Results tagged ‘ Mike Scioscia ’

Hamilton sits again in Boston …

Angels cleanup hitter Josh Hamilton was out of the starting lineup for a second straight day on Monday, with manager Mike Scioscia wanting to give him some extra time to recover from his ongoing slump.

Hamilton has five hits and 18 strikeouts in his last 38 at-bats, dropping his batting average to .266 while keeping him stuck on eight home runs in 72 games. He’s scheduled to come to Fenway Park early on Tuesday to have a one-on-one session with hitting coaches Don Baylor and Dave Hansen “to try to find a comfortable concept in the batter’s box that he can take to the game,” Scioscia said.

“I’m all right,” Hamilton said, “but I don’t make the lineup. … I’m gonna do some early work tomorrow, see how it goes. If I hit enough out, I’ll play.”

With Hamilton out, Howie Kendrick – with 10 hits in his last 30 at-bats – batted in the No. 4 spot for the second straight day and Brennan Boesch started in left field, with Albert Pujols at designated hitter and Efren Navarro at first base. Scioscia will try to stay away from Hamilton in the series opener against the Red Sox.

The 33-year-old slugger has missed five games in the last nine days, if you count two Angels off days on Tuesday and Thursday. Hamilton got mental breaks Monday and each of the last two Sundays.

“It brings a lot of attention to what you’re trying to do when a guy you count on to hit in the middle of your lineup is struggling for a long period of time. We have every confidence, and I know Josh does, that he’s going to find it and he’s going to contribute. Any concern would just be short term trying to find a path that’s going to get him where he needs to be. This guy’s going to hit.”

Alden

Scioscia, running out of ideas, sits Hamilton, again …

Josh HamiltonAfter a three-strikeout performance during Saturday’s 5-4 win over the Rangers, which followed a four-strikeout performance during Friday’s 5-4 win over the Rangers, Angels manager Mike Scioscia gave the slumping Josh Hamilton a day off for Sunday’s series finale from Globe Life Park. It’s his second day off in a week, after also sitting last Sunday against the Red Sox, and the fourth time in seven days that Hamilton hasn’t played in a game if you count the two off days.

“Just give him a little refresher; give him just a mental break, let him exhale a little bit,” Scioscia said. “This guy’s working really hard trying to find it. We have to get him back to where we need him. Sometimes just exhaling is something that can help him. We’ve seen the struggles recently, and today is just a good day.”

Hamilton has just five hits, and 18 strikeouts, in his last 38 at-bats. His batting average is down to .266, and he’s stuck on eight home runs in 72 games.

Asked if Hamilton will return to the cleanup spot when he returns to the lineup Monday, Scioscia was somewhat non-committal.

“We’re going to let him exhale a day and see where we are,” Scioscia said, “but our lineup long range has him in the middle of it.”

Hamilton, in the second of a five-year, $125 million contract, has displayed flashes of the player he was in Texas. He batted .444/.545/.741 in his first eight games, showing signs of bouncing back from a down 2013 season in which he batted .250 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs. But then he broke his left thumb, missed nearly two months and went on a 23-game homerless drought shortly after returning. He maintained a .288 batting average by Aug. 3, then re-introduced the toe-tap in his load and started displaying some of his trademark power, hitting a ball out of Dodger Stadium on Aug. 4 and then homering in the game later that afternoon.

Ever since then, things have gone south.

Why?

“That’s the $64,000 question,” Scioscia said. “… There have been some periods here, particularly in the second half, where it looks like he’s putting it together. But this last week has been tough for him, and I think it’s just time to let him exhale a little bit. Hopefully it’s something that can be a quick fix. He’s just not playing with the same confidence that he’s had. I don’t know if he’s as confident in the box as he needs to be, and that’s where we need him to get.”

Alden

Angels ‘not seeing the aggressive Josh Hamilton’

Josh HamiltonJosh Hamilton struck out four times in Friday’s 5-4 win. The Golden Sombrero, all on fastballs for a guy who has struggled through an American League-leading amount of breaking balls this season. He watched a 1-2, 91-mph fastball at his chest go by in the first. He swung through a 2-2, 92-mph fastball down the middle in the third. He swung through a chest-high, 90-mph fastball in the fifth, going down on three straight pitches. And he swung through a 2-2, up-and-away, 94-mph fastball in the ninth, stranding the bases loaded.

Hamilton went 1-for-5, adding an opposite-field single in the eighth, and now has five hits and 16 strikeouts in his last 38 at-bats.

His slash line is down to .266/.340/.412.

“We’re not seeing the aggressive Josh Hamilton we saw when he played for Texas,” Mike Scioscia said. “We’re not seeing it. There are lot of things he’s trying. He’s working hard, and nobody feels this worse than Josh. We need him in the middle of the lineup doing what he can do. He’s the type of player who can take the pressure off of guys when he’s driving the ball like he can. Right now, we’re not seeing it.”

“Aggressive” is a tricky word for a guy who’s been criticized in the past for chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone. But Scioscia means “aggressive swings, attacking the ball.”

“We started to see some glimpes of it [a couple weeks ago], trying to get more rhythm with the toe-tap, getting a better load,” Scioscia said. “But it just doesn’t seem like he’s exploding on pitches the way we know he can, and that’s something that would give us a big lift.”

Hamilton has hit cleanup pretty consistently all year, except those first couple of weeks when David Freese would bat fourth against lefties. Scioscia moved Hamilton all over the place last year — second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, even seventh for a couple of games — but has been reluctant to do so this year. Part of the reason is because he doesn’t really have anybody else to bat in that spot, and because he doesn’t want to mess up the flow of Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the top three spots.

Does he have to now?

“You look at a whole lineup, see what’s best for team,” Scioscia said. “If it comes to that, it does. But right now, we want to play it out. With Josh there, we know Albert will get some pitches.”

Alden

CJ: ‘”I have my good stuff; I’m just not locating’ …

C.J. WilsonFor C.J. Wilson, it’s quite simple: He isn’t throwing strikes.

“I have my good stuff; I’m just not locating it precisely,” Wilson said. “Precision is the issue.”

Wilson threw 46 of his 100 pitches for balls in Thursday’s 7-0 loss to the Dodgers. Of the 26 batters he faced, he started off 1-0 10 times and got into three-ball counts nine times. His strike percentage is now 58.6, which would represent a career low (it was 61.4 percent in his previous four years as a starter). His walk rate is 3.94, on pace to be his highest since 2012. And over his last five starts, a stretch in which he’s posted an 11.10 ERA, Wilson has issued 14 walks and two hit batters in 18 2/3 innings.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said “this is probably the worst C.J. has struggled since he’s been a starting pitcher,” which is obvious. “But,” he added, “seeing how hard C.J. works, and seeing that it doesn’t look like it’s anything physical with him, we’re very confident that he’s going to get back on that beam and do what we need him to do.”

Stuff-wise, Chris Iannetta said, Wilson was “much better” from where he was in a six-run, 1 1/3-inning outing against the Rays on Saturday, his first since coming off the disabled list with a right ankle sprain.

“But that’s not saying much,” Wilson added, “because I think I could’ve thrown right-handed and pitched better last time.”

Wilson threw a 60-pitch bullpen session between starts, mainly because he only threw 50 of them in his previous game. Stamina-wise, he feels good. And besides a curveball that had way more bite than he wanted to on Thursday, his stuff is good. But he just can’t put it where he wants.

Here’s how Wilson explained it …

The location is the issue. There’s no issue with stuff or anything else; it’s just location. Today, you can watch the game, you can see the guys that are getting hits that are hitting the ball on the ground. They’re breaking their bats, balls are flaring in there. [Juan] Uribe hit the ball hard, but it’s not like dudes are taking Billy Madison swings and hitting balls off the rocks. The stuff is decent — making guys miss, striking guys out. It’s just the walks. It’s getting to the point where I’m throwing the ball at the corner and it’s not on the corner; it’s off the corner. Or trying to go in and it’s a little bit too far in. If you went through the video and watched every single pitch, the misses that I had tonight were pretty good misses for the most part.

Not good enough. Not by a long shot. Wilson is supposed to be the No. 2 starter in this rotation, a key cog for a team with World Series aspirations. But he’s 8-8 with a 4.82 ERA that’s the third-highest among qualified American League starters. And he’s scuffling at a time when the Angels need starting-pitching help more than ever.

Is he confident it’ll turn around?

“Very confident,” Wilson said, “because the quality of the stuff is there.”

Alden

As Trout goes, so does the offense …

Mike TroutThe Angels have a deep offense; one of the deepest in the game. They have Albert Pujols, a Hall of Famer if he retired today. They have Josh Hamilton, one of the most dynamic players in the game (at least that’s what he was in Texas). They have Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Kole Calhoun, David Freese, etc. — all solid hitters in their own right. They’re more than just Mike Trout.

But even they struggle to produce when the game’s best all-around player isn’t right.

The Angels — losers of back-to-back games after a 4-3 defeat on Wednesday — have averaged 3.25 runs per game since the start of the second half, all while Trout has found himself in the midst of a rare (and perhaps short) slump.

“We have to be more than Mike,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, “and we know we are.”

But here’s a breakdown of how the team has fared along with Trout so far this season (Trout’s slash line is in parenthesis, followed by the Angels’ runs per game and their record during that stretch) …

March 31 to April 28 (.327/.391/.606): 5.44 RPG; 12-13
April 29 to May 19 (.164/.314/.358): 4.21 RPG; 12-7
May 20 to July 13 (.356/.440/.701): 5.24 RPG; 33-17
July 18 to July 30 (.220/.304/.420): 3.25 RPG; 6-6

The league average for runs per game this season is 4.11, so the Angels still manage to do pretty well when Trout struggles from the No. 2 spot. Clearly, though, they’re at a completely different level when he’s on point. And luckily for them, his hot streaks tend to last a lot longer than his cold ones.

Asked how he feels at the plate these days, Trout said: “Timing’s a little late right now. Just picking the ball up late. Ones that I should be hitting I’m seeing late and I’m rushing my swing. That’s a little fix; nothing to worry about.”

Alden

Hamilton’s power re-emerges in defeat …

Josh HamiltonThe Angels lost in walk-off fashion, and dropped a game in the standings, but Josh Hamilton‘s power re-emerged at Oriole Park, and that’s always a good sign.

“That was great to see, and we need him,” Mike Scioscia said. “That was very encouraging, to see him square the ball up like he did.”

Hamilton homered in the fifth, for the first time since July 2 and just the fourth time since recovering from a surgically repaired left thumb on June 3. He also laced a double into the right-center field gap in the 12th, and lined out hard to left in the third. Entering the game, Hamilton’s isolated power score was .134, which would’ve been tied for 91st in the Majors (with Gordon Beckham, Matt Dominguez and Billy Hamilton) if he had enough at-bats to qualify.

“I’ve always felt really good at this stadium,” Hamilton said of the place that once saw him hit four home runs in one game.

“I talked with ‘Groove’ [hitting coach Don Baylor] before the game today and just talked about hitting strikes, and waiting until you get a strike, and when you do, just swing. Don’t try to do anymore with it than you need to, and try not to do too much with it. I’ve been fighting that a little bit, because obviously the power hadn’t been there. Since the All-Star break, I’ve felt like I’ve been trying to do a little bit too much.”

Hit strikes — seems simple enough.

Sometimes you just need a reminder.

“We fight that our whole career, as far as trying to do a little extra, a little much,” said Hamilton, who moved from left field to designated hitter a few hours before the game. “You try to muscle up or getting a little big. We’re always fighting against that. We need a reminder sometimes.”

Alden

Scioscia wouldn’t change playoff format …

Mike SciosciaA lot of season remains and a lot can still happen, but if the schedule ended today, the Angels would easily have the second-best record in the Majors – they were five games better than the third-place Tigers when play began Tuesday – and still their season would come down to one game.

It’s the misfortune that comes with playing in the same division as baseball’s best team – the A’s, who the Angels trail by 1 1/2 games – and it’s the bad timing of playing in an era with two Wild Card teams in each league.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has long been a proponent of divisional play, believing teams that win their division should have clear advantages over those that make the playoffs as a Wild Card. And the fact that his club is on the other side of that isn’t making him change his stance.

“I think the weight that is on winning a division is warranted,” Scioscia said prior to the series opener from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “I think that if you’re going to have divisional baseball, you have to really make winning a division the first objective of any team that’s contending. And if you don’t quite reach that goal, and you play well enough, then you have the opportunity to work your way into the playoffs.”

One alternative to a team running into the scenario the Angels are currently in is to extend the Wild Card into a three-game series, but Scioscia said that would penalize the division winners because “you will lose your edge, no doubt about it, with that much time off.”

Another would be to eliminate divisional play, which the Angels’ long-time skipper doesn’t like. And a more unconventional one would be to have four divisions, something Scioscia floated out as a possibility if more expansion takes place.

The ladder isn’t necessarily feasible right now, which makes the current goal pretty simple.

“Win your division,” Scioscia said. “Let’s just put it that way.”

Some notes from today …

  • C.J. Wilson gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings in a rehab start for Double-A Arkansas on Monday, scattering four hits, waling two and striking out seven. His ankle feels good, and he should be lined up to start this weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla., but Scioscia wants to wait until Wilson gets through his bullpen to make any determinations. Wilson also discovered some tightness in his left hip that was limiting a flexibility, a problem he fixed and an issue he believes will get him back on track.
  • Josh Hamilton moved from left field to designated hitter, but it wasn’t injury related. Hamilton didn’t get much sleep while flying to North Carolina to deal with a family emergency in his native North Carolina.
  • Grant Green (lower back) and Collin Cowgill (thumb, nose) stayed in Arizona rehabbing.
  • Mike Trout is currently in Baltimore, which is about a two-hour drive from his hometown of Millville, N.J., but he doesn’t expect a huge crowd. Trout said he left like 15 tickets.

Lineup …

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

SP: RH Jered Weaver (11-6, 3.36 ERA)

Alden

Green on DL with back strain; Cron back up …

Angels utility man Grant Green was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday because of what was initially diagnosed as a strain in his lumbar, a region that makes up his lower back.

First baseman C.J. Cron – basically the everyday designated hitter until he was sent down on Saturday – was called back up from Triple-A as the corresponding move, and Green spent the afternoon visiting team doctors to get a sense for how long he’ll be out.

Green hit the game-winning single on Sunday, then was unavailable the last couple of games. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Green tweaked his back while working out in the weight room; not amid the walk-off celebration.

“It seemed like today it was going in the wrong direction,” Scioscia said, “so we’re going to shut him down for a little bit.”

The Angels will continue to rotate at left field, first base and DH, with Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols getting starts at DH as needed, and the left-handed-hitting Efren Navarro and the right-handed-hitting Cron filling in. The Angels currently have a short bench due to an eight-man bullpen, which is expected to continue until Monday’s off day.

Cron, a 24-year-old rookie, batted .295 with nine homers and 27 RBIs in his first 47 games, a big reason why the 42-year-old Raul Ibanez was released. But he went 3-for-26 with seven strikeouts and no walks in his next six contests before getting optioned back to the Minors. Scioscia called it “the cyclical nature of hitting.”

“C.J. can hit,” Scioscia said. “He’s always hit. It’s just that there’s going to be some periods when you don’t get those balls to fall in, and I think more than anything that’s what you were seeing with C.J.

“The original plan with C.J. was really just to let him exhale. He was really pressing up here a little bit before he got sent down, and hopefully he’s been able to exhale a little bit and be ready to contribute.”

Cron was expected to land about 90 minutes prior to game time, so he’ll be available off the bench.

Lineup …

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

SP: RH Jered Weaver (10-6, 3.43 ERA)

Alden

Do the Angels need to answer the A’s? …

Arte Moreno, Jerry Dipoto, Mike SciosciaAngels general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept his focus on the bullpen. He wants to acquire a situational lefty, and he wants to get another potential closer to solidify a game’s last nine outs. But the Angels haven’t seemed willing to part ways with a package of prospects — what little they have in a farm system they’re still trying to cultivate — and they haven’t sounded like an organization that wants to take on a high-salaried pitcher, a la Cliff Lee and David Price, because it would kill their payroll flexibility and leave them little or no room to address the ‘pen the way they want.

Did that thinking change on Independence Day?

As the Angels were wrapping up the second of a four-game series against the Astros at home on Friday night, the division-rival A’s set off fireworks, acquiring starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs for pitcher Dan Straily, a couple of nice prospects (shortstop Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney) and a player to be named later. A team that leads the Majors in winning percentage and run-differential just got a whole lot better. A pitching staff that’s second in the American League in ERA and WHIP got a whole lot stronger.

The Angels are playing very solid baseball lately, winning 11 of 14 after Mike Trout‘s walk-off homer and trailing the A’s by 3 1/2 games for the best record in the AL. But the A’s seemingly took a few more steps forward on Friday, and winning your division is crucial with the expanded playoffs that now include a Wild Card game; the last thing you want is for a 162-game season to ultimately come down to one elimination game.

So do the Angels need to scrap their initial Trade Deadline plans and go after an elite starting pitcher? Do they need to fortify their rotation — one with a solid 3.70 ERA, but also some uncertainties — to keep up with the A’s?

Arte Moreno, Mike Scioscia and Dipoto have some thinking to do.

***

I’ll be taking some vacation time these next couple of weeks. Matthew DeFranks will cover for me at home July 5-9 and 18-20, Lyle Spencer will cover for me in Texas July 10-13, and I’ll be back at it July 21, for the series opener against the Orioles. Be well.

Alden

Trout still has ‘mixed feelings’ on HR Derby …

Mike TroutMike Trout still hasn’t been asked, and he still doesn’t know if he would.

“It’s kind of a weird topic for me right now,” Trout said of participating in the Home Run Derby. “I have mixed feelings. I want to do it, and I don’t want to do it.”

Trout, who’s primed to make his second straight All-Star Game start, acknowledged the Derby is “something I definitely want to do later in my career” and said, “I don’t think it would mess up my swing or anything.” But the Derby requires a lot of max-effort swings, which tends to wear guys out and is the main reason Mike Scioscia would prefer that his players not participate.

“Not only that,” Trout said. “All-Star break is time to relax, come take BP and enjoy the Derby. I enjoy watching it.”

Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista was named the American League captain for the Derby, which will take place July 14 in Minnesota. Bautista must pick four American League teammates — Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will do the same for the National League — and the tournament will have a new, bracket-style format that may lessen the amount of swings necessary.

Five players from each league will bat in the opening round, with seven outs instead of the usual 10. The player who hits the most homers in each league will automatically receive a bye to the third round (semifinals).

The next two players with the most homers from each league will square off against one another in a head-to-head matchup in the second round. The winners of those matchups will then advance to the third round to compete against the league’s top seed. The final round will feature the winners of the AL and NL semifinals going head-to-head to decide a winner.

Scioscia hasn’t necessarily talked to Trout about the Derby this year. The Angels’ manager reiterated Monday that participating in the event is the players’ decision, but continues to hold firm on his stance against it — not because of how it can affect his players’ swing, but because of how the heavy workload can affect their bodies.

“As a fan, you’re interested in it, it’s a fun part of the All-Star experience,” Scioscia said. “But I know the grind it takes to go through that, and it’s affected more players’ second halves than helped players.”

Alden

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