The Angels assembled on Thursday at 11 a.m. near home plate at Angel Stadium for a private organization-wide memorial tribute to Nick Adenhart. The 22-year-old pitcher was killed on April 9 in Fullerton, Calif., along with companions Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson when their car was struck by hit-and-run motorist Andrew Thomas Gallo, who was charged with three counts of murder along with other felony counts, including driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit.
“It was a very good service, something I’m personally glad we were able to do,” Angels catcher Jeff Mathis said. “This was private, just for us, the players, coaches, front office . . . everybody. It was important for the guys who didn’t get to go to the [funeral] service for Nick in Maryland. Some people got up and spoke. It was very meaningful for us.”
With games scheduled in Seattle, only a handful of players were able to attend the services for Adenhart in his native Maryland along with manager Mike Scioscia and front-office personnel.
Torii Hunter made it four homers in three games today with another blast over the wall in center field. He knows he’s locked in when he’s smoking balls to the middle of the field, and that’s where he is right now. Before the homer, he launched one that was caught at the wall in right center that would have been gone in Texas.
Mike Scioscia has to like what he sees at the top of the order, with Chone Figgins smacking line drives all over the place and Howard Kendrick looking very comfortable in the No. 2 hole. Kendrick will learn that he’ll see a high percentage of fastballs hitting between Figgins and Bobby Abreu, who has tested pitchers’ endurance for years with his remarkable discipline.
As for Vladimir Guerrero, who crushed a double to cash in Abreu before Hunter’s bomb, everything appears to be in fine order for a 35 HR/125-RBI campaign. With Kendry Morales, Juan Rivera or Gary Matthews and Mike Napoli or Jeff Mathis coming up behind the top five, the Angels are going to score runs in numbers. And Erick Aybar/Maicer Izturis will serve as, in effect, a leadoff man in front of the leadoff man, Figgy.
I don’t think what we’re seeing this spring, this offensive explosion, is an aberration, a case of cleaning up on bad pitching. This is a good offense — and it could be a great offense if the big guns (and the top two) stay healthy. And even if they don’t stay healthy, they won’t lose a thing if Robb Quinlan, Brandon Wood, Matt Brown, Sean Rodriguez or Reggie Willits stand in for a spell.
The Angels have enough position players to field another quality Major League team. It almost isn’t fair when you see what they have in relation to what some other clubs are putting on the field.
Brandon Wood’s eyes seem to brighten when he looks at the lineup card and sees he’s at shortstop. He put on another show at his natural position on Saturday in Tucson. Unfortunately, it went largely unnoticed, obscured by the events surrounding John Lackey’s forearm and Mike Napoli’s return behind the plate.
Facing Dan Haren, one of the game’s premier right-handers, in the second inning after Haren had set down the first five men he faced, Wood went with a slider on an 0-1 count and launched it over the wall in right field.
“I hit it on the sweet spot,” Wood said, his fourth Cactus League homer tying him with Jeff Mathis for the club lead. “Any time you can go deep on a guy like that, it feels good.”
But the best was about to come. Arizona catcher Miguel Montero hit a ground ball seemingly headed for left field. Wood got there running full-tilt, leaped and whirled in a motion that Derek Jeter has come to popularize, and gunned down the runner with a strong, accurate throw.
“I like defense,” Wood said when asked which of the two acts — the opposite-field homer or sensational play in the field — was more gratifying. “To get out there at shortstop and make a play, I really enjoy that. Normally, you want to try to plant and set for the throw, but in that case, moving as fast as I was, it probably would have taken four or five steps to get set. So I went in the air and let it fly.”
It was clearly a big-league play by a big-league shortstop. With Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis and Sean Rodriguez — great athlete, gun of an arm — also at the position, the Angels have an embarrassment of riches.
Wood wasn’t quite done. Later in the game, he appeared to break his bat launching a 340-foot foul drive into the left-field corner. It turns out he’d actually broken the bat on an earlier pitch in the at-bat.
“I hit a line drive on a 2-0 pitch, and that’s when I broke it,” Wood said. “When I hit the ball down the line, it didn’t travel as far as I thought it would. I looked at the bat, and the handle was cracked.”
Solid glove, strong arm, awesome power. Nice tool kit Brandon is carrying around.
Vladimir Guerrero, whose bat has come to life with a double and homer in his past two games, is not in the lineup today. He has an eye infection and is on antibiotics.
With Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson catching Dustin Moseley and Kelvim Escobar, respectively, in camp games in Scottsdale, Hank Conger is getting his first starting assignment in the Cactus League behind the plate.
Conger, in the eyes of manager Mike Scioscia, has the ability to hit major league pitching right now. The former No. 1 pick from Huntington Beach is projected to play at Double-A Arkansas this season. He’s still viewed as a catcher, but his development defensively has been slowed by shoulder issues. The Angels are eager to see how he fares in game conditions.
Mike Napoli, who made his first appearance behind the plate in Tucson on Friday, going five innings and throwing out a runner trying to steal, said his shoulder felt good when he got up today — a very positive sign. He said he had no problems throwing long toss in the outfield — another good sign.
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?
The wind is blowing out for the Royals, too. With blasts by Alberto Callaspo and Mike Jacobs in the fifth inning, K.C. caught the Angels, four bombs apiece, and John Lackey departed with a 10-7 lead after facing six men in the fifth without getting an out. David Herndon quieted the Royals.
Lackey’s line — seven earned runs on 10 hits in four innings — will bloat his ERA, but that’s why numbers in the spring sometimes don’t mean much. He had good life on his fastball and got his work in, as they say. Big day for Lackey’s batterymate, Jeff Mathis: homer, two singles, a walk, three runs scored. His buddy, Mike Napoli, also will have something to talk about. His smash to right center would have left the yard with the wind blowing in. He crushed it.
The Angels brought their hitting shoes to Surprise, obviously. They got here for early batting practice, and it clearly is paying off. They produced nine runs on 10 hits in two innings against southpaw Horacio Ramirez, with Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli going back-to-back with bombs to right center following a Robb Quinlan homer in the first inning. (Quinlan looks sensational, by the way). Jeff Mathis joined the homer party in the third inning with a near replica of Quinlan’s bullet to left center.
Scorching Matt Brown already tripled in a run and singled, joining Rivera with two hits. Rivera also singled home two runs in the first inning. Juan seems to have found his groove. On Saturday, in Tempe, he launched a ball so high and so far, the third-base umpire (Jim Joyce) was left to guess whether it cleared the foul pole in fair or foul territory. It was so far above and beyond the pole, there was no way to tell. From where he sat, Mike Scioscia obviously thought it was fair, prompting him to do a full-tilt sprint to Joyce to voice his disapproval.
Scioscia, I can report from personal experience, still can throw hard. He asked me to warm him up before throwing BP, and he zinged a few. I bounced a few throws back to him, to make sure he could still get down and dig ’em out as in the days of old. The last time I did this probably was right about the time he was breaking in as a young catcher with the Dodgers in Dodgertown. I’ll see how my arm feels in the morning, but I’ll be icing the shoulder after the game just in case.
John Lackey yielded a solo homer to Ryan Shealy but got out of a jam in the third when he struck out Jose Guillen to leave two runners stranded. Apparently, a handful of Angels fans in the crowd haven’t forgiven Guillen for his indiscretions in his final days with Team Scioscia, serenading him with boos and catcalls in his plate appearances.
Looking like the ace he is, John Lackey’s spring debut in Tucson was flawless: six up, six down, including a strikeout of Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Lackey’s command was sharp, and he appeared to have lively stuff for the first time out.
Lackey’s batterymate, Jeff Mathis, was having a pretty fair day too: homers in his first two at-bats against southpaw Franklin Morales before a walk third time up.
Angels catcher Jeff Mathis wasn’t kidding about coming to camp ready to hit after a winter spent working on his swing in his barn in Marianna, Fla.
Mathis unloaded homers in his first two-bats on Monday agianst Rockies southpaw Franklin Morales. The second blast, in the second inning, was a mammoth, no-doubter that would have left any yard in America. He had two doubles in his previous six Cactus League at-bats.
Keeping in step with Mathis, Brandon Wood hammered an RBI double and launched his first homer of the spring, way over the 410 sign in left center. Wood had two drives in the spring opener flagged down by outfielders crashing into walls.
“I feel good with my swing,” Mathis was saying the other day. “I spent a lot of time with my brother in my barn, where I have a batting cage next to my living quarters. Then I did some work with [hitting coach] Mickey [Hatcher]. I’m comfortable with where I am now.”
Mathis, a .195 career hitter in 512 at-bats, has been productive (15 homers, 71) in spite of his low average. He is behind the plate for the first time this spring, catching John Lackey.
Center fielder Reggie Willits was a late scratch for Monday’s Cactus League game against the Rockies in Tucson with tightness in the adductor muscle in his left leg. There was no immediate word on the severity.
Willits was on base in all three of his at-bats on Sunday with a single and two walks. He was replaced in center field by Terry Evans, with Adam Pavkovich inserted in right field.
Jeff Mathis got the Angels rolling with a solo homer against lefty Franklin Morales. A single by Kendry Morales and Brandon Wood’s RBI double handed John Lackey a 2-0 first-inning lead, and he shut down the rockies in the bottom half of the inning with solid command in his first outing of the spring.