TEMPE, Ariz. – Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher, recuperating from surgery for the removal of a cancerous nodule in his thyroid gland, was back with his guys, back on the job, on Wednesday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Butcher missed the first two days of camp as he was regaining strength following the surgical procedure on Thursday. He was studying deliveries and release points and offering suggestions, as always, as his pitchers began getting a feel for things.
“He’s still coordinating everything,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s feeling stronger. He’s staying in tune with where guys are.”
The team had been sending Butcher, entering his fifth season as the director of the staff, video of bullpen sessions for him to study from his home in nearby Chandler during his recovery.
One of the biggest challenges for Scioscia and Butcher will be sorting through a dozen legitimate candidates for six or seven bullpen roles. What they don’t want is for borderline candidates to try to do too much too soon in order to make an impression.
“It’s always something in the spring you’re going to worry about,” Scioscia said. “When a guy pitches in the spring, he has to cover hurdles. If a guy’s stiff or struggling with 12-minute bullpens, you’re not going to pitch him in a game. You’re not going to put a guy out there when he’s not ready to pitch.
“Right now, it looks like 12 [pitchers total]. If guys have length, it might be 11. That depth chart is going to be real.”
Fernando Rodney, Kevin Jepsen, Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi would seem to be locks, leaving Jason Bulger, Matt Palmer, Trevor Bell, Michael Kohn, Jordan Walden, Rich Thompson, Francisco Rodriguez and Bobby Cassevah in competition for the remaining three spots.
Howard Kendrick is a proud papa again. Kendrick, with son Owen in tow, arrived with the news that wife Jody presented him with a second son, Tyson, on Feb. 10. “Everybody is doing great,” Kendrick said. “I’m a lucky guy.” . . . Scioscia on Scott Kazmir’s early progress: “He looks good, nice and easy. What is impressive was his easy delivery and the ball was jumping out of his hand – which is what we saw in ’09.” The goal is to get Kazmir back to his smooth, relaxed delivery, rather than forcing it with max effort that disrupts his command. – Lyle Spencer
MINNEAPOLIS – With infielder Maicer Izturis making his third trip of the season to the disabled list, this time with inflammation in the right shoulder region, the Angels have selected the contract of right-handed reliever Jordan Walden from Triple-A Salt Lake.
Walden, the club said, would be available in the bullpen for Sunday night’s series finale against the Twins at Target Field.
Walden, 22, hails from Fort Worth, Tex., and was considered the Angels’ premier pitching prospect before injuries delayed his progress.
Equipped with a hard, heavy fastball that can reach the high 90s on radar readings, Walden began the season at Double-A Arkansas, where he was 1-1 with a 3.35 ERA in 38 games, throwing 43 1/3 innings.
Promoted to Salt Lake, the 6-foot-5 athlete made six appearances with a 4.05 ERA in 6 2/3 innings, giving up five baserunners while striking out six hitters.
Izturis jammed the shoulder diving for a ball in Boston on Thursday night and reported that he felt some soreness in the lower area of the shoulder while taking batting practice on Friday at Target Field.
He expressed confidence that it was “nothing serious,” adding that he thought he would be able to play on Saturday.
But the pain persisted, and the Angels decided their versatile infielder needed to return to the DL.
He made his first visit there on May 6 with right shoulder inflammation – in a different location than the current injury – and missed 18 games. His second trip to the DL came on June 16 with a strained left forearm that caused him to miss 27 games.
Izturis is in the first year of a three-year, $10 million contract he signed over the winter.
He’s batting .245 with three homers and 25 RBIs in 56 games, committing only two errors in 53 games combined at third base, shortstop and second base.
Izturis is a .323 lifetime hitter with runners in scoring position and is batting .294 this season in those situations.
Izturis’ absence could create more playing time for Brandon Wood on the left side of the infield and also at first base. — Lyle Spencer
The word is out that the Blue Jays are listening to proposals for Roy Halladay, who has few peers among starting pitchers. No team values starters more highly than the Angels. They have made inquiries, knowing how much Halladay’s talent and endurance would mean in a rotation that has been patched together all season as a result of injuries and tragedy in the form of the death of Nick Adenhart.
The obvious question is this: How high can, or would, they go to import a dominant starter at the top of his game, signed through next season? He’s making $14.25 million this season, $15.75 next year.
The Blue Jays reportedly would want a quality shortstop — the Angels are loaded there — and young pitching talent in exchange for a man who gives you seven to nine innings of high-level work every fifth day.
Probably the only commodity the Angels value as highly as starting pitching is young talent, and therein lines the rub.
Staying healthy for the first time, Erick Aybar has established himself this season as one of the premier young shortstops in the game. He could be featured in an attractive package. If the Blue Jays prefer power, Brandon Wood is one of the elite young mashers in the game, just waiting for his opportunity in Triple-A Salt Lake to show he’s the real deal.
The Angels are rich in young talent. They have youthful pitching (Sean O’Sullivan, Jordan Walden, Trevor Reckling, among others) that would have to appeal to Toronto. It’s conceivable but unlikely they would consider moving one of their established starters — Ervin Santana or Joe Saunders, most likely — in a Halladay deal.
The Jays are in a position of strength and don’t have to do anything. But they’re in a top-heavy division, chasing the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays in the AL East, and as great as Halladay is, it’s highly doubtful Toronto can put together a surge to catch them.
The Phillies are seen as the leading candidates to land Halladay, if he is moved. They have the youthful talent to get it done and clearly are in need of a front-line starter. The level of the Angels’ need is not as high as Philadelphia’s, but as they showed last July with Mark Teixeira, they’re not averse to making the big, bold move.
The Angels have a lot of decisions to make this winter, with Vladimir Guerrero, John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, Kelvim Escobar, Robb Quinlan and Darren Oliver all eligible for free agency. Taking on Halladay’s contract would be no issue with so much payroll potentially coming off the books.
When the Padres’ Jake Peavy was available over the winter, the Angels gave it serious consideration but never made a big pitch. There were concerns about how his shoulder and elbow would hold up over the long haul. With Halladay, who has been as durable as they come with superior mechanics, that is not an issue.
This is about as tempting as it gets. For Halladay, who has made it clear he wants to pitch for a winner if he leaves Toronto, the interest would have to be mutual. The Angels offer pretty much everything a player can want. Just ask Torii Hunter. He’ll talk all day about that.
Jordan Walden, looking very much like a young John Lackey, delivered two impressive innings in his Cactus League debut. The 6-foot-5 flamethrower from Texas ended both innings with strikeouts, leaving runners stranded, and finished with three K’s.
The Athletics collected a pair of hits — Eric Chavez’s single through the middle in the first, Chris Carter’s opposite-field double leading off the second — but Walden buckled down when he needed outs. He caught dangerous Jack Cust looking at a third strike to end the first and Rob Bowen went down swinging to finish the second.
With a pitcher as young as Walden, who turned 21 in November, his response to adversity often determines how swiftly he advances through the system. Walden’s stuff is premium: 95-96 mph heat that he holds into the sixth and seventh innings, complemented by developing off-speed stuff. With one out and Carter on third, Walden got Cliff Pennington to roll over on a grounder to Kendry Morales at first, and he shot down Carter at the plate. That was a location pitch, not a bullet, that got Walden out of trouble — a very good sign in his development.
Walden worked at two Class A levels last season, striking out 141 hitters in 156 1/3 innings at Cedar Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga. This guy could be on the fast track to Anaheim if he continues his development this season.