Results tagged ‘ Bobby Abreu ’

Back stiffness grounds Izturis

TEMPE, Ariz. — Angels infielder Maicer Izturis left Saturday’s game against the Giants at Tempe Diablo Stadium with stiffness in his back during his only at-bat, grounding into a double play in the second inning.

“He felt a little stiffness in his back, mid-back, on one of his swings,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said following a 4-3 victory. “He’s fine. It was a precaution. I don’t think it’s going to be more than a couple days. He might feel good tomorrow. He might be ready when we have our split-squad [games on Monday].”

Izturis, who signed a three-year, $10 million deal this winter, is having a strong spring, hitting .351 in 37 at-bats. He provides quality support at third base, shortstop and second base, where he was stationed on Saturday with Howard Kendrick getting a day off.

Angels starter Joe Saunders “felt good, real good” about his 4 1/3 innings, yielding three earned runs on seven hits and three walks. He struck out six men, including three in a row after loading the bases with singles in the fourth.

“When the heat’s on like that,” Saunders said, “you can treat it like a Spring Training game or say, `Hey, let’s get out of this and minimize damage.’ I tried to get ahead of guys and threw a little bit of everything.

“In the fifth, I fell behind a couple guys and threw a two-seamer to [Bengie] Molina. He got extended and dropped the barrel on it. I fell behind 1-0 and had to come with a strike. He’s a good hitter.”

Molina rocketed a three-run double after two walks and a single to give the Giants the lead, but the Angels rallied for two in the sixth against Barry Zito. Erick Aybar, who has reached base safely eight of his past 12 plate appearances, walked and scored on Torii Hunter’s double, Hunter scoring on Hideki Matsui’s RBI single. Aybar had singled in front of Bobby Abreu’s homer in the third to right center, Abreu’s second of the spring.

Scioscia liked the offensive continuity and Saunders’ work – until he lost command in the fifth. The lefty went to the bullpen to finish his work.

There were several positive developments with the pitching staff. Scott Kazmir, saying he was “completely over” left shoulder stiffness that took him out of his most recent start, threw a 60-pitch power bullpen and is set to go on Tuesday against the Brewers in Tempe.

The bullpen excelled after Saunders’ departure, starting with young right-hander Bobby Cassevah. He induced a double-play grounder to end the fifth and worked a perfect sixth. Kevin Jepsen, Scot Shields (working his second day in a row) and Fernando Rodney each delivered scoreless innings, Rodney closing it out by striking out two of the three men he faced in the ninth. – Lyle Spencer

 

 

Matsui gets a look in left

GLENDALE, Ariz. — In a Cactus League game at Camelback Ranch against the Dodgers, the Angels’ Hideki Matsui gets his first start in the outfield today since June 15, 2008 when he plays left and bats fourth.

Hindered by knee problems, Matsui did not play at all in the outfield for the Yankees last season, limiting him to designated-hitter duties only. He took full advantage of his three DH appearances in the World Series to claim the Series MVP award for his bashing of the Phillies for the Bronx Bombers.

“He could play in Fenway Park or anywhere,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said when asked why he chose to play Matsui in the outfield in an unfamiliar park. “He needs to get his prep steps, how he feels during games and – even more important – the next day.

“If you’re going to play a full game, you’re talking about 150 prep steps if the pitchers throw 150 pitches. Not that he’s going to play a full game – I imagine it’ll be somewhere around four innings.”

Matsui has been making gradual progress in outfield drills, strengthening his knees while reacquainting himself with the terrain.

“There’s a team element in defense that needs to get pushed forward,” Scioscia said, alluding to the coordination Matsui and center fielder Torii Hunter need to develop. “With Matsui, it’s understanding range with Torii, where he needs to go. It’ll just take a little time for Hideki to get their range down.”

Signed to a one-year, $6 million free agent deal, Matsui expressed a desire to be given a chance to return to the outfield at least on a part-time basis.

The Angels’ plan is to give him a few starts in left a week, if possible, to provide DH opportunities for the other outfielders: Hunter, Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu, along with Kendry Morales and Mike Napoli on occasion.

After missing a week and a half with a strain in his right elbow, shortstop Erick Aybar returned to the lineup on Monday against the Dodgers, leading off.

Scioscia said he did not play Brandon Wood on Sunday against the Mariners at home because he wanted his third baseman to sharpen his coordination with Aybar in a camp game.

“Left side defense is as important as anything you’re going to do,” Scioscia said. “The third baseman has to cover the hole. With Wood and Aybar, we worked on it yesterday. We also had Morales and [Howard] Kendrick on the right side stay back one day to work on it.”

This is the closest Scioscia has come to having his projected lineup together. Jeff Mathis was a last-minute insertion as DH when the Dodgers – using a split squad with a second game against the Brewers — notified the Angels they were freeing up the DH role.

With Matsui in left and Mathis occupying the DH spot, Juan Rivera was the only name missing from the lineup that is expected to be on the field when the Angels open the season on April 5 at home against Minnesota.

Freeing up the DH allowed Scioscia to switch back to Joe Saunders as his starter after deciding he’d go with Matt Palmer under National League rules.
 
Following Aybar in the lineup are right fielder Abreu, center fielder Hunter, Matsui, Morales, Kendrick, Napoli at catcher, Wood and Mathis.

They’ll be facing right-hander Carlos Monasterios, a Rule 5 pickup bidding to nail down the fifth spot in the Dodgers’ rotation. Lefty Clayton Kershaw is pitching in Phoenix against the Brewers. - Lyle Spencer

 

 

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.

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.”

 

 

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.

  

Adios, Figgy; hola, Woody

Before moving on to the Winter Meetings and long days filled with hot air inside the Indiana Convention Center, I’d like to offer a few words with respect to Chone Figgins, who is about to enrich the Seattle Mariners in so many ways.

First and foremost, I’ll miss our daily conversations about the game, especially in a historical context. Chone wanted to hear everything I had to offer about players from earlier eras, such as the acrobatic idol of his youth, Ozzie Smith. As someone who loves an attentive audience, I was always deeply appreciative of Figgins’ company.

Figgins is baseball’s version of a gym rat. Nobody works harder at improving himself. I actually would get on him now and then for pushing himself too hard, for taking too much batting practice. He’d grin and say, “That’s who I am. I love this.”

He keeps finding new ways to get better, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to add subtle new elements to his brilliant game. Watching Figgy and Ichiro together should be a real treat for those who love the inner game. Mariners fans should be pumped; there will not be a more exciting tandem in the game.

Figgins never can absorb enough information about the game. When he’s not working on improving himself, he’s watching the MLB Network or talking about the game with teammates, friends and family members. His mother knows what she’s talking about, and it shows in the bloodlines. Chone’s brother, Demetrius, has served as a respected scout for the Angels.

When Garret Anderson departed via free agency after the 2008 season on the heels of the departure of the third member of their inner circle, Casey Kotchman, I figured Figgins would be in the dumps. I was surprised to see how upbeat he was from the moment he arrived at camp in Arizona last spring. Before long, he’d developed a bond with Bobby Abreu, and the two clicked as if they’d been teammates for years.

This did nothing to diminish Figgins’ appreciation for Anderson, who’d meant so much to him. Chone still talked about GA all the time. But he didn’t let it cloud his impressions of the man who’d essentially arrived to replace his good buddy. Abreu had a reservoir of wisdom and knowledge, and Figgy soaked it in, raising his on-base percentage from a career .356 to .395 with a career year at 31. Through it all, Figgins praised Abreu for his daily influence.

How good a teammate is Figgins? He’d have agreed without complaint to move to the outfield if he’d been asked to do so to accommodate Brandon Wood at third — even though he’d made himself into a Gold Glove-level third baseman.

Wood — Woody in the clubhouse — now gets his shot, finally, to deliver on all that promise. He’ll tackle the challenge with relish – while remembering Figgins fondly.

“Sure, I want to play every day,” Wood said late in the season. “But look who’s ahead of me – Figgy at third and [Erick] Aybar at short? How can I expect to play ahead of those two guys? They’re great players.”

If the season started tomorrow, I’d expect to see Wood at third, with Maicer Izturis in reserve, backing up at all three positions he plays with the skill and poise of an everyday performer. Izturis can be a free agent after the coming season, and he’ll have the opportunity to go get an everyday job somewhere if he chooses that route. Baseball people know how good he is.

As painful as it is for fans to watch Figgins go, the Angels leave sentiment aside in their judgments. They calculated that they’ll be fine with a new look at third, and there is an undeniable element of excitement for fans in seeing what Wood can do with an everyday job.

He might not erupt as Kendry Morales did in ’09 when he finally got his chance, but Wood is capable of hitting 25-30 homers, driving in 80-100 runs (depending on where he hits in the order) and batting .275. Those who know him best – his Minor League teammates — fully expect him to flourish if he’s allowed to relax and unleash all that natural talent.

Like Anderson, Wood, I think, has been misinterpreted by some people as too cool, owing to his relaxed, easy manner. Believe me, having spent hours with the guy, I can assure you Wood burns to be successful, just as Garret has throughout his career. Hey, people used to think Henry Aaron was a cruiser, because of his laid-back style. He turned out all right.

  

Abreu: three more years likely

Bobby Abreu’s contract option for a third year is well within his reach, if his durability holds up, likely tying him to the Angels through 2012.

After he draws $9 million for each of the next two seasons, Abreu has a 2012 option for $9 million that kicks in if he makes 550 plate appearances in 2011 or a combined 1,100 plate appearances in 2010 and 2011, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

If he doesn’t reach either of those numbers, the club can buy him out for $1 million.

Given that he has had at least 667 plate appearances for 11 consecutive seasons and keeps himself in prime condition, Abreu appears to be a relatively safe bet to fulfill the three years.

If that happens, factoring in the $6 million (with $1 million in incentives reached for plate appearances) he earned this season, Abreu will average $8.25 million for four seasons in Anaheim.

That, in today’s market, would appear to be a fair and equitable figure for a man with Abreu’s production and leadership.

With Juan Rivera in left and Torii Hunter in center, and Vladimir Guerrero yearning to return to right field, this probably means the end of Guerrero’s remarkable six-year run with the Angels.

There are those who are writing off Guerrero as over-the-hill, but he had no real chance this season to get his legs under him. With a winter to heal, there’s no reason why he can’t be a productive, effective player on the field as well as at the plate in 2010.

It’s highly possible Guerrero will be next season’s Abreu, emerging as a major bargain for the club that signs him. Never underestimate Vlad’s tremendous pride, which showed up during the postseason when he re-established himself as a force in the heart of a lineup.
 

A pause for praise

 

There are so many things to respect and admire about the Angels. Here are some that leap to mind in the afterglow of one of the franchise’s greatest triumphs:

The tireless commitment of Torii Hunter, who represents every day, in every way. A guy couldn’t have a better teammate. When you play with Torii, you know he’s got your back, without hesitation, no questions asked.

The quiet assurance and endearing presence of Bobby Abreu, who walked into a new room and won it over from day one with his style, elegance, humor and wisdom. I had no idea he was this good a player and this brand of leader. If the Angels can’t keep him, they’ll be losing much more than hits, walks, RBIs, runs and steals. They’ll be losing a whole lot of class.

The unique greatness of Vladimir Guerrero. He seems oddly undervalued and underappreciated in this era where so much value is attached to working counts. Sure, he takes some wild swings. But he has been one of the most feared and productive hitters of this or any era, and it was so sweet to see him deliver at the big moment on Sunday – right after Abreu, a clutch hitter with few peers, came through.

The astounding athleticism of Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar on the left side of the infield. It doesn’t get any better than this. Figgins and Aybar have more range and stronger arms than any left-side combo in the past 35 years.

That’s how long I’ve been covering the sport – too long, some would say – and I’ve never seen a better third-base coach than Dino Ebel. He does his homework, knows every outfield arm in the game, stays on top of every possibility and rarely makes a bad decision.

The way Figgins keeps improving, simply by being so dedicated. He is totally immersed in the game, driven to succeed. He struggled finding hits against the Red Sox – Jacoby Ellsbury robbed him of what would have been an inside-the-park homer – but Figgy worked a huge walk against Jonathan Papelbon during the big rally and has a history of delivering in New York. As with Abreu, Figgins’ many gifts would be hard to replace as he ventures into free agency.

Jered Weaver’s emergence as a sturdy, dependable top-of-the-rotation starter, smart, resourceful and – most of all – extremely tough under duress. He learned his lessons well from John Lackey, his mentor.

Lackey’s true grit.

The style and competitive natures of lefties Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir. Kazmir’s arrival on Aug. 28 from Tampa Bay made this team complete. He’s a keeper.
 
The very real and productive mutual respect catchers Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli continue to display. In another environment, this could be a toxic situation, but these guys have been so close for so long, nothing could pull them apart – not even competition over who catches which pitcher and how often.

Along those same lines, the way Maicer Izturis and Howard Kendrick have handled their second-base platoon with such uncommon grace. Both are everyday players and know it, but they’ve created not a single ripple of discontent over sharing a job.

Kendry Morales’ intelligence. By wisely taking advice from his elders (Abreu, Mickey Hatcher) and controlling his aggression, he turned all that potential into production and accomplished the impossible in making fans get over Mark Teixeira’s loss.

Young relievers Jason Bulger and Kevin Jepsen holding up under a heavy workload and holding it together in front of Brian Fuentes.

Fuentes: 50 saves. How can you not appreciate that? He might not be a prototypical closer with premium gas, but the guy gets outs, and that’s the whole idea, right?

The strength and consistency of Juan Rivera, a rock-solid left fielder, and the manner in which Gary Matthews Jr. handled his very difficult role – and came through repeatedly in the clutch.

The enduring cool of Darren Oliver. Nothing rattles this guy. A pro’s pro.

The way Ervin Santana retained his humor while searching for the right stuff to come back after elbow issues made for some long nights.

The big, good-natured manner of Matt Palmer, who came out of nowhere to deliver much-needed innings and wins and went so respectfully to the bullpen, embracing any role handed him. Nobody appreciates wearing a big-league uniform more than this guy.

The willingness of Robb Quinlan, Reggie Willits, Brandon Wood and Bobby Wilson to do whatever is needed to bring their team closer to a win. Even if it’s not something that will show up in a boxscore.

Shane Loux, Dustin Moseley, Kelvim Escobar and Justin Speier, who did their part until they parted, and and all the young pitchers who helped stitch this crazy-quilt pitching staff together over the long haul.

The inner strength of Mike Scioscia, who navigated the most turbulent of waters this season with remarkable calm. Manager of the Year, no doubt. Manager of the Decade? Absolutely.

The dedication of coaches Hatcher, Ron Roenicke, Mike Butcher, Alfredo Griffin, Ebel, Orlando Mercado and Steve Soliz. Wise is the manager who surrounds himself with strong, independent thinkers willing to put in long hours for the greater good.

The way everyone mourned respectfully and continually honored the memory of Nick Adenhart, one of the best and brightest, gone much, much too soon.

Kazmir mirrors Adenhart

Scott Kazmir was throwing the longest pre-game toss I’ve ever seen a few minutes ago, from the warning track in left center at Fenway Park all the way across the outfield to a spot about 40 feet from the right-field foul line.

Finishing his long toss, Kazmir threw some flat-ground deliveries and headed for the bullpen, casually tossing a ball into the crowd on his way.

The Angels’ southpaw looked like a kid in the park, having a good time, which is how I would expect him to be. He loves this type of challenge, pitching on the big stage. If the Red Sox beat him in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, it won’t have anything to do with Kazmir being intimidated by the crowd or the moment.

He’s a pure-bred athlete, a former high school QB in Houston who simply loves to compete.

Among the many things I’ve grown to like about Kazmir is that he reminds me so much of Nick Adenhart. I was thinking about this on the long flight from LA to Boston. Those quiet moments alone are when I generally start thinking about Adenhart and the tragedy. I knew him and cared deeply about him, and it still hurts every day.

Kazmir didn’t get to know Adenhart, which is a shame, because I’m sure they’d have become fast friends. On the other hand, it’s possible Kazmir wouldn’t be here if a drunken driver hadn’t killed Adenhart, Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson in the early hours of April 9.

It is entirely possible Adenhart, if not for that act of criminal insanity, would have been pitching Game 3 of this series.

Having uncovered some missing ingredients in his delivery, and recovering his confidence, which had sagged in 2008, Nick was just getting started in what would have been a breakout season when his life ended so prematurely at 22.

That’s not just my opinion, that Adenhart had stardom in his future. Those who knew him best – teammates and especially catchers – are convinced he’d have had a big year, and then many more.

Kazmir is right there with you, in the moment, when you’re talking with him. He’s not somewhere else. He has that cool, easy manner that Nick embodied, an effortless grace that marks the premier athletes. Adenhart studied video of past greats and loved hearing stories about pitchers from previous eras. He laughed as I told him stories about some I’ve covered through the years, especially former Dodgers and A’s star Bobby Welch. Welch was so much like Adenhart, and now we have Kazmir, too. It’s comforting.   

Kazmir’s arrival on Aug. 28 changed the season for the Angels. It gave them a sense that they had everything they needed now. Veterans privately expressed shock that Tampa Bay would let a talent like this get away, and that the Angels would be lucky enough to land him through a waiver deal.

“This guy is really, really good,” Bobby Abreu said that day. “I love that we got him. I’ve faced him – I know how tough he is. He is really going to help us.”

John Lackey and Jered Weaver were brilliant in Anaheim, but this, of course, is a different venue. The Red Sox will feel the energy of the crowd, and if they regain their confidence, they can be dangerous.

The Angels have a cushion, but they are advised to do everything possible to finish off Boston today. You don’t want the Red Sox gaining momentum and feeling good about themselves again.

 

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