August 2010

Walden summoned, Izturis to DL

MINNEAPOLIS – With infielder Maicer Izturis making his third trip of the season to the disabled list, this time with inflammation in the right shoulder region, the Angels have selected the contract of right-handed reliever Jordan Walden from Triple-A Salt Lake.

 

Walden, the club said, would be available in the bullpen for Sunday night’s series finale against the Twins at Target Field.

 

Walden, 22, hails from Fort Worth, Tex., and was considered the Angels’ premier pitching prospect before injuries delayed his progress.
 
Equipped with a hard, heavy fastball that can reach the high 90s on radar readings, Walden began the season at Double-A Arkansas, where he was 1-1 with a 3.35 ERA in 38 games, throwing 43 1/3 innings.

 

Promoted to Salt Lake, the 6-foot-5 athlete made six appearances with a 4.05 ERA in 6 2/3 innings, giving up five baserunners while striking out six hitters.

 

Izturis jammed the shoulder diving for a ball in Boston on Thursday night and reported that he felt some soreness in the lower area of the shoulder while taking batting practice on Friday at Target Field.

 

He expressed confidence that it was “nothing serious,” adding that he thought he would be able to play on Saturday.

 

But the pain persisted, and the Angels decided their versatile infielder needed to return to the DL.

 

He made his first visit there on May 6 with right shoulder inflammation – in a different location than the current injury – and missed 18 games. His second trip to the DL came on June 16 with a strained left forearm that caused him to miss 27 games.

 

Izturis is in the first year of a three-year, $10 million contract he signed over the winter.

 

He’s batting .245 with three homers and 25 RBIs in 56 games, committing only two errors in 53 games combined at third base, shortstop and second base.

 

Izturis is a .323 lifetime hitter with runners in scoring position and is batting .294 this season in those situations.

 

Izturis’ absence could create more playing time for Brandon Wood on the left side of the infield and also at first base. — Lyle Spencer

Don’t turn off the lights just yet

MINNEAPOLIS – Angels fans are bailing left and right. I hear it every day in emails. They can’t take it anymore. They can’t watch. They can’t even listen to the games. It’s too frustrating, too distressing.

This is what happens when a team goes from really good to so-so virtually overnight. You want to know, you demand to know, if this is a temporary blip or a preview of dark times ahead, a return to the dead-ball era in Anaheim.

I’m no prophet, but I’ll take the blip route until I see or feel something that leads me to believe the organization is in the freefall imagined by so many doomsayers.

What makes this season so difficult – no, impossible – to accurate gauge is the loss of Kendry Morales. This man was the centerpiece of the offense, fifth in the American League MVP balloting last season. His loss has had an impact on the entire lineup, to say nothing of the attitude in the clubhouse.

The Angels had three players they couldn’t afford to lose – Torii Hunter, Jered Weaver and Morales – and they lost one of them. They simply haven’t been the same with seven different bodies trying to fill the Morales void at first.

Would Morales’ presence – he had developed into a quality defender at first — have been enough to make up the difference between the Rangers and the Angels? Hard to say. But I think it’s fair to say they’d be much closer than they are to Texas – maybe three, four games off the lead. And well within striking distance.

The Angels players and staff know this, but they can’t talk about it. It would sound defeatist, and that’s the last thing you want with so much season left on the schedule. But it’s the truth, and sometimes the truth needs to be expressed.

As for the future, if I’m an Angels fan – my job description doesn’t allow for that – I’d be excited. Peter Bourjos is on his way to being one of the game’s most exciting players, and Mike Trout is coming right behind Bourjos: incredibly swift, developing power with the confident bearing of a young Pete Rose at age 19.

Bourjos has pretty much owned Target Field today with speed, power, arm, instincts. On his first Major League homer, a laser into the left-field seats against Kevin Slowey, Bourjos was at first base when the line drive hit the seats. That was amazing to see. On his triple to right center? Simply flying.

All those fans — you know who you are — who were ready to quit on Bourjos after 20 at-bats, as they did Brandon Wood, don’t understand that nobody conquers this game instantly. Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, arguably the two greatest athletes to play the game, wanted to go home after failing in their first months in the bigs.

Bourjos and Trout in the outfield someday with Torii Hunter as the veteran anchor is a vision thrilling to ponder.

Eddie Bane and his scouting staff have had two consecutive intriguing drafts. If the kids from the 2010 Draft group – headed by position players Kaleb Cowart, Chevez Clarke, Taylor Lindsey and Ryan Bolden and pitcher Cam Bedrosian – show as well as the ’09 crop, the Angels are in the process of restocking their system with premium talent.

It’s easy to get depressed and negative, turn off the lights. But if you leave them on and give it a chance, you just might have some fun at the party.  – Lyle Spencer

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