get loose. I’m not taking batting practice, either.”

The primary goal – more so than having him in the lineup for every game – is to make sure they keep Pujols fresh throughout the season, especially after he missed the last two months of 2013 with a partial tear of his left plantar fascia. Pujols said his lower half is “good” and “better than it was on the last road trip,” when the hard turf at Rogers Centre took its toll on the 34-year-old.

Scioscia wanted to give Pujols the day off “just to get him to recharge.”

“Albert will go out and play till the cows come home,” Scioscia added. “It’s time for him to take a day today.”

Pujols is batting .262 with a team-leading 14 homers, but his production has dipped over the last month or so, with a .236/.298/.445 slash line, five homers and 19 strikeouts in his last 28 games. In his last at-bat against Felix Hernandez on Wednesday night, though, Pujols stayed back on a 93-mph fastball and drove it to right field for a two-out RBI double in the ninth.

“It was middle-out, and that was a ball I was pulling a little bit,” said Pujols, who has started at designated hitter 11 times this year. “I was able to stay through it. Hopefully I can take it to the next series, and hopefully I get an opportunity to play tonight.”

  • Josh Hamilton was slated to take live batting practice on the field Thursday, and if that went well, he’d re-start his rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Friday. Scioscia is hopeful that Hamilton will return before the end of this road trip (Thursday in Houston).
  • Dane De La Rosa (right s/c joint irritation) appeared in back-to-back outings for Triple-A Salt Lake for the first time on Wednesday and Thursday, giving up a run in each one-inning outing. He isn’t ready to join the Angels just yet. Scioscia said his “stuff looked good,” but he’s “slowly making progress” and “to get the confidence to know he’s where he needs to be might take a couple more outings.”
  • Grant Green (.388/.404/.510) started over Collin Cowgill because, frankly, Scioscia wants to get him as many at-bats as possible since he’s swinging the bat so well (full lineup here).
  • Also, Kole Calhoun is back at leadoff. Scioscia: “With Albert out, we definitely want Mike [Trout] third. If you look at his ability to work counts, even though obviously he hasn’t been locked in since he came off the DL, I think hell be a positive in the leadoff spot, and with Erick [Aybar] in there, it will give us a good look before the heart of our lineup.”

Alden

C.J. Cron, Grant Green or Ian Stewart? …

Grant GreenJosh Hamilton should return soon — recent setback notwithstanding — and at that point the Angels will have an interesting decision in front of them.

Ultimately, it could come down to the following three guys for one roster spot …

C.J. Cron
Grant Green
Ian Stewart

It looks like Raul Ibanez‘s job is safe, partly because keeping him on the roster is the best way for the Angels to preserve their depth. Cron, Green and Stewart (still on the disabled list, but on track to be activated shortly after Hamilton) can all be optioned to the Minor Leagues. So it looks like it’ll come down to whom the Angels believe will benefit them most initially (I say “initially” because guys are sent down and called up all the time). Below is a look at what each brings, and doesn’t …

Cron

Stats: .283/.298/.478, 47 PA in MLB; .319/.369/.602, 122 PA in AAA
Benefits: A right-handed bat who can platoon with the left-handed-hitting Ibanez at designated hitter, and a natural first baseman — the only one on the roster — who can occasionally spell Albert Pujols.
Drawbacks: Cron still has some developing to do, and came up a little earlier than projected. In my opinion, he should only be up here if he’s going to get consistent at-bats. I’m not sure that would be the case with the Angels at full strength.

Green

Stats: .357/.378/.476, 45 PA in MLB; .349/.395/.505, 119 PA in AAA
Benefits: Versatility. Green is a natural shortstop who is most comfortable at second base and has gotten a lot more comfortable at third base and left field since being acquired by the Angels last July. For the last few days, he’s been getting a lot of early work at first base, too. And that could be big given what I mentioned above regarding Cron.
Drawbacks: It’s a right-handed bat for a bench that on most nights will probably have the right-handed-hitting Collin Cowgill available. Green has been much better against lefties (.935 OPS in 23 plate appearances) than righties (.768 in 22 plate appearances) during his stint in the big leagues. Still a small sample size, though.

Stewart

Stats: .176/.222/.382, 72 PA in MLB
Benefits: Stewart made the team out of Spring Training because on the nights Ibanez starts — and initially it was going to be almost all them — Mike Scioscia has a power left-handed bat off the bench. The fact Stewart can give David Freese a day off against a tough righty, while playing second and first base in an emergency situation, was also a benefit.
Drawbacks: Stewart’s performance hasn’t helped him, especially given how well Cron and Green have hit since coming up. He’s struck out 31 times in 24 games, but is working on getting his hands a little lower to shorten his swing path and hopefully cut those down.

So, which one would you pick? …

Alden

Burnett ‘excited, anxious to get back out there’ …

Sean Burnett, Mike SciosciaAfter an injury-riddled season, a surgical procedure, a nine-month rehab and a frustrating setback, lefty reliever Sean Burnett finally returned to the Majors on Friday, primed to appear out of the Angels’ bullpen for the first time in nearly a year.

“It’s a special day for me,” Burnett said, “and a day I’ve been waiting for a long time. I’m excited, anxious to get back out there.”

Burnett – signed to a two-year, $8 million contract in December 2012 – appeared in only 13 games last season before finally succumbing to elbow surgery in August 2013, a procedure that saw Dr. James Andrews re-open the scar from Burnett’s Tommy John surgery in 2004 and clean up residual scar tissue.

Burnett rehabbed all winter, started throwing bullpen sessions in Spring Training, had a bad reaction to a synvisc shot – an injectable lubricant used to treat arthritis – in late March, took a couple steps back, then slowly worked his way into a rehab assignment with Double-A Arkansas, giving up three runs in his first appearance and then throwing five straight scoreless outings.

The 31-year-old’s fastball sat mostly between 88 and 90 mph, which is about where he needs it to be, and said “the biggest thing for me was the movement was there, the life was on the ball, and I was able to locate down in the zone and repeat it.”

To activate Burnett off the disabled list, the Angels optioned first baseman/outfielder Efren Navarro to Triple-A Salt Lake, going back to the standard 13 position players and 12 relievers. Angels manager Mike Scioscia called Burnett “one of those guys that you don’t realize what he brings until he’s not here.”

With Burnett – 2.76 ERA, 1.23 WHIP with the Nats from 2010-12 – the Angels finally have a proven lefty reliever in a division with several menacing left-handed bats, one Scioscia can pair with Joe Smith and Ernesto Frieri in the back end of the bullpen.

Scioscia would like to get Burnett a low-leverage inning to get him re-acclimated, but said “if that game situation finds him tonight, he’s going to be out there.”

“I’m there physically,” Burnett said. “It’s just now the anxiousness and the nerves of getting back out there and doing it again for the first time in a big league mound. The stuff’s there, and the action on the ball is where it needs to be. It’s just controlling my emotions those first couple times out and not letting the excitement get to be.”

Some additional notes prior to the opener of a three-game series against the Royals …

  • Josh Hamilton (2-for-4 in his rehab debut on Thursday) was a late scratch from the Triple-A Salt Lake lineup on Friday. Scioscia said he got jammed badly in the ninth inning, causing soreness in his surgically repaired left thumb, and didn’t feel good during batting practice. He’s expected to return to the lineup on Saturday. As for whether Hamilton can be back by Monday in Seattle, as the left fielder had hoped, Scioscia said, “We’ll take it one day at a time.” No need to rush him for that, though.
  • Mike Trout (tight left hamstring) is back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game and then benefitting from the Angels’ scheduled off day on Thursday. He’s feeling a lot better.
  • Third baseman Ian Stewart (left hand contusion) had a “great” workout earlier today and could go on a rehab assignment on Saturday, Scioscia said.

Royals (23-23)

Nori Aoki, RF
Alcides Escobar, SS
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Billy Butler, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Danny Valencia, 3B
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Pedro Ciraco, 2B
Brett Hayes, C

SP: LH Danny Duffy (2-3, 1.42 ERA)

Angels (26-20)

Howie Kendrick, 2B
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
David Freese, 3B
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS
Grant Green, LF
Collin Cowgill, RF

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (5-3, 3.16 ERA)

Alden

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