March 2009

Moseley superb, deserved better

The line score today gives Dustin Moseley no justice. In New York, Chicago and his hometown of Texarkana, Ark., it will look as if the Angels’ right-hander had an average day: four innings, four hits, two earned runs, one walk, four strikeouts. But he was much, much better than that.

A windblown popup got up in the high sky and sun, and shortstop Erick Aybar couldn’t find it. By the time it had fallen to the turf, two runs had scored and Bobby Scales was standing at second base with a gift two-run double.

Moseley kept his composure and retired Mark Johnson to end the fourth inning — and his day. With any luck at all, he’d have departed with four scoreless innings.

Moseley had all his stuff working from the outset. He caught Milton Bradley looking to close the first inning after an infield hit, struck out two more in the second inning and Joey Gathright in the third.

Moseley now has yielded four earned runs in nine innings, but only two of the earned runs were truly earned. He has been terrific in his bid for a spot in the rotation. 

Wood stays scalding hot

Brandon Wood apparently is serious about making a point. He wants to be on the Angels’ Opening Day roster.

Serving as designated hitter on Tuesday against Indians right-hander Carl Pavano, Wood unloaded a three-run homer in the second inning after getting ahead 2-1 in the count. Howie Kendrick and Juan Rivera had singled in front of Wood, whose homer was his second of the spring and gave the Angels a 3-2 lead.

Wood is 10-for-21 (.476) after the homer with 20 total bases for a .952 slugging percentage. He is trying to bang his way into the lineup at shortstop or third base. 

Weaver wobbly in debut

Held back by some early-spring right shoulder tightness, Jered Weaver didn’t get through the first inning in his Cactus League debut against the Indians on Wednesday — but he showed no signs of physical discomfort.

Weaver’s issue was with the strike zone. He had trouble finding it. His best pitch was to first base, picking off Jamey Carroll after his leadoff flare fell into right field for a single. Weaver walked David Dellucci on a full count and Travis Hafner hit a bullet over the pitcher’s head — barely — for a single. That might have gotten into Weaver’s head a little, because he went to 3-0 on Victor Martinez before he flied to right. But line drive singles by Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Garko ended Weaver’s day after 26 pitches.

His line: two-thirds of an inning, four hits, one walk and one earned run — thanks to reliever Ryan Brasier, who retired Josh Barfield to leave the bases loaded.

Weaver was elevated to No. 3 starter before throwing his first pitch with Ervin Santana (sprained right elbow ligament) starting the season on the 15-day disabled list.

 

Shields perfect for Team USA

In his first appearance wearing the red, white and blue since leaving Angels camp, Scot Shields could not have been any better in a World Baseball Classic tuneup.

Facing the Blue Jays on Wednesday in Dunedin, Fla., Shields pitched a perfect sixth inning, striking out one man while retiring the other two on ground balls. The Jays rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth against J.J. Putz to pin a 6-5 defeat on Team USA.

Shields was close to perfect out of the bullpen for the U.S. in the inaurugral Classic, appearing in three games and allowing one hit and one walk in 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

The rubber-armed set-up artist is expected to be joined by new bullpen mate Brian Fuentes in the second round of the Classic in Miami starting on March 14, assuming the U.S. gets through the opening round in Toronto.

Team USA debuts in Pool C play on Saturday against Canada. The game is set for 11 a.m. PT and will be carried on ESPN. Italy and Venezuela fill out the bracket, with two teams moving on to the second round.

Lackey perfect in debut

Looking like the ace he is, John Lackey’s spring debut in Tucson was flawless: six up, six down, including a strikeout of Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Lackey’s command was sharp, and he appeared to have lively stuff for the first time out.

Lackey’s batterymate, Jeff Mathis, was having a pretty fair day too: homers in his first two at-bats against southpaw Franklin Morales before a walk third time up.

 

 

 

 

Mathis: two at-bats, two blasts

Angels catcher Jeff Mathis wasn’t kidding about coming to camp ready to hit after a winter spent working on his swing in his barn in Marianna, Fla.

Mathis unloaded homers in his first two-bats on Monday agianst Rockies southpaw Franklin Morales. The second blast, in the second inning, was a mammoth, no-doubter that would have left any yard in America. He had two doubles in his previous six Cactus League at-bats.

Keeping in step with Mathis, Brandon Wood hammered an RBI double and launched his first homer of the spring, way over the 410 sign in left center. Wood had two drives in the spring opener flagged down by outfielders crashing into  walls.   

“I feel good with my swing,” Mathis was saying the other day. “I spent a lot of time with my brother in my barn, where I have a batting cage next to my living quarters. Then I did some work with [hitting coach] Mickey [Hatcher]. I’m comfortable with where I am now.”

Mathis, a .195 career hitter in 512 at-bats, has been productive (15 homers, 71) in spite of his low average. He is behind the plate for the first time this spring, catching John Lackey.  

Willits forced to sit one out

Center fielder Reggie Willits was a late scratch for Monday’s Cactus League game against the Rockies in Tucson with tightness in the adductor muscle in his left leg. There was no immediate word on the severity.

Willits was on base in all three of his at-bats on Sunday with a single and two walks. He was replaced in center field by Terry Evans, with Adam Pavkovich inserted in right field.

Jeff Mathis got the Angels rolling with a solo homer against lefty Franklin Morales. A single by Kendry Morales and Brandon Wood’s RBI double handed John Lackey a 2-0 first-inning lead, and he shut down the rockies in the bottom half of the inning with solid command in his first outing of the spring. 

Daydream believer

On a gorgeous Sunday in Tempe, the mind wanders briefly, and here is what settles in: A massive deal involving the Angels and Padres.

Ten for two.

From Anaheim to San Diego go the following: Nick Adenhart, Dustin Moseley, Shane Loux, Kevin Jepsen, Erick Aybar, Freddy Sandoval, Matt Brown, Kendry Morales, Reggie Willits and Terry Evans.

From San Diego to Anaheim: Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez.

The Padres get a new team, virtually, and the Angels have a powerhouse that causes tremors throughout the game.

Bud Black adds three starters (Moseley, Adenhart, Loux) while subtracing one. He gets a future closer in Jepsen. He gets a superlative shortstop in Aybar and a kid from Tijuana (Sandoval) who can play three infield positions and hit. He gets a quality corner infielder in Brown and a first baseman in Morales to replace Gonzalez. He gets an outfielder (Willits) who can play all three spots and will produce a 370-.380 on-base percentage  and 40-50 steals leading off as an everyday player. And he gets a power hitter in Evans who can leave any yard.

Mike Scioscia gets one of the best pitchers alive in Peavy and a first baseman in Gonzalez who is very close to the equal of Mark Teixeira. The Angels still have plenty of quality reserves left over, owing to an astonishing stockpile of talent. Yes, they add payroll with Peavy and Gonzalez, but the long-term benefits are immense.

The Padres get almost 60 years worth of contracts at an immediate cost of roughly $4 million for the 2008 season. The Angels have Peavy and Gonzalez locked up for at least three more years apiece. This would not be a half-season of Teixeira.  

Peavy gives the Angels the Majors’ dominant rotation; Gonzalez is a No. 4 hitter who, free of PETCO Parks dimensions, hits about 40 homers and drives in close to 140  runs behind Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu and Vladimir Guerrero.

Win, win. Everybody wins, once Padres fans realize that even with fan favorites Peavy and Gonzalez, they are looking at potentially a long, long season. Guys like Aybar, Willits, Morales, Adenhart and Jepsen would form a solid foundation for years to come.

Granted, there’s not much likelihood something like this would come to pass. But hey, a guy can daydream, can’t he? Isn’t that what Spring Training is all about?

  

Escobar passes another test

Under the watchful eyes of Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher, veteran right-hander Kelvim Escobar cleared another big hurdle on Sunday with relative ease.

Throwing his first full bullpen session — he’d thrown from 55 feet earlier — from a Tempe mound, Escobar unleashed 25 fastballs in natural form. Butcher was as delighted as the pitcher with the latest evidence of his remarkable recovery from right shoulder surgery last July. Escobar tweaked his left calf doing exercises a week ago, but there was no residual pain, and he was free and easy with his delivery.  

“He was outstanding,” Butcher said. “The ball came out of his hand real well. He threw all fastballs, and the ball was located well down in the zone. No complaints at all. He looks very natural to me.

“You can tell when he’s confident by his facial expression, the way he’s talking. It was there. It’s one step at a time, but he definitely came into camp in tremendous shape, and that helps. He’s a guy you never have to push. He’s always pushing himself.”

That brings us to the one concern: keeping Escobar from trying to do too much too soon. He is being closely monitored by manager Mike Scioscia, Butcher and the medical staff on a daily basis.

The early prognosis was a return around midseason by Escobar. It is now possible he’ll be back on the mound in a Major League game sometime in May.  

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