Results tagged ‘ Rangers ’
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said he’s “open” to adding a starting pitcher this month, basically in the same way that I’m “open” to buying a timeshare at Turks and Caicos. I’d love to, but it’s hard; almost impossible (in my case, truly impossible). For as bad as the Angels need starting pitching in the wake of Garrett Richards‘ debilitating knee injury, the time of year makes it really difficult.
A refresher: The only way a player can be traded in August is if (A) the trading team works out a deal with the team that claimed him off waivers; (B) he clears waivers entirely, and is then able to be dealt anywhere. Waivers go in reverse order of the standings, per league. So, if an American League player is placed on waivers, he’ll have to slip through 13 other teams before the Angels have a chance. If it’s a National League player, 28 teams will have a crack at him before the Angels, who have a two-game cushion on the best record in the Majors heading into this weekend series at O.co Coliseum.
As a general rule, only players who either aren’t very good or have really bad contracts slip all the way through. And then there’s the fact that an AL team could very well claim a player to simply block the Angels from getting him.
“For all intents and purposes, picking up household names, top-of-the-rotation type guys, that’s not going to happen in August,” Dipoto said. “It probably won’t happen in August most years. We’re realistic about what may be out there.”
Take that into account as you peruse this list of guys who could be moved this month …
- A.J. Burnett (PHI): Back in the offseason heading into 2012, the Angels and Yankees had a trade worked out that would send Bobby Abreu to the Yankees in exchange for Burnett. But Burnett invoked his no-trade clause and rejected the deal, because he didn’t want to pitch in the West coast. Will that change now? Well, it could, when you consider that he recently said he probably isn’t going to pitch next season (Burnett has a player option for 2015). The 37-year-old right-hander has struggled this year, with 14 losses, a 4.42 ERA and a 1.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio that’s his lowest since a miserable 2010 season in New York. But he has good stuff, and it’s tough to see him clearing waivers.
- Bartolo Colon (NYM): The Angels stayed away from Colon over the offseason, in part due to his history with performance-enhancing drugs. But desperate times, right? Colon has a 3.85 ERA and an NL-best walk rate of 1.2, while racking up 161 1/3 innings. He’s set to make $11 million next year, his age-42 season. That isn’t necessarily a good thing — unless you consider the fact that it makes him more likely to slip all the way through waivers.
- Colby Lewis (TEX): The 35-year-old Bakersfield, Calif., product has had a tough 2014 season (understandably) after missing nearly two full years recovering from elbow and hip surgeries, with a 5.52 ERA in 122 1/3 innings. He does have a chance of clearing waivers, though, and is a free agent at season’s end. He’d give the Angels depth.
- Brad Peacock (HOU): The 26-year-old right-hander has struggled this season, with a 5.47 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP in 102 innings. He’s controllable for five additional years, though, and Houston might be willing to part ways.
- Reds arms: Mat Latos (free agent at season’s end; 3.10 ERA in 12 starts), Alfredo Simon (controllable thru 2015; 12-8, 3.35 ERA) and Mike Leake (controllable thru 2015; 9-11, 3.65 ERA) could all be dealt as the Reds continue to fall off the race.
- Yankees arms: The further the Bronx Bombers fall in the standings, the more likely they’ll be to part ways with impending free agents like lefty Chris Capuano and righty Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy has been lights out since going from Arizona to the Bronx, posting a 1.90 ERA and a 7.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in eight starts. Capuano has a 4.15 ERA in five starts. Translation: Capuano is a more likely addition than McCarthy.
After 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.
“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.”
Josh 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.”
Erick Aybar was out of the starting lineup for a third straight day on Monday, a precaution for the sore right groin the Angels’ shortstop suffered while reaching first base on a ninth-inning single against the Mariners on Friday night.
Prior to batting practice, though, Aybar did some light agility drills on the field with strength-and-conditioning coordinator T.J. Harrington, then took some BP and felt good. The 30-year-old — an All-Star for the first time while sporting a .283/.320/.409 slash line — expects to return to the starting lineup on Tuesday and should be available off the bench for Monday’s series opener against the Orioles.
The groin initially bothered the switch-hitter while batting from the right side of the plate.
“But I’m good now, from both sides,” Aybar said in Spanish. “I’ll be ready to go tomorrow. They told me one more day, and then tomorrow I’ll [return to the starting lineup]. But I’m ready for whatever they need today, too.”
Some other notes as the Angels look to build on a Major League-best .824 winning percentage in July …
- As I type this, C.J. Wilson is throwing his first bullpen session since landing on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle on July 10. Wilson said he has “no idea” how much longer he’ll have to be on the shelf. “It’s going to be how does it feel today throwing, and then after throwing tomorrow.” Wilson will eventually have to go out onto a rehab assignment. “I’m going to have to adjust to how it feels, because it’s not just going to heal itself in a week,” he added. “Some of the adjustment is going to have to be pain tolerance and things like that. And just learning how to use a somewhat-destabilized ankle.”
- From Matthew DeFranks: Collin Cowgill rejoined the Angels on Monday and said he should return from the disabled list in a couple of weeks, barring an unforeseen setback. Cowgill broke his nose and thumb after he was hit by a Matt West pitch trying to bunt on July 13. Cowgill, who flew in from his home Kentucky on Sunday night, had stitches removed from his nose on Monday and said it would probably be another few days before he can take any swings.
- The Angels signed veteran catcher John Buck to a Minor League deal and assigned him to Triple-A Salt Lake, where they currently have three active catchers. Buck, 34, was released from the Mariners on Tuesday after batting .226/.293/.286. For the Angels, he can be a third catcher when rosters expand in September — unless he finds an immediate Major League opportunity before then.
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Efren Navarro, LF
Hank Conger, C
John McDonald, SS
SP: RH Matt Shoemaker (7-2, 4.38 ERA)
Mike Scioscia knows who his starters will be on Saturday and Sunday, but won’t announce them until Friday, probably because a corresponding roster move is involved. One of the games will be started by Jered Weaver, and for the other it’ll either be Hector Santiago or Matt Shoemaker. And with that, the Angels’ manager will have essentially made the much-wondered-about rotation decision, which was made difficult by how effective Shoemaker and Santiago have been lately.
Santiago has one thing pointing in his favor: Soon, the Angels have to basically figure out whether or not he’s going to start for them down the stretch.
The non-waiver Trade Deadline is exactly six weeks away, and the Angels have two potential needs: Lefty reliever and starting pitcher. Santiago has a chance to fill either of those roles, but obviously not both. And the decision to keep him in the rotation could rest partly on the fact that they need to figure out whether or not trading for a starting pitcher is necessary.
The Angels have the flexibility to absorb payroll – remember, the money they offered to Matt Garza this offseason essentially went unused — but getting a front-of-the-rotation starter would mean parting ways with top prospects from a farm system that needs to grow. Acquiring a lefty reliever probably would not.
The Angels have been heavily linked to Rays ace David Price, most recently by ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden, who believes C.J. Cron and Alex Yarbrough could be enough to get a deal done. FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal linked them to Ian Kennedy of the Padres and Dillon Gee of the Mets. I’ve heard they like Kennedy, Travis Wood of the Cubs and J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays (albeit a contender), among others. The Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija is a sexy name who could be shopped since he turned down a reported extension offer, but he — like Price and the Phillies’ Cliff Lee, who’s currently rehabbing from an elbow strain — will cost some top-shelf prospects.
But before they go in that direction, the Angels need to find out if Santiago’s last two starts were a fluke or a sign that he’s actually rounding into the form they expected when they traded for him.
Now, is five weeks enough to draw a conclusion?
David Freese had come over from St. Louis, Erick Aybar was entrenched at shortstop and utility man Andrew Romine was out of options, so Grant Green went into 2014 figuring he’d just stay at second base for the Angels, to start there in the Minor Leagues and be ready on the off chance Howie Kendrick was traded.
“I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Green said from the Angel Stadium clubhouse on Friday afternoon, shortly after being recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake.
Green started the season with the Salt Lake Bees, played two games at second base, then spent the rest of the time getting re-acclimated with the left side of the infield, playing a lot of shortstop and a little bit of third base.
A week ago, he was told he’d start playing left field, and Green didn’t know what to think. He asked Triple-A manager Keith Johnson what was going on, and couldn’t get an answer.
“You’re kind of thinking, ‘Did I not do a good job at third and short that they have to put me in the outfield now?’” Green said. “But as long as you’re in this clubhouse over that one, I guess you’re doing something right.”
The Angels just wanted Green to be as versatile as possible to make him more appealing in the big leagues, and give them more options to get his bat in the lineup – a bat that was responsible for a .349/.395/.505 slash line in 119 plate appearances in the Pacific Coast League.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he’s “very comfortable” starting Green in left field, a position he spent 49 games at in the A’s system in 2012. The 26-year-old right-handed hitter, acquired from Oakland in exchange for third baseman Alberto Callaspo last July, wasn’t in the lineup against right-hander Colby Lewis, but will probably start on Saturday against Matt Harrison and most other lefties moving forward.
Left field figures to be Green’s primary position with the Angels right now, but Scioscia said “his versatility is something that will come into play.”
Green credited former Angels second baseman Bobby Grich for his success at the plate early on. The two met at a Make-A-Wish event, exchanged numbers and started working together in a local batting cage. Grich taught Green to finish his swing a little lower, which Green believes has “allowed me to stay on the plane of the ball a lot longer.”
Left field “feels good,” Green said.
Everything does in the big leagues.
“It was just getting used to not reacting right away; taking a couple seconds to see where the ball goes first,” Green said. “But it felt fine. The throw’s a little bit longer, the batter’s a little further away. Other than that, it’s the same.”
Shin-Soo Choo, LF
Elvis Andrus, SS
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Prince Fielder, 1B
Alex Rios, RF
Donnie Murphy, 2B
Leonys Martin, CF
Michael Choice, DH
Robinson Chirinos, C
SP: RH Colby Lewis (1-1, 4.60 ERA)
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Hank Conger, C
Collin Cowgill, RF
J.B. Shuck, LF
SP: LH Hector Santiago (0-4, 4.44 ERA)
A strong belief in one’s roster is usually followed by a phrase like “as long as we stay healthy.”
Well, the American League West is anything but to start the season. The Rangers are littered with injuries, with starter Derek Holland (right knee), second baseman Jurickson Profar (right shoulder) and catcher Geovany Soto (knee) all out until midseason and Yu Darvish (neck) starting the year on the disabled list. A’s Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker will miss all of 2014 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery and A.J. Griffin (right flexor muscle strain) is on the shelf. And the Mariners — in town the next three days — have two starters on the DL in Hisashi Iwakuma (right middle finger) and Taijuan Walker (right shoulder).
The door is wide open for the Angels.
They’ve had the fourth-worst April winning percentage the last two years, crippling any chances they had of reaching the playoffs. But of the Angels’ 27 games through the month of April this year, only nine will come against teams that made the playoffs in 2013. Four will come against an Astros team that has lost 100 games three straight years (though, granted, they won 10 of 19 games against the Angels last year), and three will come against the Mets, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006. But there’s one really tough swing — a three-city trip from April 18-27, which will see the Angels visit the Tigers, Nationals and Yankees.
The Angels will also be off in each of their first six Thursdays. Yes, you’d rather have the days off at the end of the year, but a fast start is crucial this year, and those off days certainly won’t hurt that cause.
In hopes of facilitating a better start, the Angels tweaked their Spring Training program. Position players took more swings and focused more on situational hitting. Starting pitchers were stretched out earlier. Relievers attacked their bullpens more aggressively. Live BP was re-introduced after a one-year hiatus. And more shifting is taking place defensively, after the Angels went from 2nd to 27th in Defensive Runs Saved over the course of one season.
One year after having by far the worst Spring Training record and ERA in the Majors, the Angels had a much better camp. Here’s a look at the numbers …
Record: 19-11-2, 2nd in the Cactus League
Runs: 190, 4th in MLB
OPS: .803, 3rd in MLB
SP ERA: 4.01, 11th in MLB
RP WHIP: 4.20, 4th in MLB
Positives from camp: Albert Pujols looked light on his feet around the bag and on the bases. … Josh Hamilton quickly got his timing back after missing time with a strained left hamstring. … Tyler Skaggs was mostly sitting at 95 mph, after having a hard time touching 90 mph last year. … Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun — batting ninth and first, respectively, and ahead of Mike Trout — drew a combined 21 walks. … C.J. Wilson had a 1.88 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. … Ernesto Frieri didn’t allow a run in 10 outings. … Trout batted .414/.460/.828. … The Angels rid themselves of two potential distractions, releasing Joe Blanton and signing Trout to the much-talked-about extension. … Out-of-options infielder Andrew Romine was turned into much-needed starting-pitching depth in Jose Alvarez.
Negatives from camp: Sean Burnett is still working his way back from August surgery, but he’s expected to face hitters for the first time in a sim game on Tuesday or Wednesday. … Dane De La Rosa is starting the season on the DL with a right forearm strain, but he could be back as soon as the weekend series in Houston. … Brian Moran is working his way back from left elbow inflammation, leaving Nick Maronde (1.89 Cactus League WHIP) as the only lefty in the bullpen to start the year. … Skaggs and Hector Santiago had their occasional long innings, an indication that there will be some growing pains. … Newcomers David Freese (one extra-base hit) and Raul Ibanez (.218 batting average) didn’t have great results at the plate, but both were happy with the way they were driving the ball.
Now, what does all this mean for the regular season?
I have no idea.
The Angels’ depth chart can be found here.
Now, if you’ve followed baseball long enough you know that a team never goes an entire season with the same 25-man roster (or even the same five-man rotation). So, here’s a look at who’s next in line at every position …
Catcher: Luis Martinez
Third base: Luis Jimenez
Shortstop: Tommy Field
Second base: Grant Green
First base: C.J. Cron
Left field: J.B. Shuck
Center field: Matt Long
Right field: Brennan Boesch
Starter: Wade LeBlanc or Alvarez
Reliever: Brandon Lyon
On that Trout contract …
For months, many wondered how much Trout would be worth in the open market and speculated what it would cost to lock up the best all-around player in baseball. They put his three arbitration years at upwards of $60 million, had him pegged as a $35 million free agent and believed he could be baseball’s first $300-million player.
But three are three important things to keep in mind about Trout’s situation …
1. He isn’t in his free-agent years yet. He still needed to get through three arbitration years, which greatly limits how much a player can make.
2. Being a $300-million player would’ve probably required a 10-year, contract, and that wouldn’t have been ideal because Trout wants to cash in on another monster contract by hitting the open market before age 30.
3. There’s just as much incentive for Trout as there is for the Angels, no matter how great he is. Why? Because free agency is a whole four years away, a lot can happen in four years, and it’s hard to turn down that much financial security so early.
So, Trout’s contract is $144.5 million over the course of six seasons, from 2015-20 (with a full no-trade clause, basic incentives and no additional option years or opt-outs). And I think it gives both sides what they want. It gives the Angels three additional years of Trout and some cost-certainty. It gives Trout a chance to be a free agent again at age 29 and makes him the highest-paid player relative to service time at every juncture.
Here’s a look at the year-by-year breakdown, and who Trout surpasses …
2014: $1M (Pujols in 2003 and Ryan Howard in ’07 with $900K for a pre-arbitration player)*
2015: $10.25M (Howard, $10M in ’08 for first-year arbitration)**
2016: $15.25M (Howard, $15M in ’09 for second-year arbitration)
2017: $19.25M (Howard, $19M in ’10 for third-year arbitration)
2018-20: $33.25M (Miguel Cabrera, $31M AAV in ’14 for a free agent)
* the $1M compensation was done before the contract
** $5M of that will be paid to Trout in 2014, as part of a signing bonus
Can the Angels stay competitive for the next seven seasons to keep Trout’s interest in the team? (@ryanwjsmyth)
One of the reasons Trout felt comfortable staying with the Angels long term is because he knows the owner, Arte Moreno, isn’t afraid to put his money into making this team competitive. One thing is for sure: The Angels will not be in rebuild mode over the life of Trout’s contract, or even while Moreno is around. But it’ll be harder and harder to stay below the luxury tax and put a World Series-contending product on the field as Hamilton and Pujols naturally decline. Jerry Dipoto has a tough task at hand — continue to build a contending team while also developing young pitching. Getting Santiago and Skaggs is a good start, though. Also, keep in mind: Trout’s decision to stay will be based more on how good the Angels can be after 2020, not necessarily what they’ve done leading up to it.
Will Albert Pujols hit 30+ home runs this season? (@adreamersview)
If healthy, I think you can bank on that. He hit 30 in 2012 even though he went a month and a half without hitting his first (and I don’t expect that to happen again). Plantar fasciitis didn’t just limit his defense and baserunning. It made his right knee, surgically repaired the previous offseason, swell up. And it sapped his power because a hitter is nothing without a healthy base. I’m never going to doubt Pujols’ ability to hit. He’s proven it long enough.
If the Angels make a run for the postseason what do you see them doing at the trade deadline? (@gizmosol)
Trying to get their hands on more starting pitching. Justin Masterson and Max Scherzer are heading into their final seasons before free agency, Cliff Lee and David Price may get shopped, and all sorts of other starters could become available in July. The Angels still have roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold that they’re willing to use. Yes, the farm system is still pretty barren. But the list of teams in the market for a starting-pitching rental in July is usually very short, and the Angels could dangle Cron or Taylor Lindsey or Kaleb Cowart or some of their (few) good pitching prospects if they feel they’re close (and hope for a better result than the 2012 trade for Zack Greinke).
Here are some links to our Opening Day coverage …
Some feature stories from earlier in the spring, in case you missed them …
Weaver leads rotation’s quest for redemption
Pujols, Hamilton facing more doubt than ever
Mike Scioscia eager to reclaim winning formula
John McDonald “a magician” with the glove
The odyssey of De La Rosa, and a lesson in never giving up
Trout can’t believe how fast this is all happening
Most important thing: It didn’t happen at home, but Joe Blanton was lights out while playing with the other half of the team in Surprise, Ariz., limiting the Rangers to one lonesome hit in five innings, striking out five. The outing followed one in which he gave up seven runs, and four homers, in 3 1/3 innings against the Rockies.
Second-most important thing: At home, the Angels’ everyday players had their best offensive showing since the Spring Training opener nearly two weeks ago. Albert Pujols (2-for-3 with his second straight line-drive double), David Freese (3-for-3, after going 1-for-his-previous-14), Mike Trout (two runs scored, two RBIs), Kole Calhoun (2-for-4) and Erick Aybar (2-for-3) all had nice games, and the Angels scored eight runs in the second inning off Matt Garza.
Third-most important thing: Hector Santiago was solid, giving up two runs while scattering five hits, walking one and striking out six in 4 1/3 innings. He threw 83 pitches, but he threw 90 before he even showed up to Spring Training.
Fourth-most important thing: The Angels’ offense came alive against the Rangers, too, winning 12-1 and plating eight runs in the first four innings. J.B. Shuck went 2-for-5, Collin Cowgill hit a three-run homer off Alexi Ogando, and Chad Tracy (2-for-4, three RBIs), Efren Navarro (2-for-2), Grant Green (2-for-4) and John McDonald (2-for-2, 3 RBIs) also had multi-hit games.
Fifth-most important thing: Matt Long continues to hit. He went 2-for-4 in Tempe — while playing all three outfield spots — and is batting .536 this spring, with nine hits in his last 13 at-bats.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): In the second, Lyle Overbay smoked a line drive, but Freese dove to his right to snag it.
Best quote: Santiago, on his long wait between the end of the top of the second to the start of the top of the third: “Last year, when I was pitching [for the White Sox], we didn’t have very many big innings. So, it’s been a while. Now I know what it feels like to sit down for so long, and it seems like we’re going to do that a lot. I’ll take 40-minute innings all the time, as long as we’re scoring some runs.”
Angels’ record: 7-7-1
Yep, he’s traveling.
Most of the starters are playing at home against the Brewers, including Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Hector Santiago (both lineups here). But Joe Blanton is starting in Surprise, Ariz, five days after giving up seven runs — and four mammoth homers, according to people who actually watched the road half of the Angels’ first split-squad game — in 3 1/3 innings against the Rockies.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Blanton is only one “minor” reason he’s traveling (most of the time the manager stays at home and sends other coaches). Some potential bench guys (Chad Tracy in left, J.B. Shuck in right, Grant Green at shortstop) are playing positions they’re still getting used to, and the game is against the division-rival Rangers.
“All of us can’t be in one spot all the time,” Scioscia said. “I want to get acclimated with some things.”
Asked how important this start is for Blanton, who’s owed $8.5 million and is without a role right now, Scioscia said: “Every time you’re out there, it’s a proving ground and you need to perform well. Joe, just like most pitchers in spring, your performance is not going to be your line score. Your performance is going to be the execution of pitches, the progress, things like that. In that regard, it’s critical for every pitcher, because we’re opening up in  days. Every pitcher really needs to get that performance locked down, and that performance isn’t their line score. It’s going to be just from a scouting perspective — are they making progress and are they executing their pitches.”
Most important thing: The gamesmanship between Yu Darvish and Mike Trout has begun. Trout owns a lifetime 1.227 OPS in 39 plate appearances against Darvish, so the Japanese right-hander said he only threw him fastballs today (Trout lined out and hit a single in two at-bats against him) because he didn’t want to tip his hand on the different approach he’ll have against the Angels’ phenom this season.
Second-most important thing: Tyler Skaggs, vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, retired six of his first seven batters, but grew noticeably tired in the third, putting four of the five batters he faced on base and giving up an RBI single to Shin-Soo Choo before exiting.
Third-most important thing: Albert Pujols went 0-for-3 with a weak groundout and two harmless flyouts, making him 0-for-8 on the spring. But, as Mike Scioscia said, “Really small sample size. In BP he’s there; he’s just searching for timing. He’ll find it.”
Fourth-most important thing: Raul Ibanez took Darvish deep in the second inning, with a solo shot that easily cleared the right-field fence. Ibanez has one hit and five strikeouts in nine career regular-season at-bats against Darvish.
Fifth-most important thing: Sidearm reliever Joe Smith made his Angels debut in the fourth inning, giving up an RBI triple to Leonys Martin.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): With one on and none out in the eighth, Rangers second baseman Kensuke Tanaka ranged to his right, slid on one knee and made a nice backhand play of a Luis Martinez grounder to start a slick 4-6-3 double play.
Best quote: Trout, to Japanese reporters when asked about Darvish tweaking his game plan against him this year: “It’s going to be interesting. I’m curious to see what he does, see what happens. It’s going to be fun to watch.”