Results tagged ‘ Mariners ’

Lineups and Notes, Opening Day edition …

It sounds crazy, but this is the first time in seven years that Seattle — cool city, great ballpark, retractable roof — has hosted an Opening Day. On this day 38 years ago, Frank Tanana pitched a shutout in Seattle in a 7-0 win for the Angels. The Angels have won nine of their last 11 Opening Days, but lost last year. In fact, the Mariners swept the Angels at Angel Stadium to open the 2014 season, outscoring them by 18 runs in the process.

Jered Weaver (seven) is tied for the third-most Opening Day starts since 2006, along with James Shields, Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay. The only two ahead of him are CC Sabathia (nine) and his Monday opponent, Felix Hernandez (eight). With Johnny Giavotella, 2015 marks the first time the Angels have had an Opening Day second baseman not named Howie Kendrick since Maicer Izturis in 2006.

The Mariners have been the Angels’ most frequent Opening Day opponent. They’re 6-4 against them to start the season, but were 7-12 against them last year. Weaver is 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA on Opening Day, 14-10 with a 3.37 ERA against the Mariners and 7-8 with a 4.49 ERA at Safeco Field.

Here are the lineups …

Angels (0-0)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, LF
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Giavotella, 2B

SP: RH Weaver (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Mariners (0-0)

Austin Jackson, CF
Seth Smith, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Logan Morrison, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Dustin Ackley, LF
Brad Miller, SS

SP: RH Hernandez (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

  • It’ll be interesting to see how the Angels use Taylor Featherston. They like his skills defensively, but he’s never played above Double-A. I think we’re going to see him play some second base late, with the Angels pinch-hitting Giavotella against a tough right-handed reliever. “I think what he lacks in experience, his athleticism and talent will make up for,” Mike Scioscia said. “We’re not going to be afraid to use him.”
  • Scioscia is leaning towards Drew Rucinski to start on April 14, the first day the Angels need a fifth starter. Jose Alvarez is not stretched out enough, and Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano are not on schedule for that day.
  • Garrett Richards is here to take part in the Opening Day ceremonies. He’ll then pitch in a camp game on Thursday and start a rehab assignment April 14, though he could make only one start and then be available the next time through the order.
  • The seventh inning “is going to be a matchup” with the bullpen, Scioscia said. I expect Mike Morin to get most of the time there, but we could see Fernando Salas being used against lefties. He was pretty effective against them last year.
  • Will Cron be an everyday player, or will he sit against tough righties (today being an exception)? “I think C.J. will get a lion’s share of at-bats at first base and DH,” Scioscia said. “We gotta get bench guys in games, too, to make sure they’re sharp, keep starters fresh, but the plan is to get C.J. in there a lot. No doubt this spring he swung the bat better than last year. We want to give him a chance to contribute.”

Alden

And so it begins …

safeco-fieldOpening Day is finally here, and Safeco Field seems like a fitting place to start. It’s home to the team many have picked to win the American League West. And it kicks off with a matchup between Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver, the two guys who have made the most consecutive Opening Day starts in the Majors (Hernandez at seven, Weaver at six).

But Opening Day is only a ceremonial thing. “One of 162,” as many say. The season is long and arduous. And by the end of it, what happens on Opening Day or even in the first series will be nothing but a distant memory (like last year, when the Mariners embarrassed the Angels with a lopsided sweep in Southern California at the start of April).

If the Angels want to win another division title, they’ll have to answer several questions over the course of these next six months. And below are the seven most prominent …

1. What becomes of Josh Hamilton?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the Angels aren’t necessarily in a welcoming mood with Hamilton, who’s still recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t be suspended for a self-reported drug relapse. The tone of their statements after news broke — and what they’ve said privately leading up to it — made you wonder if they even want him around. He’s a very likable guy, but he hasn’t lived up to his massive contract and his latest relapse struck a nerve with the Angels’ brass (make of that what you will). He won’t be going away, though. He’s owed $83 million over the next three years, so the Angels have to see what they get out of him. How does he fit into the roster? What type of production does he provide in his age-34 season? And how does he mesh with a team that may be better off without him? It’ll be the most fascinating storyline this season.

2. How good is Garrett Richards?

Richards has yet to allow a run in three Minor League outings and could return to the rotation by April 19 if all goes well, which means he basically misses only two starts. How good will he be upon returning, though? As good as he was leading up to the season-ending left knee injury he suffered Aug. 20? If so, this Angels rotation — with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago set to open the season — is more dangerous than people think. If not, they’re very vulnerable. A lot rides on Richards’ 26-year-old right arm (not to mention that left knee).

3. What will the Angels get out of second base?

They aren’t fooling themselves into thinking they’ll replicate the production of Howie Kendrick. If C.J. Cron takes the next step in his maturation process (see: patience), David Freese stretches his last four months into a full season and Albert Pujols continues to look as good as he did this spring, they won’t need it. But replacement level production would be nice. Johnny Giavotella will get the first crack, but we may see many guys play second base this year.

4. Who gets the lefties out?

The Angels haven’t had a true lefty specialist since the 2012 version of Scott Downs, and Downs wasn’t really used as a lefty specialist. Last year, the Angels’ go-to reliever to get lefty hitters out was the right-handed Fernando Salas, who has a nice changeup that darts away from left-handed hitters. Ideally, they’d have that traditional left-on-lefty guy. Mike Scioscia has mentioned Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez as possibilities, but they’re multi-inning relievers who don’t have the big stuff that plays in that role. The next hope would be Santiago, but that would hinge on Andrew Heaney or Nick Tropeano developing well enough to warrant Santiago’s current rotation spot.

5. How do they upgrade the roster?

Even without saving any money on Hamilton’s contract, the Angels enter the season with $10 to $15 million of wiggle room. That’s what Arte Moreno said early in camp. It’s more payroll flexibility than they’ve had in a while, and they plan to use it. Question is, how? Do they get a second baseman, even though there aren’t many of them out there? (Chase Utley looks like a long shot, because of how intimidating his contract is and because of his no-trade clause). Do they get an outfield/DH bat? Do they get a starting pitcher (a lot of big names are entering their walk years)? Or do they add more bullpen pieces, like they did last year? June/July should be very eventful.

6. What kind of year does Mike Trout have?

You could reasonably expect a great one, considering he stays healthy. But how does he follow up a season that saw him win the AL MVP unanimously? We saw Trout transition into more of a power game last year, hitting more home runs and stealing fewer bases. But he’s only 23 years old, scary as that seems, and he’s still figuring out who he’s going to be in this game. My guess is he cuts down those strikeouts — I don’t know anyone who truly believes Trout is a 180-strikeout-a-year player — but doesn’t increase his stolen-base total by much. The Angels seem content with how often they sent Trout last year. Teams watch him closely and, far more relevant in this matter, steals cause a lot of wear and tear on the body.

7. Are the Angels better than the Mariners?

That’s probably what it’s going to come down to. The Mariners are a popular pick to win the division, because their rotation could be something fierce, their bullpen was one of the best in the game last season and their lineup got a big missing piece they needed in power hitter Nelson Cruz. But the Angels return the core group of a team that led the Majors in wins and finished second in run-differential last year. They’re starting a season with what should be a reliable bullpen for the first time since Jerry Dipoto came on board in October 2011 and they carry the confidence of succeeding with this group.

It should be interesting.

And to get you ready, here’s a look at our Opening Day content, in case you missed anything …

MORE LINKS! An updated depth chart is here, injury updates are here, pitching probables are here and a look at the top 30 prospects is here. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And you can subscribe to my weekly Angels podcast with Richard Justice here.

MLB.com compiled dozens of predictions on who will win each division, how the postseason will play out and where all the major individual awards will go. Below were my picks, if you’re interested …

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: Angels
NL Wild Cards: Marlins, Pirates
AL Wild Cards: Mariners, Indians
NL champion: Nationals
AL champion: Angels
World Series champion: Nationals
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant
AL MVP: Josh Donaldson
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL Rookie of the Year: Steven Souza

Feliz Opening Day!

Alden

April Come She Will …

Erick Aybar, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout

The Angels are playing their last Cactus League game from Arizona on Wednesday, after which they’ll commute to Southern California for the three-way, exhibition Freeway Series that spills into Opening Day in Seattle on Monday. 

Spring Training began with 61 (active) players, and now we’re down to 34 who will not be starting the season on the disabled list. That list has to be whittled down to 25 by Sunday. So, the Angels still have some things to work through the rest of this week. 

Here’s a look … 

Clarity on Hamilton: The Josh Hamilton situation has been hanging over the Angels like a dark cloud all spring. It hasn’t necessarily been a distraction; he hasn’t been here, and they’ve been going about their business as if he isn’t even on the roster. But they won’t be able to ignore it much longer. Rob Manfred said recently that a resolution should come before Opening Day, with Hamilton likely facing a suspension for what sources say was a drug-related relapse. The news will have a big impact on the Angels’ financial situation, and it’ll force them to make a big decision about how to fold Hamilton back in (if at all).

Extension for Street: Huston Street, acting as his own agent, has been mum on a potential extension with the Angels for a few weeks now. Word is that an extension is still a very real possibility, but the Angels are in a holding pattern until the Hamilton situation is resolved. The 31-year-old right-hander was initially seeking a four-year contract (though perhaps with 2015 included) that would pay him between $36 and $46 million. The only way he would negotiate past Opening Day is if both sides basically have the logistics already worked out.

Making the unofficial official: Mike Scioscia doesn’t like announcing anything until he absolutely has to, and he’ll make a lot of declarations once the Spring Training schedule ends on Saturday. Here’s what we pretty much know already, though …

  • Jered Weaver will be the Opening Day starter, with C.J. Wilson and Matt Shoemaker pitching the other two games in Seattle, respectively, and Hector Santiago getting the ball for the home opener against the Royals next Friday. With Adam Wainwright getting the nod for the Cardinals on Tuesday, Scioscia became the only manager who hasn’t announced his Opening Day starter. I told you he’s good at this.
  • The Angels will start the season with four starters and eight relief pitchers. They’re off after that season-opening three-game series in Seattle and they won’t need a fifth one until April 14. That means Weaver, Wilson and Shoemaker will make their second start on regular rest. We’ll get into who makes that start later.
  • Johnny Giavotella is the starting second baseman. Look no further than the fact that all four second-base candidates were in Wednesday’s lineup, and he was the only one at second base. Giavotella is out of options, has hit well this spring and has made the plays he should make. That was enough to win the job.
  • Andrew Heaney and Josh Rutledge will both start the season in Triple-A. Heaney entered camp as the presumed favorite for the fifth starter spot and Rutledge looked like the favorite to win the second base job. But they didn’t help their causes. Heaney, who will start Friday’s Freeway Series game, struggled to keep the ball down and allowed 19 runs on 29 hits in 19 innings. Rutledge, also going with the team to California, struggled with the mechanics of his swing and entered Wednesday with nine hits in 49 at-bats. It’s still a possibility Rutledge makes the team as the utility infielder, but that would mean the Angels lose Taylor Featherston, a Rule 5 pick who would have to be offered back to the Rockies. I’d be surprised if that happens.
  • Prospects Carlos Perez and Kyle Kubitza will also be optioned to the Minor Leagues. Perez is a solid defensive catcher, but the more seasoned Drew Butera (out of options) is the backup. Kubitza’s bat really came on late in spring, but he isn’t expected to take over for David Freese at third base until 2016.
  • Cory Rasmus (core injury), Garrett Richards (knee surgery) and Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) will be placed on the DL, with Rasmus expected to return around May, Richards in line to return in the middle of April and Skaggs missing the entire season.

The last roster spots: One bench spot and two bullpen spots still look pretty open. Lefties Jose Alvarez and Scott Snodgress and righties Drew Rucinski and Ryan Mattheus are still in camp and vying for the last two spots in the ‘pen, along with Street, Joe Smith, Fernando Salas, Mike Morin, Cesar Ramos and Vinnie Pestano. Right-handed hitters Grant Green (2B, SS, 3B, LF) and Daniel Robertson (LF, CF, RF) and left-handed hitters Marc Krauss (1B, LF, RF) and Efren Navarro (1B, LF, RF) are also vying for a bench spot, along with Butera, Featherston and Collin Cowgill. … My guesses: Alvarez and Rucinski both lock down the last two bullpen spots, even though both of them are starters. One is length out of the bullpen, the other potentially makes a spot start April 14. And Navarro takes the last bench spot. The Angels could use a left-handed hitter off the bench, and though Navarro doesn’t bring power like Krauss, he’s a disciplined hitter who has had a very nice spring. Back spasms may have kept Krauss from winning a job — though I expect him to contribute eventually.

Richards’ progress: Richards had yet another strong outing against Minor League hitters on Saturday, his second straight impressive one. He’ll pitch again on Thursday, then take a week off to pitch on April 9 and start a rehab assignment on April 14, which means the soonest he can return is April 19, Scioscia said from Arizona today. It’s still possible that Richards simply returns to the rotation on April 14, but the Angels have exercised a lot of caution, and Scioscia has hinted in the past that an April 14 return may be a little too ambitious.

Last but not least, my final Taco Power Rankings for 2015 …

1. Los Taquitos
2. The Mission
3. Taquitos Jalisco
4. El Hefe
5. Tortas El Rey
6. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill
7. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop
8. Comedor Guadelajara
9. Senor Taco
10. Carolina’s Mexican Food

Alden

The tougher AL West …

canotroutThe 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) …

Mariners: 33.4
Angels: 32.6
A’s: 29.2
Rangers: 27.7
Astros: 23.4

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).

Alden

The Angels and the Hall of Fame …

Vladimir GuerreroNine Hall of Famers have played for the Angels at some point in their careers — sometimes for pretty long stretches — but none have gone into Cooperstown with an Angels hat. Nolan Ryan pitched in Anaheim for eight years, from 1972-79, but went in with a Rangers cap. Rod Carew spent his last seven seasons with the Angels, from 1979-85, but went in as a member of the Twins. Reggie Jackson spent five of his twilight years here, from 1982-86, but alas, he’s a Yankee.

So basically the Angels have zero representation in the Hall of Fame. Seven other current teams are in the same boat, but that can change soon for the D-backs (Randy Johnson), Mariners (Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr.) and Astros (Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell). The others are the Rockies, Marlins, Rays and Nationals, four teams that didn’t exist as recently as 1992.

The Angels have had some very notable representation on the ballot. Darin Erstand, Troy Percival and Tim Salmon have recently received token Hall of Fame votes, but have dropped off the ballot because they didn’t get the required five-percent support. Jim Edmonds, Troy Glaus, Garret Anderson, David Eckstein and Bengie Molina will debut in the next ballot, but four of them probably don’t have a shot and the other (Edmonds) would probably go in as a member of the Cardinals if elected.

I recently wrote about why Bobby Grich may have deserved more love from Hall of Fame voters, and how he could’ve been the first Angels representative in the Hall, but it looks like he’ll never get in.

At some point, though, the Angels will have their Hall of Famer.

Question is: Who?

Maybe it’s Vladimir Guerrero, whom Pedro Martinez vouched for recently, but Guerrero — eligible for the 2017 class — spent his first eight years with the now-defunct Montreal Expos.

Maybe it’s Albert Pujols, who should definitely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer but will have always put up his greatest numbers in St. Louis.

Maybe it’s Mike Scisocia, who’s building a Hall of Fame resume as a manager.

Or maybe it’s Mike Trout, who is on a path to becoming one of the greatest players in baseball history but, you know, is only 23 years old.

Class of 2035?

Vote below on who you think it will be and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Alden

McDonald’s potential last AB: An RBI double …

John McDonaldJohn McDonald is open to playing next season, but he also understands that it’s hard to get a job at his age. So he kept the ball from his ninth-inning RBI double in Sunday’s regular-season finale.

“Just in case,” said McDonald, fighting back tears at his Safeco Field locker postgame. “You never know. You have to be prepared. That’s what my career has been about more than anything.”

McDonald, who seems unlikely to crack the Angels’ postseason roster because Gordon Beckham fills a similar role, turned 40 on Wednesday. On Saturday, he got his first at-bat as a 40-year-old and flied out, just a few feet in front of the left-field warning track.

“We credited him with a home run on that at-bat because that’s about as far as he can hit a ball,” Mike Scioscia cracked. “We credited him with a home run in our hearts.”

McDonald got another chance, though, with two outs and Brennan Boesch on second, and he lined a Danny Farquhar offering down the left field line, ensuring that the Angels would go an entire season without getting shutout on the road.

“It’s a good feeling to get one more hit,” said McDonald, who carved out a 16-year career mostly as a backup infielder. “It might have more meaning later.”

Alden

Weaver scratched vs. Felix, LeBlanc to start …

One night after clinching the American League West title, the Angels scratched Jered Weaver from his Thursday start against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, opting to go with left-hander Wade LeBlanc, instead.

The Angels also have an open spot on Saturday because Matt Shoemaker is nursing a strained left oblique. Weaver could presumably fill that spot, then start on five days’ rest in the last Friday of the regular season – against the Mariners at Safeco Field – and then be on five days’ rest again for Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Thursday, Oct. 2.

LeBlanc, 30, has gone 20-33 with a 4.60 ERA while accumulating 434 innings in the big leagues from 2008-14. With the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate this season, he posted a 4.43 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP and a 2.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 128 innings.

Alden

Sound bites from the Angels’ clincher …

Jered WeaverHere’s what several members of the Angels had to say after clinching the American League West on Wednesday night

Leadoff man Kole Calhoun, on popping the first bottle of champagne after the A’s lost: “I was more nervous to pop that first bottle of champagne than I was to play baseball.”

Catcher Hank Conger, on watching the game from the clubhouse: “They came back that ninth inning, and everybody was like, ‘Don’t jinx anything, don’t pop anything yet.’ As soon as they made that last out, that groundball, everyone erupted, man. Everybody was hugging each other, champagne was flowing everywhere, man, it was unbelievable.”

President John Carpino, on the fans sticking around to watch: “It’s so special. It’s so special. Look at these people. It’s 11:15 and the game has been over for an hour and a half. Angels fans have a lot of passion.”

Third baseman David Freese, on battling adversity: “You look at every team, up and down the league, and every team goes through adversity, things like that. This group just keeps plugging away. It shows. To win a division like this, it’s unbelievable. What a great group.”

Ace Jered Weaver, on coming out and seeing the fans: “Indescribable, really. This is the only reason why they’re here; they want to see us win. It’s been long overdue. Hopefully we can make a good push here in the postseason.”

Owner Arte Moreno, on his favorite part about the team: “There’s probably not one sentence you can say. They all love each other, they all like each other, they have fun together, and we have a really great mix of veterans, and we have a lot of young people. People were questioning how many young people we have in the organization, but just a lot of young guys stepped up this year.”

Manager Mike Scioscia, on returning to the playoffs after a four-year absence: “It feels great. We had gotten close, but we won our division, and we couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”

Center fielder Mike Trout, on playing in the postseason: “I’m just going to go out there, play my game and help my team win. I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself. I know the atmosphere is going to be awesome, and it’s going to be fun for sure.”

First baseman Albert Pujols, on the group: “Great chemistry. Like I’ve said before, you don’t just win with one or two guys. It takes 25 guys for us to accomplish our goals. We have a great group of guys, starting in Spring Training. I’ve been saying it all year long. And we believe in each other. We’re picking each other up.”

Starter C.J. Wilson, on his start: “It’s good. It’s what I need to do. If we’re going to win, I need to pitch like that.”

General manager Jerry Dipoto, on what it took to turn it all around: “It’s just a thrill. Mike and the staff had a great year. They did an unbelievable job, kept everybody together and cohesive. Obviously we made some changes along the way, but most importantly it was the character and the makeup of the guys. When the boat left the dock this spring, that’s what we talked so much about, and that’s what these guys did. They really did. They bound together. Very proud of them.”

Alden

Shoemaker ‘still a little sore,’ but feeling ‘better’ …

Matt Shoemaker sat in his locker early Wednesday afternoon with a giant ice pack bandaged along his left side, feeling slightly better about his left oblique strain but still unsure on his timeline.

“I’m still a little sore,” Shoemaker said, “but it feels better than yesterday, which they said is really positive. So I’ll just keep doing everything I can to knock it out quickly.”

The only thing the Angels know right now is that Shoemaker will not make his next scheduled start on Saturday. Angels manager Mike Scioscia wouldn’t say who will take Shoemaker’s spot, but did confirm that it’ll be someone currently in his clubhouse — eliminating right-hander Drew Rucinski and providing a strong indication that it’ll be lefty Wade LeBlanc.

That hardly matters, though.

The Angels may have already wrapped up the division by then, and bigger goals lie ahead. They need Shoemaker for the American League Division Series of early October, and nobody knows if he’ll be ready by then.

“We’re not going to know,” Scioscia said. “I guess it’s always encouraging when he comes in and feels a little better as opposed to this thing going in another direction, but there are a lot of hurdles that Matt’s going to have to cross before he’s out there pitching again, and we’re not going to have that answer in 24, 48 hours. We’re not. It’s going to take time. It’s still open-ended, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

A couple of other notes …

  • Josh Hamilton was out of the lineup on Wednesday, one day after he made his return after an 11-game absence because of stiffness in his right shoulder. Scioscia said it was a “matchup” situation, with the Mariners starting lefty James Paxton. Hamilton should return on Thursday, against Felix Hernandez, and will start at designated hitter. There’s still no date for when he can get into defense.
  • The Angels’ magic number is two, as you probably already know. But clinching a division title could turn into an awkward scenario. If they win, they could be waiting on the A’s game to finish up. Or, even worse, they could find out they clinched after the A’s lose on Thursday, which would take place before their game even begins. If that’s the case, they’d celebrate postgame, win or lose.

Lineup (Mariners lineup here) …

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

SP: LH Paxton (6-2, 1.83 ERA)

Alden

Shoemaker has ‘very mild’ left oblique strain …

Matt ShoemakerTuesday’s MRI revealed what Matt Shoemaker said was a “very mild” strain in his left oblique, an injury that occurred while facing his final hitter in 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Mariners on Monday. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Shoemaker will miss his next scheduled start on Saturday, with yet another bullpen game likely taking place.

Everything else, including Shoemaker’s availability for the postseason, is up in the air.

“The good thing about it is they said it’s mild, so we’re going to literally take it day-by-day,” Shoemaker said. “It’s all by feel. I feel better than I did yesterday, which is a good thing. It’s just soreness, which is to be expected.”

Scioscia isn’t addressing any questions about the Angels in the playoffs because, in his mind, they haven’t clinched a postseason berth until they nail down the American League West title and thus avoid a do-or-die Wild Card game (the Angels’ magic number is three heading into Tuesday). Asked if he’s at least been assured that he can be ready to pitch in the playoffs, Shoemaker said: “Very optimistically, yeah. There’s not been one thing set in stone that says you’re going to be ready in one week, you’re going to be ready in two weeks. There’s none of that. I’m going to show up tomorrow, do more treatment and see how it feels. So, we’ll know something each day.”

The Angels’ standing allows them to rest Shoemaker as long as possible, and they can back him up as deep as Game 4 of the AL Division Series, which would be slated for Oct. 6. Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago would start the first three games.

Shoemaker suffered the injury while throwing a couple of sliders to Mariners catcher Humberto Quintero with two outs in the eighth inning at Angel Stadium on Monday, ultimately forcing him into an RBI groundout and then exiting with 96 pitches under his belt. The 27-year-old rookie, now 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 136 innings, only feels the oblique injury when he does “abnormal movements,” and was encouraged by the fact he already feels better than he did on Monday night.

“The news,” Scioscia said, “could’ve been much worse.”

But oblique strains are tricky. Their time frames can vary, and sometimes, when players think they’ve fully recovered from them, they creep back up. Shoemaker will continue to get treatment and right now, Scioscia said, “it’s open-ended” as to when he can pick up a baseball again.

“You never know where these things go with pitchers,” Scioscia said. “Like hamstring injuries, they have a life of their own, can go a lot of different ways. But Matt does feel that there’s not that much discomfort today. We’ll monitor it these next few days and see where it goes.”

The Angels have already lost two key starters in Garrett Richards (left knee surgery) and Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) since the start of August, and don’t have a fifth starter to take the ball on the days Richards’ spot comes up (reliever Cory Rasmus will start in his place for the fourth straight time, with Scioscia hopeful of getting the usual three to four innings).

Shoemaker’s absence would be crippling in October.

“Unfortunately, right now, you’re talking about three-fifths of your rotation you’re depending a lot on that are out,” Scioscia said. “But you have to move forward, you have to keep pitching, you have to keep getting outs, and we’re confident we will. It just might be a little bit unconventional right now how we do so.”

Additional injury notes …

  • After missing the last 11 games with stiffness near his right shoulder, Josh Hamilton returned to the Angels lineup on Tuesday, batting sixth and serving as the designated hitter. The 33-year-old had what Scioscia hoped was a “breakthrough” workout on Monday, taking batting practice on the field and running the bases. He planned to return on Wednesday, but Scioscia said he “felt great after working in the cage.”
  • Albert Pujols exited Monday’s game in the third inning because of a cramp in his left hamstring, but was right back in the lineup and starting at first base the following day. “Albert is adamant that there’s no pull,” Scioscia said. “The medical staff feels there’s nothing there but a cramp that, really, was gone after the game. We just wanted to err on the side of caution last night. We’ll monitor him in pregame closely today, but right now he feels good to go.”

Angels (94-56)

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

SP: RH Rasmus (3-1, 2.80 ERA)

Alden

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 164 other followers

%d bloggers like this: