Results tagged ‘ Rockies ’
“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.”
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.”
Last year’s record: 81-81, 2nd place
Key additions: LF Mark Trumbo, CL Addison Reed, C Henry Blanco, OF/1B Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B/1B Andy Marte, SP Alex Sanabia
Key subtractions: SP Tyler Skaggs, CF Adam Eaton, C Wil Nieves, 1B/OF Willie Bloomquist, 3B Matt Davidson, SP Daniel Hudson
Biggest strength: The bullpen. Kevin Towers has always had a reputation for building strong bullpens, and this year’s group should be much better with Reed added to the back end, J.J. Putz expected to be healthy, and the likes of Brad Ziegler, Josh Collmenter, David Hernandez, etc. coming back.
Biggest question: The rotation, though acquiring Bronson Arroyo would surely help. At 24, Patrick Corbin will be counted on to be the team’s ace, after entering last spring fighting for the No. 5 spot, while Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill need to bounce back from up-and-down seasons.
Most important player: Trumbo. The D-backs gave up two talented prospects in Skaggs and Eaton to get him. They need him to adequately adjust to left field and protect Paul Goldschmidt.
In 25 words or less: The D-backs look like a solid group all-around, but are at least a high-impact starting pitcher away from challenging the Dodgers.
Last year’s record: 92-70, 1st place (lost to Cardinals in NLCS)
Key additions: 2B Alexander Guerrero, SP Dan Haren, RP Chris Perez, RP Jamey Wright, OF Mike Baxter, C Miguel Olivo, INF Justin Turner, UT Chone Figgins
Key subtractions: SP Ricky Nolasco, 2B Mark Ellis, SP Chris Capuano, 2B/OF Skip Schumaker, INF Michael Young, INF Nick Punto, UT Jerry Hairston Jr., SP Edinson Volquez, RP Carlos Marmol
Biggest strength: Pitching. The rotation trio of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu is as good as anyone. In the bullpen, they have five experienced closers — Perez, Brian Wilson, Brandon League, J.P. Howell and their actual closer, Kenley Jansen.
Biggest question: Second base. The Dodgers signed Guerrero out of Cuba with a four-year, $28 million contract, but he’s only 26 and has not been exposed to this brand of baseball yet.
Most important player: Matt Kemp. He’s signed to big money through 2019 and needs to get healthy after being limited to 73 games and undergoing left ankle surgery. If he can return to his elite level, the Dodgers’ offense will be a force.
In 25 words or less: Their funds are unlimited, they have stars up and down the roster and they know how to win together. World Series or bust in Hollywood.
Last year’s record: 76-86, 3rd place
Key additions: LF Michael Morse, SP Tim Hudson, INF Brandon Hicks, SP/RP David Huff, RP Kameron Loe
Key subtractions: OF Andres Torres, SP Barry Zito, SP/RP Chad Gaudin
Biggest strength: The back end of the bullpen. Sergio Romo is coming off a 38-save season and has posted a 2.03 ERA since the start of 2010. Right-hander Santiago Casilla (2.16 ERA) and left-hander Javier Lopez (1.83) were lights out in 2013.
Biggest question: It appears to be the same every year — power. They’ll rely on Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval and Morse — each of whom carry varying levels of concern — to take some of the burden off superstar catcher Buster Posey.
Most important player: Matt Cain. The Giants’ ace needs to get back to being the Cy Young contender of 2009-12, not the guy who went a pedestrian 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 2013, to take some pressure off Tim Lincecum and make San Francisco’s rotation the strength it was a short time ago.
In 25 words or less: There are a lot of questions, from Cain and Lincecum to Morse and Sandoval, but also the ability to contend. It’ll rest on their pitching.
Last year’s record: 76-86, 3rd place
Key additions: SP Josh Johnson, OF Seth Smith, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Alex Torres, RP Patrick Schuster, IB/OF Xavier Nady, RP Tony Sipp
Key subtractions: RP Luke Gregerson, INF Ronny Cedeno, SP Jason Marquis, INF Logan Forsythe, SP/RP Anthony Bass
Biggest strength: The bullpen, even with Gregerson going to the A’s in exchange for Smith. Benoit and Torres help make up a solid group with closer Huston Street and middle relievers Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer and Tim Stauffer.
Biggest question: Health. The Padres have had 43 DL moves over the last two years. Each of their infielders were on the shelf at least once last year. Four pitchers — Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland, Jason Marquis and Casey Kelly — have undergone Tommy John surgery, with news coming out recently that Luebke will require a second such procedure in 20 months. And two of their outfielders, Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin, are coming off their own surgeries.
Most important player: Johnson. The Padres appeared to get a steal by signing the 30-year-old right-hander to a buy-low, $8 million contract in mid-November. If he can recapture the form he had in Miami, the Padres’ rotation suddenly looks a lot better.
In 25 words or less: There’s a nice young core in place in San Diego — if only it can stay healthy.
Last year’s record: 74-88, 5th place
Key additions: 1B Justin Morneau, SP Brett Anderson, SP Franklin Morales, RP LaTroy Hawkins, RP Boone Logan, OF Brandon Barnes, OF Drew Stubbs, INF Paul Janish, SP Jordan Lyles
Key subtractions: 1B Todd Helton, SP Jeff Francis, SP Roy Oswalt, RP Rafael Betancourt, C Yorvit Torrealba, INF Jonathan Herrera, RP Josh Outman, SP Drew Pomeranz, CF Dexter Fowler
Biggest strength: Offense. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are two of the best players in the league, Michael Cuddyer quietly had a great 2013 season (.331/.389/.530), Morneau was a steal at $12.5 million over two years and Wilin Rosario (24 years old) and Nolan Arenado (22).
Biggest question: Pitching. The Rockies were active in addressing a pitching staff that ranked 28th in ERA last year, but I’m not sure how much Logan, Hawkins, Anderson, Morales and Lyles actually improve matters.
Most important player: Juan Nicasio. The 27-year-old struggled in his first full season, with a 5.14 ERA in 31 starts. But the Rockies expect big things, and if he improves, the rotation — with Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa at the top — may actually match the offense.
In 25 words or less: The Rockies made a variety of solid moves over the offseason, but spent little money and need a lot of help in the pitching staff.
Predicted order of finish …
Here’s how it stacked up in combined wins …
AL East: 433
NL Central: 421
AL Central: 400
NL West: 399
NL East: 391
AL West: 387
And here’s where it ranked in run-differential …
AL East: 235
NL Central: 219
AL Central: 0
NL West: -137
AL West: -138
NL East: -179
But AL West teams have been particularly aggressive in the early portion of this offseason — and yes, it’s worth reminding all of you that it is, indeed, still early — which could make for an interesting dynamic in 2014, and should make the Angels’ return to the postseason that much tougher.
The Mariners just reeled in the biggest free agent of the offseason, snatching Robinson Cano from the Yankees via a reported 10-year, $240-million, Albert Pujols-like contract. No, they aren’t an instant contender. And as the Angels themselves have shown, throwing the most dollars at the best free agent in no way guarantees success. But this is an important building block for a Mariners team that has always struggled to land the big names (see: Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder). At some point, you have to overpay to lay a foundation (the Mets thought the same thing with Curtis Granderson). This reminds me of the Jayson Werth deal the Nationals made three offseasons ago. It was a vast overpay at seven years and $126 million. But at that time, it was the only way the Nats were going to land a premier free agent. Adding Werth — even if he isn’t a star to the magnitude of Cano — changed the expectations in Washington and ultimately helped make it a place where free agents wanted to play. Same can happen in Seattle, where the Mariners are showing a willingness to spend. And if they trade for David Price — they have the prospects to do it — watch out.
In the words of one executive, “The A’s may have one of the best bullpens in history.” It’s not much of an exaggeration when you consider that they added Luke Gregerson to a group that includes Jim Johnson, Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins, Sean Doolittle, etc. Their rotation — Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily, Sonny Gray, in whatever order — is darn good, as well. But here’s the most important part about the current A’s: After back-to-back exits in the Division Series, they’re going for it. You don’t trade for one season of Johnson, flip a talented prospect (Michael Choice) for Craig Gentry or give Kazmir a two-year, $22 million contract if you aren’t.
Then there are the Rangers, who you just know have another big more or two in them. I actually liked the Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler deal for them (and loved it for the Tigers). They’re paying Fielder $138 million over the next seven years, which is very reasonable for a guy whose home-run rate will inflate in Texas and who gives them the middle-of-the-order bat they’ve been missing since Hamilton left. Over the last four years, the Rangers have the third-best regular-season winning percentage in the Majors (.570, trailing only the Yankees and Braves) and have been to the World Series twice. They had the 10th-best staff ERA in baseball last year, and they surely aren’t done.
Even the Astros have made some moves. They reached agreement on a three-year, $30 million deal with starter Scott Feldman — a guy the Angels would’ve liked, but not for three years — and previously traded for former Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler. They were easily dead last in 2013 in winning percentage (.315) and run-differential (minus-238), so they’re a ways away. But they have the second-best farm system in the Majors, per Baseball America, and they’re on their way.
What does all this mean for the Angels?
Well, nothing. At least not now.
They have about $15 million and some trade chips — Howie Kendrick still chief among them — to fill two spots in their starting rotation. They still have baseball’s best player in Mike Trout, two premier superstars in Pujols and Hamilton, two legit starters at the top of their rotation in Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, and a bullpen that can be among the deepest in baseball if Sean Burnett returns to full health. If they can sign someone like Matt Garza, they’re no doubt a legit playoff contender, regardless of how bad this past season turned out for them.
But their competition just keeps getting better.
The Angels have signed starting pitcher Chris Volstad to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite.
Volstad, 27, was the 16th overall pick by the Marlins in 2005. The 6-foot-8 righty had a solid rookie season in ’08, posting a 2.88 ERA in 15 games (14 starts), but was never able to duplicate that.
Over the next four years, the last of which was spent with the Cubs, Volstad compiled a 5.14 ERA and averaged 153 innings per season. Last year, he spent the vast majority of the season — minus six relief appearances — pitching for the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, posting a 4.58 ERA, a 1.57 WHIP and a 1.30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 127 2/3 innings.
Volstad, currently pitching in winter ball at the Dominican Republic, joins relievers Josh Wall and Robert Carson as minor pitching additions in the early portion of the offseason. But unlike the latter two, Volstad is not on the 40-man roster.
The Angels have hired former All-Star Don Baylor as their new hitting coach.
Baylor, who won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award with the Angels in 1979, spent the last three years as a hitting coach with the Diamondbacks and has been a big league manager for nine years, with the Rockies from 1993-98 and with the Cubs from 2000-02.
Baylor replaces Jim Eppard, who was dismissed along with bench coach Rob Picciolo on Oct. 8. He is the club’s third hitting coach in the last 17 months, dating back to Mickey Hatcher’s dismissal on May 15, 2012.
“Don enjoyed a distinguished playing career, highlighted by his tenure with the Angels during their first two division championships,” Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “As a coach, he brings us tremendous expertise in the areas of hitting, communication and presence. It’s nice to have him home.”
Dipoto spent time with Baylor when the Angels’ general manager played for Baylor in Colorado in the late 1990s and had him in his staff when he was an executive in Arizona.
Baylor will be entering his 22nd season in either a managing or coaching capacity in 2014. Along with his managerial tenure and his time with the D-backs, Baylor has been a hitting coach with the Brewers (1990-91), Cardinals (’92), Braves (’99), Mariners (’05) and Rockies (2009-10). He was also the Mets’ bench coach from 2003-04 and compiled a 627-689 record as skipper, earning National League Manager of the Year honors in 1995.
Before that, Baylor – a member of the Angels Hall of Fame – was a former All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner during a 19-year career as an outfielder that spanned from 1970-88. He joined the Angels as a free agent in November 1976 and posted a .262/.337/.448 slash line in a six-year career in Anaheim, adding 141 homers and 523 RBIs while leading them to their first playoff appearance in 1979.
The Angels are still searching for a new third-base coach and an additional coach.
There are pretty numbers, like .323, .432 and .557 — that’s Mike Trout‘s 2013 batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, respectively.
And then there are ugly ones, like the ones below — the nine stats that plagued the Angels in 2013 and, ultimately, may cost Trout another AL MVP Award …
150: That’s the amount of double plays the Angels grounded into. It’s a franchise record, two more than the 1996 team, and third in the Majors. Albert Pujols (in only 99 games) and Mark Trumbo tied for the team lead with 18, while Howie Kendrick (a notorious GIDP’er) and Josh Hamilton each had 16. Speedster (and non-walker) Erick Aybar followed with 14.
26: That’s the number of pitchers the Angels used this season, three shy of the club record set in 1999. In April alone — a month when the bullpen compiled 95 innings, fifth-most in the Majors — they used 18 (!). It’s a sign of the lack of quality pitching depth the Angels had beyond the Opening Day roster, but also of the injuries they faced, like …
18: That’s the amount of starts Jered Weaver and Jason Vargas missed due to fluky injuries. Weaver fell at the Rangers Ballpark mound on April 7, suffered a fractured left elbow and didn’t return until May 29. Vargas was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left arm pit area shortly after his June 17 start, had invasive surgery and didn’t return until Aug. 13. Down the stretch, the Angels started to see what kind of continuity they can get from Weaver and Vargas being productive and in the rotation at the same time. But it was too little, too late.
13: That’s the combined appearances made by the two new relievers, Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson. Burnett made all of them — 11 in April, a couple in late May — before getting shut down with a torn flexor tendon. Madson missed a second straight year after Tommy John surgery and was released on Aug. 5. Together, Burnett and Madson were supposed to make the Angels’ bullpen a strength. Together, they came up with 13.
32: That’s the combined amount of April losses for two star-studded teams in back-to-back years. In 2012, the Angels started 6-14, roared back into relevance shortly after Trout’s callup and faded down the stretch. In 2013, they dropped 17 of 26 in the season’s first month and never even got back to .500. The Angels had a great Spring Training in 2012, a not-so-great one in 2013. Why the bad early starts — in addition to perhaps a flawed club — is hard to put your finger on.
-63: That’s the amount of runs the Angels didn’t save on defense. In other words, it was their DRS score — 27th in the Majors. And it’s pretty inexplicable considering their DRS was plus-58, tied for second in the Majors, just last season. Yeah, Pujols played only 99 games and Alberto Callaspo was traded in late July, but the personnel was basically the same. And definitely not enough for a 121-run difference (!). Everyday players Trout (-9), Hamilton (-8), Chris Iannetta (-7) Aybar (-7), Kendrick (-3), J.B. Shuck (-1) and Trumbo (-1) had negative scores. The Angels were 19th in UZR, tied for 27th in fielding percentage and 28th in caught-stealing percentage. So, yeah, it’s not just that one sabermetric stat. The Angels were not a very good defensive team this season.
2.6: That’s the combined Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs.com, for Pujols and Hamilton. That’s actually higher than I expected, but obviously nowhere near what the Angels hoped for. In other words, two guys making a combined $33.4 million (or nearly 25 percent of the entire payroll) contributed three wins, if you round up. Pujols didn’t play past July 26, was severely hobbled when he did, and finished with a .258/.330/.437 slash line. Hamilton slumped up until the final five weeks of the season and finished at .250/.307/.432. You can talk about the pitching problems all you want — and I agree, it was the No. 1 issue in 2013 and is the No. 1 concern right now — but perhaps the Angels make a playoff run if they get normal years from Pujols and Hamilton.
66: That’s the amount of outs the Angels made on the bases, more than anyone in baseball — for a second straight year. Last season, they led with 72 outs on the bases. Kendrick (10), Aybar (7), Shuck (7) and Hank Conger (6) had the most.
22: I saved this one for last because I thought it was the most telling. It’s the amount of losses the Angels suffered in games during which they scored at least five runs. That’s the second-most in the Majors in 2013. The only team that lost more of those games was the Astros — the 111-loss Astros. Team Nos. 3-10: Twins, White Sox, Brewers, Orioles, Blue Jays, D-backs, Padres, Rockies. None of them made the playoffs, and the vast majority of them were never close. Nothing says pitching problems like losing a game in which you get five or more runs from your offense — 22 times.
The Angels, feeling a little uneasy about Hank Conger‘s throwing woes, are in search of a veteran backup catcher as Spring Training winds down, an industry source confirmed to MLB.com on Saturday. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com first reported the Angels’ interest.
Conger, 25, came into camp as the clear-cut favorite to back up catcher Chris Iannetta and has hit well, batting .381 with two homers and 11 RBIs. The Angels like the switch-hitting Conger — who has always hit and has come a long way with his footwork and receiving skills behind the plate — but they need him to correct his throwing issues, which led to three errant throws on Sunday to up his spring total to at least five.
With rosters being pared down this time of year, the Angels will look to the waiver wire to add a steady, inexpensive, veteran presence behind the plate. They have an open spot on the 40-man roster after slipping Bobby Cassevah, now with the Rockies, through waivers. They’ll have some competition, though, with the Phillies, Pirates and Rays also looking for catching help, according to MLB.com’s Peter Gammons.
The Angels still believe in Conger. So in the event of an acquisition, they’re likely to option him to Triple-A to start the season so he can find the consistent release point that has eluded him. Conger has one option year left. John Hester (on the 40-man) and Luke Carlin (a non-roster invitee) are the other two catchers technically vying for the backup job, but both have had very inconsistent time in the Majors throughout their careers.
Remember all that talk about the Angels’ bullpen being deeper, better heading into 2013? Well, that’ll probably be the case eventually, but leading up to Opening Day, a setback and some spring disappointments have made it a bit difficult to identify the seven relievers who will begin the regular season with the big club.
With 17 days left until the April 1 opener in Cincinnati, and Ryan Madson opening the season on the disabled list, five relievers are still set: righties Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri, lefties Sean Burnett and Scott Downs, and long man Jerome Williams.
That leaves two spots and some haziness because …
Michael Kohn, who progressed very quickly from April 2012 Tommy John surgery, has struggled with mechanics and off-speed pitches in recent outings and was optioned to Minor League camp on Friday.
Hiroyuki Kobayashi, signed as a Minor League free agent from Japan, was released in early March because he wasn’t throwing as hard as they expected.
Bobby Cassevah — homegrown, out of options and coming off a rough 2012 — cleared waivers and opted for free agency, eventually hooking on with the Rockies.
Veteran Tony Pena had a setback from Tommy John and is trying to work through it in Minor League camp.
Lefty Brandon Sisk, acquired for Ervin Santana and most of his salary, was sent down about a week ago.
Fernando Cabrera, another veteran obtained on a Minor League deal, has spent most of the spring pitching for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic (2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 SO).
Andrew Taylor, the lefty who had a very brief stint with the Angels as a September callup, has a slight tear in his labrum and won’t pitch for a while. Granted, he didn’t really have a chance anyway.
With that out of the way, here are the options the Angels are left with (keep in mind that the seventh relief spot — the team hopes — may only be relevant for a few weeks, until Madson comes off the DL) …
I identified him early in camp as a guy who seems poised to land a full-year bullpen spot, and more than a month in, there’s no reason to change my mind. Yes, his future is best as a starter. Yes, the Angels will preserve starting-pitching depth by keeping Richards stretched out in the Minors. Yes, Richards struggled as a reliever last year. But Richards’ stuff plays as a reliever, he should be better if his role remains consistent, it’s time for him to be up in the big leagues for a full season, and putting him on the roster gives the Angels their best 25 heading into the season (I don’t think that’s up for dispute). Besides, they have better rotation depth 6-10 than they did last year.
In some ways, Maronde’s situation is quite the opposite of Richards’ — his future is probably as a reliever, but it’s probably best to keep him stretched out in the Minors. Why? He’s still developing and the Angels don’t need another lefty. Even with how camp has gone, I still expect Maronde to start for Triple-A Salt Lake, getting some valuable experience heading into a potential bullpen role in 2014 (with Downs a lingering free agent).
That last spot may be Carpenter’s to lose at this point. In 2012, the 25-year-old right-hander posted a 4.76 ERA in 39 2/3 innings in the big leagues and a 2.75 ERA in 19 2/3 innings in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. But he hasn’t really stuck out this spring, giving up three runs on seven hits and four walks in 6 1/3 innings.
“The Chief” is a fantastic story, but he can’t really make the team out of Spring Training … right? “Never say never,” one member of the organization said. He is still in camp, and he bounced back in his last outing five days ago. Still, though, a long, long shot.
Lefty Mitch Stetter, the longtime Brewers reliever, hasn’t pitched yet because of a bulging disk in his back that was bothering him early in camp, but he’s expected to get in a game at some point this weekend. … Robert Coello, 28, appeared in six games with the Blue Jays last year and has given up five runs in 2 2/3 innings this spring. … Kevin Johnson, who posted a 3.69 ERA in the Angels’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates last year, has given up four runs in 5 2/3 Cactus League innings.
The likes of Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Valverde and Brian Wilson, among others, are still out there, and the Angels do have an open spot on the 40-man. Not sure anyone available is an upgrade, though.
Angels starters put together a nice game on Thursday — perhaps the most complete game of a spring that had only produced three victories through the first 17 Cactus League contests.
The first three members of the lineup (Mike Trout, Howie Kendrick and Albert Pujols) combined to go 6-for-9 with five runs scored. The starting pitcher (Jason Vargas) gave up a run in 4 2/3 innings. And the Angels played a solid game defensively, which had eluded them most of the month.
“Some guys are starting to get into their 15th, 20th at-bat, and they’re starting to see the ball the way they should,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’re swinging the bats well and running the bases well. We have to keep building from this, and as spring moves on, we have to keep building our bullpen and getting guys where they need. That’s going to be critical for us.”
Trout is in midseason form, it seems. He homered to lead off the game, just missed a homer his second time up — resulting in a double, which gave him an extra-base hit in four straight at-bats — and stole a base after reaching on a fielder’s choice in his last plate appearance. He’s batting .407 this spring.
Kendrick is on a tear, as he usually is this time a year, hitting a triple and a double to put his spring batting average at .485.
Pujols had a couple of singles in three at-bats, giving him a .429 clip, and ran for himself for the second straight day.
Vargas bounced back from a rough start against the Rockies, giving up a run on two hits while striking out five and putting his pitch count in the high 60’s in 4 2/3 innings. He liked the way his off-speed pitches were working.
Scott Downs gave up a solo homer to Dewayne Wise in the sixth, and though it was the only hit, he was hit hard in his lone frame of work.
Kevin Johnson, still vying for a bullpen spot, gave up two runs on four hits in the ninth.
Best play (that I saw)
The Angels made a couple of nifty catches on foul pop-ups to end the third inning. Hank Conger raced to the backstop, contorted his body and made the catch for out No. 2, and Alberto Callaspo reached over the dugout railing for out No. 3.
Vargas, on adjustments he made coming off an outing in which he allowed four runs in three innings to the Rockies: “I think that last start, I kept throwing fastballs and was really trying to get it down in the strike zone. I was leaving them up and getting hammered for it. We tried to work on that in the bullpen mid-week, and when the game comes it’s just trying to get them out.”