The Kendry Morales watch continued on Monday as the Angels went through a workout under sunny skies following a dark, drizzly Sunday.
“Kendry was expected over the weekend,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We expect him any hour, any day. Hopefully, we’re going to see him in camp in the next couple days.”
Morales is awaiting the stamp of approval from U.S. lmmigration on his green card, Scioscia has been told. In the meantime, the first baseman is said to be working out in Arizona.
Otherwise, things seem to be going swimmingly for the three-time reigning AL West champs. Hideki Matsui has fit in seamlessly, seated right next to lightning-rod Torii Hunter in the clubhouse, and Scioscia likes what he’s seen from his pitchers in bullpen sessions and batting-practice efforts.
“Our arms look good,” he said.
The Angels will have a 5 1/2-inning intrasquad game on Wednesday at Tempe Diablo Stadium to tune up for their Cactus League debut on Thursday at home against the White Sox at 3:05 p.m. MT. (2:05 p.m.). All other home games will be held at 1:05 p.m. MT, 12:05 p.m. PT.
Scioscia hasn’t decided on a starting pitcher for the spring opener.
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.
If you can’t beat ’em, sign ’em. Or deal for ’em.
That seems to be the shared philosophies of the Mariners and Rangers, who have been busy importing former Angels as they try to overtake the three-time American League West champions.
Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman have moved to Seattle, giving the Mariners superior defense, quality offense and a whole lot of desire.
Texas, meanwhile, has upgraded its bullpen with Darren Oliver joining Darren O’Day and given the offense another lethal weapon with Vladimir Guerrero bringing his bat to an Arlington playground he has made look very small in his six AL seasons.
All that’s left is for the Mariners, Rangers or A’s to sign free agent Garret Anderson, who’d look especially good in Seattle with best buddies Figgy and Kotchman.
The Mariners and Rangers certainly have improved with these moves. Seattle also added a second ace to its rotation, with Cliff Lee joining Felix Hernandez for what could be the best 1-2 punch in the division. Texas also brought in a potential ace in Rich Harden, but it surrendered one when it sent Kevin Millwood to Baltimore. It remains to be seen how beneficial that will be, hinging almost entirely on Harden’s ability to get through a season intact.
The Angels are looking primarily within to replace the departed, having thus far limited their acquisitions to DH/left fielder Hideki Matsui and reliever Fernando Rodney. It says a great deal about the depth of organizational talent that they can do this and remain confident that they’re still the team to beat in the division.
Their deal for Scott Kazmir at the Aug. 28 deadline enabled the Angels to let John Lackey go to Boston for a king’s ransom. They wanted the big Texan back, but not for five years and $82.5 million.
A fifth starter to complement Kazmir, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana remains a priority, and it’s likely the Angels will get their man – if not now, sometime this spring. There are at least al dozen legitimate candidates out there, a market glut that could bring prices down to a reasonable level.
Of the AL West clubs, Seattle has made the most dramatic moves, obviously. If they’re going to claim the division, they’ll do it in a style reminiscent of the ’60s Dodgers: dominant starting pitching, defense and speed. They don’t have anything close to the power of the Angels or Rangers, but their defense should be the best in the game.
It is remarkable, in a sense, that the Angels’ biggest advantage over the vastly underrated division is their offense.
For years, fans have fired off emails by the hundreds expressing disenchantment with a lack of clout. But this is an offense that should roll up big numbers again with Matsui driving the ball in the middle of the order and Brandon Wood, if he fulfills his potential, bringing another loud bat to the mix at third base.
Their overall balance and depth make the Angels the team to beat again. You’ll hear differently from insiders who want to be able to boast in October that they told you it would be Seattle’s year, or Texas’ year. They conveniently forget those predictions when the Angels prevail.
Recent history shows rather conclusively you’ll save face — and money – if you resist betting against Mike Scioscia and Co.