Results tagged ‘ Scott Downs ’
Opening Day is finally here, and Safeco Field seems like a fitting place to start. It’s home to the team many have picked to win the American League West. And it kicks off with a matchup between Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver, the two guys who have made the most consecutive Opening Day starts in the Majors (Hernandez at seven, Weaver at six).
But Opening Day is only a ceremonial thing. “One of 162,” as many say. The season is long and arduous. And by the end of it, what happens on Opening Day or even in the first series will be nothing but a distant memory (like last year, when the Mariners embarrassed the Angels with a lopsided sweep in Southern California at the start of April).
If the Angels want to win another division title, they’ll have to answer several questions over the course of these next six months. And below are the seven most prominent …
1. What becomes of Josh Hamilton?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the Angels aren’t necessarily in a welcoming mood with Hamilton, who’s still recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t be suspended for a self-reported drug relapse. The tone of their statements after news broke — and what they’ve said privately leading up to it — made you wonder if they even want him around. He’s a very likable guy, but he hasn’t lived up to his massive contract and his latest relapse struck a nerve with the Angels’ brass (make of that what you will). He won’t be going away, though. He’s owed $83 million over the next three years, so the Angels have to see what they get out of him. How does he fit into the roster? What type of production does he provide in his age-34 season? And how does he mesh with a team that may be better off without him? It’ll be the most fascinating storyline this season.
2. How good is Garrett Richards?
Richards has yet to allow a run in three Minor League outings and could return to the rotation by April 19 if all goes well, which means he basically misses only two starts. How good will he be upon returning, though? As good as he was leading up to the season-ending left knee injury he suffered Aug. 20? If so, this Angels rotation — with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago set to open the season — is more dangerous than people think. If not, they’re very vulnerable. A lot rides on Richards’ 26-year-old right arm (not to mention that left knee).
3. What will the Angels get out of second base?
They aren’t fooling themselves into thinking they’ll replicate the production of Howie Kendrick. If C.J. Cron takes the next step in his maturation process (see: patience), David Freese stretches his last four months into a full season and Albert Pujols continues to look as good as he did this spring, they won’t need it. But replacement level production would be nice. Johnny Giavotella will get the first crack, but we may see many guys play second base this year.
4. Who gets the lefties out?
The Angels haven’t had a true lefty specialist since the 2012 version of Scott Downs, and Downs wasn’t really used as a lefty specialist. Last year, the Angels’ go-to reliever to get lefty hitters out was the right-handed Fernando Salas, who has a nice changeup that darts away from left-handed hitters. Ideally, they’d have that traditional left-on-lefty guy. Mike Scioscia has mentioned Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez as possibilities, but they’re multi-inning relievers who don’t have the big stuff that plays in that role. The next hope would be Santiago, but that would hinge on Andrew Heaney or Nick Tropeano developing well enough to warrant Santiago’s current rotation spot.
5. How do they upgrade the roster?
Even without saving any money on Hamilton’s contract, the Angels enter the season with $10 to $15 million of wiggle room. That’s what Arte Moreno said early in camp. It’s more payroll flexibility than they’ve had in a while, and they plan to use it. Question is, how? Do they get a second baseman, even though there aren’t many of them out there? (Chase Utley looks like a long shot, because of how intimidating his contract is and because of his no-trade clause). Do they get an outfield/DH bat? Do they get a starting pitcher (a lot of big names are entering their walk years)? Or do they add more bullpen pieces, like they did last year? June/July should be very eventful.
6. What kind of year does Mike Trout have?
You could reasonably expect a great one, considering he stays healthy. But how does he follow up a season that saw him win the AL MVP unanimously? We saw Trout transition into more of a power game last year, hitting more home runs and stealing fewer bases. But he’s only 23 years old, scary as that seems, and he’s still figuring out who he’s going to be in this game. My guess is he cuts down those strikeouts — I don’t know anyone who truly believes Trout is a 180-strikeout-a-year player — but doesn’t increase his stolen-base total by much. The Angels seem content with how often they sent Trout last year. Teams watch him closely and, far more relevant in this matter, steals cause a lot of wear and tear on the body.
7. Are the Angels better than the Mariners?
That’s probably what it’s going to come down to. The Mariners are a popular pick to win the division, because their rotation could be something fierce, their bullpen was one of the best in the game last season and their lineup got a big missing piece they needed in power hitter Nelson Cruz. But the Angels return the core group of a team that led the Majors in wins and finished second in run-differential last year. They’re starting a season with what should be a reliable bullpen for the first time since Jerry Dipoto came on board in October 2011 and they carry the confidence of succeeding with this group.
It should be interesting.
And to get you ready, here’s a look at our Opening Day content, in case you missed anything …
- Anticipated Angels-Mariners clash kicks off Opening Day
- Weaver, the forgotten ace, starts another Opening Day
- The simple question nobody can answer: What does Trout mean to the Angels?
- Kendrick is gone, Hamilton is a mystery — is the offense still elite?
- Scioscia, baseball’s longest-tenured manager, talks about his latest team
- Hamilton won’t be punished, and now the Angels have to see how he fits in
MORE LINKS! An updated depth chart is here, injury updates are here, pitching probables are here and a look at the top 30 prospects is here. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And you can subscribe to my weekly Angels podcast with Richard Justice here.
MLB.com compiled dozens of predictions on who will win each division, how the postseason will play out and where all the major individual awards will go. Below were my picks, if you’re interested …
NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: Angels
NL Wild Cards: Marlins, Pirates
AL Wild Cards: Mariners, Indians
NL champion: Nationals
AL champion: Angels
World Series champion: Nationals
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant
AL MVP: Josh Donaldson
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL Rookie of the Year: Steven Souza
Feliz Opening Day!
The Angels aren’t expected to swim in the top or even the middle of the free-agent pool (wait, that doesn’t even make sense), but they still have needs to address, and they will surely consider the free market for them. Below I’ve identified four types of Major League free agents the Angels will seek.
You’ll notice I didn’t include starting pitchers. That’s because (1) Jerry Dipoto has made it clear that he doesn’t think it makes sense to sign a starter to a Major League contract if he isn’t a clear upgrade over the group he currently has, (2) the Angels can’t afford that clear upgrade without blowing past the luxury tax and (3) they’ll basically take any established starter they can get on a Minor League contract.
Also, the Angels may look to fill a lot of these needs via Minor League contracts, and players typically don’t settle for Minor League contracts until later in the offseason. Nonetheless, here are some Major League free agents who could be a fit …
The Angels really like Carlos Perez and think he can stick as the backup, so I don’t expect them to give a catcher a Major League contract (although, one must keep in mind that Chris Iannetta is a free agent at season’s end). They’ll probably look for depth options at Triple-A and guys who can compete for the backup job in camp. There aren’t many cheap options out there right now.
Dipoto expressed his desire to bring back Gordon Beckham after he non-tendered him on Tuesday, but he’ll look to the free-agent market for other options, and I have to think that ideally he’d find someone with more experience at shortstop. This is the Angels’ most glaring need right now, and it could be the area they allocate the most dollars to on free agents.
A power bat from the left side of the plate would be a nice fit off the bench, as a guy who can platoon with C.J. Cron at DH, or spell David Freese against a tough right-hander, or serve as a fifth outfielder who can pinch-hit, or all of the above. But this is another area they’ll probably look to shore up on the cheap (if at all), so you must look at the bottom of the bin here.
Here’s the thing about the Angels’ bullpen: There isn’t much room for anybody else. Six of the seven spots are basically solidified, with Huston Street, Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Salas, Mike Morin and the lone lefty, Cesar Ramos. Then there’s a host of others — Vinnie Pestano, Jeremy McBryde, Cam Bedrosian, Yoslan Herrera, Cory Rasmus, if he isn’t converted to a starter — vying for spots. So it doesn’t make much sense for the Angels to give someone a Major League contract here.
Lastly, here’s a list of the Minor League free agents the Angels have signed so far (this in addition to McBryde, who signed for the Major League minimum, and Herrera, who was brought back shortly after being non-tendered) …
C/3B Raywilly Gomez
C/LF/1B Charles Cutler
LF/CF/RF D’Arby Myers
RHSP Alex Sanabia
RHSP Albert Suarez
LHRP Atahualpa Severino
RHRP Brian Broderick
Any indication the Angels will sell next week? — @ChrisSexton
All indications continue to point to a relatively quiet next six days for the Angels, leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Things change really fast this time of year. Teams get desperate, sentiments change, and there’s always the possibility that the Angels are blown away by an offer.
But here’s something you can pretty much count on: They won’t be picking up any rentals, a la Zack Greinke in 2012. And they’re not really going to be “sellers,” per se, because the construction of their roster — most notably Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols — doesn’t really allow for that. Somewhere in the middle is where I’d put them. If they can find a good deal for Scott Downs, they’ll probably take it. In August, if they don’t make progress in the standings, they can also look to trade Jason Vargas — at that point, they’d have to put him through waivers first — if he pitches well in his return from the DL.
And if there’s a deal they really like, which would allow them to turn an offensive player into controllable starting pitching, they’ll take it.
That deal hasn’t presented itself yet. And the chances of it coming this month are highly unlikely. That may have to wait until the offseason.
As one person familiar with the Angels’ thinking said recently, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they made just one minor trade.”
How big was Mark Trumbo‘s eighth-inning play?
“That’s a base hit, it’s going to be a 5-3 game, and you’re going to have first-and-third, and you’re going to have one out,” Mike Scioscia said. “Does [Scott] Downs work out of the rest? We don’t know. But believe me, it made it set up a lot easier for us making the play.”
Trumbo lunged to his right, snared a bullet one-hopper off the bat of David Freese, fired to Erick Aybar at second base and watched his shortstop throw to a streaking Downs, who got to first base just in the nick of time to get the inning-ending double play that got the Angels out of a bases-loaded jam and keyed a seventh straight win.
If for just a split second, Downs hesitates getting to first base because he assumes the ball gets through, the second out doesn’t take place — and who knows what happens from there.
“And we’ve all done that in the past,” Downs said. “We’ve all been late to get to first, and it’s just one of things where, throwing so many ground balls, it’s almost like it’s a natural instinct. The first step is just to get over there, and Trumbo made a great play on it.”
Healthy, two-time Gold Glover Albert Pujols perhaps makes that play. Hobbled Pujols? Probably not. OK, definitely not.
“That was a heck of a play to make,” Pujols said. “That was the savior of the game right there.”
Asked where that ranks for him in terms of defensive plays, Trumbo said: “Considering the situation, probably up there pretty high.” It was especially nice considering his recent struggles at the plate, which moved him down to the No. 6 spot of the lineup for Tuesday’s series opener. Trumbo had an RBI single in the second inning, but he struck out his other three times and is now batting .203 with 35 strikeouts in his last 36 games.
“You have to bring something to the table,” Trumbo said. “If you’re not hitting, you really need to hunker down and contribute in some way. If that’s defense, it makes you feel pretty good.”
SP: LH Erik Bedard (0-2, 5.32 ERA)
SP: RH Joe Blanton (1-8, 5.94 ERA)
- Josh Hamilton, in case you hadn’t noticed, has the day off today. He isn’t hurt. Angels manager Mike Scioscia wanted to give him a “a recharge day” (and the fact their facing a lefty made this a good opportunity). Hamilton probably won’t be available to pinch-hit, either. It’s only expected to be for one day. “We need him to get into his game, and I think we’ve been trying to grind it and get him there and it’s just not quite getting far enough where we’d want him to. And so we’re going to take a day, take that half-step back and get him to take two steps forward.”
- Garrett Richards, who left Sunday’s game with a mild left ankle sprain, “feels a little better today,” Scioscia said. They’re not sure if he’ll be available tonight, though.
- Scott Downs will get in a game either today or tomorrow. He hasn’t pitched in a game in eight days, mainly because he’s the only lefty currently in the ‘pen and Scioscia wants to make sure he gets the most out of him.
- Ryan Madson played catch today, but he still has a ways to go before hopping back up on a bullpen. Yep.
- Peter Bourjos will start in center field for Class A Inland Empire on Monday night, as expected.
- A bunch of content on the site already from earlier today, on Trout topping AL outfielders in All-Star votes, Jason Vargas winning AL Pitcher of the Month, a look at the upcoming Draft, and the reason why the Angels haven’t played to their potential.
SP: RH Miguel Gonzalez (2-1, 4.60 ERA)
SP: LH Jason Vargas (0-3, 4.85)
- As you might have noticed, Callaspo was activated off the disabled prior to Friday’s game. But going down was Andrew Romine, not Luis Jimenez. Mike Scioscia likes having a power right-handed bat off the bench like Jimenez — it’s essentially the role Bill Hall was going to play, before he got hurt in Spring Training — and he feels Brendan Harris can be used as a utility infielder. A big question with this decision, however, is Harris’ defense. It’s not his strong suit. Offense is. Romine was a much more capable defender. And maybe Jimenez would’ve benefited from some more at-bats in the Minors to polish up his approach, which has led to a lot of strikeouts at this level.
- In tune with his new role, Jimenez was getting some work in left field pregame. Scioscia said right now he’s only comfortable using Jimenez there in an “emergency” situation, but perhaps that can change if he gets better at it.
- Garrett Richards is going back to the bullpen, with Jerome Williams taking his spot in the rotation on Sunday. The move makes sense on a couple of fronts. First and foremost, the Angels need a relief pitcher to bridge the gap to the later innings, and Richards can do that in what he said is “a primary role” in the back end. Williams has struggled as a starting pitcher in recent outings, but he’s been really good in long relief lately.
- Sean Burnett said today that he’s going to fly to Florida to see Dr. James Andrews on Monday morning. After that, he’ll fly to Houston to rejoin the team on their two-city trip. The lefty reliever, out since April 27 with left forearm irritation, didn’t sound very concerned. But it’s always frightening when pitchers see Dr. Andrews, so it’s definitely something worth monitoring.
- It looks like Scott Downs (pain in his right side) will avoid the DL. At least for now. He probably won’t be available Friday, but Scioscia is going to have him go through his normal pregame nonetheless.
- Mark Lowe (left neck strain) will pitch two innings for Class A Inland Empire on Sunday. He’s eligible to be activated that day, so that may be Lowe’s final outing before rejoining the team.
- Shortstop Tommy Field suffered a broken finger shortly after he was sent down on April 23. He’s on the 7-day Minor League DL and could miss a month.
The Angels’ 19-inning loss last night was a devastating one, but it was also quite memorable. It was the longest game in Angels history — A’s, too — and it witnessed several encouraging performances. Tommy Hanson pitched six innings of two-run ball with a heavy heart, Chris Iannetta squatted for 19 innings behind the plate, Mark Trumbo hit a 475-foot homer that was tied for the longest in the Majors this season, Albert Pujols had four hits, went deep twice and played the field despite having plantar fasciitis on his left foot, and Jerome Williams hurled six innings of one-run ball in relief.
Still, though, the Angels were in no mood to reminisce on Tuesday.
“I don’t feel any nostalgia towards it,” Trumbo said. “It’s all about winning, and we didn’t do it.”
SP: RH Garrett Richards (1-1, 3.65 ERA)
SP: RH Jarrod Parker (0-4, 8.10 ERA)
- The Angels officially placed Peter Bourjos on the disabled list today with a strained left hamstring, activating Aybar. Also, outfielder Scott Cousins had his contract purchased from Triple-A Salt Lake and Michael Roth was sent down. The Angels’ 40-man roster is back at 40, and the Angels are back to the traditional seven relievers and four-man bench — despite the fact seven relievers accounted for 12 2/3 innings the night before. “Really, we’re as banged up on the lineup side,” Mike Scioscia said.
- It looks like only Jerome Williams and Michael Kohn will be unavailable tonight. Ernesto Frieri is good to go, as are Barry Enright, Dane De La Rosa, Nick Maronde and Scott Downs.
- Luis Jimenez‘s bruised left shin is “a little tight,” Scioscia said, but he may be available to play defense. If the Angels get a lead late, don’t be surprised to see him sub in for Harris at third.
- Still no time frame on how long Bourjos’ hamstring will keep him out. Obviously, as a speed guy, he needs that to be 100 percent before returning.
- Ryan Madson is still not throwing.
- Jimenez has some experience in the outfield from winter ball, so that may be an option for him once Alberto Callaspo returns.
Is there ANY hope for this bullpen? Trades? Minors? WEAVER?!?!?!??!??? — @jasiahsdad
Whoa, easy buddy. I know you’re frustrated, but I don’t think transitioning the Angels’ ace to the bullpen is the answer here — but point taken. Unless Jerry Dipoto can pull another early-season miracle — acquiring Ernesto Frieri from the Padres in early May last year was really, really hard — it is what it is, basically. There aren’t many (if any) teams that can stomach having four relievers (Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett, Kevin Jepsen and Mark Lowe) on the disabled list at the same time. The Angels have just three members of the Opening Day bullpen available as relievers right now — Jerome Williams, Frieri and Scott Downs. Think about that. For as well as Dane De La Rosa has pitched, it’s tough to count on him on an everyday basis to come through in tight situations. But that’s where the Angels are, because of all the injuries and because the starters — until just recently — have struggled. Sure, they can put in a waiver claim or two, spin a few minor trades, but nothing that’s going to change the landscape down there. For the most part, they just have to wear it — while hoping for more depth from the rotation, lots of production from the offense and a quick return to health. Sorry if that’s not the answer you’re looking for.
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 …
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.
Come Monday, Jered Weaver will be making his fourth straight Opening Day start, Josh Hamilton‘s reunion tour will begin and the Angels will (once again) try to cash in on the grand expectations they carry into the season.
Before that happens, here’s a station-to-station look at where they stand heading into what should be a very fun 2013 …
Position players: I don’t see a way this team won’t be among the top three in runs scored in the American League this season. From mid-May to the end of the season last year, when Mike Trout arrived in more ways than one and Albert Pujols remembered he’s Albert Freakin’ Pujols, the Angels led the Majors in runs per game. And that was without Hamilton, mind you. The Angels have three dynamic speed guys (Peter Bourjos-Trout-Erick Aybar) and three lethal power hitters (Pujols-Hamilton-Mark Trumbo) all conveniently lining up together. The rest of the guys (Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Iannetta) don’t need to be anything more than themselves for the Angels to be an offensive juggernaut. Defensively, Trout-Bourjos-Hamilton could be the best defensive outfield in baseball (which tailors perfectly to their flyball-heavy pitching staff) and the infield is solid at every position.
Starters: Angels starters got their necessary work this spring, but just barely. Spring Training may not teach us much, but it certainly didn’t quell any apprehensions about this rotation. Everyone except the no-walks Joe Blanton struggled at some point, with Weaver, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson all bringing temporary concerns that they wouldn’t have enough stamina heading into the regular season. But they do, and most importantly, they’re all healthy. Are they good enough to match one of the best offenses in baseball? No. Will they be adequate enough to eat innings (so the ‘pen doesn’t get worn out) and keep the Angels in games (with the lineup taking care of the rest)? That’s the plan. The key: C.J. Wilson, the $77.5 million No. 2 starter who should be a lot better than his 2012 second half.
Relievers: The Angels are deeper here, with or without Ryan Madson (who is still on track to return in late April or early May, barring another setback). They’ve added arguably the best free-agent lefty available in Sean Burnett, will have a full season of Ernesto Frieri, are banking on Kevin Jepsen‘s last three months being no fluke and, along with Scott Downs, seemingly have four formidable options to protect leads late in games. There’s also the high-upside Garrett Richards, coming off a great spring, the hard-throwing Mark Lowe, who the Angels have targeted since November, and the veteran Jerome Williams. Many will point to last year’s 22 blown saves as the biggest reason the Angels ultimately missed the playoffs, and this year, they’re better in the ‘pen. But that’s on paper. Relievers are a very unpredictable species.
Reserves: If all their everyday players stay healthy, this won’t be much of a factor, particularly in the AL. Chances are, though, injuries will happen. And given that, the Angels took a step back with regards to their bench (though if you’re going to pick one area to downgrade, this would be it). Without Vernon Wells, they don’t have any real power threat in reserve — besides Hank Conger, but he’s the backup catcher — and are pretty darn young. Andrew Romine takes over for the seasoned Maicer Izturis and Conger, awfully talented but coming off a spring soured by throwing woes, has spent most of the last three years in Triple-A. Contact-hitting lefty outfielder J.B. Shuck is the third player on this bench making his first Opening Day roster. The last reserve, veteran infielder Brendan Harris, hasn’t been in the big leagues since 2010.
Depth: The Angels’ farm system is dead last in all of baseball, according to ESPN and Baseball America. But those in the organization will tell you that mostly has to do with pitching; their position-player talent is just fine. Furthermore, the Angels’ front office is confident they’ve built more depth in the upper levels to serve as insurance in 2013. The Triple-A roster has several players with Major League experience, such as Luis Rodriguez, Tommy Field, Scott Cousins, Trent Oeltjen, Chris Snyder (possibly), John Hester, Luke Carlin, Mitch Stetter and Fernando Cabrera. But with Richards’ length shortened in the ‘pen, and Williams’ workload unpredictable as a swing man, where do the Angels turn if something happens to one of their starters? Barry Enright, Billy Buckner, Matt Shoemaker and the young A.J. Schugel figure to make up the Salt Lake Bees’ rotation.
Financials: The Angels’ payroll sits under $150 million, thanks to the Yankees taking on $11.5 million of Wells’ 2013 salary in the recent trade. The deal also bought them some luxury tax flexibility. Prior to the deal, the Angels’ Competitive Balance Tax payroll — which takes into account the average annual value of all 40-man roster salaries, plus benefits and performance bonuses at the end of the season — was $178 million, the threshold at which first-time offenders are taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball. Now, it’s about $172M, giving them some flexibility to take on salary in an in-season trade. Last year, after acquiring Zack Greinke, their CBT payroll was at $178 million, which affected their pursuit of some necessary relief-pitching help.
Underlying theme: Expectations can do some funny things, and it’ll be interesting to see how the magnitude of it all will play into how the Angels go about — and react to — their second year under the microscope. Will it affect them out of the gate? Will it bring turmoil in the clubhouse, especially now that Torii Hunter is gone? Can it cause more tension between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, who have their philosophical differences and were at odds at times last season? And what will it lead Arte Moreno to do if they miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season?
In addition to Trumbo at DH, how much time do you think he will get a first base and right field, giving Pujols and Hamilton a day to rest their legs? (Stephen H., San Luis Obispo)
Plenty. And if I had to pin a number on it, I’d say there’s a very good chance — even if everyone stays healthy — that Trumbo spends about half his time playing the field. If he’s hitting, he’ll be in the lineup for all the Angels’ Interleague games. For a good chunk of April, with Pujols in the early stages of his return from offseason knee surgery, he figures to play plenty of first base. With Wells gone, he’s also the fourth outfielder. And fundamentally, with so much money tied to Hamilton and Pujols long-term, Scioscia will get them off their feet as often as necessary now that he has a revolving door at DH (that wasn’t very feasible with Kendrys Morales there last year).
Do you see the day when the Angels move Trout down in the batting order and put Bourjos, if he can cut it, in the leadoff spot? (Albert H., Los Angeles)
I do. Scioscia continues to say Trout profiles better in the middle of the order, the reason being that you want your best hitter to be in as many RBI situations as possible. The makeup of the Angels’ lineup right now — with Pujols, Hamilton and Trumbo in the middle of the order, and no clear solution in the leadoff spot just yet — means Trout is the best fit to bat first. You can argue that the Angels’ everyday lineup doesn’t figure to change much any time soon, with almost everyone in the books long term. But Trout is the kind of player you construct a lineup around, and his bat figures to eventually become too potent to not put in the 3 spot.
Is this the year the Angels finally get back to the playoffs and make a deep run? (Samuel M., Tempe, Ariz.)
Who knows. I do think that, on paper, they are the best team in the AL West and should win the division. Once you get in the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. The sample size is too small. But 162 games is not a small sample size, and if the Angels stay healthy, there is no excuse for not taking the division crown. The Rangers’ lineup took a step back, replacing Hamilton with Lance Berkman, and the pitching staff won’t have Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis or Joakim Soria to start the season. The A’s are deep, but will need a lot of guys to over-perform again. It’s nice to see the Mariners spending money, but they still have holes and concerns all over the place. And the Astros are a last-place team. But who am I kidding — predicting a baseball season is a foolish act.
Now, at last, we can see how it all plays out on the field.