Results tagged ‘ Mariners ’

To catch A’s, Angels must overcome schedule …

Albert Pujols, Mike TroutThe Angels and A’s are each playing their 100th game tonight, and when the day began, Oakland’s lead in the American League West remained at two. The Angels have been one of baseball’s best teams for most of the season, currently sporting the second-best record in the Majors, but they have the misfortune of playing in a division with the best team. And of playing in an era when winning your division is crucial (nobody wants their season to be decided by a singular Wild Card game, especially if that game comes against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez).

So it goes without saying that the Angels’ goal is to catch the A’s, who only got stronger by adding Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to their rotation. To do that, they’ll have to continue to make up ground.

And they’ll have to overcome a far less favorable schedule.

Below is a categorical look at the remaining games for each team, starting Thursday. The first line is the amount of games each has against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today, the second is the amount of games against teams with records above .500, the third is the amount of home games left, and the fourth is the combined number of games above/below .500 from each of their remaining 62 opponents.*

The Angels and A’s play each other 10 more times — Aug. 22-24 in Oakland, Aug. 28-31 in Anaheim and Sept. 22-24 in Oakland, making up the second-to-last series of the regular season. The A’s lead the season series, 6-3.

Athletics

Playoffs: 19
Above-.500: 19
Home: 30
Combined: 246 games below .500

Angels

Playoffs: 28
Above-500: 29
Home: 28
Combined: 2 games below .500

* a few teams hadn’t finished their Wednesday games by the time I tallied this

Alden

Erick Aybar not in lineup, but ready to go …

Erick AybarErick Aybar was out of the starting lineup for a third straight day on Monday, a precaution for the sore right groin the Angels’ shortstop suffered while reaching first base on a ninth-inning single against the Mariners on Friday night.

Prior to batting practice, though, Aybar did some light agility drills on the field with strength-and-conditioning coordinator T.J. Harrington, then took some BP and felt good. The 30-year-old — an All-Star for the first time while sporting a .283/.320/.409 slash line — expects to return to the starting lineup on Tuesday and should be available off the bench for Monday’s series opener against the Orioles.

The groin initially bothered the switch-hitter while batting from the right side of the plate.

“But I’m good now, from both sides,” Aybar said in Spanish. “I’ll be ready to go tomorrow. They told me one more day, and then tomorrow I’ll [return to the starting lineup]. But I’m ready for whatever they need today, too.”

Some other notes as the Angels look to build on a Major League-best .824 winning percentage in July …

  • As I type this, C.J. Wilson is throwing his first bullpen session since landing on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle on July 10. Wilson said he has “no idea” how much longer he’ll have to be on the shelf. “It’s going to be how does it feel today throwing, and then after throwing tomorrow.” Wilson will eventually have to go out onto a rehab assignment. “I’m going to have to adjust to how it feels, because it’s not just going to heal itself in a week,” he added. “Some of the adjustment is going to have to be pain tolerance and things like that. And just learning how to use a somewhat-destabilized ankle.”
  • From Matthew DeFranks: Collin Cowgill rejoined the Angels on Monday and said he should return from the disabled list in a couple of weeks, barring an unforeseen setback. Cowgill broke his nose and thumb after he was hit by a Matt West pitch trying to bunt on July 13. Cowgill, who flew in from his home Kentucky on Sunday night, had stitches removed from his nose on Monday and said it would probably be another few days before he can take any swings.
  • The Angels signed veteran catcher John Buck to a Minor League deal and assigned him to Triple-A Salt Lake, where they currently have three active catchers. Buck, 34, was released from the Mariners on Tuesday after batting .226/.293/.286. For the Angels, he can be a third catcher when rosters expand in September — unless he finds an immediate Major League opportunity before then.

Lineup …

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

SP: RH Matt Shoemaker (7-2, 4.38 ERA)

Alden

Calhoun finds his mojo at the leadoff spot …

Kole CalhounKole Calhoun‘s return to the leadoff spot was merely a byproduct of Albert Pujols missing his first game of the season.

But it may have gotten him going nonetheless.

Calhoun entered Thursday’s game 1-for-19 since coming off a six-week rehabilitation from a sprained right ankle, then went 2-for-4 in the 7-5 win over the Mariners, hitting a double, drawing two walks and scoring three runs. The 26-year-old right fielder believes returning to the leadoff spot played a part in feeling better than he has at the plate since coming off the DL, becuase it forced him to take pitches and be more patient.

“Your typical leadoff hitter is going to try to get on base, let these guys know what the starting pitcher has, especially early in the game,” Calhoun said. “I saw six pitches my first at-bat, laid off some close ones in my second and third at-bats. That’s something personally I need to do, and it’s good for the team. I set the table and had a good night.”

Calhoun entered the season as the team’s leadoff hitter, and hit there for 11 of his first 14 games.

Asked if he’ll continue to ride Calhoun at the leadoff spot, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said: “I think we’ll mix and match a little bit. He did a good job tonight. When he gets comfortable, we talked about him hitting at the top. Against leftie,s we got some guys who are doing a pretty good job getting on base, too. We’ll have some options.”

Translation: Calhoun may actually sit over the next two games, as the A’s start the series with lefties Drew Pomeranz and Tommy Milone. Calhoun has hit lefties well in his career, but Scioscia has been going with Grant Green and Collin Cowgill in the outfield corners in those situations.

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

Sean Burnett suffers a torn UCL …

Angels reliever Sean Burnett has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, an injury that will knock him out for the rest of the season and may require a second Tommy John surgery, an MRI revealed on Wednesday.

As the corresponding move for Burnett going on the disabled list, the Angels recalled right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who will start on Thursday against the Mariners.

Burnett was three appearances into his return from a nine-month rehabilitation from elbow surgery when he felt elbow discomfort in the seventh inning at Safeco Field on Tuesday night. Burnett got Michael Saunders to pop out, then motioned to the dugout and was taken out of the game.

When approached by reporters afterwards, the 31-year-old left-hander was on the verge of tears and had to cut the interview short after less than 30 seconds.

With the Nationals from 2010-12, Burnett – a product of Tommy John surgery in 2004 – posted a 2.76 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP while compiling 212 appearances.

The Angels signed him to a two-year, $8 million contract in November 2012, but Burnett never got healthy. In 2013, Burnett made two separate trips to the DL, appeared in only 13 games and didn’t pitch past late May, suffering a torn flexor tendon that required surgery that August. Burnett spent all of 2014 working his way back, suffering a temporary setback after a bad reaction to a shot in late March and then gradually working through a rehab assignment before being activated on Friday.

Burnett’s return lasted all of three batters.

The Angels hold a $4.5 million club option on Burnett for 2015, with a $500,000 buyout.

Alden

Burnett suffers his most frustrating setback yet …

Angels reliever Sean Burnett, three outings into his return from a nine-month rehabilitation, was removed from Tuesday’s game because of discomfort in his surgically repaired left elbow and will be evaluated in Southern California on Wednesday.

Burnett will likely land on the disabled list, and the Angels will cross their fingers that the injury isn’t serious.

“Lot of frustration right now,” Burnett said when approached by a scrum of reporters at the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field. “I’m trying to stay positive.”

Shortly after that, the 31-year-old lefty reliever’s eyes welled up and he had to walk away from the interview, the emotions of yet another setback still too raw for Burnett, who was limited to 13 appearances in 2013 and underwent elbow surgery in August – a procedure that saw Dr. James Andrews reopen the scar from his Tommy John surgery in 2004 and clean up residual scar tissue.

“He’s worked his [butt] off to get back to this point,” Angels ace Jered Weaver said. “He’s a great guy, man. He wants to go out there and he wants to help his team win. I know he’s very frustrated. Tough time for him right now. Hopefully when they get results back of whatever they’re going to do tomorrow, hopefully it’s not as serious as something torn or something like that. It’s tough, man.”

Prior to the game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said left-hander Wade LeBlanc would start on Thursday. But if Burnett goes on the DL, the Angels can recall Matt Shoemaker to make that start. Shoemaker posted a 2.81 ERA in three starts in place of Hector Santiago, but was sent down because the Angels needed length from the bullpen after their relievers accounted for eight innings in Saturday’s 13-inning game.

Burnett entered the seventh inning of a two-run lead to face left-handed-hitters Michael Saunders and Robinson Cano. He got Saunders to pop out to shortstop, then motioned to the dugout, prompting Scioscia to walk out to the mound with trainer Rick Smith and remove Burnett after a brief conversation.

With the Nationals from 2010-12, Burnett posted a 2.76 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP while compiling 212 appearances.

But ever since signing a two-year, $8 million contract with the Angels the ensuing offseason, he’s battled issues with his left elbow.

“Naturally you’re concerned,” Scioscia said of Burnett. “We really don’t have an idea of what it is now. We’ll get direction from our medical department, he’ll get evaluated tomorrow by our doctors down in California and we’ll take it one step at a time. We’ll wait and see what’s going on.”

Alden

An encouraging outing for Hector Santiago …

Hector SantiagoHector Santiago‘s Angels career started off 0-2, with eight earned runs in 9 1/3 innings through two starts against the Mariners.

He needed a change.

So he took the mound against the A’s on Monday with his socks up high for the first time.

“You gotta change it up sometimes,” Santiago said, trying to crack a smile despite a crushing 3-2 loss. “Actually, it was kind of scary, because the last two times I did that with the White Sox it didn’t go so well.”

The more tangible difference was that Santiago had much better command in the opener of a three-game series, while pitching seven innings of one-run ball in what ended up being a no-decision because of John Jaso‘s two-run, ninth-inning homer off Ernesto Frieri. Against an A’s team that came in ranked third in the American League in walks, Santiago — with his career walk rate at 4.6 — didn’t issue a free pass until the seventh inning and didn’t allow much hard contact besides Yoenis Cespedes‘ fourth-inning solo homer.

Santiago felt “more in control of myself,” and that was particularly obvious while working out of jams in the sixth and seventh.

The Angels’ defense extended Santiago’s inning in the sixth, when Erick Aybar had a tough time reading Craig Gentry’s liner off the bat and Albert Pujols threw high of second on an ensuing pickoff. But Santiago got Jed Lowrie to line out and struck out Josh Donaldson for his third punchout. The A’s put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh, but Santiago induced a flyout of Nick Punto and came back from down 3-0 to get Josh Reddick to pop out behind the plate.

This was the kind of outing the 26-year-old left-hander badly needed.

“Definitely; there’s no doubt,” Santiago said after lowering his ERA from 7.71 to 4.96. “Coming into today I was like, ‘I need some positive [momentum] moving forward. [First start of the season], I was antsy, man. I had a lot of adrenaline going. First game as an Angel. Last game I think I was just like, ‘OK, forget about it and let’s attack. Let’s go at ‘em, let’s go as hard as I can as long as I can.’ Today I was like, ‘Let’s attack, but let’s be under control.’ I took a little bit from each of those first two games and made it work in this game.”

And for next game, the high socks will return.

“Oh, there’s no doubt,” Santiago said. “I’m going to stick with it until it tells me not to. … I love the look, you know. I love the look for sure. And sometimes you just have to mix it up.”

Alden

Hamilton can start swinging again by Friday …

joshAngels outfielder Josh Hamilton was back at the ballpark for the first time on Monday, three days after undergoing surgery on his left thumb that’s expected to keep him out 6-8 weeks.

Hamilton will have his stitches removed on Friday, while also getting the hard cast around his left thumb replaced with a removable splint. He can’t do any rehab with his finger until May 2, but he can start running, lifting, swinging off a tee with his bottom hand — the most important hand for a hitter — and “doing all the things I need to do to keep in shape” when he gets the stitches removed on Friday.

Hamilton, who got back to about 240 pounds over the offseason, isn’t concerned about losing muscle during his rehab, saying: “It’s only a week, and then I’ll get my stitches out and I’ll be able to start doing leg workouts and body workouts. You can do a lot of stuff without gripping a barbell, so I don’t see that being a problem.”

He won’t travel with the team in its upcoming three-city trip through Detroit, Washington and New York, and the Angels are planning to have Hamilton go to Arizona to do some baseball activities while they’re in Toronto from May 9-11.

“I’m not going to put a time frame on it,” Hamilton said of his recovery. “I’m just going to do what I need to do as far as listening to the doctor as far as keeping it stable for the first two or three weeks, and then after that, once they tell me it’s healed, I’ll start doing rehab and being aggressive with it.”

Hamilton suffered a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament and also a torn capsule when he banged his left thumb into first base during a headfirst slide in the seventh inning at Safeco Field on Wednesday. It was a major loss for an Angels lineup that could be without its cleanup hitter and main power supply from the left slide until June. And it’s a major blow to Hamilton, who was named co-American League Player of the Week to start the season and was batting .444/.545/.741 through his first 33 plate appearances.

“I felt like my old self – my 2010, ’11, ’12 self,” Hamilton said in a press conference prior to the series opener against the A’s from Angel Stadium. “That’s why it’s my bummer, but there’s no reason why I can’t come back and still feel like that.”

Hamilton said he “reassessed” his headfirst slide as soon as he saw the replay, and in hindsight understands shouldn’t have done it. Asked if he’ll avoid sliding headfirst into first base moving forward, Hamilton, who has done it several times throughout his career, said: “I ain’t gonna make any promises.”

“What I’ve learned is no matter what you do, if something goes bad, you’re going to catch criticism,” Hamilton said. “When it goes good, no big deal. It just helps you guys write about a bunch of other stuff, so, you’re welcome.”

Some pregame notes …

  • Sean Burnett is with the team at home and was planning to play catch on Monday, after being shut down after his simulated game in Arizona on April 5. Burnett said he had some swelling around his left elbow that has since subsided. Nobody really knew the cause of it, but the lefty reliever plans to get off a mound again in a couple of days and doesn’t believe he’ll have to undergo surgery again.
  • David Freese (.458 OPS) started the season batting ahead of Howie Kendrick (.621), but over Freese’s last two starts — he sat on Sunday — Angels manager Mike Scioscia has flipped his two right-handed hitters. Asked what’s wrong with Freese, Scioscia said: “I think he’s trying to get comfortable in the box. There are some things I think he wants to get comfortable with in his stance to find some things and let him get to pitches easier. He’s working hard with Dave Hansen and Paul Sorrento on that. I think he just needs at-bats right now. But this guy’s going to hit. David’s going to hit.”
  • Kole Calhoun batted ninth on Saturday and fifth on Sunday, but he was right back in the leadoff spot against a right-hander on Monday, after his first multi-hit game of the season. My sense is Scioscia will hit Calhoun there against righties and Collin Cowgill at leadoff against lefties, at least for now.
  • On Dane De La Rosa, back in Triple-A after his velocity was surprisingly low in his 2014 debut on Saturday, Scioscia said he’s “getting evaluated on some medical things and having some tests.” “He feels good, he says he feels healthy, so I think you just want to explore why some of his velo is down,” Scioscia added. “Once he’s ready, I know he’s going to get right back on the horse. And Dane De La Rosa is going to be a big part of our bullpen. It’s just going to take a little more time.”

Athletics (8-4)

Craig Gentry, CF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Josh Donaldson, 3B
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Derek Norris, C
Alberto Callaspo, DH
Nick Punto, 2B
Josh Reddick, RF
Daric Barton, 1B

SP: RHP Jesse Chavez (0-0, 1.38 ERA)

Angels (6-6)

Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Kendrick, 2B
Freese, 3B
J.B. Shuck, LF
Hank Conger, C
Erick Aybar, SS

SP: LHP Hector Santiago (0-2, 7.71 ERA)

Alden

Moran to have Tommy John, out for year …

Reliever Brian Moran is slated to undergo Tommy John surgery, a surgical procedure that typically carries a 12-month recovery, the Angels announced on Tuesday.

The Angels acquired Moran in the Rule 5 Draft this past December, with reasonable hope that he could be an important situational lefty in their bullpen and thus be the first Rule 5 pick to stick on their roster since Derrick Turnbow in 2000.

But Moran, 25, made only four appearances in Spring Training before feeling discomfort in his left elbow around mid-March. He began playing catch shortly thereafter, but was never able to take the next step and throw off a mound again.

In 2009, the Mariners – hosting the Angels for a two-game set starting Tuesday – drafted Moran in the seventh round. And in five years in their organization, the southpaw posted a 3.06 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and a 4.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while holding opposing lefties to a .594 OPS last season.

The Angels got him during the most recent Winter Meetings, in a pre-arranged deal with the Blue Jays.

Rule 5 picks must be offered back to their original teams if not on the active roster, unless they’re on the disabled list. The Angels can open up a spot on the 40-man roster by transferring Moran to the 60-day DL. But he’ll be with the organization all year, while merely rehabbing.

Alden

Angels facing RISP troubles again …

Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick, Chris IannettaThe Angels are struggling to hit with runners in scoring position out of the gate, just like they did last year.

Maybe that means you shouldn’t worry?

In 2013, the Angels had just 10 hits in their first 79 at-bats with runners in scoring position, good for a .127 batting average that ranked last in the Majors through the first nine games. By the end of the year, though, that number rose to .264, good for 10th in the Majors.

So, take what you will out of the Angels going 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position in a series-opening sweep to the Mariners.

“We talk about what parts of our team right now you need to apply patience to and what parts you need to adjust, and we need to be patient there,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’ll happen.”

Hitters will tell you it’s a lot more difficult to bat with runners in scoring position, because of the pressure of the situation and because the opposing pitcher is bearing down. But small sample sizes can be particularly deceiving in this circumstance. Many believe that over time, results with runners in scoring position – similar to results in the postseason – will reflect a player’s general track record over long enough stretches.

“Not hitting with runners in scoring position is really a function of guys not really being comfortable at the box right now for the first 10, 15 at-bats,” Scioscia said. “It’s going to go hand-in-hand where you’re not comfortable and you’re not hitting that some of those situations will find you and you may not get hits in it. But I don’t think it’s a problem at all with the approach.”

The Angels stressed situational hitting in Spring Training, with hitting coach Don Baylor calling out specific situations during batting practice. But acting that out in a regular-season game, in front of sold-out crowds and with a Major League pitcher taking it to another level with guys on base, isn’t really something can be simulated.

“You can talk about situations every day,” right fielder Kole Calhoun said, “but when you get in that situation, I don’t think there’s anything that can simulate it.

“This is a potent lineup. We ain’t clicking yet, but we will soon.”

Alden

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