Results tagged ‘ Kevin Jepsen ’
The American League West was tough last year — by a very reliable measure, it was the toughest by a wide margin — and it should be even more difficult for the Angels to capture a division title in 2015.
In a nutshell, three of their competitors should be better and one of them could be just as good.
The Mariners added Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith to a club with an outstanding rotation and a bullpen that had the fourth-lowest WHIP in baseball last year. The Astros have added Colby Rasmus, Evan Gattis, Hank Conger, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek to an emerging young core. The Rangers added Carlos Corporan and Yovani Gallardo to a star-studded roster that will be healthier. (I mean, they can’t get any more injured, right?) The A’s have shuffled the deck, and while they parted ways with Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris in prospect-laden deals, they also added Billy Butler, Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard, and now — amazingly — figure to be just as much of a threat in 2015.
The Angels’ offseason could best be described by some imagery general manager Jerry Dipoto recently used, while talking about the industry in general: “The beautiful thing about baseball is that it’s kind of like the ocean. It looks the same, but it changes every millisecond.”
On the outside, the Angels’ Major League roster essentially looks the same, minus Howie Kendrick and Kevin Jepsen but with Matt Joyce and Cesar Ramos. Their biggest change came in their farm system, as Dipoto continued to build layers of depth to make the Angels more sustainable moving forward. In other words, they’re definitely better for the future, but they may not be better — and may even be worse — for 2015.
The AL West ranked second in combined win-loss records last year …
AL East: +12
AL West: +10
NL Central: +8
AL Central: +4
NL East: -2
NL West: -32
But was easily No. 1 in run-differential …
AL West: +140
AL East: +29
NL East: +21
AL Central: -62
NL Central: -63
NL West: -65
That was with the Rangers ranking dead last at minus-136 and the Astros 27th at minus-94. It’s a pretty safe bet that both Texas teams will be better than that; probably way better than that.
It’s impossible to predict what will happen in 2015, of course, but we can sure try. I used Steamer’s Wins Above Replacement projections for each AL West team’s starting lineup, top four starters and best three relievers. Below is the projected fWAR for each team’s 16 most important players (for the Angels I included Garrett Richards; for the Rangers I included Jurickson Profar; for the A’s I included A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker) …
Steamer can’t account for any freak injuries that may occur, or in-season additions that can be made, or all sorts of other randomness that occurs throughout every baseball season. But I think it’s a pretty good general overview of where teams stand.
It’ll be interesting.
If you’re curious, here’s what Steamer projected for each Angels player, ordered by highest fWAR: Trout (8.7), Aybar (3.1), Calhoun (3.1), Pujols (3), Iannetta (2.7), Richards (2.3), Freese (1.8), Hamilton (1.7), Wilson (1.4), Shoemaker (1.3), Joyce (1.2), Rutledge (1.1), Weaver (0.8), Smith (0.3), Morin (0.1), Street (0).
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.”
The Angels aren’t expected to swim in the top or even the middle of the free-agent pool (wait, that doesn’t even make sense), but they still have needs to address, and they will surely consider the free market for them. Below I’ve identified four types of Major League free agents the Angels will seek.
You’ll notice I didn’t include starting pitchers. That’s because (1) Jerry Dipoto has made it clear that he doesn’t think it makes sense to sign a starter to a Major League contract if he isn’t a clear upgrade over the group he currently has, (2) the Angels can’t afford that clear upgrade without blowing past the luxury tax and (3) they’ll basically take any established starter they can get on a Minor League contract.
Also, the Angels may look to fill a lot of these needs via Minor League contracts, and players typically don’t settle for Minor League contracts until later in the offseason. Nonetheless, here are some Major League free agents who could be a fit …
The Angels really like Carlos Perez and think he can stick as the backup, so I don’t expect them to give a catcher a Major League contract (although, one must keep in mind that Chris Iannetta is a free agent at season’s end). They’ll probably look for depth options at Triple-A and guys who can compete for the backup job in camp. There aren’t many cheap options out there right now.
Dipoto expressed his desire to bring back Gordon Beckham after he non-tendered him on Tuesday, but he’ll look to the free-agent market for other options, and I have to think that ideally he’d find someone with more experience at shortstop. This is the Angels’ most glaring need right now, and it could be the area they allocate the most dollars to on free agents.
A power bat from the left side of the plate would be a nice fit off the bench, as a guy who can platoon with C.J. Cron at DH, or spell David Freese against a tough right-hander, or serve as a fifth outfielder who can pinch-hit, or all of the above. But this is another area they’ll probably look to shore up on the cheap (if at all), so you must look at the bottom of the bin here.
Here’s the thing about the Angels’ bullpen: There isn’t much room for anybody else. Six of the seven spots are basically solidified, with Huston Street, Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Salas, Mike Morin and the lone lefty, Cesar Ramos. Then there’s a host of others — Vinnie Pestano, Jeremy McBryde, Cam Bedrosian, Yoslan Herrera, Cory Rasmus, if he isn’t converted to a starter — vying for spots. So it doesn’t make much sense for the Angels to give someone a Major League contract here.
Lastly, here’s a list of the Minor League free agents the Angels have signed so far (this in addition to McBryde, who signed for the Major League minimum, and Herrera, who was brought back shortly after being non-tendered) …
C/3B Raywilly Gomez
C/LF/1B Charles Cutler
LF/CF/RF D’Arby Myers
RHSP Alex Sanabia
RHSP Albert Suarez
LHRP Atahualpa Severino
RHRP Brian Broderick
The Angels aren’t expected to tender contracts to infielder Gordon Beckham or starter Wade LeBlanc by Tuesday’s 9 p.m. PT deadline, a source told MLB.com on Monday. Third baseman David Freese, however, will be tendered a deal for his final season before free agency.
Freese is slated to make more than $6 million through the arbitration process in 2015 while Beckham, also in his final year of arbitration, lines up to make about $5 million. LeBlanc would make less than $1 million, but every little bit helps for a team that wants to stay below the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million.
By non-tendering Beckham and LeBlanc, the Angels would have roughly $9 million of wiggle room below the threshold.
Beckham never quite lived up to the expectations of his rookie season in 2009, when he batted .270/.347/.460 with the White Sox. The 28-year-old batted .241/.300/.361 over the next five years and was dealt to the Angels for a player to be named later or cash considerations on Aug. 21, appearing in 26 games as a backup infielder down the stretch.
Beckham is a strong defender at second and third base and the Angels feel comfortable with him at shortstop. They’d like to bring Beckham back as a utility infielder for a lesser contract, perhaps tacking on more years to compensate for a lower average annual value, a source said.
“Obviously, I hope I’m here going forward,” Beckham said as he cleaned out his locker in October. “Hopefully, it’s here. If not, it’ll be somewhere else.”
Freese – Most Valuable Player for the National League Championship Series and World Series in 2011 – came over alongside Fernando Salas in the November 2013 trade that sent Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk to the Cardinals. The 31-year-old batted .260/.321/.383 in his first year with the Angels, almost mirroring the .262/.340/.381 slash line he posted in what was considered a down 2013 season.
Freese was taken out late in games for defense and had only a .656 OPS against opposing right-handers, but he posted a .929 OPS in September and the Angels, who love Freese’s makeup, don’t have a clear replacement at third base for 2015.
LeBlanc was with the Angels twice in 2014, coming over on a Minor League contract last offseason, then getting claimed off waivers by the Yankees in June, electing free agency after being designated for assignment two weeks later and resigning with the Angels shortly thereafter. The 30-year-old left-hander posted a 3.94 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and a 3.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 29 2/3 innings in the big leagues.
The Angels went into the offseason with 10 arbitration-eligible players slated to make roughly $25 million combined. Reliever Vinnie Pestano agreed to a $1.15 million contract three weeks ago, and six others – starters Garrett Richards and Hector Santiago, relievers Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Salas and Cesar Ramos, and outfielder Collin Cowgill – are locks to be tendered contracts on Tuesday.
The Angels’ regular season ended on Sunday, and now all that stands before the postseason are an off day and a couple of mandatory workouts from Angel Stadium. Rosters are due by Thursday morning, and before then, Matt Shoemaker (left oblique) is expected to get off a mound at least one more time and Josh Hamilton (right chest/ribcage) will have to see some velocity (latest here). Before all the ALDS madness ensues, let’s take a numerical look back at the 162-game grind. And before we get into the objective, here’s a little bit of the subjective …
MVP: Mike Trout
Gold Glove: Erick Aybar (SS), Albert Pujols (1B), C.J. Wilson (P), Kole Calhoun (RF)
Silver Slugger: Trout, Aybar
Rookie: Matt Shoemaker
Comeback Player: Pujols
Rolaids Relief: Huston Street
Executive: Jerry Dipoto
Manager: Mike Scioscia
Trout looks like almost a lock to nab the AL MVP Award, but Shoemaker probably doesn’t stand a chance to win AL Rookie of the Year over Jose Abreu. I can’t really think of a better candidate for Comeback Player of the Year than Pujols, and there’s a good chance Dipoto or Scioscia — not both — win their respective awards. I’d lean towards Dipoto, since Buck Showalter seems to be a popular pick for top AL manager (keep in mind there’s only one Executive of the Year Award, not one per league). Of the Gold Glove list, Pujols seems like the most likely to get one. Aybar had a great year at shortstop, but so did J.J. Hardy and Alexei Ramirez. Trout is a lock for his third straight Silver Slugger. Street has had a great year, but he split it within two leagues, so he’s a long shot for the Rolaids Relief Man Award.
American League Top 10s
BA: Howie Kendrick (10, .293)
OBP: Trout (T7, .377)
SLG: Trout (3, .561)
HR: Trout (T3, 36)
RBI: Trout (1, 111); Pujols (5, 105)
BB: Trout (4, 83)
SO: Trout (1, 184)
fWAR: Trout (1, 8.1)
FanGraphs defense: Aybar (T8, 14.0)
ERA: Garrett Richards (5, 2.61)
W: Jered Weaver (T1, 18); Shoemaker (T4, 16)
IP: Weaver (9, 213 1/3)
WHIP: Richards (3, 1.04)
BB: Wilson (1, 85)
MLB Team Rankings
WPCT: 1, .605
R/DIFF: 2, 143
fWAR: 2, 30.3
R: 1, 773
OPS: 7, .728
SP ERA: 13, 3.62
RP WHIP: 8, 1.22
FLG%: T3, .986
DRS: 20, -16
Angels fWAR Standings
Chris Iannetta: 3.0
David Freese: 2.2
Collin Cowgill: 2.1
Tyler Skaggs: 1.5
Joe Smith: 1.0
Top 10 Prospects
LH Sean Newcomb (Rk, A): 6.14 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 3.0 SO/BB, 14 2/3 IP
RH Joe Gatto (Rk): 5.33 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 1.78 SO/BB, 27 IP
RH Chris Ellis (Rk): 6.89 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 2.00 SO/BB, 15 2/3 IP
3B Kaleb Cowart (AA): .223/.295/.324, 6 HR, 54 RBI, 26 SB (stopped switch-hitting during season)
RH Cam Bedrosian: 6.52 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 1.67 SO/BB, 19 1/3 IP (MLB); 2.00 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 4.56 SO/BB, 45 IP (A+, AA, AAA)
LH Hunter Green: did not pitch
LH Ricardo Sanchez (Rk): 3.49 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 1.95 SO/BB, 38 2/3 IP
2B Alex Yarbrough (AA): .285/.321/.397, 5 HR, 77 RBI, 6 SB
RH Mark Sappington (A+, AA): 6.02 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 1.44 SO/BB, 113 2/3 IP (moved to bullpen during season)
RH Jeremy Rhoades (Rk): 4.42 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 2.67 SO/BB, 38 2/3 IP
Team Records Set
Most strikeouts by a player: Trout tied Mark Trumbo (184 in 2013)
Most wins by a rookie: Shoemaker, 16 (previously 14 by Dean Chance, Marcelino Lopez and Frank Tanana)
Scoreless appearances in a season: Smith (67) and Kevin Jepsen (65), topping Francisco Rodriguez (63 in ’08)
Pitchers used: 31 (previously 29 in 1996)
Fewest errors: 83 (previously 85 in ’09, for a non-strike season)
Strikeouts by a pithing staff: 1,342 (previously 1,200 in 2013)
Some other interesting tidbits …
- Second time in club history that they finish the regular season with the best record and lock up home-field advantage throughout the postseason (also 2008).
- 98 wins is the third-most in club history, two shy of the club record set in ’08.
- The Angels went an entire season without being shutout on the road.
- Angels drew 3 million fans at home for the 12th consecutive season, a streak only matched in the AL by the Yankees. Their average attendance (38,221) was the highest since 2011.
- Pujols led the Majors with 33 go-ahead RBIs, finishing one shy of the club record (34, by Vladimir Guerrero in ’06).
- Trout became just the second RBI champion in team history (also Don Baylor, with 139 during his MVP season in 1979).
- Trout is the first player in Major League history to lead either league in runs scored in his first three full seasons (115 in 2014). The last player to do that at any age was Mickey Mantle (1956-58).
- Since 2011, Street has converted 126 of 136 save opportunities (93 percent), which is the best mark over that span (minimum: 50 innings).
- Pujols is the 16th player with 2,500 hits, 1,500 runs and 500 homers, all marks he accomplished this season. The only others to do it by their age-34 season are Jimmie Foxx, Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez.
- Trout is the first player since 1901 with 100 career steals and 90-plus career homers by his age-22-or-younger season.
- All eight of the Angels’ everyday position players finished with an OPS+ over 100. Only the 1973 Orioles, ’09 Angels and ’13 Red Sox had more.
- John McDonald turned 40 on Wednesday, and hit an RBI double in what could’ve been his final Major League at-bat. If it is the end, hats off to a great career by a truly great person.
The Angels eventually ran away with it on Tuesday, but before the offense cranked out seven runs in the eighth inning, it was lining up to be a one-run game, and a save situation in the ninth.
Huston Street, however, was not available.
Mike Scioscia said Street has some tightness in the upper portion of his right hamstring, an ailment that prompted the Angels’ manager to stay away from his veteran closer. Instead, Fernando Salas pitched the seventh, Kevin Jepsen had the eighth and Joe Smith was ready to come in for the save in the ninth before the Angels’ offense batted around. Scioscia could’ve stayed away from Jepsen with an eight-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, but he hadn’t pitched in four days and wanted to use him nonetheless.
Street — with a 1.33 ERA and 37 saves — appeared in three straight games from Thursday to Saturday and has had the last three days off. Scioscia expects him to be available on Wednesday. Scioscia made a rare mound visit without making a pitching change in the bottom of the ninth, when Mike Morin plunked Michael Choice, then walked Guilder Rodriguez, the journeyman Minor Leaguer who had struck out in his first three plate appearances.
“It looked like he was over-thinking some things,” Scioscia said, “so I wanted to make sure he was OK.”
Morin retired the next two batters to seal the Angels’ season-high-tying sixth straight win.
That’s the bullpen’s catch phrase these days. It’s what Jason Grilli said this morning, in the wake of the 2-0 victory that was made possible by eight Angels pitchers taking the mound in nine innings: “All hands on deck.”
Prior to the game, the Angels surprisingly called up a position player (Grant Green) and sent down a pitcher (Cory Rasmus). Angels manager Mike Scioscia said they’re fine on the pitching side for Sunday’s series finale, given the fact that there’s an off day on Monday. Rasmus was sent down only as a formality, since he can be called up when rosters expand by Tuesday (they expand Monday, but the Angels’ next game is Tuesday).
Sunday is the last day to acquire players from outside the organization that would be eligible for the playoffs, and Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto isn’t planning on acquiring a starter. They’ll try to “cobble” it together, Dipoto said. And they’ll sort of do that on Sunday. Closer Huston Street (coming off appearing in four straight days) and setup man Joe Smith (three straight) are likely not available.
Here’s a look at who is …
LH Hector Santiago: Santiago said he put his spikes on last night, but never walked out to the bullpen. He will on Sunday. Santiago last started on Wednesday, and he’ll be backed up to start on Thursday, so he can give Scioscia an inning or two out of the bullpen if needed.
LH Michael Roth: Roth’s turn to start in Double-A was Saturday, and he only faced four batters (one an intentional walk) that day in the Majors. He can give Scisocia lots of length if the game gets out of hand or goes extras.
RH Yoslan Herrera: Herrera faced only one batter, and got two crucial outs, on Saturday. And he took the mound on three days’ rest. He can give Scioscia multiple innings, as well.
RH Jason Grilli: Grilli has only pitched twice in the last six days, including Saturday. He could be a candidate to close, unless it’s …
RH Kevin Jepsen: Jepsen would be appearing in his fourth game in five days if he pitches on Sunday, but I bet Scioscia doesn’t hesitate to go to him if he needs him.
RH Mike Morin: The 23-year-old right-hander is actually pretty fresh. He’s had two days off, which is an eternity in this bullpen. He’s someone who can give Scioscia two innings if needed.
RH Fernando Salas: Salas is basically on the same schedule as Jepsen, having appeared in two of his last three games. The fact he only threw one 11-pitch inning on Saturday, when he could’ve easily come out for a second, makes him available for the series finale.
If the Angels have a lead after six, and Scioscia goes to the bullpen to relieve Matt Shoemaker, my guess is Morin, Grilli, Jepsen get the last three innings, respectively.
Tuesday 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.
Not a moment too soon.
The Angels’ bullpen has started the year by giving up eight runs over six innings through the first two games, with closer Ernesto Frieri and setup man Joe Smith sitting idly by as the middle relievers struggled to keep small deficits manageable. On Monday, Kevin Jepsen and Nick Maronde gave up six runs in the ninth. On Tuesday, Michael Kohn gave up two more in the ninth.
But by the time the Angels play their next home game — on April 11 against the Mets, following a six-game road trip through Houston and Seattle — De La Rosa expects to be back.
“I’m getting antsy,” said De La Rosa, who’s working his way back from a right forearm strain suffered on March 6. “When we get everybody healthy, together at the same time, we’re going to be a shutdown bullpen.”
Before April comes to an end, Burnett — limited to 13 games last year, recovering from August elbow surgery — also hopes to return, giving the Angels a critical late-inning lefty reliever.
“I just want to get out there and play,” Burnett said. “I’m a baseball player. It’s been what I’ve doing since I was a little kid. I’m itching to get back out there.”
De La Rosa, who has already taken part in a couple of Minor League games, threw roughly 35 pitches in the bullpen and 25 more to hitters knew what was coming ahead of time. When the Angels hit the road, De La Rosa will venture out on a rehab assignment with Double-A Arkansas in hopes of being activated by next Friday.
Burnett threw 30-some-odd pitches in the bullpen and another 15 in the sim game. It was his first time facing hitters since May 26, 2013, and called it “the biggest hurdles I think I can possibly clear.” He’ll throw in another sim game in Arizona in two days, then hope to go out on a rehab assignment after that.
“I couldn’t throw the ball much better than I did today,” Burnett said. “Now it’s just arm strength, building up to 25, 30 pitches.”
Here are the lineups for the series finale, with the tarp currently on the field …
Abraham Almonte, CF
Brad Miller, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Justin Smoak, 1B
Corey Hart, DH
Stefen Romero, RF
Dustin Ackley, LF
Mike Zunino, C
Willie Bloomquist, 3B
SP: LH James Paxton (0-0, -.– ERA)
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
David Freese, 3B
Josh Hamilton, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS
SP: LH Hector Santiago (0-0, -.– ERA)
Most important thing: The Angels’ offense continues to roll. They entered fourth in the Majors in runs and scored a combined six in the second and third inning. Mike Trout (2-for-4) is batting .409, Howie Kendrick (ground-rule double) is batting .400, Chris Iannetta (three-run homer) is batting .360, Erick Aybar (1-for-3) is batting .324, Kole Calhoun (solo homer) is batting .300 and Albert Pujols (1-for-4 with a deep lineout) has his batting average up to .293.
Second-most important thing: C.J. Wilson went 5 1/3 innings despite a long first and second inning, giving up three runs (one earned) on seven hits and two walks while striking out nine. He actually pitched even better than that. There weren’t very many hard-hit balls against him and he was the victim of some shaky defense early. His spring ERA is 2.49.
Third-most important thing: Josh Hamilton, playing in his fourth game since returning from a strained left calf, went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored and ran around a lot. He looks perfectly healthy, and not like a guy who’s going to need to start the season on the disabled list to get more at-bats.
Fourth-most important thing: Kevin Jepsen and Joe Smith pitched on back-to-back days for the first time this spring and turned in scoreless outings.
Fifth-most important thing: David Freese went 2-for-2 and has eight hits in his last 21 at-bats, raising his Cactus League batting average to .257.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Aybar might have turned in the Angels’ best catch of the spring, diving full extension to his right to snag a really hard liner off the bat of Brett Hayes.
Best quote: Mike Scioscia on Wilson’s outing: “We didn’t help him much in the field in the first couple innings, but he settled in and really pitched well. He needed a lot of pitches to get through the first couple of innings, but then he really got the ball in the zone in good spots and finished strong. He’s on track.”
Angels’ record: 12-10-2
Taco power rankings (updated every Friday): 1. Los Taquitos, 2. El Hefe, 3. America’s Taco Shop, 4. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 5. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 6. Senor Taco, 7. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 8. Poliberto’s Taco Shop, 9. Dos Gringos (at the ballpark), 10. Salty Senorita