Results tagged ‘ Royals ’
Most important thing: The Angels’ offense continues to roll. They entered fourth in the Majors in runs and scored a combined six in the second and third inning. Mike Trout (2-for-4) is batting .409, Howie Kendrick (ground-rule double) is batting .400, Chris Iannetta (three-run homer) is batting .360, Erick Aybar (1-for-3) is batting .324, Kole Calhoun (solo homer) is batting .300 and Albert Pujols (1-for-4 with a deep lineout) has his batting average up to .293.
Second-most important thing: C.J. Wilson went 5 1/3 innings despite a long first and second inning, giving up three runs (one earned) on seven hits and two walks while striking out nine. He actually pitched even better than that. There weren’t very many hard-hit balls against him and he was the victim of some shaky defense early. His spring ERA is 2.49.
Third-most important thing: Josh Hamilton, playing in his fourth game since returning from a strained left calf, went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored and ran around a lot. He looks perfectly healthy, and not like a guy who’s going to need to start the season on the disabled list to get more at-bats.
Fourth-most important thing: Kevin Jepsen and Joe Smith pitched on back-to-back days for the first time this spring and turned in scoreless outings.
Fifth-most important thing: David Freese went 2-for-2 and has eight hits in his last 21 at-bats, raising his Cactus League batting average to .257.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Aybar might have turned in the Angels’ best catch of the spring, diving full extension to his right to snag a really hard liner off the bat of Brett Hayes.
Best quote: Mike Scioscia on Wilson’s outing: “We didn’t help him much in the field in the first couple innings, but he settled in and really pitched well. He needed a lot of pitches to get through the first couple of innings, but then he really got the ball in the zone in good spots and finished strong. He’s on track.”
Angels’ record: 12-10-2
Taco power rankings (updated every Friday): 1. Los Taquitos, 2. El Hefe, 3. America’s Taco Shop, 4. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill, 5. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 6. Senor Taco, 7. Carolina’s Mexican Food, 8. Poliberto’s Taco Shop, 9. Dos Gringos (at the ballpark), 10. Salty Senorita
Most important thing: Jered Weaver was much better against the “A” lineup of a Royals team that expects to score a lot of runs this year. He gave up just two runs on three hits, walked none and struck out five in a 77-pitch, 5 1/3-inning outing. His last start of the spring could come in a Minor League game, which the Angels can make a controlled environment so Weaver can complete seven innings. Weaver will start Opening Day on March 31, but as usual, Mike Scioscia doesn’t like to say so ahead of time.
Second-most important thing: Albert Pujols and Mike Trout both hit balls into the lawn just behind the center-field fence. Pujols took Bruce Chen deep in the first, giving him seven hits in 14 at-bats. Trout smoked a sixth-inning changeup from Chen near the bushes that sit behind the grass. It was Trout’s fourth home run of the spring, and his second bomb to dead center field.
Third-most important thing: Josh Hamilton played in back-to-back games for the first time, and moved to the fifth spot against an opposing lefty (that could happen often this season). He went 0-for-3, popping out to the left side his first time, grounding right into the shift his second time and striking out swinging — against right-hander Wade Davis — his third time.
Fourth-most important thing: Nick Maronde relieved Weaver in the sixth and retired the two left-handed hitters he faced, getting Eric Hosmer to line out to center field, walking the right-handed-hitting Billy Butler and striking out Alex Gordon. Sean Burnett is still rehabbing from August forearm surgery, Brian Moran is nursing left elbow inflammation and Maronde, 24, is the only other lefty reliever remaining in camp. He could win a spot in their bullpen.
Fifth-most important thing: Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen and Brandon Lyon (the latter of whom still has to win a spot in the bullpen) each threw scoreless frames. Jepsen struck out all three batters he faced, while Smith worked around a hit and a walk and Lyon threw a clean ninth inning to record his second save.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Trout laid out to catch a sinking line drive off the bat of Lorenzo Cain in the second.
Best quote: Weaver on Pujols: “I think you guys are seeing a pretty healthy Albert out there, man. It’s fun to see him moving well at first base. And even when he gets in the box, he just looks way more comfortable as far as his swing and approach goes. It’s night and day from last year, man.”
Angels’ record: 11-10-2
Leading 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 AL Central.
Last year’s record: 92-70, 2nd place (lost to Rays in AL Wild Card game)
Key additions: OF David Murphy, RP John Axford, RP Josh Outman, 1B David Cooper, INF Elliot Johnson, OF Nyjer Morgan, RF Jeff Francoeur, C Matt Treanor, SP Shaun Marcum
Key subtractions: SP Ubaldo Jimenez, SP Scott Kazmir, OF Drew Stubbs, CL Chris Perez, OF Jason Kubel, RP Matt Albers, RP Rich Hill, RP Joe Smith, C Kelly Shoppach
Biggest strength: Offense. The Indians ranked sixth in the Majors in runs scored last year, despite down years from Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Asdrubal Cabrera, and have replaced the strikeout-prone Drew Stubbs with righty masher David Murphy.
Biggest question: Pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Kazmir signed with the A’s and it doesn’t look like Jimenez is coming back, so it’ll be up to young guys like Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Carlos Carrasco to fill the void as starters. The bullpen no longer has Perez, Hill and Smith, so the likes of Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and Vinnie Pestano have to step up.
Most important player: Salazar. The 24-year-old right-hander has the makings of a front-of-the-rotation starter and needs to emerge as one for the Indians to take the next step.
In 25 words or less: The Indians let a lot of veteran pitchers go, and now their playoff fate will rest on an assortment of young, albeit-talented arms.
Last year’s record: 86-76, 3rd place
Key additions: SP Jason Vargas, OF Norichika Aoki, 2B Omar Infante, INF Danny Valencia, SP Brad Penny, RP Jon Rauch, OF Carlos Peguero,
Key subtractions: SP Ervin Santana, 1B Carlos Pena, INF Miguel Tejada, INF/OF Emilio Bonifacio, RP Will Smith
Biggest strength: Relief pitching. Greg Holland was one of baseball’s best closers last year, with Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins and Aaron Crow helping to make up arguably the game’s best bullpen.
Biggest question: Youth in the starting lineup. If the Royals are going to make the playoffs for the first time since winning it all in 1985, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain will have to finally come into their own.
Most important player: Danny Duffy. The 25-year-old lefty missed almost 14 months due to Tommy John surgery, then posted a 1.85 ERA in five starts down the stretch. He still has upside, and could provide a huge boost to the rotation if he takes a step forward.
In 25 words or less: Aoki, Infante and Vargas could very well be the moves that push the Royals over the top and end a brutal, 28-year playoff drought.
Last year’s record: 93-69, 1st place (lost to Red Sox in ALCS)
Key additions: MGR Brad Ausmus, CL Joe Nathan, 2B Ian Kinsler, OF Rajai Davis, INF Steve Lombardozzi, RP Joba Chamberlain, RP Ian Krol
Key subtractions: MGR Jim Leyland, SP Doug Fister, 1B Prince Fielder, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Omar Infante, INF Ramon Santiago, C Brayan Pena, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Jeremy Bonderman, RP Octavio Dotel, RP Jose Veras
Biggest strength: Starting pitching. Even without Fister, the Tigers’ staff looks like the best in baseball, with the reigning Cy Young Award winner (Max Scherzer), a former MVP (Justin Verlander) and the guy with the lowest ERA in 2013 (Anibal Sanchez). And don’t forget about ground ball machine Rick Porcello pitching with a better defense behind him.
Biggest question: Ausmus, because it’s always tough for a rookie manager to take on a veteran team with World Series expectations, especially while filling the shoes of a legend (though Mike Matheny seemed to do OK). Everything else about this club is solid.
Most important player: Victor Martinez. With Fielder in Texas, it’ll probably be his job to protect Miguel Cabrera as the new cleanup hitter and get pitchers to throw the two-time MVP a strike every once in a while.
In 25 words or less: The defense is a lot better with Cabrera at first and the ninth is finally locked up with Nathan. If healthy, they’ll contend once again.
Last year’s record: 66-96, 4th place
Key additions: SP Ricky Nolasco, SP Phil Hughes, OF Jason Kubel, C Kurt Suzuki, SS Jason Bartlett, RP Matt Guerrier
Key subtractions: C/OF Ryan Doumit, SP Liam Hendriks
Biggest strength: Their farm system. Keith Law ranked them second, behind only the Astros, while center fielder Byron Buxton (first) and third baseman Miguel Sano (third) rank among MLB.com’s top three prospects.
Biggest question: Starting pitching. The Twins had by far the worst rotation in the Majors last year, with a 30th-ranked 5.26 ERA, then spent a combined $84 million to bring in Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes and resign Mike Pelfrey. They’ll be better, but they’ll still be bad.
Most important player: Joe Mauer, of course. He’s signed through 2018 and is making the transition from catcher to first base in hopes of staying as healthy as possible during that time. How will he handle it defensively, and will he produce the power numbers required for that position? These are crucial questions for the Twins’ future.
In 25 words or less: They’ll take their lumps again this season, but the rotation will be better (how can it be worse?) and some very talented prospects arrive soon.
Last year’s record: 63-99, 5th place
Key additions: CF Adam Eaton, 1B Jose Abreu, 3B Matt Davidson, SP Felipe Paulino, RP Ronald Belisario, RP Scott Downs
Key subtractions: SP Gavin Floyd, CL Addison Reed, OF Brandon Jacobs, SP/RP Hector Santiago, SP Dylan Axelrod
Biggest strength: The front of the rotation. Chris Sale is up there among the best pitchers in the game, and 25-year-old Jose Quintana (3.51 ERA in 33 starts last year) has emerged as a solid No. 2.
Biggest question: The lineup. It could be solid; it could also be very bad. Eaton, Abreu, Davidson, Dayan Viciedo, Avisail Garcia, Alejandro De Aza, Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham, Tyler Flowers and Alexei Ramirez all bring varying degrees of questions.
Most important player: Abreu. He was given the largest ever contract for an international free agent ($68 million over six years) and has supplanted Paul Konerko as the everyday first baseman. Now we’ll see how the Cuban slugger’s power translates to the States.
In 25 words or less: The White Sox can’t contend this year, but GM Rick Hahn is doing a nice job rebuilding in hopes of getting them there soon.
Predicted order of finish …
- White Sox
The Angels’ hopes of resigning free-agent starting pitcher Jason Vargas were squashed on Thursday, when the Royals announced they have signed the veteran left-hander to a four-year contract.
The average annual value of Vargas’ new deal, a reported $32 million, is $8 million. The Angels were willing to give him that much, but they weren’t willing to go four years (it would’ve been hard for them to even give him a third year).
And so, the Angels still have at least two holes to fill in their rotation.
Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards are returning, Tommy Hanson is likely to get non-tendered in December and Joe Blanton — if not released this offseason — will not go into the season as a guaranteed member of the rotation. General manager Jerry Dipoto did not tender the $14.1 million qualifying offer to Vargas because he was almost certain Vargas would accept it, and by accepting it the Angels would already be dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold of $189 million.
Vargas was acquired in a one-for-one deal with the Mariners that sent Kendrys Morales to Seattle last December. In his first year in Southern California, where he grew up and briefly attended Long Beach State University, Vargas went 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 150 innings in a season that saw him miss two months with a blood clot.
The Angels are expected to use the trade market to bolster a rotation that ranked 11th in the American League in ERA last season, but they may also turn to other free agents to fill Vargas’ void. And while they aren’t expected to go after the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco or Ervin Santana, names like Phil Hughes, Dan Haren, Bronson Arroyo, etc., etc., could be enticing.
– Alden Gonzalez
Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia are both coming back, and now they have a coaching staff to round out. Bench coach Rob Picciolo and hitting coach Jim Eppard were let go, Dino Ebel was promoted to bench coach and three spots are now open: third-base coach, hitting coach and a third, unidentified spot (perhaps an assistant hitting coach).
With that in mind, below is a list of potential candidates. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list; there are several others who will be interviewed for the open spots. Some is based on indications I’ve received, some are just my own speculation. Here goes …
Wally Joyner: He’ll definitely draw some strong interest as hitting coach. He just declined to return as the Phillies’ assistant hitting coach and was well-regarded in that clubhouse. And, you know, there’s that whole “Wally World” thing. Scioscia had him on his team in 2001.
Tim Bogar: He was the Red Sox’s third-base coach from 2010 to 2012, before taking a job as manager of the Angels’ Double-A affiliate in Arkansas, and is considered a future managerial candidate throughout the industry.
Troy Percival: Scioscia is a big fan of the former Angels closer. The Angels hired him in 2007 to be a special assignment pitching instructor, but he walked away soon after to make a comeback in the Majors. He’s currently the baseball coach at his alma mater, Moreno Valley High School.
Brett Butler: The former Dodgers center fielder has been managing the D-backs’ Triple-A affiliate since 2008 and had a good relationship with Dipoto dating back to the GM’s time in Arizona.
Leon Durham: He’s spent the last 12 years as hitting coach for Triple-A Toledo, in the Tigers’ organization, and has been drawing interest for the same role in the Majors over the last couple of years.
Eddie Rodriguez: He was just dismissed by the Royals, who brought ex-Cubs skipper Dale Sveum to Ned Yost‘s coaching staff, and was considered a good third-base coach in Kansas City.
Daren Brown: The Mariners will presumably be cleaning house with their coaching staff after manager Eric Wedge left. Brown finished the year as the third-base coach — promoted from Triple-A, where he was manager, after Jeff Datz was diagnosed with cancer midseason — and is considered a good baseball man. Brown was interim manager in Seattle for 50 games towards the end of 2010.
Dave Anderson: He was just dismissed as the Rangers’ first-base coach, and he has a history with assistant GM Scott Servais (from their time together in Texas) and Scioscia (they were teammates on the Dodgers).
Omar Vizquel: The current Angels roving infield instructor figures to be a hot managerial candidate very soon and is very well thought of throughout the organization. He’s never had experience as a third-base coach, he likely won’t fit as a hitting coach, and Alfredo Griffin already handles the infielder. But perhaps he can be looked at for the final coaching spot. He’d definitely bring a lot of energy.
SP: RH Wade Davis (2-3, 5.86 ERA)
SP: RH Barry Enright (0-1, 11.37)
- There was thought Ryan Madson could join the Angels before the end of the week, after making his second and final rehab appearance for Class A Inland Empire on Wednesday or Thursday. That is no longer the case. The Angels prefer to slow down his rehab and have him pitch at Triple-A Salt Lake before being activated. This isn’t really a setback, though. Madson continues to feel good, having just the normal soreness pitchers go through, but he’d been going very aggressive in hopes of coming back as soon as possible — throwing off a mound with intensity every other day — and the Angels feel it’d be best if they slowed him down and ease him into the Majors. “I respect that,” Madson said. I’d expect Madson to start pitching in Triple-A by the end of the week. How long will he be there? Mike Scioscia said: “If everything goes the way we anticipate, not very long at all.” Madson threw out “a couple weeks.” Scioscia, when told that, said: “I don’t know if it’s going to take a couple weeks. It might or it might not. We want to make sure that he’s ready to go and his rehab sticks when it goes.”
- Earlier today, Angels owner Arte Moreno publicly backed Scioscia, saying there’s “zero” chance he’ll be dismissed. Sciosica’s reaction: “Arte has always been very supportive. Arte knows how hard I take the non-performance of this team and how we need to get there. It hits me as hard as it hits Arte and it hits Jerry [Dipoto], and I know Arte realizes that. We’re going to take this challenge and hopefully start moving forward and getting the wins that we need to get ourselves in the position we want to. That’s the bottom line is winning, and we’re going to work towards that.”
- Some other injury notes: Jered Weaver (broken left elbow) came out of his Tuesday bullpen session feeling fine and is still scheduled to throw an 80-pitch, up-and-down ‘pen (meaning 20 pitches, sit down, 20 pitches, sit down, and so on) on Friday. The next step after that would be a rehab assignment. … Sean Burnett (left forearm tightness) is expected to throw his first bullpen session on Thursday. … Peter Bourjos (left hamstring strain) has been riding the elliptical, playing catch, doing some aquatic exercises and getting in some lunges, but there’s still no date for when he can run on the field. … Kevin Jepsen (strained lat) was scheduled to throw his third bullpen session today. … Still no timetable for when Tommy Hanson (restricted list) will be back, but he has been throwing.
Joe Blanton perpetually gets hit around and Tommy Hanson continues to be away from the team because of a family issue, but the other rotation newcomer, Jason Vargas, has pretty much provided what the Angels would’ve expected lately.
On Tuesday night, he bounced back from a dud against the Astros, limiting a pretty dangerous Royals lineup to five hits and one walk while striking out seven batters in seven-plus innings of two-run ball. Vargas, acquired in exchange for Kendrys Morales in December, hasn’t allowed a first-inning run in either of his first eight starts, is 2-1 with a 3.14 ERA at home and, most importantly, has pitched seven or more innings in four of his last five outings.
“I try to go out there every time and keep the team in the ballgame, be consistent out there and try to execute,” Vargas said.
His ERA, at 6.75 after his April 16 start, is now at 4.03. He’s responsible for both of the Angels’ complete games (though one was eight innings of a loss on the road). And though he began the season in the fourth spot of the rotation, he’s clearly the Angels’ third-best starter (perhaps even second, depending on how you feel about C.J. Wilson).
“If you look at Jason, you look at his track record, this guy pitches deep into games,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Vargas, who posted a 3.96 ERA and compiled 611 innings his previous three years in Seattle. “It’s one thing saying ‘gives innings,’ but this guy gives you good innings and that’s what’s important to us is these guys getting into the seventh, possibly the eighth, giving those good innings and giving our offense a chance to do what it did tonight.”
On Monday night, the Angels’ high-priced right fielder was pulled after six innings because of what manager Mike Scioscia originally deemed light-headedness. In a sense, that’s true. But Hamilton will simply tell you that he’s sick; dealing with some sort of congestion that makes him prone to dizziness and sensitive to the bright lights of a Major League stadium.
“I’m just off,” he said. “However you want to write it, however you want to describe it – I’m just off.”
Hamilton has been dealing with this issue throughout his career, and his most recent bout began on May 5, a couple days before the Angels left on their six-game road trip through Houston and Chicago. His body continues to “feel great,” but the condition remains.
Hamilton was nonetheless in the starting lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Royals, batting fifth but confined to designated hitter because the illness is manageable in the batter’s box; not so much when constantly running around the outfield.
He’s vehement in saying this won’t keep him out of the lineup, and he’s quick to dismiss it as an excuse for his struggles.
“I’ve felt bad plenty of times and played and done well,” said Hamilton, who has a .212/.261/.344 slash line despite getting two hits in Monday’s loss. “This has nothing to do with that. It’s more of, I’d say probably being out on the field type of thing – run the bases, then go out on the field, combined with lights and all that stuff. It’s not the best thing at this moment.”
Hamilton received a shot before leaving to Houston and felt better. But the cold of Chicago made it worse and, most frightening of all, the issue appears to be sensitive to Southern California’s climate. While with the Rangers last September, Hamilton missed the last two games of a three-game series against the Angels, then another three because of a vision condition called “ocular keratitis,” which impacts the cornea.
But the 31-year-old said that was directly linked to consuming too much caffeine. This, he added, “is an actual sickness.”
Now that Hamilton will be in Southern California long-term, via the five-year, $125 million contract he signed in December, he’ll seek a permanent solution by seeing an allergist soon. For now, he’s between antibiotics, trying to figure out something that will at least temporarily get rid of the problem – or, as he describes it, “put a Band-Aid on it.”
Asked if getting rid of the problem entirely would force him to go on the disabled list, Hamilton said: “No, absolutely not. Because if that’s the case, we’ll just put Band-Aids on it until the offseason comes.”
Here are today’s lineups …
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Alcides Escobar, SS
Alex Gordon, LF
Billy Butler, DH
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Salvador Perez, C
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Miguel Tejada, 2B
SP: RH Jeremy Guthrie (5-0, 2.28 ERA)
Erick Aybar, SS
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Mark Trumbo, RF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris iannetta, C
J.B. Shuck, LF
SP: LH Jason Vargas (1-3, 4.26 ERA)
The Angels can’t get swept by the Astros, can they? We shall see …
SP: LH Jason Vargas (1-3, 3.72 ERA)
SP: RH Lucas Harrell (3-3, 5.03 ERA)
- Jered Weaver threw his first bullpen today (28 pitches) and felt really good. Mike Scioscia said he’ll need about four more, thrown with one day in between if Weaver continues to feel good, before venturing out on a rehab assignment.
- Ryan Madson threw 20 pitches in an intrasquad game in Arizona today and, as planned, will pitch there again on Saturday.
- If the Angels make the playoffs this year, they’ll become only the fourth team in history to do it despite starting off the season 11-22. Per Elias, the only other teams to start a season 11-22 or worse and play in the postseason were the 1914 Braves, the 1974 Pirates and the 1981 Royals. To be fair, though, there was no second wild card — or even first wild card — back then.
- The last time the Angels were 11 games below .500: May 22, 2006. They haven’t been 9 1/2 games back this early in a season since 2002 — when they were 9 1/2 games back on April 22, 10 1/2 games back on April 23 and (lo and behold!) World Series champs on Oct. 27.
- Eleven of the Angels’ 22 losses have come by two runs or less.
At what point do you expect the Angels to turn their season around? — @keaton_choi
If I knew that, I’d move to Vegas. Who knows. For some reason, nothing seems to be clicking right now. When they hit, like Tuesday, they don’t pitch. When they pitch, like Wednesday, they don’t hit. This is the time to turn it around. Right now. The Angels are two games into a 29-game stretch that will see them play only seven games against a team that’s currently above .500. And that team is the Royals. It’s no excuse — at all — but 22 of the Angels’ first 31 games came against teams that made the playoffs last year. That’s a tough stretch. If they go 19-10 in this 29-game stretch, they’re at .500 with guys like Jered Weaver, Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett and perhaps even Peter Bourjos back — and maybe Josh Hamilton finally swinging the bat. But losing back-to-back games to a bad Astros team is a tough way to start.