March 2010

Morales delivers in debut

Kendry Morales made his spring debut on Monday at Surprise Stadium and picked up right where he left off last season — banging base-hits and driving in runs.

 

Morales singled home a run during a two-run first inning and singled home another in the fifth as the Angels erupted for four runs.

 

The reigning AL West champs saved their best offensive performance of the young spring for their division rivals, the Rangers, who were showing off new DH Vladimir Guerrero.

 

Maicer Izturis singled to right twice to send leadoff man Erick Aybar scurrying to third after a walk and single. Juan Rivera hammered a pair of run-producing hits, a single and double, and the big thunder came from Mike Napoli and Brandon Wood. Napoli launched one to dead center, his second homer of the spring, and Wood’s first hit landed on the grass  beyond the 379 sign in right center.   

 

 

Scott Kazmir, slowed by a sore right hamstring he brought into camp, will pitch two innings in an intrasquad game on Wednesday. The plan, if that goes well, is to get him to 45 pitches in a Cactus League game five days later.

 

Torii Hunter hopes to be able to play alongside Hideki Matsui, in his Angels debut as the DH, on Tuesday when the Padres send towering Chris Young to the mound at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Hunter felt a twinge in the area of his surgically repaired right groin on his first slide of the spring on Friday against the Rockies on a double.

 

“Right now, there’s no sense of urgency,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’ll play tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, a matter of days. We’re not concerned with him. If it was March 28, it’d be another story.”

 

Kevin Jepsen (tender right shoulder) and Scot Shields (knee surgery recovery) are down to throw 15 pitches each in simulated games on Tuesday. Fernando Rodney (sore shins) is progressing in bullpen sessions, Scioscia said. – Lyle Spencer

 

Reckling, Chatwood show right stuff

PHOENIX – Angels fans visiting Tempe Diablo Stadium on Friday were treated to a sneak preview of potential coming attractions at Angel Stadium.

Trevor Reckling and Tyler Chatwood, back to back, put on impressive displays, going two innings each against the Rockies. Reckling allowed a run while striking out three men, and Chatwood yielded two hits in two scoreless innings.

Reckling, a lefty from New Jersey, has star qualities and is mature beyond his years. He’ll be 21 on May 22, and it appears as if he’s on the fast track to the big time.

The Angels’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009, Reckling has a delivery quirky enough to disrupt hitters’ timing, and he unleashes mid-90s fastballs along with a big bender and a quality changeup. As his command improves, he’ll move closer to The Show.

“It felt good being out there,” said Reckling, a steal in the eighth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. “I thought I had pretty good stuff and made some good pitches. It’s always a challenge facing big league hitters, and I’m trying to make the best of my opportunities.”

Chatwood, the club’s second-round choice in 2008, is entering his third professional season at 20. By 2012 or 2013, the kid from Redlands, due east from Angel Stadium, could be joining Reckling in the Angels’ rotation.

Chatwood grew up in Redlands, about an hour east of Angel Stadium. His tool kit, Like Reckling’s, is loaded with sharp instruments. Unimposing physically at 6-foot and 185 pounds, he has adopted as role models two pretty fair righties who make up for physical stature with talent and production: Tim Lincecum and Roy Oswalt.

“Those were the guys I was looking at when I started pitching my junior year [at Redlands High School] – mostly Lincecum,” Chatwood said. “I was a position player my whole life before I began pitching seriously as a senior.”

He’d undergone Tommy John surgery for a loose ligament in his right elbow at age 15, having pitched one inning while he was in the process of making a U.S. national team as a third baseman in a tryout in Phoenix.

His sophomore year was wiped out by the surgery, and he got a feel for pitching as a junior before putting it all together in his senior year, drawing the attention of Angels scouts.

Drafted in the second round in 2008, he has put together two solid Minor League seasons and needs only to develop his changeup and find consistent command to make a major jump.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he was impressed with the way Reckling and Chatwood attacked hitters with their live arms and attitudes against the Rockies.

“They weren’t scared,” Scioscia said.

Anxious, maybe, but not afraid to take a big step toward their eventual destination. 

 

  

Fuentes: mission accomplished

Early March Cactus League games are about the process, not results. It’s more about how you feel than how you do, unless you’re trying to catch a manager’s eye.

Accordingly, Brian Fuentes accomplished what he set out to do in his spring debut on Friday at Tempe Diablo Stadium during a 7-5 loss to Colorado.

Entering in the third inning against his former club, Fuentes struck out the first man he faced, Ryan Spilborghs. He walked Troy Tulowitzki and yielded a single to Ian Stewart for a first-and-third situation. Miguel Olivo went down for a breaking ball and hit it to the wall in left for an RBI double.

After striking out Matt Miller, Fuentes’ day ended.

Not bad, not great. A good day’s work, which is exactly what the Angels’ closer had in mind.

“For me, I just want to show I’m healthy and throwing pitches where I want to, and for the most part I did that,” Fuentes said. “I did walk a man and started falling behind and made a bad pitch to Stewart, a breaking ball that stayed up. But the breaking ball to Olivo was a good pitch, down, and he hit it to the wall. I’m all right with that.

“I moved the fastball around and put pitches where I needed to, so it was a good day.”

It could have been a lot worse. Fuentes could have been stuck in traffic for more than three hours like Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who didn’t reach the ballpark until the game was underway because of a wreck on I-10.

“I didn’t move forever,” said Jimenez, who chose to drive on his own and not take the team bus. “I left [Tucson] at 9 and got here at 1:30.”

Jimenez entered in the fourth and worked two innings, yielding four earned runs on two walks and three hits while striking out three men.

Fuentes, meanwhile, was throwing more off-speed stuff than is his custom this early in the spring. He feels he has plenty of time to find his fastball command.

“I never really push it too hard in the spring,” he said. “No matter how many bullpens you have, you don’t have the same arm strength. I had two batting practices and three bullpens under my felt.”

Fuentes endured back spasms that set him back last spring, but he found his rhythm after a rocky start and led the Majors with 48 saves in 55 opportunities.

“I try not to base it on results and numbers,” he said, referring to his springtime evaluations. “Do you feel healthy or not? That’s all I focus on now.”

Fernando Rodney, who closed for Detroit last season and brings his heat to the Angels’ bullpen as a free agent, was cleared on Friday to begin throwing bullpen sessions after experiencing soreness in both shins.

“We haven’t discussed it yet,” Fuentes said when asked about how Rodney will fit along with Scot Shields, Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger in the back of a deep bullpen. “My personal opinion is having Fernando in the back of the bullpen is a good thing. I saw him in Detroit, and he’s thrown lights out.

“From the outside looking in, it’s good to have him.”

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has made it clear Fuentes is his closer, and that Rodney and Shields occasionally will spell him in the ninth inning when he needs a breather.

“His arm speed was good, his arm slot was good,” Scioscia said when asked about Fuentes. “He had good stuff. He threw a lot of pitches, 27, 28, and we didn’t want him getting in the 35-pitch range. That was a full workout for him.”

Angels starter Sean O’Sullivan yielded five earned runs on four hits and a walk while getting four outs, but prospects Trevor Reckling and Tyler Chatwood had impressive debuts. Each worked two innings, Chatwood holding the Rockies scoreless while Reckling yielded a run while striking out three hitters.

“Sully had a tough start,” Scioscia said, “but I thought our younger pitchers — Chatwood, Reckling — you could see the life in their arms. They weren’t scared. They went right after guys.”

Offensively, Maicer Izturis (two walks, single) had a perfect day leading off, and Terry Evans stroked a pair of singles, driving in a run. Mark Trumbo slammed an opposite-field double to open the ninth inning, and Michael Ryan drove in a pair of runs with a single and had a lenghty at-bat to prolong the ninth before the Rockies nailed down the win.    
 

Rodney ready; Globetrotters surprise guests

The news of the day involved Fernando Rodney, the hard-throwing right-hander signed to a two-year, $11 million free-agent deal over the winter. Rodney, experiencing soreness in his shins, has been cleared to start throwing off the mound.

“Really good news,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

That means all the club’s pitchers are now able to get their work in as Scioscia begins to formulate plans for a variety of power arms aligned in the bullpen.

The entertainment news came in the form of the Harlem Globetrotters, who put on an exhibition of sorts for Angels players behind closed doors in their daily morning meeting.

The Trotters accepted an invitation by Torii Hunter, who plans to don a uniform when the world-famous outfit performs in the area on Friday night.

“Bobby Abreu is involved in the ownership of a Venezuean basketball team,” Scioscia said. “We said we’ve got some guys who want to try out for his team.”

And here came six Globetrotters to do their matchless magic act on the floor of the clubhouse, to the delight of 60 players, a group of coaches and executives and one beaming manager.

“It was great,” Scioscia said.

Napoli goes way, way deep

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s workout at Tempe Diablo Stadium, Angels manager Mike Scioscia held an impromptu hitting contest among his catchers.

With Scioscia serving up soft tosses, the receivers took their cuts. The prize for longest drive went, not surprisingly, to Mike Napoli when he unloaded a towering drive to left that bounced off a truck passing by on an access road beyond the trees at the back of an embankment.

“Nap killed it,” Scioscia said.

“He must not have gotten the memo,” Napoli said of the truck driver.

“Imagine what that guy was thinking,” Bobby Wilson said, “just driving by and then he hears something crash.”

Napoli, who said he hasn’t felt this good in the spring since his rookie year of 2006, is crushing balls in batting practice. Best buddy Jeff Mathis, meanwhile, is lashing line drives to all fields, hoping to maintain the stroke he carried through the postseason with five doubles among his seven hits in 12 at-bats.

Wilson also went deep against his manager, while Ryan Budde — arguably the team’s strongest individual — unloaded several bombs.

Scioscia routinely begins the day with a pre-game address that features a wide range of hilarious exchanges, usually involving young players asked to make unusual presentations. Roars can be heard outside the clubhouse on a daily basis, but the audience is sworn to secrecy.

What happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse.

   

 

Still waiting on Morales

The Kendry Morales watch continued on Monday as the Angels went through a workout under sunny skies following a dark, drizzly Sunday.

“Kendry was expected over the weekend,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We expect him any hour, any day. Hopefully, we’re going to see  him in camp in the next couple days.”

Morales is awaiting the stamp of approval from U.S. lmmigration on his green card, Scioscia has been told. In the meantime, the first baseman is said to be working out in Arizona.

Otherwise, things seem to be going swimmingly for the three-time reigning AL West champs. Hideki Matsui has fit in seamlessly, seated right next to lightning-rod Torii Hunter in the clubhouse, and Scioscia likes what he’s seen from his pitchers in bullpen sessions and batting-practice efforts.

“Our arms look good,” he said.

The Angels will have a 5 1/2-inning intrasquad game on Wednesday at Tempe Diablo Stadium to tune up for their Cactus League debut on Thursday at home against the White Sox at 3:05 p.m. MT. (2:05 p.m.). All other home games will be held at 1:05 p.m. MT, 12:05 p.m. PT.

Scioscia hasn’t decided on a starting pitcher for the spring opener. 

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