Results tagged ‘ Reds ’

Division-by-division: NL Central …

World Series Cardinals Red Sox BaseballLeading up to Spring Training, I’ll take a look at each of the six divisions in hopes of providing an overview for what to expect this coming season. Next up, the NL Central.

Brewers
Last year’s record: 74-88, 4th place
Key additions: SP Matt Garza, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, RP Will Smith, 1B Lyle Overbay
Key subtractions: 1B/RF Corey Hart, OF Norichika Aoki, INF Yuniesky Betancourt, RP Mike Gonzalez, 1B/3B Mat Gamel
Biggest strength: Starting pitching, though it’s all relative. The Brewers came out of nowhere to sign Garza to a four-year, $50 million contract, adding him to what looks like a stable rotation with Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. Without Garza, that foursome helped the Brewers rank fourth in the Majors in starting-pitcher ERA in the second half.
Biggest question: First base. Overbay and Reynolds have been added on Minor League deals to compete with the free-swinging Juan Francisco, so as of right now, the Brewers have a lot of uncertainty at a position that requires steady production.
Most important player: Ryan Braun. Duh. He’s signed through 2020, is entering his age-30 season, is coming off his first non-great year (.298/.372/.498 line in 61 games) and, most importantly, just finished serving a 65-game suspension for violating MLB’s anti-drug agreement. Braun needs to repair his image on the field, and the Brewers need a big year from him in order to move this franchise forward.
In 25 words or lessThe farm system is weak, the Major League club is full of holes and the star player is tainted. Tough time for Brewers fans.

Cardinals
Last year’s record: 97-65, 1st place (lost to Red Sox in World Series)
Key additions: CF Peter Bourjos, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Mark Ellis, RP Angel Castro
Key subtractions: OF Carlos Beltran, 3B David Freese, INF Rafael Furcal, SP Chris Carpenter, SP Jake Westbrook, RP Edward Mujica
Biggest strength: Young pitching. Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, etc., should make the Cardinals title contenders for years to come.
Biggest question: The middle of the lineup. Beltran has departed to the Yankees, and so it’ll be mainly up to Allen Craig and Matt Adams to protect Matt Holliday.
Most important player: Craig. Many forget just how good a hitter he is when healthy, with a .312/.364/.500 slash line the last three years. If he can fully recover from the right foot injury that prompted him to miss 23 regular-season games and the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Cardinals may not miss Beltran all that much.
In 25 words or less: John Mozeliak made a lot of savvy moves this offseason, and may have made the defending NL champs even better.

Cubs
Last year’s record: 66-96, 5th place
Key additions: MGR Rick Renteria, CL Jose Veras, RP Wesley Wright, INF Ryan Roberts, OF Justin Ruggiano, C Eli Whiteside, C John Baker, OF Chris Coghlan, SP Jonathan Sanchez
Key subtractions: MGR Dale Sveum, SP Scott Baker, C Dioner Navarro, RP Kevin Gregg, RP Matt Guerrier, SP Liam Hendricks, OF Brian Bogusevic
Biggest strength: Hitting prospects. Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara should be up and contributing soon.
Biggest question: Money. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been handcuffed on what they can spend to make this Cubs roster better. Their Opening Day payroll projects to be lower than $80 million for the first time since 2003.
Most important player: Starlin Castro. The 23-year-old shortstop went from .283/.323/.430 in 2012 to .245/.284/.347 in 2013. He needs to cut down his strikeouts, eliminate his occasional mental lapse on defense and get back to being the potential face of the franchise.
In 25 words or less: They have some nice prospects on the way, but the Cubs won’t get over the hump until they’re allowed to spend like a big-market team.

Pirates
Last year’s record: 94-68, 2nd place (lost to Cardinals in NLDS)
Key additions: SP Edinson Volquez, INF Robert Andino, C Chris Stewart, OF Chris Dickerson, RP Daniel Schlereth, RP Cody Eppley
Key subtractions: SP A.J. Burnett, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Marlon Byrd, C John Buck, SP Jeff Karstens, RP Kyle Farnsworth, 1B Garrett Jones
Biggest strength: Bullpen depth. They ranked third in the Majors in bullpen ERA last year and practically return everybody, with Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and Tony Watson a very formidable back-end group.
Biggest question: Right field and first base. Byrd and Morneau were two big in-season acquisitions and now they’re gone, replaced in-house. Jose Tabata (.771 OPS in 2013) and Gaby Sanchez (.762) are once again set to take over two power positions.
Most important player: Wandy Rodriguez. He is, believe it or not, the Pirates’ highest-paid player and hasn’t pitched since early June because of forearm arthritis. If he rebounds, it’ll go a long way in easing rotation concerns in Pittsburgh. If he doesn’t, the Pirates may have to eat the $7.5 million they owe him (the Astros are covering the other $5.5 million).
In 25 words or less: The Pirates had a breakthrough season in 2013, but the front office simply hasn’t done enough to build on that for 2014.

Reds
Last year’s record: 90-72, 3rd place (lost to Pirates in NL Wild Card game)
Key additions: MGR Bryan Price, C Brayan Pena, 2B/OF Skip Schumaker, INF Ramon Santiago, SP/RP Jeff Francis, RP Pedro Beato
Key subtractions: MGR Dusty Baker, SP Bronson Arroyo, OF Shin-Soo Choo, INF Cesar Izturis, SP Zach Duke, RP Nick Masset
Biggest strength: Pitching, even without Arroyo. If Johnny Cueto can stay healthy and top prospect Tony Cingrani can step up, the Reds’ rotation will be a force. Their bullpen remains one of the best in the National League.
Biggest question: Feeding Joey Votto. The Reds’ first baseman had an NL-leading .435 on-base percentage but drove in only 73 runs last year. Votto needs the guys in front of him to get on base, and now that Choo (.423 on-base percentage last year) is gone, that’s a big concern. Zack Cozart (.284 OBP), Brandon Phillips (.310 OBP) and rookie Billy Hamilton are the candidates to make up the first two spots of the lineup.
Most important player: Hamilton. We know he can run, and he’s come a long way defensively in center field. Now, can he hit at the leadoff spot, and can he make Reds fans forget about Choo? It’s a big year for the 23-year-old.
In 25 words or less: The Cardinals are tough, but the Reds are good enough to contend. Can Price, the ex-pitching coach, pull a John Farrell?

Predicted order of finish …

  • Cardinals
  • Reds
  • Pirates
  • Brewers
  • Cubs

Previous entries: NL East | AL East

Alden

Is Weaver/Wilson/Richards/Vargas enough? …

Jered WeaverIt’s an impossible question to answer because so many factors surround it, like what bullpen additions are made, or what’s done about third base, or how the bench is upgraded, or who the fifth starter becomes, or even how Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton fare.

But it’s pretty simple in a vacuum: Do you feel good about the Angels’ rotation if Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards and Jason Vargas are the four best members of it?

For the vast majority of you on Twitter, the answer was a pretty resounding yes.

Recent memory no doubt played a big factor in that, because we’re finally starting to see some consistency out of the Angels’ rotation now that Weaver and Vargas are a part of it at the same time. Since Aug. 15, Angels starters have posted the fourth-best ERA in the Majors at 3.35 — and that was before Jerome Williams pitched 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball against the Rays. Vargas (8-6, 3.80 ERA) has a 3.57 ERA in his last four starts despite giving up five runs in four innings to the Rays on Tuesday; Weaver (9-8, 3.33 ERA) has given up four runs in his last 21 innings; Wilson (14-6, 3.35 ERA) is 7-1 with a 2.67 ERA since the 30th of June; and Richards (5-6, 4.06 ERA) has a 3.21 ERA in eight starts since taking Joe Blanton‘s spot in the rotation.

Kind of makes you wonder how things would’ve gone if Vargas (blood clot) and Weaver (broken non-pitching elbow) hadn’t missed a combined 18 or so starts due to fluky injuries. How different is the dynamic of this season? Heck, how different is the narrative regarding Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto?

Regardless of what happens this offseason, the Angels will no doubt have non-tender decisions regarding Williams (slated to make about $3 million) and Tommy Hanson (roughly $4.5 million), and they may ponder whether or not to release Blanton (with $8.5 million remaining on his contract). But it’s one thing to try and acquire a fifth starter and additional depth, and it’s a whole other thing to try to acquire a mid-rotation starter that you truly feel comfortable sliding between Wilson and Vargas. Given the state of the Angels’ farm system, the dearth of starting pitching talent in free agency and the lack of payroll flexibility available for 2014 to begin with, it’s probably the difference between giving up a major offensive piece (Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, what have you) and not having to do so.

Having said all that, my opinion — while borrowing a line from George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven – is they need one more.

Weaver, Wilson, Vargas and Richards can be as good as anyone in the league if right, but …

  1. Weaver loses a bit off his fastball every year.
  2. Wilson flirts with danger a lot.
  3. Vargas’ 3.94 ERA since the start of 2010 ranks 61st.
  4. Richards is 25 and has been inconsistent in the past.
  5. Here are the top five starting-pitcher ERA teams in baseball, respectively: Dodgers, Reds, Pirates, Tigers, Cardinals. What do they all have in common? Yep, they’re probably all going to the playoffs.

The Angels tried this year to counter a patchwork rotation with what they thought would be a deeper bullpen and a crazy-good offense. Perhaps if everyone stays healthy and Hamilton hits like himself, it works out. But it’s a risky proposition; a lot riskier than making starting pitching priority 1, 2 and 3. I think they need to get back to that this winter, and I think they need to do whatever it takes to beef up their rotation, even if it means sacrificing a little offense.

(Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to point out that resigning Vargas is no slam dunk. Both sides are interesting in a return, but the Angels will have competition and don’t have the means — or desire, really — to overpay.)

Jason VargasHere are some of your Twitter responses to whether you’d be satisfied with a front four of Weaver/Wilson/Richards/Vargas. My apologies if I didn’t get yours in …

@LAANGELSINSIDER: I think they would. Those 4 can got 7 solid most games. If the bullpen improves #Angels will be better overall.

@TurbosLady9493: Yes, if Richards can show a bit more consistency and less walks.

@memphiscds: Could live with it if we had young #5 and decent bullpen

@GareGare84: yes. At least they can hold the other team. Give our offense a chance to score.

@AJTheDon_: would’ve liked it alot more if that’s what it would’ve looked like at the start of the year

@Tanner_Shurtz: so much inconsistency for Richards, torn between 5th starter and RP… See what works out in ST

@SportsChicken: If they’re trying to compete for a championship, [heck] no. Otherwise, meh.

@JcHc3in1: I’d like to see them land a #2/#3 besides Vargas, or in addition to Vargas

@CJWoodling: Richards has Weaver-like elements in him. I could see him being as high as number 3 with a little work.

@DickMarshall: think Richards needs to start as #5. Need a solid (little risk- re: anti Hanson/Blanton) #3 or #4.

@OSBIEL: very satisfied. If they fix up the bullpen they should be fine w/ those four.

@anthony_mateos: yes. They give you a chance to win, that’s all you want.

@kwelch31: yes very. Plus a solid pitcher in a howie trade. That would work. Maybe hellikson or phil hughes.

@CDHartnett: he needs to be a 5th starter so he doesn’t have any pressure and can have a FULL season as a starter. No short leash.

@Brush_Ryan: perfectly happy with those 4 provided the add a legit #3 starter.

@pippin38: sign Garza or Kuroda and have Weaver Wilson Varges Garza/Kuroda Richards

@natetrop: In my opinion they need a solid #3 or top of the rotation arm to contend. Can’t have Richards as anything other than #5

@chrispower82: A decent 5th is still needed, but those 4 are a good start (and should’ve been our top 4 to start this year)

@CalderonEder: I’d say go after Kuroda or maybe find a trade partner for Trumbo for another legit starter

@AlexPVegas: If the Angels had the current rotation that they have now all year. We aren’t talking about the future.

Alden

 

Desperate times …

Josh HamiltonMike Scioscia — his club 26-34, coming off losing five of six to the Astros and Cubs, and entering a brutal nine-game stretch against the Red Sox, Orioles and Yankees — made some drastic changes to his lineup for Game 1 of Saturday’s split doubleheader. Mike Trout is back at leadoff, Josh Hamilton is batting second for the first time in six years, Howie Kendrick has moved up to fifth and Erick Aybar is at the No. 8 spot.

Here, I’ll simplify it for you: This is all about Hamilton, and trying to find some way to get him going.

Will he get better pitches to hit simply because he’s batting between Trout and Albert Pujols (starting at designated hitter)?

Probably not. But it certainly won’t hurt.

Is this the kind of change that can finally get him going?

Who knows. But, hey, why not?

“It’s something we’ve talked about for the last couple weeks and it’s the lineup we talked about before,” Scioscia said. “Right now, it’d be a good spot for Josh to hit between Mike and Albert, and hopefully get him into a different neighborhood. We need Josh to get it going, and it might be something that can spark him.”

Hamilton heads into Saturday’s split doubleheader with a .216/.278/.383 slash line, with eight homers, 18 RBIs and 62 strikeouts in 59 games. He’s made six previous starts in the No. 2 spot, and all of them came during his rookie year of 2007, when the Reds simply had no idea what they’d get from Hamilton.

The Angels have tried everything with their slumping, $125 million slugger. On April 22, he batted fifth against a lefty. On April 30, he began to hit fifth against everybody. And on three separate occasions — May 4, May 18 and June 3 — he was given a day off to clear his head. Recently, he and hitting coach Jim Eppard talked about going back to his pregame routine of 2010.

Now, he’s batting second.

“If you’re looking at what makes sense on paper, obviously you’d want Josh somewhere in the middle of your lineup, but that’s not what we’re dealing with right now,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully with the emergence of Mark [Trumbo] and the emergence of Howie swinging like they can, we’ll be able to keep the middle of the lineup where we need it, and just give Josh a chance to get into a comfort zone where he is.”

Here are the full lineups for Game 1 …

Angels

Trout, CF
Hamilton, RF
Pujols, DH
Trumbo, 1B
Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Aybar, SS
J.B. Shuck, LF

SP: Tommy Hanson (2-2, 4.19 ERA)

Red Sox (37-24)

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Daniel Nava, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Mike Carp, LF
Stephen Drew, SS
Jose Iglesias, 3B

SP: Felix Doubront (4-2, 4.88 ERA)

Alden

Finally, some normalcy for Josh Hamilton …

Josh HamiltonJosh Hamilton is looking forward to playing some games at Angel Stadium. It has little to do with the booing he received in Texas, and more to do with the simple fact that, after going on a reunion tour through Cincinnati and Texas to start his Angels career, Hamilton can finally settle in a little bit.

“It’s good to get it out of the way, get that over with, get it settled,” Hamilton said. “I’m sure I’ll relive [the boos in Texas] every time we go back there, but I’ve been through it already. That’s the cool thing, when you can go through something. You get through it, then you’re prepared for it next time. But it’s more exciting for me to be here and be ready, as far as being in a routine for the next week or so. Same kind of schedule. That’s probably the most exciting thing for me.”

Hamilton, as expected, was cheered pretty loudly prior to his Angel Stadium debut on Tuesday night — but not much during the game.

The 31-year-old slugger made a nice diving catch in right-center field in the fifth and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. But he also struck out with the bases loaded in the first, flied out to deep left-center field in the third — with an overly aggressive Albert Pujols getting doubled up — bounced into a force out at home with the bases loaded in the fourth and grounded out to first in the eighth, making him 4-for-29 (a .138 batting average) on the year.

“It’s still an adjustment,” said Hamilton, who feels he’s made strides by coiling more prior to his swing, which helps keep him from flying open. “The biggest thing is getting the family settled in, and just coming here, learning a new park, learning how to get to places and learning what time I need to be places. So it’s going to be good.”

If nothing else, Hamilton doesn’t have to return to the vitriol of Rangers Ballpark until July. This past weekend was a rough one, with fans booing him loudly at the plate, giving standing ovations when he struck out, heckling him in right field and even prompting his wife to move into a suite for the final two games.

At one point, with the crowd loudly chanting “baseball town,” Hamilton pretended to throw a football and receive a snap from under center, prompting Rangers closer Joe Nathan to tell MLB Network Radio on Monday: “If he had been  quieter, I think this weekend might not have been hyped as much. He egged them on a little, playing with them.”

Asked about Nathan’s comments, Hamilton said: “Well, you can’t let people get away with chanting ‘baseball town.’ I mean, a few here and there chanting it is fine. But when half about half the stadium gets into it, you have to bring it back to reality. That’s the only reason I got involved a little bit. I was silent until then.”

Alden

C.J. Wilson, and the second time thru …

Chris Iannetta, C.J. WilsonA former starting pitcher had one big takeaway after watching C.J. Wilson‘s good-but-not-great outing against the Reds on Wednesday night: He’s over-thinking it again.

Wilson, he said, assumes hitters are going to make adjustments on him the second time through the order and sometimes winds up complicating matters, trying to be too fine rather than going with what worked early in the game. It’s just one man’s theory, of course. But it did seem to play out that way against the Reds in the bottom of the fourth, walking Chris Heisey and Joey Votto on nine pitches before serving up a three-run homer to Brandon Phillips and a near-homer to Jay Bruce.

Last year, as Wilson struggled through the second half, the left-hander’s biggest problems seemed to come the second time through a lineup. Wilson gave up 65 runs (56 earned) in 91 innings in the second half last year, resulting in a 5.54 ERA. Thirty-five of those runs came in the second and third inning, which is when a lineup would turn over once guys start reaching base (Wilson was perfect through three on Wednesday, so it wasn’t until the fourth that he faced guys a second time).

Per Baseball-Reference.com, here’s how opposing hitters fared against Wilson the first, second and third time through last year …

First: .203/.318/.297
Second: .298/.360/.454
Third: .188/.276/.307

Wilson (6 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 4 SO) was asked Wednesday night about his hiccup in the fourth and basically broke it down batter by batter …

“The pitch I really just whiffed on was a couple pitches to Heisey. Those were just kind of out of the zone. Just trying to make adjustments and couldn’t, and I got a little bit closer to being dialed in with Votto but still missed. And then the pitch Phillips hit was a cutter that just cut too much. It was supposed to be outside and then cut all the way across the plate and he hammered it. The at-bat with Bruce was really pivotal, though, because I had him with two strikes and couldn’t put him away. That was 100 percent on me; it didn’t have anything to do with anybody else. There was no bad hops or anything like that. I just made a bad pitch instead of making a good pitch and he hit it off the wall. So that’s kind of what turned the game around. That and me popping up the bunt [in the third] were two of the things that I’m going to be extremely upset about for a long part of the season.”

Alden

Game 2: Angels-Reds …

Angels (1-0)

angelslogo2 Mike Trout, CF
Erick Aybar, SS
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, RF
Mark Trumbo, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
C.J. Wilson, SP

Reds (0-1)

redslogo2Shin-Soo Choo, CF
Chris Heisey, LF
Joey Votto, 1B
Brandon Phillips, 2B
Jay Bruce, RF
Todd Frazier, 3B
Zack Cozart, SS
Ryan Hanigan, C
Mat Latos, SP

  • Ryan Madson, experiencing some elbow tightness from his last session, threw 15 pitches off the mound on Wednesday afternoon, which is a step down from where he was last Wednesday — throwing 40 pitches, including changeups and letting it go on his last few throws. Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher doesn’t believe Madson is back to where he was when he first returned from missing nearly 40 days, though. “Way further along than that,” Butcher said. “This is more precautionary than anything else.”
  • Everyone is available out of the bullpen for the Angels today, two days after six of their seven relievers appeared in Monday’s win (with Mark Lowe throwing two innings). The off day was big.
  • Garrett Richards, 24, is the youngest member of the bullpen. And since they don’t have the pink, little-girls’ bookbag yet, Richards is carrying a WWF championship belt to the ‘pen. It’s pink.

Alden

Opening Day: Angels-Reds …

Welcome to Great American Ball Park, home of the first ever interleague matchup on Opening Day and the scene where the Angels will kick off another highly anticipated season …

Angels (0-0)

laaMike Trout, CF
Erick Aybar, SS
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, RF
Mark Trumbo, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Jered Weaver, SP

Reds (0-0)

REDSShin-Soo Choo, CF
Brandon Phillips, 2B
Joey Votto, 1B
Ryan Ludwick, LF
Jay Bruce, RF
Todd Frazier, 3B
Zack Cozart, SS
Ryan Hanigan, C
Johnny Cueto, SP

Some pregame notes …

  • Chris Snyder could’ve opted out of his Minor League deal with the Angels, but the veteran catcher instead accepted his assignment to Triple-A Salt Lake, increasing the Angels’ depth behind the plate. Snyder will be on a Salt Lake Bees roster that also includes John Hester and Luke Carlin, with the three of them rotation between catcher, DH and bench duty. Snyder will also play some first base.
  • Mike Scioscia, on where Garrett Richards‘ role in the bullpen is: He’s much more than just an innings-eater in the ‘pen. His power arm is something we can take a look at at any point in the game.” Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and Sean Burnett are ahead of him in the depth chart, but it could change if he pitches well.
  • Scioscia said he “would anticipate” that Pujols would play all three games at first base in this series. The day off certainly helps.
  • Ryan Madson is away from throwing, still experiencing some tightness in his elbow, but Scioscia expects him to get back on the mound in a couple days.
  • Trout has about 10 family and friends at Great American Ball Park for his first Major League Opening Day. “It a feeling you really can’t explain,” he said.

Some Opening Day numbers …

  • The Angels have won eight of their last nine Opening Day games, including four straight, which ties a franchise record.
  • This is Weaver’s fourth straight Opening Day start and fifth overall, joining Mike Witt as the only pitcher to start five Opening Days for the Angels. Weaver is 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA on Day 1.
  • Hamilton made his debut in this stadium almost exactly six years ago (April 2, 2007, in Cincy).
  • The Angels are the only team in the Majors to open the 2013 season with three straight series against playoff teams (Reds, Rangers, A’s). That actually hasn’t been done since ’07 (Giants and Orioles).
  • This is the third series all-time played between the Angels and Reds, and first since 2007. The Angels have won four of six.
  • Angels’ 74-34 record in Interleague Play since 2007 leads the Majors.
  • Aybar and Kendrick are making their fifth straight Opening Day start together up the middle, the longest active active Opening Day start streak by a middle-infield tandem in the Majors. Today, Kendrick passed Bobby Knoop for most consecutive Opening Day starts by an Angels second baseman.
  • The Angels’ first road trip has six different times (all local): 4:10, 7:10, 12:35, 1:05, 3:05, 7:05.
  • Pujols’ career 143 RBIs and 46 homers against the Reds rank second among active players.

Alden

Pujols could debut at first base on Tuesday …

Albert Pujols expects to make his first start at first base on Tuesday, which comes after an off day and will see the Angels play the Brewers in Maryvale, Ariz.

The Angels won’t utilize the designated hitter that day, playing under National League rules so their starting pitcher (Jason Vargas) can hit for the first time this spring. Playing first base would be Pujols’ only chance to get in the lineup, and the Angels slugger said on Sunday morning that his surgically repaired right knee feels good enough to allow him to do that in a game.

Pujols has been taking part in defensive drills for a while now, methodically increasing the intensity while continuing to run the bases in workouts. Over his last three starts, Pujols —  batting .353 (6-for-17) with a couple of homers and four RBIs in six Cactus League games — hasn’t needed a “courtesy runner” while starting at first base. Tuesday is 13 days before the April 1 opener in Cincinnati — under NL rules, of course.

Pujols is making his seventh start at DH on Sunday against the Padres and may come by the Angels facility on Monday to work out. And though Tuesday’s return to first base isn’t set in stone, he feels good about those prospects right now.

Alden

On Pujols’ knee, Callaspo’s weight and relievers …

Here are some notes prior to Tuesday’s game, as Josh Hamilton is set to make his Angels debut …

Albert Pujols, recovering from offseason arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, continues to take batting practice, run in the treadmill and field groundballs in his general vicinity.

Later this week, he’ll start running on the field – first in a straight line, then gradually working in turns so he can eventually run the bases. And in a couple weeks – around mid-March, as planned – he’ll start playing in Cactus League games, with Opening Day on April 1 still not in doubt.

The Angels open the season under National League rules, against the Reds in Cincinnati, so Pujols won’t be able to serve as the designated hitter. But the Angels are off the following day, then travel to the Rangers’ American League park two days later.

Pujols is the only everyday position player who hasn’t made his way into the Angels’ lineup.

“There’s no need to rush him,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think if Opening Day was on the horizon, he might feel the need to push it a little bit. He really doesn’t need to be into games until probably the second week of March. I anticipate he’ll play before then, for him to be ready for the season.”

* Alberto Callaspo came into camp 18 to 20 pounds overweight, but Scioscia said the Angels’ third baseman has trimmed most of it off and is a “handful” of pounds away from his playing weight. “He was too heavy,” Scioscia said. “… He wanted to recoup last offseason. He’s trimmed it off, though. I don’t think it was anything excessive. He’s not far from his playing weight now.” Callaspo usually plays winter ball, but said he opted not to in order to rest his shoulder, which he’s previously experienced some mild tendinitis in.

* Non-rehabbing Angels relievers – guys like Scott Downs, Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen – aren’t expected to start getting into games until the first week of March. The only non-rehabbing, non-roster reliever who hasn’t appeared in a game is Brandon Sisk, who was obtained from the Royals for Ervin Santana. He could appear in a game as soon as Wednesday.

* Sean Burnett (stiff lower back) and Ryan Madson (Tommy John surgery) each threw off flat ground again on Tuesday, representing back-to-back days for both. Scioscia said Burnett will get off a mound “soon,” but not within the next couple of days because he still needs to progress with his long-tossing.

* Veteran reliever Tony Pena underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2011, signed with the Angels in August 2012 and made two appearances in rookie ball, but felt some pain while trying to pitch in winter ball and shut it down. The 31-year-old right-hander has been throwing from 75 feet and expects to get back off the mound in two to three weeks.

* Angels lineup: Bourjos CF, Aybar SS, Kendrick, 2B, Hamilton RF, Trumbo 1B, Wells LF, Callaspo 3B, Iannetta C, Hall DH; Schugel SP.

* D-backs lineup: Bloomquist SS, Parra CF, Pollock DH, Hinske 1B, Davidson 3B, Snyder RF, Barajas C, Marte LF, McDonald 2B; Holmberg SP.

Alden

How Angels’ ‘Big 3′ stacks up in 2013 …

Josh Hamilton

I wrote recently about the Angels’ own prestigious “Big Three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — how they could potentially hold up historically and in this era.

But how do they hold up in 2013? There’s little debate that the Angels now have the most talented and celebrated lineup trio in baseball, giving them arguably the game’s most potent offense. But I was a little stunned that their 2012 stats didn’t show it.

In fact, when combining each of their OPS from 2012, the Angels’ trio ranked third, behind those of the Tigers and Reds. Below is the top 15, based on combined OPS of the top three current players in each lineup (minimum is 400 plate appearances) …

  • Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson): 2.795
  • Reds (Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce): 2.759
  • Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton): 2.752
  • Brewers (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart): 2.729
  • Red Sox (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli*): 2.635
  • Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera): 2.627
  • Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina): 2.627
  • Rangers (Adrian Beltre, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski): 2.607
  • Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin): 2.602
  • Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez): 2.569
  • D-backs (Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel): 2.565
  • Yankees (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira): 2.547
  • Twins (Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit): 2.532
  • Giants (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt): 2.527
  • Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez): 2.524

* Napoli’s deal still hasn’t been finalized. 

** A special thanks to all of you for making this blog the 10th-most popular among MLB.com beat writers in 2012. You’re the whipped cream on my sundae. 

Alden 

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