Results tagged ‘ Blue Jays ’

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 
 

Angels eyeing Manny, Vlad?

The Angels appear to be interested in both Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero as free agents, according to a report by Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes. Citing sources, Rojas reports that both players are closing in on free-agent deals. One source suggests Ramirez is likely to sign by the beginning of next week.

The Angels, Twins, Rangers, Rays and Blue Jays have shown some interest in Ramirez, but Minnesota is out after signing Jim Thome. The Angels, Rangers and Rays appear to be pursuing him most aggressively. Rojas hears that Ramirez is determined to redeem himself after a disappointing season and money is not his primary concern.

Guerrero, according to a source, believes the Orioles have the inside track on signing him, but the Angels are another possibility. – Lyle Spencer

If not Beltre, why not a reunion?

For argument’s sake, let’s say agent Scott Boras pulls another Jayson Werth out of his hat and convinces somebody – the Blue Jays, Orioles, Rangers — that Adrian Beltre is worth more than the $70 million across five seasons reportedly offered by the Angels.

Where does Team Moreno go from there? Is there a legitimate Plan B moving forward?

At the risk of once again alienating my growing anti-fan base, I have an idea that makes sense to me. Why not make a creative effort to bring back the 2009 Angels offense? You remember that attack, how it mauled opponents from top (Chone Figgins) to bottom (Erick Aybar) with speed and power. The amazing thing is that they continued to roll through the summer with their No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero, sidelined together for an extended period of time.

Figgins is now in Seattle, having endured a frustrating debut season with the Mariners, while Guerrero is a free agent after a blockbuster season in Texas, his big body healed after the multiple injury disruptions of ’09.

I could be wrong – it’s happened before – but it seems plausible that the Angels and Mariners could work out a mutually beneficial deal involving Figgins. It also is possible that Guerrero could be lured back to Anaheim with the two-year deal he is seeking that the Rangers don’t seem to have prepared for the man who made life much nicer for Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Co. with his presence.

With a need for power, Seattle could acquire power-hitting left fielder Juan Rivera and Alberto Callaspo, a versatile infielder, in exchange for the leadoff catalyst who was missed so badly by the Angels. Yes, Figgins is costly — $26 million guaranteed for three more years, with a vesting option for 2014. And there doubtless are some residual hard feelings that would need smoothed over in the Figgins camp over his exit in the afterglow of a career year in ’09. But couples reunite all the time, and if it serves to benefit everyone involved . . . why not?

If Figgins doesn’t reach 600 plate appearances in 2013, the $9 million vesting option for ’14 does not kick in. That’s a lot of at-bats; to get there, Figgy would have to remain healthy and productive.

Now, on to Guerrero. What would it take to bring him back? Perhaps something in thle $20 million range for two years. Given what he meant to the Angels, that doesn’t seem unreasonable. His return would quiet a lot of fans who are spewing invective these days.

Yes, Guerrero clearly benefitted from the comforts of Rangers Ballpark, and his second half wasn’t nearly as productive as the first. But a .300 batting average with 29 homers and 115 RBIs is a healthy season under any measure. During the American League Division Series against the Rays, Vlad told me his knees felt better than they have in four years, and it showed in the way he ran the bases.

Guerrero’s understated leadership qualities should not be overlooked. He had a lot to do with the emergence of Aybar, who clearly missed his big brother figure. It should be noted that Beltre, much like Guerrero, is a highly regarded clubhouse presence for his calm, easy manner and certainly is capable of filling that leadership role if he comes aboard.

A Beltre signing would be cause for celebration — even if it’s hardly a unanimous sentiment among disgruntled Angels followers who seemingly won’t be satisfied until the club reunites the 2002 offense or acquires Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer and Albert Pujols.

Beltre can play. Boston fans fell in love with him in 2010, but they realize that Adrian Gonzalez is younger with more upside and that Kevin Youkilis is now a third baseman. Otherwise, they’d be incensed in Beantown over Beltre’s departure after a brilliant season.

Much is made of Beltre’s perceived struggles in Seattle after his mammoth season with the Dodgers in 2004, but he didn’t perform that badly considering Safeco Field is notoriously rough on right-handed batters. Fewer home runs were hit there by righties (61) than in any park in 2010, and that’s a fairly consistent stat.

The Angels’ reported proposal for Beltre, at 32, seems more than reasonable. If it’s not enough, so be it. But landing Figgins and Guerrero for a total of five contract years at roughly $46 million – or six years and $55 million if the Figgins option vests – seems to be a viable alternative to five years and $70 million for Beltre.

I’m not saying it’s going to happen or even can happen. It’s just an innocent thought from someone who would like to see some much-needed holiday cheer extending into a new season. – Lyle Spencer

Izturis activated, Wood to DL

The Angels have activated infielder Maicer Izturis from the 15-day disabled list (right shoulder inflammation) and placed third baseman Brandon Wood on the 15-day DL retroactive to May 24 with a hip flexor strain.

The team also optioned reliever Bobby Cassevah to Triple-A Salt Lake and recalled from the same team right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez.

Izturis is batting .256 in 14 games and leads the team with a .500 average (6-for-12) with runners in scoring position. He is in Tuesday night’s lineup against the Blue Jays, batting eighth, with Reggie Willits in center field batting ninth, giving Torii Hunter a day off.

Wood is batting .156 in 122 at-bats with two homers and seven RBIs. – Lyle Spencer

 

 

The good, the bad . . .

In the afterglow of a 3-1 triumph and three-game weekend sweep of the Blue Jays . . .

 

THE GOOD

With two outs in the sixth, Erick Aybar still on second after a leadoff double, Hideki Matsui unloads on a Ricky Romero fastball and sends it rocketing one-hop off the center-field wall to snap a scoreless deadlock for Ervin Santana. Before the game, manager Mike Scioscia talked in some detail about how Japanese hitters spend hour after hour trying to gain a perfect balance at home plate. At times it appears Matsui is leaning back as he takes his swing, falling away, but he manages to keep his bat in the hitting zone and drive the ball. He did it again in the ninth, igniting what proved to be an important two-run rally. This is an amazing hitter, a man who thrives under pressure.

 

THE BAD

These sparse, disinterested Blue Jays crowds. I know it’s Stanley Cup time, and it’s cold, and the Jays haven’t been good for a long while, and they traded Roy Halladay. But this is not good. I’ve always defended Canadian baseball fans, and I truly miss Montreal, one of the world’s great cities. But the Jays aren’t that bad. These “Lyle” chants, zeroing in on the slumping first baseman, are not worthy of such an urbane city. The Jays drew for these three Angels dates what they once attracted for an average regular-season game. Sad.

 

THE BEAUTIFUL

Ervin Santana, when he’s on his game, is a tremendous pitcher. He was dealing with supreme confidence from the outset Sunday. Trouble surfaced twice in the early going, and both times he reached back and made quality pitches, leaving runners in scoring position. His fastball was sitting in the 91-93 mph range – not quite where it will be when he gets in a warm-weather groove – and his slider and changeup were dancing. He thought his change was his best pitch, and he should know. If he maintains his rhythm, flow and confidence, the Angels could have a rotation full of All-Star candidates after a rough first two spins through the cycle. - Lyle Spencer

 

The good, the bad . . .

TORONTO – While watching Joe Saunders duel fellow lefty Brian Tallent on a very cold Saturday in Canada . .

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THE GOOD

Howard Kendrick, in the No. 2 hole for the first time this season, powers the eighth pitch of the day by lefty Brian Tallet into the seats in left center for a 2-0 lead following Erick Aybar’s five-pitch walk. Kendrick used to hit behind Aybar in the Minors and will be a dream No. 2 hitter with experience. He drives the ball almost as hard to the opposite-field as one of his role models, Derek Jeter, who always offers encouragement when they share the same field — as they did for three days at Yankee Stadium.

THE BAD

Brandon Wood, a terrific young athlete trying maybe a little too desperately to find his way, finally takes his offensive struggles to the field with errors on consecutive plays. He misplays a hop on the carpet, creating one unearned run, then bounces a throw past first baseman Kendry Moralels for another unearned run. These are mistakes Wood does not make when he’s feeling in tune with the planet, but that isn’t the case at the moment.

THE UGLY


There’s something terribly unsettling about Rogers Centre these days. It’s like watching a horror film alone in an empty theatre on a dark afternoon – and hearing lonely voices screaming and hollering “Lyle!” in the distant reaches. They’re all over that other Lyle, Overbay, for his terrible start, and it can’t be doing the Blue Jays first baseman any good. I know it isn’t doing much for me.

 

THE BEAUTIFUL

“O Canada,” the civilized world’s most beautiful anthem, sung by anyone with a decent voice. I used to get chills coming to the old Montreal Forum and hearing the legendary Roger Doucet do his tenor version before Canadiens games. There was something majestic about that voice and that song, unlike anything I’ve heard since. — Lyle Spencer  

The good, the bad . . .

In the afterglow of the Angels’ 7-5 decision over the Blue Jays in the wonderfully flavorful international city of Toronto . . .

THE GOOD

The offense comes alive with lightning (steals by Jeff Mathis, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter), thunder (towering homer to right-center by Kendry Morales) and artistic merit (opposite-field, two-out RBI strokes by Abreu and Hunter back-to-back; two-out run-producing hits by Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis that proved decisive). These are the Angels you came to know and love last summer. Let’s see if it lasts a while.

THE BAD

Two pitches in bad places, a fastball by Jered Weaver up in Vernon Wells’ wheelhouse leading off the second inning, and a curve by reliever Jason Bulger that Adam Lind lost in the right-field bleachers in the eighth.

THE UGLY

Artificial turf. Yes, it’s functional, in a twisted sort of way, and it’s nice that they can shut the roof and play when it’s stormy and freezing outside. But I’m sorry, I never could stand the stuff, from the moment I first saw it at the Astrodome so many years ago, and I still can’t take the fake grass after all these years. It’s sinful what it did to Andre Dawson and Eric Davis, to name two of many.

THE BEAUTIFUL

Everything Weaver did through besides unleashing two fastballs in the wrong places to Wells and Randy Ruiz in the eighth. The big kid who used to follow John Lackey around is becoming The Man before our very eyes, with the look, stuff and attitude of an ace. It’s a beautiful thing indeed if you’re an Angels fan.

A strong contender was Mathis’ athletic play in pouncing on a ball that skipped away from the batter’s box and erasing Lind trying to move up to third in the seventh inning. Very few catchers make that play. Mathis is an elite class defensively, and his eight-game hitting streak is starting to suggest that his postseason offensive eruption was no fluke. — Lyle Spencer

 

Napoli, Mathis laugh off critics

It’s a good thing Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis have a highly evolved relationship – and matching senses of humor, also fully developed.

They share and share alike, the way best friends are supposed to act.

The Angels co-catchers are fully aware of the friction generated by the fact that only one of them can play at a time, given that the designated-hitter role belongs to Vladimir Guerrero.

Most of the anger and resentment from fans come when Napoli and his booming bat are on the bench alongside manager Mike Scioscia, who values Mathis’ athleticism and game-calling ability more highly than fans fixated on raw numbers.

For the record, the Angels are 38-26 when Napoli catches, 36-21 when Mathis calls the shots. The club is 11-5 when Napoli is the DH.

Before Sunday’s series finale at Rogers Centre, Napoli getting the call against southpaw Ricky Romero, the two catchers were having some laughs when the subject of the perceived competition between the two was dropped in their laps by your faithful correspondent.

“I know a lot of people want Mike in there,” Mathis said. “I understand why.”

Fans – not just chicks – dig the long ball. Napoli, after a three-run ninth-inning bomb on Friday night, has produced 17 homers and 48 RBIs in 306 at-bats, about a half-season worth. Mathis has five homers and 26 RBIs in 179 at-bats.

No catcher in history has produced homers per at-bat at a greater rate than Napoli.

Napoli is hitting .297, Mathis .212 – despite an August surge during which he has hit .294. All five of his homers have come in his past 29 games.

“If you want fans to like you more,” Napoli said in that familiar banter that goes on between the two best buddies, “hit better than .212.”

“I’m trying, I’m trying,” Mathis replied, grinning.

The most important aspect of their relationship is the mutual respect. They’re constantly sharing information, offering advice and encouragement, a team within a team.

Napoli admires Mathis’ remarkable athleticism and defensive skills and is keenly aware that the staff ERA shrinks by almost a run when his buddy dons the catching gear.

Mathis is in awe of Napoli’s hitting skills and plate discipline, which are on a level with most of the game’s premier sluggers.

They’ve been roommates for years now. Fans readily take sides, most of them drawn to Napoli’s loud bat, but nothing will drive these two guys apart.

The Angels are lucky to have two premium receivers — even if fans don’t realize it. A third, Bobby Wilson, has Major League skills at Triple-A Salt Lake, and Hank Conger and others are making progress throughout the organization.

Scioscia always says you can’t have enough good pitching, but he obviously feels the same way about guys who ply the trade he handled so well for so long.

 

 

Hunter sits as Scioscia lobbies for Figgins, Aybar

 

Torii Hunter, gradually regaining strength in the area of his right adductor muscle, was not in the Angels’ lineup for Thursday night’s series finale against the Indians at Progressive Field, with Gary Matthews Jr. in center field.

Hunter also will take a day off in Toronto, where the Angels engage the Blue Jays in a three-game weekend series on the artificial surface at the Rogers Centre. Look for Hunter to be back in the No. 3 spot in the order in Toronto, between Bobby Abreu and Vladimir Guerrero.

“I’m good,” Hunter said, on his way to take batting practice in the inside cages. “They’re being careful with me, and even though I never want to come out, I understand.”

While the eight-time Rawlings Gold Glove winner rested, manager Mike Scioscia was joining the campaign for Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar, promoting the Gold Glove candidacies of his left-side infielders. Figgins at third and Aybar at shortstop have been brilliant and steady all season.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Scioscia said of Figgins’ worthiness of Gold Glove consideration. “There’s not a third baseman in our league playing at a higher level.”
Asked if the same view applied to Aybar, Scioscia nodded.

“Erick makes very tough plays look manageable, routine, with his arm strength,” Scioscia said. “There’s no shortstop who makes the 4-6 double play turn better than Erick, nobody.”

Scioscia had to reach deep in his memory bank to find names when he was asked if anybody else could have made the play Aybar delivered in Baltimore, robbing fleet Brian Roberts of a hit from deep in the hole with a leaping bullet to first.

Ozzie Smith, Garry Templeton and Shawon Dunston were shortstops of the past who crossed Scioscia’s mind as having the arm strength and athleticism to make a play like that . . . but “nobody” in today’s game.

Figgins, drafted as a shortstop by Colorado, has started at six positions in the Majors, finally settling in at third base in 2007 on a full-time basis.

“It feels good to get some recognition for what I’m doing defensively,” Figgins said. “It took a while before I really thought of myself as a third baseman, but that’s what I am now. I’d be flattered to be considered for that [Gold Glove]. Growing up, my man was Ozzie [Smith], and I’d love to get one.”
The Wizard of Oz won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves for the Cardinals. The two-time reigning Gold Glove third baseman in the American League, Seattle’s Adrian Beltre, has missed 39 games this season.

Aybar’s model at shortstop as a kid was the Dodgers’ Rafael Furcal, the player he most resembles. Michael Young, last year’s Gold Glove shortstop in the AL, was moved to third base this year by Texas to accommodate the arrival of Elvis Andrus.

Young succeeded Orlando Cabrera, who claimed the 2007 Gold Glove in an Angels uniform, with Aybar as his understudy.

Angels release Speier

Justin Speier, the Angels’ veteran right-handed reliever, has been handed his unconditional release to make room on the 25-man roster for Trevor Bell, the 22-year-old right-hander who makes his Major League debut on Wednesday against the Rays.

Speier, signed to a free agent contract with the Angels after the 2006 season, was 4-2 with a 5.18 ERA this season in 41 appearances. He pitched 40 innings, yielding 44 hits and 15 walks while striking out 39 batters. Opponents had a .277 batting average against him.

“It probably caught him off guard,” Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. “It’s emotional. There was nothing but professionalism in the way he took it on short notice. He has sincere passion for this organization, and the feelings are mutual.

“You always hope a player continues his career and gets an opportunity. We know he wants to continue to pitch. He’s going to take a breather.”

Speier, 35, is the son of long-time Major League shortstop Chris Speier, now a coach on manager Dusty Baker’s staff in Cincinnati.

Speier began his Major League career in 1998 after he was taken in the 55th round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft by the Cubs. He pitched for the Marlins, Braves, Indians, Rockies and Blue Jays before joining the Angels.

He’s 35-33 in his career in 613 Major League appearances. 

“We felt from a baseball standpoint this decision at this time was the right decision to make,” Reagins said. “It’s something we’ve talked about for several days. It’s always a difficult decision when you have to go this route.

“From a baseball standpoint, it was something we felt that had to be done to allow us to do some other things.”

Bell gives the Angels two rookie starting pitchers, joining Sean O’Sullivan, with Joe Saunders on the disabled list. Middle relievers Matt Palmer and Shane Loux also are candidates to join the rotation, having had some success in that role. 

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