Results tagged ‘ Matt Shoemaker ’

Heaney called up to start vs. Astros …

The Angels called up top prospect Andrew Heaney to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Astros, pushing previously scheduled starter Matt Shoemaker back a couple days to iron out some of his mechanics.

Heaney, who was acquired from the Dodgers for second baseman Howie Kendrick, was 6-2 with a 4.71 ERA in 14 starts for Triple-A Salt Lake, posting a 1.53 WHIP while walking 2.9 batters and striking out 8.5 per nine innings.

The 24-year-old left-hander posted a 3.02 ERA in his first nine starts, but has given up 27 runs (24 earned) in his past 27 2/3 innings.

“There’s a statistical part of the [Pacific Coast League] you have to take into consideration, so we obviously rely very heavily on what our coaches see,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “And I think that Andrew’s ready for the challenge. He’s pitched well. I think he’s made a lot of progress through Spring Training, and I think he can come up here and pitch like he can.”

The Angels are off on Thursday, then Shoemaker will start Friday’s series opener against the Mariners, with Garrett Richards going Saturday and Hector Santiago on Sunday.

The Angels wanted to give Shoemaker a couple of extra days to work with pitching coach Mike Butcher on commanding and locating his fastball. The 28-year-old right-hander has a 5.20 ERA in 13 starts, giving up 15 homers in 72 2/3 innings.

“It definitely doesn’t hurt right now, I’ll put it that way,” Shoemaker said of the extra rest. “It definitely doesn’t hurt.”

Heaney — ranked first in the Angels’ system and 20th overall by — essentially takes the rotation spot of Jered Weaver, who was placed on the disabled list Sunday with a inflammation in his left hip. The Angels sent down outfielder Alfredo Marte after Tuesday’s 13-3 loss to eventually get back to a five-man rotation.

With off days factored in, the Angels also need a fifth starter on Tuesday and July 11. Weaver, who will start throwing again at the end of the week, could return as late as July 21 and miss only two starts.

Heaney entered Spring Training with a chance to win a spot in the rotation, but gave up 19 runs in 24 1/3 innings.

They believe he’s a different guy now.

“The reports are that Andrew is ready for the challenge in the Major Leagues,” Scioscia said. “It’s been brewing for a while. He’s been knocking on our door and he’s ready to take this opportunity.”


Pujols chasing Mantle in the Bronx …

Can Albert Pujols tie, and perhaps pass, Mickey Mantle at his old stomping grounds?

It’s possible.

Pujols, who tied Jimmie Foxx on Tuesday, enters the weekend series at Yankee Stadium — the new Yankee Stadium, of course — with 534 career home runs. Two more, and he ties Mantle for 16th on the all-time list. The Angels’ 35-year-old first baseman is batting .258 with 14 homers and 28 RBIs, and six of those homers have come over his last seven games.

“Every time Albert hits a home run, it’s kind of fun to just see what the notes say about who he’s catching,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s a Hall of Fame roster. If he catches Mickey Mantle in this park, that’d be a nice touch.”

  • The Angels are shuffling the rotation once again. Matt Shoemaker will start Tuesday’s series opener against the Rays and Hector Santiago will be pushed back to start next Friday. The Angels were coming off an off day on Thursday and have another one Monday.
  • Collin Cowgill (fractured left wrist) took some dry swings on Friday and will hit off a tee on Saturday. He’s feeling good, but is still weeks away and will have to eventually go on a rehab assignment.
  • The same can be said about Mike Morin, who’s nursing a left oblique strain. Morin played light catch on Wednesday and Friday, but is still in the early stages of his throwing progression.
  • Carlos Perez caught each of Jered Weaver‘s last five starts — five starts that has seen Weaver turn his season around with a 1.98 ERA. But Chris Iannetta was behind the plate on Friday (full lineup here).


Aybar still day-to-day, hopes to return Saturday …

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.


Shoemaker on bereavement list, Tropeano up

Nick Tropeano was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake and will start Thursday’s series finale against the A’s, with C.J. Wilson getting pushed back to Saturday’s start against the Rangers. Wilson came out of his last start with stiffness in his left (pitching) elbow, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it’s nothing serious and he could’ve taken his normal turn on Thursday if needed.

Pushing Wilson back also buys extra time for Matt Shoemaker, who was placed on the bereavement list to deal with the death of his grandfather. Shoemaker was originally slated to make that Saturday start, but is now tentatively slated for next Wednesday’s game in Oakland, putting him on extended rest a second straight time. Shoemaker pitched on six days’ rest Monday, giving up five runs in three innings, and would be on eight days’ rest Wednesday.

Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Jered Weaver will keep their normal turns. So, here’s the order …

Thursday: Tropeano
Friday: Richards
Saturday: Wilson
Sunday: Santiago
Monday: OFF
Tuesday: Weaver (starting tonight)
Wednesday: Shoemaker

Tropeano has given up five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 11 innings during his first two starts for Triple-A Salt Lake, striking out 12.

“I think I just need to keep working hard and showing consistency,” Tropeano said. “Going down to Triple-A, getting those innings in and getting that work in kind of matured me and sent me into this spot now.”

Some additional notes …

  • Scioscia said the date of Josh Hamilton‘s arrival in Arizona for extended spring is “really fluid.” “It could happen this weekend, it could happen next week. But the process is there. He’s going to be evaluated. The process is starting.”
  • Cam Bedrosian pitched two scoreless innings of mop-up duty on Tuesday and has been used as a multi-inning reliever since going down to Minor League camp midway through Spring Training, compiling eight innings in four appearances. Scioscia said Bedrosian has “the potential to be in the back end of the bullpen, but right now he needs a little bit of length to do the kind of things he did last night.”
  • C.J. Cron had only his second multi-hit game of the season on Tuesday, then found himself out of the lineup on Wednesday. Scioscia opted to go with Collin Cowgill as his right-handed hitter against Sonny Gray — with the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce at DH, but dropped from fourth to sixth against a right-hander — to get better defense in left field for Weaver, a fly-ball pitcher.


Richards returns Sunday …

UPDATE: Angels manager Mike Scioscia made it official prior to Saturday’s game, saying Garrett Richards will start Sunday’s series finale against the Astros. The Angels wanted to keep Richards on an every-five-days schedule in large part so that he doesn’t pitch in a National League park and, thus, have to bat.

Richards is slated to start on April 19, 24 and 29, then May 4, which means he’d skip the three-game series in San Francisco, against the Giants, May 1-3.


It looks like Richards will indeed be making his long-awaited return from knee surgery on Sunday, the series finale against the Astros from Minute Maid Park.

The decision hasn’t been announced yet, but the Angels have Matt Shoemaker listed for Monday’s series opener against the A’s at home — on six days’ rest — and there’s strong indication that Richards will be the one taking the ball on Sunday. Richards gave up five runs in five innings at Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, then threw a between-starts bullpen session in Houston on Friday and said he feels ready to return to the big leagues.

Adam Wilk, temporarily serving as a long reliever, is expected to be sent back to the Minors when Richards is activated.

Richards’ return would be a big boost to the club.

“When teams play us, they wonder if they’re going to miss G-Rich or not,” Angels third baseman David Freese said in a recent story. “He’s that type of pitcher. He’s big to our rotation. What he did last year, hopefully he can build on that. From the looks of it, he’s ready to go.”


Richards’ return, MiLB Opening Day, new grub …

Garrett RichardsGarrett Richards pitched seven innings during an intrasquad game in Arizona on Thursday, giving up two runs on four hits, walking three, striking out 12 and throwing 96 pitches.

The 26-year-old right-hander is next slated to make a Minor League start on April 14 (the first day the Angels need a fifth starter, with Drew Rucinski likely taking the ball in Texas that day). If all goes well, the next step after that for Richards would be returning to the rotation.

My educated guess on when Richards returns to the rotation: April 21.

Another off day on the 16th creates a lot of flexibility, but I’d guess Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Matt Shoemaker pitch the three-game, weekend series in Houston April 17-19 on five days’ rest, then Hector Santiago takes the ball at home against the A’s on Monday, April 20, on the regular four days’ rest. That means Richards starts the next day (again, barring a setback). It would put Richards on six days’ rest heading into his first start, which is time to throw a longer bullpen session to make certain that he’s right.

The Minor League season began Thursday, while the Angels were off. Here’s a look at what the Triple-A Salt Lake roster looks like (this is as strong a group as they’ve had in a while; a testament to the depth the front office has built) …

Catchers: Jett Bandy, Charlie Cutler, Carlos Perez
Infielders: Travis Adair (2B)*, Marc Krauss (1B/LF/RF), Kyle Kubitza (3B), Josh Rutledge (SS), Ryan Wheeler (1B/3B), Alex Yarbrough (2B)
Outfielders: Grant Green (LF/2B/3B/SS), Roger Kieschnick (LF/CF/RF), Alfredo Marte (LF/CF/RF), Daniel Robertson (LF/CF/RF)
Rotation (in order): LH Adam Wilk, LH Andrew Heaney, RH Nick Tropeano, RH Alex Sanabia, RH Zach Stewart
Bullpen: RH Cam Bedrosian, RH Steve Hensley, RH Frank Herrmann, LH Edgar Ibarra, RH Ryan Mattheus, RH Jeremy McBryde, LH Atahualpa Severino, LH Scott Snodgress

And here’s a look at how each of the Angels’ Top 30 Prospects did in their 2015 debuts (the top prospect, Heaney, starts Friday) …

Angels Spring Baseball2: SP Sean Newcomb (Class A Burlington): 5 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 9 SO
3: SS Roberto Baldoquin (Class A Inland Empire): 0-for-4, 3 SO
6: Bedrosian (Triple-A Salt Lake): 1 2/3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 SO
7: Kubitza (Triple-A Salt Lake): 1-for-3, 2B, BB, SO
8: SP Nate Smith (Double-A Arkansas): 6 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 SO
10: SP Chris Ellis (Class A Inland Empire): 5 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 7 SO
14: Yarbrough (Triple-A Salt Lake): 2-for-5, 2 SO
16: 3B Kaleb Cowart (Class A Inland Empire): 2-for-4
18: OF Natanael Delgado (Class A Burlington): 0-for-4, RBI, 2 SO
20: Perez (Triple-A Salt Lake): 1-for-4
23: SS Eric Stamets (Double-A Arkansas): 1-for-4
28: 2B Kody Eaves (Class A Inland Empire): 0-for-4, 2 SO

* on the 7-day DL


The Angels’ home opener is today, against the Royals team that swept them out of the ALDS last year. Mike Witt will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. In response to Major League Baseball’s screening mandate, metal detectors have been installed throughout the ballpark. To allow for more time, gates are opening two hours before game time this year, an extra half-hour.

Here’s a look at what’s new with Angels concessions, with information passed along by the Angels’ catering company, Legends Hospitality …

Smoke Ring BBQ Express: Located on Section 237, on the Terrace Level; previously a video game location; features their signature Smoke Ring BBQ Brisket Sandwich.

“A” Wine Cellar: Positioned next to the Oakley store in Section 111 on the main Field Level; features a wide variety of wine by the bottle, served in a souvenir Angels-branded wine decanter; Great American Wine and Woodwork wines offered by the glass; new lounge space located directly across, with three flat-screen TV’s showing the game.

SHOCK TOP Brew Pub: Previously Knothole Club; new items — beer-battered jidori chicken breast, with smoked jalapeño aoli and pickled cabbage slaw on a brioche bun; house-made Bavarian-style soft pretzel sticks, with sweet butter, meld on sea salt and SHOCK TOP beer cheese.

Battered Up: Located at the first- and third-base food courts; previously Jack In The Box; features OC Fair-type food, like funnel cake fries, corn dogs, churros, garlic and regular fries and chicken tenders.

Burger Bites: Previously Jack In The Box; now a destination for burger sliders, served on Hawaiian King Rolls with cheddar cheese and special sauce.

Acai Bowls: Located at Melissa’s window on the third-base food court on Field Level; healthy Brazilian power fruit dessert, with fresh bananas, strawberries, granola and honey.

Hand Dipped Ice Cream: Both club level concession stands, in Sections 317 and 334, will now feature hand-dipped ice cream on waffle bowls.

Nicky Enzo’s Italian Water Ice: Frozen dessert now available on the Terrace Level Concourse on Section 229.

Legends Dog: A foot-long hot dog topped with Smoke Ring BBQ brisket; it was a “secret” item last year that became a favorite, so they’ve added it to the Smoke Ring BBQ on Gate 1 and the Farmer John BBQ stand in Section 242.

Nacho Dog: Available at the Nacho Nachos stand on Section 424, View Level; a foot long hot dog topped with nacho cheese, guacamole and pico de gallo.

Ketel One Club: Previously HALO CLUB; new happy-hour pricing, with hand-rolled sushi station.

Diamond Club: New offerings — nachos with queso fundido, house-made chorizo, pickled onion, cilantro and avocado salsa; fried cashews; house-made potato chips; and carnitas tostadas, with pork cheek, pickled onion and salsa verde.


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. 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!


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


The midway point …

Rangers Angels Spring BaseballWe’ve reached the midway point of the Angels’ Cactus League schedule. Whether that came fast or slow is merely a matter of your own perspective. But we’re here. 14 down, 14 to go, with an off day (sort of) conveniently placed in the middle and the three-game, exhibition Freeway Series following the Angels’ stint in Arizona.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far …

Second base really is wide open: And I’m not really sure if that’s good. Thing is, none of the three candidates for the everyday role have really stuck out. Grant Green (7-for-23) hasn’t looked comfortable defensively, Josh Rutledge (7-for-31, eight strikeouts) hasn’t hit and Johnny Giavotella (5-for-20) hasn’t done anything to wow you on either end. One guy who has looked good to me is Taylor Featherston, who’s being groomed for the utility-infield job. I like his defense, I like his speed, and his bat may be starting to come around. But I view second base the same way I did at the start of camp: We’ll either see a lot of different guys play the position this year, or we’ll see the Angels go after someone (Chase Utley?).

The rotation order is not: It’s pretty clear that, barring injury, the Angels’ rotation will line up in this order to start the season: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Andrew Heaney. Yes, the fifth spot was deemed an open competition between Santiago, Heaney and Nick Tropeano, but here’s the thing: (1) Garrett Richards is pretty much guaranteed to start the season on the disabled list, because the Angels are being extra, extra cautious with his rehab, as expected; (2) with Richards on the DL, it’s senseless to have both Tropeano and Heaney in your rotation and Santiago in the ‘pen, as opposed to having Heaney or Tropeano in Triple-A, because it messes with your starting-pitching depth; (3) Heaney and Tropeano have been pitching on the same day, but Heaney started the first one, pitched the home half of a split squad in the second and will start against the Dodgers on Thursday, with Tropeano relegated to pitching in a “B” game. It’s Heaney’s spot to lose, and he’s done nothing to lose it thus far.

A big decision with Santiago awaits: Richards will be ready some time around the middle of April, if his rehab continues to go well. At that point, the Angels will have a big decision to make with Santiago, who has posted a 3.58 ERA in 106 games (51 starts) in the Majors the last three years. Do they keep him in the rotation and send Heaney (or Tropeano) to Triple-A? Do they move him to the bullpen, even though he seems somewhat redundant with Cesar Ramos (another lefty who pitches multiple innings and doesn’t profile as a left-on-left specialist)? Do they use him as trade bait? I can see any of those three scenarios taking place, but I’d be somewhat shocked if they sent him to Triple-A, like they did in May of last season.

The Angels will have two lineups: Assuming Rutledge gets the first crack at the second-base job (that’s what it’s looked like all along), this looks like the lineup against righties: Calhoun/Trout/Pujols/Joyce/Freese/Aybar/Cron/Iannetta/Rutledge. This looks like the one against lefties, on most days: Calhoun/Trout/Pujols/Freese/Aybar/Cron/Joyce/Iannetta/Rutledge. Mike Scioscia still needs to figure out how often he’ll use the right-handed-hitting Collin Cowgill to sit Matt Joyce against lefties, and whether he’ll have a left-handed bat to sit C.J. Cron against tough righties. And that brings me to my next point …

Efren Navarro looks like a good fit: I didn’t have Navarro in my projected Opening Day roster at the start of Cactus League games, mainly because I felt they’d keep Giavotella (out of options) to maintain as many options as possible for the second-base job. But Navarro looks like an ideal fit for the last bench spot. He’s a patient left-handed hitter who can sit Cron against tough righties, he plays great defense at first base and he’s more than adequate in the corner-outfield spots. Getting 10 hits in his first 26 at-bats hasn’t hurt, either.

Cory Rasmus won’t be a starting pitcher: Well, he won’t be in the traditional sense. Scioscia said recently that Rasmus won’t be stretched out to the 100-, 110-pitch range, but will still be stretched out somewhat in case the Angels need some length. This only validates what I anticipated all along: Rasmus will crack the Opening Day bullpen as a long reliever, basically being used in the same role he pitched in down the stretch last year. It’s a nice role for him.

Mike Trout is really good: He has 12 hits in his first 22 at-bats, and three of them have gone over fences. He also has the same amount of strikeouts as he has stolen bases (3). What else do you want?

Albert Pujols looks good: Several members of the Angels feel Pujols is poised for an even better year now that he’s even healthier in his lower half, and he’s looked good so far, going 8-for-25 and hitting the ball hard to right-center field. The latter is key for him.

David Freese is going to be really important: I think he’s the Angels’ most important everyday player, because they’ll be counting on him to provide additional pop in the middle with Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton not there and because he’ll probably be playing all nine innings now that the Angels don’t have a natural defensive sub. Of the four second base/utility infield candidates, Featherston has looked the best at third, but he hasn’t played above Double-A, so I doubt the Angels will be putting him in games with a one-run lead in the ninth.

Richards still throws hard: Besides occasionally having a hard time burying the breaking ball, Richards’ stuff has looked about as explosive as it usually does this spring, which is a very good sign.

Cron looks good: Sometimes he’ll strikeout chasing the fastball up near his head. You’re going to get that with Cron, who chased the same percentage of pitches outside the strike zone as Hamilton last season. But Cron has also driven the ball well this spring, hitting long home runs to left and some well-struck doubles to right-center. If Freese is the No. 1 most important member of the lineup, Cron is 1B. He’s the wild card.

It’s Lindstrom’s job to lose: if Rasmus is in the Opening Day bullpen, then only one spot is open (the others go to Huston Street, Joe Smith, Mike Morin, Fernando Salas and Ramos). Matt Lindstrom looks like an ideal candidate for that final spot, because he still throws pretty hard (few others in the ‘pen do), has a good track record and is an XX(B) free agent, which means he has the right to opt out of his contract (or make an additional $100,000 as a retention bonus) if not on the Opening Day roster. But he has to earn it. And aside from giving up two runs on three hits on March 12 — while pitching in the inning when Will Ferrell played center field — Lindstrom has looked good. If Lindstrom doesn’t make it, I expect Vinnie Pestano to be in the ‘pen. Pestano has options, though.


Richards, Wilson get their work in on ‘off day’ …

Wednesday was only an off day on the schedule.

The Angels got a lot done at Tempe Diablo Stadium, playing an intrasquad game that featured five of the 12 guys projected to crack the Opening Day pitching staff.

Garrett Richards — in the late stages of his recovery from left knee surgery — threw 44 pitches in three shutout innings, giving up only one hit, walking none and striking out four. C.J. Wilson — scratched from his last two starts, first because he tweaked his left knee and then because he was sick on Tuesday — followed with a three-inning, 40-pitch, scoreless outing of his own.

Wilson is slated to start Sunday against the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz., on three days rest because Wednesday’s workload was like a power bullpen. He’ll have three Cactus League starts before likely taking the ball in the second game of the regular season.

Richards will pitch in a Minor League game on Monday, so this isn’t really the end of his rehab just yet.

Here’s what Richards had to say …

I wouldn’t say the end. I would say this was a big stepping stone in the process to getting back where I want to be. Everything went well today. I still treat this as a day-to-day thing. I can’t get too high on one performance and I can’t beat myself up on a bad one, either. My knee may feel good one day, it may feel a little sore the next day for whatever reason. But we regulate that in the morning whenever I get here. So as far as my workload goes on a day-to-day basis, it’s based on how I feel in the morning. But today went great, I felt good, and I felt like I could compete. I felt like I could go more than three innings today, so that felt good.

Matt Shoemaker also pitched, giving up two runs in five innings. So did veteran relievers Huston Street and Cesar Ramos. Joe Smith, who has pitched in only one Cactus League game because of tightness in his lower body early in camp, worked out in the morning.

Roberto Baldoquin played shortstop for one of the teams, and Arte Moreno and several of the Angels’ front office members were on hand.

This was no typical off day.



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