Results tagged ‘ Chone Figgins ’

Adenhart shows right stuff

Nick Adenhart was in trouble right out of the chute. He walked Jamey Carroll on four pitches, then fell behind Mark De Rosa 2-0 before the Indians’ third baseman lined a single to left center, sending Carroll to third.

This is where the new and improved Adenhart surfaced. Taking his time, along with deep breaths, Adenhart gathered himself, made good pitches to the heart of the order, and escaped unscathed. Victor Martinez grounded to Chone Figgins at third for an out at home. Travis Hafner, the muscular cleanup man, went down swinging on an off-speed delivery. Shin-soo Choo, who starred for Korea n the World Baseball Classic, popped out.

This is exactly how you want to respond to adversity if you’re a young pitcher trying to carve out a rotation spot on a championship-caliber team.

Adenhart, settling into a groove, retired six of the next seven he faced, with Ben Francisco beating out an infield hit.

Fireworks continue: three straight bombs

Back-to-back-to-back. That’s what the Angels did on Thursday in their first look at Goodyear Ballpark, home of the Indians. Facing lefty Scott Lewis in the third inning after he’d already yielded two runs on four hits, Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter each went deep, using all fields – Abreu to center, Guerrero to right, Hunter to left.

Mike Scioscia once again had Chone Figgins, Howard Kendrick and Abreu at the top of the order, and through three innings they’d combined for a single and triple (by Figgins), a walk (by Kendrick, showing his plate discipline) and the blast by Abreu.

Showing he was fully recovered from the crash into the center field wall on Tuesday against the Rockies at home, Hunter lashed a double to left in his first at-bat. Even before his 400-foot shot to left, Hunter had lined a ball just foul into the left-field corner.

Jeff Mathis, catching Nick Adenhart, had two hits through two innings. Perhaps the best athlete among all catchers in the game, Mathis showed his speed when he stole second. This is a guy who could have been a defensive back at Florida State had he chosen football over baseball. How many catchers can say that?

 

Kendrick could flourish as No. 2 hitter

Howard. That’s what his wife, Jody, and his family members call the Angels’ second baseman, known in the baseball world as Howie Kendrick. I tried calling him Howard in print for a time last season — he told me it didn’t matter one way or another to him — but it seemed to confuse readers, so I went back to Howie.

He told me this morning that he became Howie after a baseball card company asked if it could call him Howie rather than Howard. It picked up momentum when he was in the minor leagues, and he’s been Howie ever since — even though those close to him call him Howard.

So … on to the news of the day. When the season opens and he’s announced as Howie Kendrick at Angel Stadium, he could be in the No. 2 spot in the order, between Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu. It was manager Mike Scioscia’s initial plan to bat the highly selective Abreu second, followed by Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter. But Kendrick’s strong spring and growth as a hitter seems to be moving Scioscia toward a new look.

I love the idea of Kendrick batting second, the more I think about it. For one thing, it will give him as many as 70 to 80 more at-bats than he would get hitting down in the order, and this guy could be a batting champion very soon. He drives the ball to all fields and doesn’t strike out a lot, and he’s an exceptional baserunner. Figgins likes the idea of Howie hitting behind him, and Abreu has batted third most of his career. So it makes sense on a number of levels.

Scioscia made an interesting point about why Kendrick doesn’t walk more. He squares up balls and puts them in play at a high rate. But he is learning how to work counts, and he’s totally into the game. Reggie Willits, one of the smartest guys I’ve been around, hit in front of Kendrick in the minors and thinks Howard has everything you’re looking for in a No. 2 hitter.

We’ll see where it goes from here. Scioscia has been known to experiment with lineups. Maicer Izturis also is highly capable of being a solid No. 2 hitter, and Erick Aybar also has made strides in his selectivity. But Kendrick is a special hitter — a “freak of nature,” Willits calls him, with utmost respect. , ,  

Matthews making his point

It was a serious and determined Gary Matthews Jr. who arrived early in camp this spring. After undergoing knee surgery on Oct. 28, he’d worked diligently to regain leg strength and expressed confidence that he’d be ready to play sooner than the club imagined.

He wasn’t kidding around.

In right field on Wednesday against the White Sox after playing center on Tuesday against the Padres, Matthews unloaded against Gavin Floyd in the fourth, an inning after Chone Figgins had launched a two-run bomb.

Matthews’ solo blast, his first of the spring, carried at least 420 feet, way beyond the 380 marker in right center. On Tuesday, manager Mike Scioscia expressed amazement over how well Matthews was running — “as well as ever,” the skipper said. Clearly, there’s nothing wrong with Matthews’ power either.

The early projection was for Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu to share left field and the designated hitter role, but Matthews, if he keeps this up, might force some serious reevaluations by Scioscia and his staff.

 

Figgins stays hot

It might be off the radar somewhat, but Chone Figgins’ brilliant spring continues. The third baseman crushed his first homer of the spring on Wednesday, gving the Angels a 2-0 lead in the third inning behind Dustin Moseley.

DH Mike Napoli, who’d walked, stolen second — the big dude can motor — and moved to third on a wild pitch, scored ahead of Figgins.

Figgins is currently batting .375 in11 games. He has stolen five bases in six attempts and has been superb with the glove. His amazingly quick feet and reactions enabled him to take a hit away from White Sox catcher Donny Lucy with a diving stab on a ball headed to left field, giving Moseley the third out of a perfect second inning.

Reporting to camp, Figgins said his goal was to play all 162 games after freak injuries to his hand and hamstring cost him chunks of the past two seasons. He’s trying to recapture his reputation as a durable, consistent force in the leadoff spot, and he’s off and running.

Saunders hacks away

Even though Angels skipper Mike Scioscia has left a distinct impression that he doesn’t want his pitchers swinging the bat this spring in National League parks, Joe Saunders apparently couldn’t resist.

Following a triple to the left-center gap by fleet Peter Bourjos with two outs in the second inning Saturday, Saunders went the other way on an Aaron Heilman delivery and slapped it into left field for an RBI single.

Saunders, an exceptional golfer from the right side, swings the bat left-handed, as he does everything else. Joe got more exercise than he bargained for when Chone Figgins followed with his second double of the day, to the same left-center gap Bourjos hit. Third-base coach Dino Ebel wisely held Saunders at third, and he stayed there when Reggie Willits fouled out to left.

Figgins also had a hand in a textbook relay in the second inning, cutting down Milton Bradley at third. Terry Evans ran down Bradley’s drive into the right-field corner and hit cutoff man Sean Rodriguez, who threw a one-hop bullet from shallow right that Figgins snagged on one hop, applying the tag on Bradley.

Rodriguez demonstrated his exceptional range later in the inning when he went behind second to backhand a grounder by Esteban German and nail him at first with an off-balance throw.

In his second at-bat leading off the fourth inning, Saunders was clearly back with the program. He didn’t take a swing, looking at a third strike. 

 

Too many good players

It’s a nice problem to have, of course, but you have to wonder what it’s like to be Matt Brown, looking around the Angels’ clubhouse, wondering where you fit.

You were a star on the bronze medal-winning Team USA outfit in the Beijing Games last summer. You crushed the ball at Triple-A Salt Lake –  again. You added some versatility, learning how to play first base. No less an authority than Reggie Smith, Team USA’s hitting coach, touted you as a Major League talent — and Reggie is not a man to throw praise around randomly.

You know you can play, and yet you wonder where, and how it can happen. Chone Figgins is at third, your natural position, and behind him is Brandon Wood. One of Wood’s teammates coming up through the farm system with him assured me that this guy “will just blow up if he ever gets a chance to play every day.” So, if you’re Matt Brown, 26 and waiting for your time, you wonder if it will ever come.

Kendry Morales has been given first base, and the guy can rake. Behind him is Robb Quinlan, who has a .285 career average in the Majors and must also wonder where he’ll fit in as a role player yet again. Matt Brown: third at third, third at first.

There are others who work out every day, preparing  for a long season, and leave camp every afternoon wondering what’s in store. Reggie Willits, for example. He was fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2007, a major contributor to the Angels’ success, and he’s sixth in line for a outfield job. Depth is a great thing if you’re a manager or a GM, but if you’re an athlete burning to play at the highest level, convinced you can make good things happen, and have names on top of yours on the depth chart . . . you sit and wait. And wonder.

Too many good players. A nice problem for Arte Moreno and Mike Scioscia and Tony Reagins, but not such a great thing if you’re Matt Brown, Robb Quinlan, Reggie Willits, Freddy Sandoval, Terry Evans and all the others on the outside looking in.

                 

Izzy has a new number: 13

Few, if any, Angels players are as popular with teammates as Maicer Izturis, who might just be the nicest guy on our planet. He’s always in a good mood, always smiling, always optimistic. Even a few days after the surgery to repair a thumb fracture that ended his season prematurely last August, Izzy was upbeat, quietly talking about the possibility of returning for the postseason — and he almost made it.

Izzy was in the middle of an early-morning conversation on Saturday with Chone Figgins, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar. It was the familiar, good-natured kind of dialogue that passes the time before the players hit the field.

“Look,” Kendrick said, pointing to the nameplate above Izturis’ locker with the No. 13. “Maicer has a new number this year.”

Izturis, ever so softly, mentioned that it holds no superstition for him, that he’s worn No. 13 in the past. He was No. 6 last year. That number has gone to Hainley Statia, who is among a half-dozen quality shortstops in camp. Bobby Abreu will adorn No. 53, with Brian Fuentes taking No. 40, Troy Percival’s old number.

When a visitor mentioned to Izturis that No. 13 has worked out all right for Alex Rodriguez, Figgins shook his head. “No A-Rod talk here,” he said, grinning.

Kendrick mentioned that Izturis packs some wallop for a little guy standing 5-foot-8, recalling  how Izzy had homered in consecutive games as the club’s leadoff man last season.

“That won’t happen this year,” Figgins said, having established as his early goal a full 162-game season.

Izturis is sound physically and looking forward to competing with good buddy Aybar for the shortstop job again after they shared it in 2008, with Brandon Wood getting some time there  with both players out in September.

Garret Anderson remains a popular topic of clubhouse conversation, players speculating where their former teammate will land. The consensus is that he’ll be a steal for somebody, that he has a lot of life left in his bat.   

       

 

PECOTA trashes Angels

If manager Mike Scioscia needed any ammo to fire up his troops, it was grooved like a Doc Gooden fastball at the belt by stat maven Nate Silver in his PECOTA ratings for Baseball Prospectus.

Silver, it turns out, doesn’t think much of the Halos — specifically, what he sees as an aging offense creating more headaches for Angels pitchers than rival managers. PECOTA has the Angels finishing 16 games off their MLB-best 2008 pace with a mere 84 wins, barely managing to prevail in what it envisions as a weak AL West.

I can understand some anticipated slippage with Mark Teixeira and Garret Anderson departing; those are two high-quality offensive players. But Bobby Abreu has been a fairly consistent 100/100 man (runs. RBIs), and he should fit nicely between Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero in Scioscia’s projected top third. Of course, a big spring by Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar or Maicer Izturis could convince Scioscia to plant Abreu in the No. 3 hole, with Guerrero fourth and Torii Hunter fifth.

The rest of the lineup is deep and potentially much more explosive than PECOTA imagines. Mike Napoli has the tools to go 30/100 with enough at-bats, joining Guerrero on a surgically-repaired knee, and Hunter, Kendry Morales, Juan Rivera all are capable of exceeding 20 homers with 80 to 100 RBIs. If Hunter bats fourth, behind Vlad, he could surpass his career high of 107 RBIs from 2007.

Call me an incurable optimist, but this shapes up as a pretty fair attack — and it has a nice blend of youth and experience, top to bottom.

It was last year at this time that a lot of snipers were relegating the Angels to second place in the AL West behind Seattle, with its new ace,  Erik Bedard. Scioscia, I’m sure, got some clubhouse mileage out of that. I’m sure PECOTA and its views might surface in one of his pre-game chats with the players before too long.     

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