February 2010

Jepsen, Shields make progress

Scot Shields and Kevin Jepsen, two valuable members of the Angels’ bullpen, stretched it out on Thursday in the warm sun of Tempe Diablo Stadium and came out of the session feeling ready for the next step toward the mound.

“Shiedsy and l got back for 10 minutes of long toss, and it felt great — for both of us,” Jepsen said. “I’m happy. The best part is I felt good after I’d stopped throwing for a while and went back out. No issues at all. This was a very good day.”

Shields, rebounding from left knee surgery, and Jepsen, who experienced some shoulder pain early in camp, have been delayed in throwing off the mound.

“I feel like I could throw right now,” Shields said, “but I understand them being cautious with me. You’ve got to look at the big picture.”

It was the first day of live batting practice, and starters Ervin Santana, Joel Pineiro and Joe Saunders all threw effectively.

“I was focused on fastball command,” Saunders said, “and it really felt good to be out there. The second pitch I threw was a line drive right back at me, but I got out of the way.”

First baseman Kendry Morales remained absent as he goes through the final stages of acquiring his work permit. The Cuba native established residency in the Dominican Republic after defecting in 2004. He is expected in camp any day. 

 

Morales still waiting on work permit

Bobby Abreu strolled into camp on Wednesday in that elegant style of his, but the Angels are still waiting on Kendry Morales, their first baseman, to get green-card clearance to start work.

“I know he’s here in Arizona, so I know he’s getting his work in somewhere,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Morales, a sensation in 2009 in his first full Major League season. “He won’t be too far behind.”

Starter Scott Kazmir, who experienced right hamstring tightness about five weeks before Spring Training while working out at home in Houston, moved from five minutes of bullpen work to eight minutes on Wednesday, continuing his progress.

“It went well, extremely well,” Kazmir said. “I threw fastballs and some changeups, but the main idea was to getting extended with my landing leg. That felt good, so I like where I am right now.”

Kazmir’s landing leg is the one he tweaked in Houston, but he said he felt no pain in his session.

The Angels are proceeding with caution with relievers Fernando Rodney (shin), Kevin Jepsen (shoulder stiffness) and Scot Shields (recovering from knee surgery).

“He’s out of [fielding practice],” Scioscia said of Rodney. “He’s long tossing, and we’ll progress to a mound here probably close to what we’re talking about with Shieldsy. We said a couple days ago we’d be really shocked if Shieldsy was not [throwing] off the mound in 7-10 days.

“With Rodney, there’s probably no need to get him on the mound right now. We don’t need him irritating some things. In talking with Ned {Bergert, head certified athletic trainer) and Dr. [Lewis] Yocum, it’s preventative. He should be ready to get on the mound here shortly.”

Abreu, Morales miss opening workout

Absent with club approval for the first full-squad workout on Tuesday were Angels first baseman Kendry Morales and right fielder Bobby Abreu.

Morales, according to manager Mike Scioscia, is clearing up some paperwork and “should be here any day.” The Cuba-born slugger now calls the Dominican Republic home in the offseason.

Abreu, who spends his winters in his Venezuela homeland, was due to arrive sometime Tuesday. Abreu signed a two-year contract extension with an option for 2012 after a superb debut season with the Angels in 2009.

Torii Hunter, in his first workout following winter surgery to repair a sports hernia, took his cuts in batting practice and showed no ill effects of the procedure.

In his early-day session with the media, Scioscia again identified Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis as his leadoff men and said he was anticipating having Hideki Matsui in the fourth or fifth spots in the order, with Abreu batting second most of the time.

Asked how capable he expects Brandon Wood to be with the glove at third base, Scioscia referred to his shortstop’s range and strong, accurate arm and said, “He’s a Gold Glove caliber guy. He’s a guy that can play shortstop, and when you move him to third base, there’s a difference. He has terrific reactions, no problem going to the shorter side. He’s got the makings of a terrific defender.”

 

 

Glaus, not McPherson, valid model for Wood

Why is it Dallas McPherson is the name fans and insiders always seem to summon with respect to Brandon Wood and his attempt to replace Chone Figgins? It seems clear to your faithful correspondent that Troy Glaus is a more valid precedent to cite, if you really give it some thought.

Glaus was a tall, rangy shortstop who was moved to third base. He was more mature when he came to the Angels than Wood, signing out of UCLA, not Scottsdale Horizon High School, but there are a number of parallels.

Glaus could drive a ball out of any park known to man and brought the athleticism of a natural shortstop to the hot corner. That sums up Wood fairly well, I’d say.

Mike Scioscia doesn’t always agree with me, but the Angels’ manager did second my motion when I presented it this morning in our daily media get-together.

“There are probably more similarities with Troy than McPherson with Brandon,” Scioscia said. “Brandon’s taken a little different path, but they’re similar in ages. Brandon’s got a lot of power. One thing Troy brought was the ability to walk a lot. Troy was a special player.”

And Wood can be a special player…in time. 

Glaus, in his first exposure to Major League pitching in 1998, struck out 51 times in 165 at-bats, batting .218 with one homer, 23 RBIs.

Breaking in as the full-time third baseman in ’99, Glaus hit .240 in 154 games with 29 homers, 79 RBIs. He struck out 143 times in 551 at-bats.

Those, it seems to me, are reasonably attainable numbers for Wood in what he plans to make his first full season in the big time.

Glaus, as we all know, went on to much bigger and better things, and McPherson, largely because of physical problems, fell short of fulfilling expectations as his replacement. Wood has no injury history to speak of, and appears to be in superb shape heading into camp.

The point is, this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. Wood, a very smart young man, understands. All he wants is a chance with the hope that there is some patience shown.

Mike Schmidt’s early-career numbers weren’t much better than Glaus’, and neither were Brooks Robinson’s. A case can be made that those are the two greatest third basemen in history.

 

Kazmir session goes well

Scott Kazmir came to camp with a right hamstring “tweak” that he sustained, he said, in early January in his workouts at home in Houston.

But he managed to get in three mound sessions before coming to Tempe for Spring Training, and the Angels’ talented southpaw made it through a five-minute bullpen on the mound on Sunday despite damp conditions at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

“It went well,” Kazmir said. “I’m feeling good. They’re being a little cautious with me, but it’s early. No reason to push anything.”

Kazmir, a two-time American League All-Star who turned 26 on Jan. 24, was 2-2 with a 1.73 ERA in six starts for the Angels after arriving in an Aug. 28 trade with Tampa Bay last season. He finished the season 10-9 overall with a 4.89 ERA, missing about five weeks in May and June with a right quadriceps strain.

“If all our starters go through their progressions,” manager Mike Scioscia said, “all five should be ready [for Opening Day].”

The Angels opened last season with John Lackey and Ervin Santana on the disabled list, and they were devastated by the death of Nick Adenhart in the first week.

Because of the damp grounds, Scioscia limited some activities, but overall he was content with the workout.

“As long as we get our bullpens in, we’re fine,” he said.

 

Matsui makes a nice first impression

Hideki Matsui arrived in camp on Friday, settling in with his new surroundings and Angels teammates while greeting familiar faces from the Japanese media. He’s a major figure in his homeland, owing to his time as a slugger with the Yomiuri Giants and a colorful nickname — Godzilla — that he wears well, with grace.

Matsui met the English-speaking media and answered everything we threw his way, patiently and calmly, showing why he is so highly regarded for his professionalism and character on two continents and in two cultures.

When I asked him about the origin of the nickname and how he feels about it, he traced it to his high school days when he homered in a tournament. If he had any questions about it initially, he came to like being known as “Godzilla” when he realized it made a connection with American fans.

Matsui demonstrated his sense of humor on several occasions, notably when he described taking a home run away from Torii Hunter in an all-star series played between American and Japanese stars in 2002.

“We spent some time then getting to know each other,” Matsui said through Roger Kahlon’s translation.

Asked, jokingly, if he found Hunter to be a “jerk,” Matsui smiled.

“He might think I’m the jerk,” he replied. “I caught his home run once.”

There was another occasion when Hunter, known as “Spiderman” for the way he climbs walls to snatch doubles, triples and homers, gave one back to Matsui.

“During the playoffs when he was with the Twins,” Matsui said, “I hit one off his glove and it became a homer.”

Matsui’s locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium is right next to Hunter’s. Two down to the right is the locker Bobby Abreu, Matsui’s old friend from New York, will occupy.

Godzilla should fit right in and feel at home very quickly in that company.

  

Aybar reportedly agrees to ’10 contract

The Angels have avoided arbitration with shortstop Erick Aybar, settling on a $2.05 million contract for 2010, according to Enrique Rojas from ESPNDeportes.

A ruling in catcher Jeff Mathis’ arbitration case is expected soon. Mathis is seeking $1.3 milion, while the club offered $700,000. The Angels settled with catcher Mike Napoli earlier for $3.6 million. Mathis and Napoli have shared the job evenly the past 2 1/2 seasons, Mathis respected for his defense, Napoli more for his booming bat.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said starter Scott Kazmir has a hamstring issue but has thrown off the mound, indicating that it’s nothing serious. New reliever Fernando Rodney has some soreness in his shin, Scioscia added. They’ll probably be kept out of pitchers’ fielding practice until fully healed, along with Scot Shields as he mends from June surgery on his left knee.   

Quinlan returning to Angels

Robb Quinlan will be back with the Angels in 2010, having agreed to a Minor League deal that will enable him to try to win a roster spot during Spring Training.

Quinlan, who turns 33 on March 17, is a .281 career hitter across seven seasons with the Angels. He batted .243 in 115 at-bats in 2009 with two homers and 14 RBIs, spending time at all four corner positions — first and third base, left and right field.

Quinlan filed for free agency after the season, but a logjam of talent among position players has tightened the market considerably.

Quinlan’s best season with the Angels was 2006 when he batted .321 with a career-high 234 at-bats. He had nine homers and 32 RBIs in 86 games that season. Quinlan also hit .344 for the Angels in 2004, with five homers and 23 RBIs in 160 at-bats.

With the departure of Chone Figgins, Quinlan will bid for playing time at third and at first, where he backed up Kendry Morales, and he’ll also be available in the outfield and as a bat off the bench if he makes the 25-man roster. 

 

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