Results tagged ‘ Kole Calhoun ’
Desperate for continuity from his offense and looking to maximize opportunities for his two best hitters, Angels manager Mike Scioscia made a significant, highly anticipated change to his lineup Tuesday, batting Mike Trout in the prominent No. 3 spot and making Albert Pujols his new cleanup hitter.
Scioscia hopes “this is a lineup we can ride out for a long time.”
In his mind, it became a necessity.
“We’ve got five holes in our wall and enough spackle for three holes,” is how Scioscia described it. “Which ones do you want to fill? Right now we want to go solid one through five and look at it that way.”
Translation: The Angels’ offense hasn’t proven to be very deep this year, so Scioscia would prefer to bunch all of his best hitters up top.
That involved keeping Erick Aybar at leadoff and moving Kole Calhoun to the No. 2 spot to bat him directly in front of Trout and Pujols, as was the case when Calhoun batted leadoff all of last season.
The Angels entered Tuesday ranked 22nd in the Majors in runs per game, while Trout and Pujols were tied with Nelson Cruz for the American League lead in homers with 18 apiece.
Pujols had started in the cleanup spot just five times since 2003 and not once since signing a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels. Trout batted leadoff as a rookie in 2012, moved into the No. 2 spot a couple weeks into the 2013 season and batted third only on days when Pujols wasn’t in the lineup, which was especially the case when Pujols missed the last two months of 2013 because of a partial tear of his left plantar fascia.
Trout has a .323/.473/.511 slash line in 245 career plate appearances as a No. 3 hitter.
“I’m not going to change my approach,” said Trout, who entered Tuesday batting .297/.381/.577 for the season. “You can’t change your approach. That’s when you get in trouble.”
Since 1914, Pujols – riding a hot stretch that has his slash line up to .272/.323/.540 – ranks eighth in starts in the No. 3 spot with 1,851. The 35-year-old first baseman didn’t want to talk about the subject when approached by the media on Tuesday afternoon, but indications are that he really likes the move.
There’s a delicate balance here, a tradeoff between potentially giving Trout and Pujols more opportunities with runners in scoring position while ensuring that they will come up to bat less frequently over the course of the season.
“That was weighed very heavily,” Scioscia said. “But the bottom line is everybody in the room when we were talking about it was unanimous about the need to try to readjust some things.”
There was a 16-plate-appearance gap between the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters in the AL last year, which would add up to about 10 fewer plate appearances for both Trout and Pujols this season. Scioscia hopes Aybar and Calhoun can help make up for that by giving Trout and Pujols more opportunities to drive in runs.
Aybar’s slash line is down to .255/.301/.301 after a recent 0-for-19 slump, while Calhoun – the cleanup hitter for the better part of the last month – entered Tuesday batting .273/.328/.398.
“Right now we all feel that we need to try something that’s going to get a little more action, especially early in games,” Scioscia said. “It’s not just the first inning. But if we get a little action and move the lineup, these guys are coming back up in the third inning and in the fifth inning, the same group. If you just do a statistical analysis of it, the chances of these guys hitting with a couple of guys on base is very real within the first five or six innings, either Mike or Albert, if this works out. We’ll see.”
The Angels continued to juggle their roster on Monday, selecting the contract of left-handed reliever Edgar Ibarra, sending corner outfielder Alfredo Marte back to Triple-A Salt Lake and designating center fielder Gary Brown for assignment.
With that, the Angels returned to the traditional 12-man pitching staff for Monday’s series opener against the Rays – partly because they used four relievers in Sunday’s win over the Tigers, partly because Albert Pujols returned to first base.
Pujols started the last two games at designated hitter while nursing a groin injury, but the 35-year-old was cleared to play the field pregame and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he “feels really good.”
Brown — a 26-year-old former first-round pick by the Giants — was selected off waivers from the Cardinals on April 22, but the Angels needed to designate him in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Ibarra.
Ibarra, signed to a Minor League contract in the offseason, gives the Angels three lefty relievers, along with Jose Alvarez and Cesar Ramos. Converted to the bullpen three years ago, Ibarra posted a 1.93 ERA in Double-A and Triple-A in 2013, then had a down year at those levels in 2014, compiling a 4.22 ERA, a 1.48 WHIP and a 2.07 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 40 appearances.
The Angels watched Ibarra struggle in Spring Training, then moved him to the other side of the rubber, saw his fastball play up and his slider improve, then watched it translate to the Pacific Coast League, where he posted a 2.25 ERA and struck out 29 batters in 24 innings.
Ibarra was informed of his first big league call up at 10:30 p.m. local time in Memphis, Tenn., on Sunday – in the final hours of his 26th birthday.
“Really happy to be here,” Ibarra said. “I was really surprised.”
- Mike Morin, nursing an oblique strain for the last eight days, continues to get treatment and should be playing catch by the end of this week. At that point, though, the 24-year-old right-hander will have to make an entire throwing progression and go out on a rehab assignment. Morin said “it’s just going to depend on how my body reacts day-to-day.”
- Right-handed reliever Cory Rasmus, in the late stages of his recovery from surgery to repair a core injury in March, was recently shut down from throwing to hitters in Arizona because of back stiffness. Scioscia said it wasn’t serious and Rasmus is back to throwing to hitters.
- Tyler Skaggs, who will spend the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, played catch from 150 feet on Monday and said it “went really well.” Rasmus will throw from that distance four days a week and plans to get off a mound in three weeks.
- The Angels hosted 1,900 at-risk students as part of an ongoing effort to keep children out of gangs. The kids – representing the largest group to attend an Angels game under the organization OC Grip – got the invitation as a reward for improved school attendance and behavior. Hector Santiago and Kole Calhoun were among the Angels members who spoke to them pregame.
Angels shortstop Erick Aybar was out of the starting lineup, as expected, on Friday, one day after tweaking his left hamstring while running up the first-base line.
Aybar felt just “a pinch” in his leg, and he hopes to return as early as Saturday.
“I woke up feeling better,” Aybar said in Spanish. “I won’t do anything today. Tomorrow, I’ll run. If I’m fine, I’ll just play tomorrow.”
Aybar’s absence prompted young utility infielder Taylor Featherston to start at shortstop and second baseman Johnny Giavotella to move into the leadoff spot.
Aybar, who started each of the Angels’ first 48 games at shortstop, suffered the hamstring injury after executing a squeeze bunt in Thursday’s fifth inning. He jogged back to the dugout gingerly and asked to return to the game, but Featherston took his place the next half-inning. He wanted to start Friday, but the Angels told him to take the day off entirely.
They’ll continue to be cautious.
“He has to get to a level the medical department is comfortable with before we consider working him out to see where he is and getting him into a game,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “… When he pulls up, you’re racing in your mind. ‘Is this something where he’s just going to have to come out for this game, or is it going to be a month?’ You just never know with hamstrings. It seems like we’re in the day-to-day range right now.”
The Angels’ offense – 22nd in the Majors in runs per game and 27th in OPS despite a 12-run output on Thursday – can ill afford to lose Aybar for an extended period. The 31-year-old switch-hitter has been hitting .351 since May 8 and had settled in as the Angels’ leadoff spot over the last 11 days.
Giavotella can continue to lead off in Aybar’s place, though Scioscia brought up the possibility of Kole Calhoun returning to the leadoff spot if the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce stays hot. Featherston will get the majority of playing time at shortstop while Aybar heals and Grant Green can also fill in.
If Aybar does go on the disabled list, the Angels would call up Josh Rutledge or Ryan Jackson from Triple-A.
Asked about the chances of that happening, Aybar said: “I feel good; I don’t think so. I can’t tell you for sure because it’s a hamstring. But I feel good, thankfully.”
- Matt Shoemaker, undrafted out of Eastern Michigan University seven years ago, had his own bobblehead giveaway at Angel Stadium on Friday. The 28-year-old right-hander called it “an honor. It’s really humbling and an honor at the same time to say, ‘Hey, they wanted to make a bobblehead out of you.’ Pretty special.”
- Right-handed reliever Chad Smith was claimed off waivers by the Marlins on Friday. The Angels signed Smith, 25, on May 8, then designated him for assignment on Wednesday to make room on the 40-man roster for outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
- Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher returned to the team on Friday, after taking a couple days off to be with his daughter while she graduated high school. Triple-A pitching coach Erik Bennett filled for Butcher.
- The organization will host 1,900 at-risk students at Angel Stadium on Monday, as part of an ongoing effort to keep children out of gangs. The kids got the invitation as a reward for improved school attendance and behavior and for staying out of gangs. It represents the largest group ever to attend an Orange County Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership (OC GRIP) Angels game.
The Angels acquired Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the Mets on Wednesday, and he’s expected to join the team for Thursday’s series opener against the Mets. The Angels will announce a corresponding move after the game. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he’ll get some at-bats against right-handed pitching.
Marc Krauss — another left-handed-hitting power bat — is the logical choice to get optioned to Triple-A for Nieuwenheuis, but that’s only if Collin Cowgill doesn’t instead land on the disabled list.Cowgill tried to swing the bat on Wednesday, but it appears he had some sort of setback. Cowgill is meeting with doctors again on Wednesday, and Scioscia called a DL stint “a possibility if he doesn’t turn the corner.”
Cowgill was scratched from the starting lineup on Sunday with pain in his right hand. An MRI on Monday called the ailment a joint sprain, and Cowgill took an anti-inflammatory shot that kept him away from baseball activities for 24 hours.
Some additional notes from today’s lineup, which has Grant Green starting over Johnny Giavotella at second base and both of Scioscia’s catchers — Chris Iannetta and Carlos Perez — playing together …
- If Krauss gets optioned after Wednesday’s game, Green would essentially be the backup first baseman (though Kole Calhoun can also play first base). “He’s an infielder and he’s got range,” Scioscia said of Green at first base. “He’s been pretty comfortable at first base. He spent a lot of time there in the spring, and also down in Triple-A. He feels comfortable at first.”
- Asked if second base is now based on day-to-day matchups, rather than Giavotella simply being the starter, Scioscia said: “Johnny’s still going to get a lot of playing time, but we’re still going to spot Grant in there and also Taylor [Featherston] at times. Johnny, even with this little downturn, there’s things he’s doing at the plate that are important. He’ll continue to get a lot of playing time at second.”
- Scisocia started Iannetta at DH and Perez behind the plate, a risky move because if Perez somehow gets hurt, the Angels would lose their DH (or use an emergency third catcher, which is unlikely). Scioscia said he wants to get Chris some bats “because he was just kind of warming up and we hate to get him out of that rhythm when we also need to play Carlos.”
- Cory Rasmus, out since undergoing surgery for what the team called a core injury in late March, is currently throwing in simulated games in Arizona. He’d still have to go out on a rehab assignment after that. “He would need a significant chunk of what Spring Training would be to get ready to pitch in the big leagues,” Scioscia said. Rasmus, the Angels’ long reliever last year, could start a rehab assignment in the next week or so.
- Mike Morin, who landed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain on Saturday, “is getting better” but the recovery will take “weeks, not days,” Scisocia said. “It’s going to be a while.”
Albert Pujols returned to the Angels’ lineup for Friday’s series opener against the Red Sox from Fenway Park, two days after a fastball caught him on the left hand/wrist.
Pujols initially thought for sure that he was headed for the disabled list, but a CT scan revealed only a bruise and the swelling on the bottom of his left hand went down significantly. The Angels’ 35-year-old first baseman is going to have to hit through a little bit of pain, but believes it’s manageable.
“Albert is as tough as they come,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He wants to play. He’ll go out there when he’s at 60 percent. He’ll go out there and compete and usually get it done. He just wants to play.”
Here’s the Angels’ lineup …
Erick Aybar, SS
Mike Trout, CF
Kole Calhoun, RF
David Freese, 3B
Matt Joyce, LF
Chris Iannetta, C
Marc Krauss, DH
Johnny Giavotella, 2B
SP: RH Garrett Richards (3-2, 2.29 ERA)
Richards dismissed the thought of there being any added emotion upon returning to Fenway, the place where he suffered the gruesome knee injury that ended his season and sent him on a long rehab on Aug. 20. Scisocia place much significance on it, either.
“It wasn’t Fenway Park that hurt his leg,” Scioscia said. “It was just a baseball field. I think he’ll be fine.”
Some additional notes …
- C.J. Cron scorched through Spring Training, but he has a .200/.222/.274 slash line and isn’t starting against right-handers. He’s still 25 and developing as a hitter. Is it best for him to go to the Minor Leagues to work some things out at the plate and get some regular playing time? “You don’t have to get [at-bats] seven days [a week], but if you are getting them one day a week, then there’s a discussion of what’s best for the team and what’s best for the player. C.J. has gotten enough at-bats where if he’s swinging like he can, he’d be contributing. But he hasn’t found that swing yet.”
- A more positive memory from Fenway Park was Calhoun’s brilliant catch over the right-field fence. “That was incredible. You know, most guys would’ve probably caught that neck-high,” Scioscia quipped. Calhoun is listed at 5-foot-10 and Collin Cowgill, who typically comes in as a defensive replacement in left field, is listed at 5-foot-9. “When him and Cowgill are out there, they’re two LA Angels garden gnomes. That’s what I tell Trout — make sure you don’t step on them.”
- The Red Sox called up Rusney Castillo and optioned Jackie Bradley Jr.
For a little more than a year, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has enjoyed the luxury of receiving uncommon power from a traditionally powerless spot in his batting order. His lineup was deep enough, productive enough to keep Kole Calhoun in the leadoff spot, while leading the Majors in runs and receiving power from almost every position.
But those days are seemingly over.
The Angels’ current offense – 29th in the Majors in runs per game and 30th in OPS through the first six weeks of 2015 – can no longer sustain keeping Calhoun’s power left-handed bat at the top. Scioscia moved him back into the cleanup spot on Monday, prior to the opener of a four-game series against the Blue Jays, and this time it seems like a long-term move.
“We’re going to ride this out,” said Scioscia.
Calhoun at cleanup moved Erick Aybar into the leadoff spot, a lineup configuration Scioscia used for what he hoped was a short-term fix from April 30 to May 4. Aybar doesn’t walk a lot – he ranked 184th among qualified players in plate appearances per walk from 2009-14 – but Scioscia believes he can succeed batting in front of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, which would seemingly lead to getting more pitches to hit.
“What Erick doesn’t bring in patience, working counts, he brings in just athleticism and still gets on base at a rate which hopefully will set the table for Mike and Albert moving forward,” Scioscia said. “And also, we have Johnny Giavotella pushed back to ninth, to try to connect him with Mike. Hopefully there will be some table-setting there that’s happening, and we’ll get to the big guys in our lineup. “
The Angels have already been shut out three times, equaling their total from all of last season, and had scored three runs or less in 21 of their previous 37 games. The left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce continues to struggle, with a .143/.180/.219 slash line through his first 32 games, and the Angels’ lineup has several right-handed hitters who have historically struggled against right-handed pitching.
That’s why they need Calhoun in the middle of the order, to protect Pujols and maximize his opportunities with runners in scoring position.
Calhoun entered the series at Rogers Centre with a .327 batting average, three homers and 17 RBIs in his last 29 games. Last year, his .801 OPS from the leadoff spot was significantly higher than the Major League average of .715. It was an advantage that set the Angels’ lineup apart. So Scioscia tried for as long as he could to keep Calhoun at that leadoff spot, going so far as to bat Aybar cleanup on Saturday and Sunday.
But it’s a luxury the Angels can no longer afford.
“As much as we really like Kole in the leadoff spot, and in front of Mike, I think what we’re presented with right now just makes the most sense to go with it this way,” Scioscia said. “Guys have had a lot of time to get into their game and aren’t there yet, so we need to start to take a little pressure off our pitching staff.”
Albert Pujols’ tight left hamstring was “no worse” on Thursday morning, which Angels manager Mike Scioscia considered a good sign. But there’s still no telling how long the veteran first baseman will be out.
Pujols only got treatment Thursday, hours after his hamstring grabbed on him while jogging down the first-base line on a sixth-inning single on Wednesday night. The Angels transition to a National League park in San Francisco for the weekend set, eliminating the designated hitter and potentially ruling Pujols out until Monday, at the earliest.
“It’s obviously sore,” Scioscia said of Pujols’ hamstring. “We’re going to take it day-by-day for now.”
Pujols’ absence had a pretty sizeable impact on Scioscia’s lineup, which was struggling to score runs even while he was in there. Mike Trout settled into the No. 3 spot, Erick Aybar moved from fifth to first, Johnny Giavotella went from ninth to second and Kole Calhoun – 13-for-32 in his last eight games heading into Thursday’s series finale – moved from leadoff to cleanup.
“Out of all the guys you’d want to hit behind Mike, right now it’s Kole,” Scioscia said. “… It’s a deviation from what we really want to do in our lineup, but I think the circumstances are very clear. Right now, there’s a lot of guys trying to find their game. And with Albert out of the lineup, we have to make some adjustments.”
Fernando Salas was initially credited with the win on Wednesday, but the official scorer and Elias Sports Bureau decided Thursday morning to instead give the win to Mike Morin, who retired the final batter in the bottom of the sixth before the Angels took a three-run lead in the top of the seventh. Salas kept the A’s scoreless in the bottom of the seventh of the Angels’ eventual 6-3 victory.
Albert Pujols’ left hamstring grabbed on him after a sixth-inning single on Wednesday night, prompting the first baseman to exit early in the Angels’ eventual 6-3 win over the A’s.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t anticipate the hamstring injury to send Pujols to the disabled list, but said, “There’s some soreness in there, definitely.” Pujols isn’t expected to start Thursday’s day game and there’s a decent chance he won’t play the rest of this week, with the following three games coming in a National League venue – AT&T Park in San Francisco – that eliminates the designated hitter.
“It feels more like a cramp, but it’s really sore right now,” Pujols said after the game. “We’ll see tomorrow.”
Pujols screamed in pain while jogging halfway down the first-base line after a bloop single off Dan Otero and was immediately checked on by the Angels’ training staff. The 35-year-old felt a little better after loosening his left leg, but Grant Green took over as a pinch-runner nonetheless.
Initial tests checked out fine and Pujols probably won’t require an MRI – but he will need to sit out a little while.
“It’s weird,” said Pujols, batting .208 through the Angels’ first 21 games. “I don’t have that much history on the hamstring.”
For the Angels, it’s coming at a tough time.
Their offense has been slow out of the gate, Wednesday’s three-run seventh inning notwithstanding. They scored three runs or less in 12 of their first 20 games and entered Wednesday ranked 22nd in the Majors in runs and 25th in OPS.
With Pujols out, Mike Trout is expected to slide into the No. 3 spot and Erick Aybar could bat second, behind leadoff man Kole Calhoun.
“It’s tough losing Albert, one of our big guys,” Trout said. “Hopefully it’s just a cramp.”
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.”
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.”