Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Roster squeeze not so tight after all

TEMPE, Ariz. – If the Angels open the season with Joel Pineiro joining Kendrys Morales, Scott Downs and Reggie Willits on a crowded disabled list, they won’t have as many difficult roster decisions to make as originally projected.

There will be room for Brandon Wood and Mark Trumbo, for Chris Pettit and Hank Conger, for Rich Thompson and Jason Bulger. All had been considered possible Opening Day discards.

Thompson, Bulger, Wood and Bobby Wilson are all out of Minor League options and must be on the 25-man roster or disabled list to avoid being subjected to waivers.

With three off days surrounding the first 12 games of the season, the club can get by with four starting pitchers. This gives Pineiro the opportunity to fully recover from a muscle issue in his back by recovering at his own speed in camp.

Willits has been slowed by a left calf strain, clearing the way for Pettit to show he’s capable of being a quality backup outfielder with his slashing hitting style.

Wood’s has the ability to play three infield positions well and bring the threat of thunder off the bench along with depth at third with Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo.

Trumbo will open at first base in Morales’ absence. Coverage there will come from Howard Kendrick, Wood and Wilson, who figures to open as Jeff Mathis’ backup behind the plate.

Thompson and Bulger provide middle relief support in the early going. When Downs returns, his left big toe mended, and a decision will have to be made, assuming Pineiro already has returned to the rotation.

If Conger is dispatched to Triple-A Salt Lake, it will be with the specific purpose of keeping him sharp catching regularly. He has the ability to be a switch-hitting weapon off the bench, but that doesn’t come into play in the American League as much in the National League.

Sure-handed shortstop Andrew Romine is a candidate to break camp with the club if Conger is sent to Salt Lake.

Reliever Kevin Jepsen, who felt tightness in his left hip while warming up on a cold, rainy Monday in Tempe, was feeling better on Wednesday and expects to be back in game conditions as early as Thursday. – Lyle Spencer

Make it Kendrys Morales

On further review, make it Kendrys Morales.

Known as Kendry Morales since signing with the Angels as a Cuban exile in 2004, Morales has let it be known that his given name is actually Kendrys. That is how it appears in the Angels’ press guide, and that’s what he prefers to be called.

His full name is Kendrys Morales Rodriguez.

Morales, fifth in the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player balloting, is rebounding from surgery on his lower left leg and hopes to be ready by Opening Day on March 31 in Kansas City. He has been hitting regularly and taking fielding practice but has not yet run full speed.

He fractured the leg on May 29 leaping on home plate after a game-winning grand slam against the Mariners at Angel Stadium. – Lyle Spencer

Garret: pure class, to the end

Garret Anderson’s retirement has inspired some moving, perceptive tributes from folks on this site, and that is very nice to see.

Too often, it seemed the public paid not nearly enough attention to what this remarkable yet undervalued athlete was doing.

When I came to cover the Angels for MLB.com in 2007, one of the items at the top of my priority list was to get to know the superb left fielder who’d spent most of his career in the shadows, for reasons that escaped me entirely.

It was the first road trip of the season, and we were rerouted to Milwaukee by a snowstorm that had buried Cleveland. I asked if he could set aside some time before a game there for a talk, and he said, “Sure. Get here a little early tomorrow and we’ll get to know each other.”

I arrived on time, for a change, and settled into an unoccupied locker next to his. He sat down, leaned back and we talked . . . and talked . . . and talked.

About an hour later, I walked away thinking this was one of the brightest, most intuitive, most interesting athletes I’d met in a long time.

And I had no idea, still, why he’d remained such a mystery man to the public all those years.

As the days and weeks past, I came to develop an appreciation of Anderson and an understanding of his low profile in spite of all his career accomplishments. It was his choice. He had no interest in being a public figure.

What he cared about was being a solid professional and a good dad and husband. Everything else was secondary.

If it wasn’t important to him to have people know him, applaud him, understand him, there was nothing wrong in that. Unfortunately, there was an assumption that he didn’t care enough, because he didn’t play the game like Pete Rose.

This is not uncommon among graceful, smooth, relaxed athletes. It was one of the reasons why Hank Aaron never gained the acclaim of Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. Aaron was too cool, too relaxed. He made it look too easy.

A great player in his prime and a very good one the rest of the time, Garret Anderson was like that.

So was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an athlete I’d spent time with years ago.

There was an inner calm and confidence in the Garret Anderson I came to know, and it was that Garret Anderson who gracefully, in his fashion, announced his retirement on Tuesday.

I spent many hours in his company in clubhouses across America over two seasons, killing time, telling stories. Most of our conversations drifted toward the NBA, a shared passion. He was a superb all-around athlete, recruited by Division I schools to play basketball out of Kennedy High School in the San Fernando Valley, but he chose baseball and the Angels. Smart guy, Garret.

He loved to hear tales about the “Showtime” Lakers of the ’80s, a team I traveled with and wrote about for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. He couldn’t hear enough about Magic and Kareem, Big Game James and McAdoo, Coop and Nixon and Byron and the rest.

It occurred to me during our conversations how similar Garret was to Kareem: bright and inquisitive yet introverted. Intimidating to some, because he seemed inaccessible, Anderson never was interested in self-promotion yet always was interested in subjects beyond the scope of his professional life.

He was, and is, a healthy, happy person, a man who laughs easily and often, in private, and loves his family. Now they have him full time, and that’s clearly the way he wants it. – Lyle Spencer

 

 
  

Trumbo in mix for playing time

TEMPE, Ariz. – Young slugger Mark Trumbo could thrust himself into the picture for the Angels with a strong spring, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said on Sunday in his daily session with the media.

“Mark’s got an opportunity to win a lot of playing time,” Scioscia said. “We’re going to get him acclimated to first base to begin with and get him some work in the outfield.”

A pitcher and all-around athlete when he was drafted in 2004 out of Villa Park High School, about 15 minutes from Angel Stadium, Trumbo has been primarily a first baseman in six Minor League seasons.

He has played some corner outfield the past two seasons but was not given any starts there in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he put up more big numbers after leading Minor League baseball with his 36 homers for Triple-A Salt Lake last year. A number of fans would like to see the Angels give him a look at third base.

“They tried him as a third baseman [after he signed], and we’ve talked about revisiting it,” Scioscia said. “He’s still a work in progress at first base. His tool set lends itself to the outfield.”

Trumbo, who goes 6-foot-4 and about 220 pounds, gets great leverage and drives the ball with tremendous power. His ongoing challenge involves pitch recognition and not putting himself in bad counts. He launched mammoth shots in the Pacific Coast League that his Bees teammates are still talking about.

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Scioscia’s daily Kendry Morales report after an impressive hitting exhibition on Saturday: “There’s some work he needs to do. From the offensive side, that’s the least of his concerns. His first round of fielding drills was very encouraging. From the offensive side, I don’t think there’s any question he could swing the bat on Opening Day. Whether [or not] he can get through Spring Training with flying colors, there are definitely going to be some DH days for him to get a little different look.”

Scioscia’s daily Scott Kazmir report: “We’re seeing him throw the ball with better velocity and less effort, which should theoretically help his command. We’re seeing arm speed creating better spin on his slider. His changeup is a really good pitch. It’s early, but he never threw the ball last spring as well as he is now.”

Scioscia on Maicer Izturis’ durability issues: “He played 114 games two years ago and probably could have played 130. This guy works out as hard as anybody in the clubhouse. He’s experimented with trying to back off, with different routines. He’s had a little issue with durability. If we get anywhere from 90 to 110 games from him, we’re going to be very happy. If we get more, we’ve got to consider it a bonus.”

Scioscia on Mike Trout’s ETA with the Angels: “This guy’s as far advanced as anybody the past few generations we’ve seen. He’s got a great head. We’re excited to see him as a player, but we’re not expecting him to run routes in center like Torii Hunter did or run the bases like Chone Figgins did. There’s growth he needs before he’s a Major League baseball player. This guy’s got a plan every day. This guy’s going to be a very good player very soon. What his numbers are going to be in 10 years, nobody knows.”

 

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The second full day of workouts on Sunday was cut short by heavy rains that cleared the fields soon after the players had gone out to work. Brandon Wood began to swing on soft toss for the first time after experiencing some back stiffness.

 

The following Angels games will be broadcast over MLB Network this spring: Feb. 27, at Dodgers, noon PT; March 1, Reds, noon; March 3, Royals, 6 p.m.; March 4, White Sox, noon; March 6, Diamondbacks, 4 p.m.; March 8, Rangers, 8 p.m.; March 21, Cubs, 1 p.m. –Lyle Spencer

 

Wells feels for Young

TEMPE, Ariz. – Vernon Wells and Michael Young have been buddies for 14 years. Wells, whose winter has gone more smoothly than Young’s, feels for his pal as his stalemate with the Rangers continues.

“We got drafted in ’97 by the Blue Jays and hit it off immediately,” Wells said. “He got traded to my hometown [Arlington, and the Rangers], and I got traded here {near Young’s home in the Los Angeles area]. I would love to have him, put it that way.”

Wells had been asked if he’d like to see the Angels deal for the All-Star third baseman now that he has become a man without a position for the Rangers. The big snag is the $16 million per year owed Young for the next three seasons.

“I dealt with it in a completely different way – in-house,” Wells said, referring to his trade to the Angels by the Blue Jays. “He is having to deal with it publicly. It’s been handled poorly on their [Rangers] end. It’s not just this offseason. It started a couple years ago. It gives me even greater respect for Alex [Anthopoulos, Toronto's GM].”

 

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Brandon Wood was upbeat and looking strong and fit as he checked into camp on Friday in preparation for Saturday’s first full team workout at Tempe Diablo Stadium – weather permitting.

“I worked out all winter at the same place I’ve been working at since I was 15,” said Wood, a first-round pick in 2003 out of Horizon High School in nearby Scottsdale. Hoping to erase the memory of a disappointing 2010 season, Wood will be bidding to capture the third base job in competition with Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo.

Wood tied the knot with the former Lindsey Stratton on Dec. 4. They’ve known each other since February 2006. “It was a great winter,” said Wood, who recaptured his swing in the Arizona Fall League with a strong performance. “Now I’m looking forward to a good spring. One step at a time.” – Lyle Spencer 
 

Butcher back in his element

TEMPE, Ariz. – Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher, recuperating from surgery for the removal of a cancerous nodule in his thyroid gland, was back with his guys, back on the job, on Wednesday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Butcher missed the first two days of camp as he was regaining strength following the surgical procedure on Thursday. He was studying deliveries and release points and offering suggestions, as always, as his pitchers began getting a feel for things.

“He’s still coordinating everything,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s feeling stronger. He’s staying in tune with where guys are.”

The team had been sending Butcher, entering his fifth season as the director of the staff, video of bullpen sessions for him to study from his home in nearby Chandler during his recovery.

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One of the biggest challenges for Scioscia and Butcher will be sorting through a dozen legitimate candidates for six or seven bullpen roles. What they don’t want is for borderline candidates to try to do too much too soon in order to make an impression.

“It’s always something in the spring you’re going to worry about,” Scioscia said. “When a guy pitches in the spring, he has to cover hurdles. If a guy’s stiff or struggling with 12-minute bullpens, you’re not going to pitch him in a game. You’re not going to put a guy out there when he’s not ready to pitch.

“Right now, it looks like 12 [pitchers total]. If guys have length, it might be 11. That depth chart is going to be real.”

Fernando Rodney, Kevin Jepsen, Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi would seem to be locks, leaving Jason Bulger, Matt Palmer, Trevor Bell, Michael Kohn, Jordan Walden, Rich Thompson, Francisco Rodriguez and Bobby Cassevah in competition for the remaining three spots.

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Howard Kendrick is a proud papa again. Kendrick, with son Owen in tow, arrived with the news that wife Jody presented him with a second son, Tyson, on Feb. 10. “Everybody is doing great,” Kendrick said. “I’m a lucky guy.” . . . Scioscia on Scott Kazmir’s early progress: “He looks good, nice and easy. What is impressive was his easy delivery and the ball was jumping out of his hand – which is what we saw in ’09.” The goal is to get Kazmir back to his smooth, relaxed delivery, rather than forcing it with max effort that disrupts his command. – Lyle Spencer

Butcher misses first workout

Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher was not on hand on Monday as the team opened Spring Training at Tempe Diablo Stadium in perfect weather. Butcher is recovering from surgery performed on Thursday for the removal of a cancerous nodule on his thyroid gland.

Manager Mike Scioscia said roving pitching coordinator Kernan Ronan and Triple-A Salt Lake pitching coach Erik Bennett would handle Butcher’s duties until he’s able to return.

Butcher laid out the groundwork for the spring during a meeting of the staff on Sunday morning.

“Butch did a lot of work with me over the winter,” Angels pitcher Matt Palmer said. “He was typical Butch, in a great mood, full of energy. I didn’t know anything was wrong with him until I went home after working out [Sunday] and got on the Internet. I was shocked.”

Butcher, a resident of Chandler, Ariz., also spent time over the winter working with Scott Kazmir, Jason Bulger and Kevin Jepsen.

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Scioscia’s early-morning comments on Monday made it clear his preference is to have Maicer Izturis play at least 100 games, primarily at third base, and lead off, with Peter Bourjos holding down the center field job between Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter.

“Maicer is a guy who a couple years ago played [114] games,” Scioscia said. “It’s feasible for him to play in that range. I don’t know if he’s a 162-game guy, but hopefully we get him in enough games to take the pressure off other guys to be in that leadoff position. When he’s in the lineup, he’s going to lead off. If you project Izturis and [Bobby] Abreu 1-2, you’re going to have as good a 1-2 as you’re going to see.”

Izturis’ absence was felt last year when injuries limited him to 61 games and 221 at-bats. He was one of the club’s most versatile weapons in 2009 and is an exceptional clutch hitter.

As for Bourjos, who made a series of highlight-reel plays in his two months with the club last year, Scioscia said: “When we had Peter Bourjos in center and Torii Hunter in right field, our pitching staff pitched at an incredible level. That wasn’t a coincidence.”

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Scioscia on new lefty Hisanori Takahashi, who excelled for the Mets in a variety of roles in his debut 2010 Major League season after working as a starter in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants: “He’s a pitcher who’s going to be lengthened out for Spring Training. He has the versatility for multiple innings and is on the depth chart as a starter. He’s way ahead of where a lot of pitchers might be. He’s [throwing] off the mound, throwing all four pitches. He hasn’t expressed any preference to [GM] Tony [Reagins], Butch or me. He was a starter in Japan. His value is his versatility.”

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All hands on deck. There were no absences on the first day of camp. – Lyle Spencer

 

A few words about Vlad, Young

Judging by comments I’m receiving from readers, I should apologize for writing a story about Vernon Wells — tying his football past into the Super Bowl in his hometown — rather than commenting on something that didn’t happen (the return of Vladimir Guerrero to the Angels) or something that in all likelihood won’t happen (a deal for Michael Young).

I won’t apologize for doing my job, but I will comment on Guerrero and Young.

As for Vlad, one of the best guys I’ve ever covered, when the Wells deal was made, any chance of the great slugger coming back to Anaheim effectively disappeared. There’s no way Guerrero was going to agree to come back and share the DH and swing outfielder role with Bobby Abreu. That’s what would have awaited him in Anaheim.

The Angels are committed to giving Peter Bourjos every shot at center field, and that is wise. His sensational defense will save dozens of runs over the course of the season. With Bourjos flanked by Wells and Torii Hunter, the Angels have a potentially great outfield – two wise veterans with Gold Glove histories guiding and tutoring a rising young star with the ability to be the premier defensive centerfielder in the game.

That leaves Abreu, a necessary component to the offense with his ability to get on base and drive in runs, as the primary DH. The only way Vlad could have come to the Angels in a meaningful role was to return Bourjos to Triple-A Salt Lake and play Hunter or Wells in center, with Abreu at a corner and Guerrero the DH.

At a cost of roughly $8 million, bringing the payroll to about $150 million, that would have improved the offense. But the defense would have slipped significantly — and one of the most exciting young talents in the game (Bourjos) would have been toiling again in the Pacific Coast League.

As for the highly respected Young, the three years and $48 million left on his contract realistically make him difficult to move. The Rangers would have to eat a chunk of that salary or accept a big salary in exchange.

At $16 million a year, Young would be an upgrade at third base for the Angels, obviously, but the truth is, this isn’t Mike Schmidt or Evan Longoria or Ryan Zimmerman. Young is a good player and a great leader. Maicer Izturis is also a good player. If he makes five starts a week to remain healthy, backed by Alberto Callaspo and Brandon Wood, it’s not going to cost the Angels a division title. If Wood relaxes and claims the job, performing to his talent level, the Angels will be in fine shape at third base.

From Texas’ end, unloading your unquestioned clubhouse leader by kicking in millions of dollars makes little or no sense – especially if it would mean improving the club you’ve spent five of the past seven seasons chasing. Young figures to emerge as the first baseman in Texas or the primary DH and all-purpose role player. In either case, he remains a vital part of their attack in the No. 2 spot in manager Ron Washington’s lineup.

Unless he has become extremely unhappy with the turn of events in Texas, starting with losing his third base job to Adrian Beltre, and wants out, Young should adapt yet again to another new role and continue to be a productive player — and hero to young kids in Texas. That’s really the way it should be, if you can look at it objectively. – Lyle Spencer     

Trout leads 25 non-roster invitees

Outfielder Mike Trout, the No. 1 prospect in the Major Leagues according to a survey of industry executives and scouts by MLB.com, heads a list of 25 non-roster invitees to big-league camp in Spring Training at Tempe, Ariz. Angels general manager Tony Reagins made the announcement.

The list includes nine pitchers, five catchers, seven infielders and four outfielders.

“This is a great opportunity for our young prospects to get a feel for what we do in the spring, our philosophies about how to play the game the right way,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’s been invaluable to our young players through the years.”

The pitchers are right-handers Ryan Brasier, Ryan Braun, Ryan Chaffee, Tyler Chatwood, Eric Junge, Garrett Richards and southpaws Matt Meyer, Trevor Reckling and Andrew Taylor.

Catchers Anel de los Santos, Jose Jimenez, Carlos Ramirez, Kevin Richardson and Alberto Rosario will enroll in Camp Scioscia. Infielders Alexi Amarista, Gabe Jacobo, Kevin Melillo, Efren Navarro, Darwin Perez, Jean Segura and Gil Velasquez and outfielders Trout, Tyson Auer, Angel Castillo and Travis Witherspoon round out the group of 25 invitees with dreams of reaching The Show. – Lyle Spencer

 

 

Angels, Weaver talking extension

Angels owner Arte Moreno, meeting with reporters on Wednesday during Vernon Wells’ introduction to media and fans, said that contract extensions talks have begun with Jered Weaver’s camp, headed by Scott Boras.

Weaver, an All-Star for the first time in 2010 while leading the Majors in strikeouts, has requested $8.8 million in salary arbitration, with the Angels offering $7.3 million. If they can’t come to an agreement, it goes to arbitration for a settlement.

Weaver won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season. – Lyle Spencer

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