Results tagged ‘ Kendry Morales ’

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.”

 

 

Quinlan returning to Angels

Robb Quinlan will be back with the Angels in 2010, having agreed to a Minor League deal that will enable him to try to win a roster spot during Spring Training.

Quinlan, who turns 33 on March 17, is a .281 career hitter across seven seasons with the Angels. He batted .243 in 115 at-bats in 2009 with two homers and 14 RBIs, spending time at all four corner positions — first and third base, left and right field.

Quinlan filed for free agency after the season, but a logjam of talent among position players has tightened the market considerably.

Quinlan’s best season with the Angels was 2006 when he batted .321 with a career-high 234 at-bats. He had nine homers and 32 RBIs in 86 games that season. Quinlan also hit .344 for the Angels in 2004, with five homers and 23 RBIs in 160 at-bats.

With the departure of Chone Figgins, Quinlan will bid for playing time at third and at first, where he backed up Kendry Morales, and he’ll also be available in the outfield and as a bat off the bench if he makes the 25-man roster. 

 

Izturis signing significant

The agreement the Angels reached with Maicer Izturis on Monday goes well beyond the standard settlement avoiding the sometimes difficult arbitration process.

Izturis signed for three years, taking him off the free-agency market for two winters. What this does is keep intact one of the Majors’ best young infields, assuring manager Mike Scioscia of virtually unmatched depth with Izturis in support of Howard Kendrick at second base, Erick Aybar at shortstop and Brandon Wood at third base, with emerging star Kendry Morales at first.

At 29, Izturis is the elder statesman of the group, one of the most respected players in the clubhouse. Maicer lockered alongside Chone Figgins, and Figgins never stopped raving about Izturis’ skills and commitment.

A smart hitter who thrives in pressure situations — he’s a .327 career hitter in 492 at-bats, almost the equivalent of a full season — Izturis can be a productive hitter in the first two spots in the order or from fifth on down.

Even if Wood has a great spring and flourishes as the third baseman, Izturis will get plenty of playing time. Scioscia will make sure of that. There are few hitters he’d rather have at the plate in a big situation.

Defensively, Izturis doesn’t have Aybar’s acrobatic style and is a half-step slower than the electric Aybar, but he’s the most sure-handed of all the infielders. Izturis made two errors at second in 68 starts in 2009, two errors in 28 starts at shortstop and no errors in five starts at third. That’s four errors in 390 total chances — a dazzling .990 fielding percentage.

Izturis had 13 steals in 18 attempts in 2009 and would like to double that total if he gets enough at-bats leading off or batting second.

“Stealing bases is part of my game,” he said. “I love to run the bases.”

He also loves to hit and defend, and he’ll be doing it for the next three seasons in an Angels uniform.

 

 

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.

  

Quinlan drawing interest

From Robb Quinlan’s camp comes word the Angels’ versatile infielder/outfielder, entering free agency for the first time, has attracted preliminary inquiries from two National League clubs and one from the American League.

Quinlan, who will be 33 next season, has seen his numbers and at-bats gradually taper off since 2006 when he batted .321 with a career-high 234 at-bats. He’s a solid citizen, never complaining about getting lost in the Angels’ talent shuffle, and capable of handling the glove at all four corner positions.

Quinlan is best suited for the NL, where benches are of more value, but he also could be a nice role player for his hometown Twins as they move into their new ballpark. A career .281 hitter, he batted .243 in ’09 with only 115 at-bats, losing playing time when first baseman Kendry Morales showed in the second half that he was a threat against lefties.

Lyle Spencer

Guerrero stays in No. 4 spot

After a robust August, hitting .337 with a .625 slugging percentage, Vladimir Guerrero needed a big September kick to prolong one of the game’s most remarkable streaks.

Batting a quiet .262 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 28 games, Guerrero fell short of .300 for the first time in his career, ending a stretch of 12 consecutive seasons at .300 or higher with a .295 average. It was also the first time since his rookie year in 1997, when he played 90 games, that Guerrero didn’t hit at least 25 homers, finishing with 15.

He’s a .321 career hitter with a .568 slugging percentage, having launched 407 home runs and produced 1,318 runs batted in. That counts for something in the mind of his manager, Mike Scioscia. But, fans being fanatics, it’s not enough to stop malcontents from calling for a new lineup spot for the cleanup man.

In Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Boston on Thursday night, Guerrero singled and scored a run in four at-bats. He also had a hit taken away in his first at-bat on a fine play by third baseman Mike Lowell.

But in a big spot early in the game, bases loaded and two outs in the third inning, lefty Jon Lester made Guerrero look bad, striking him out on an elevated fastball at his shoulders.

One of the great bad-ball hitters in the game’s history, Guerrero looked bad in that at-bat. But not bad enough for Scioscia to drop him in the order and elevate, say, Kendry Morales, who was in the No. 5 slot in Game 2 against Josh Beckett.

“Veteran’s pride is a non-issue,” Scioscia said, denying the widely held notion that Scioscia doesn’t want to hurt his slugger’s feelings. “In that one at-bat, he expanded his zone. One at-bat, he fouled a ball straight back that would have ended up in the rocks [beyond center field]. He hit a sharp ground ball in the hole that Lowell dove for. He had some good swings. In one at-bat, he got a little out of his element.”

Scioscia said he likes the “presence” Guerrero brings to the lineup hitting behind Torii Hunter, whose three-run homer was the big blow in Game 1.

“With Vlad, it takes one good swing, and he gets back where he needs to be,” Scioscia said. “In the middle of the lineup, we need a consistent presence, and we feel it’s going to be Vlad. He hasn’t hit the ball that poorly. In the Texas [AL West] clinching game, he hit four bullets all over the field. That was a week ago.”

Scioscia said that if Guerrero’s struggles warrant a move down in the order, he’d do it.

“If a player’s not getting it done at a level you would need, you would understand a change has to be made,” Scioscia said. “For our lineup to go, we’re definitely going to need Vlad going. We’re a better lineup if he’s swinging the way he can.”

 

Scioscia tries something different

As promised, Angels manager Mike Scioscia shuffled his lineup for Saturday night’s game, trying to find some missing chemistry – and runs – after going 0-for-19 the previous two games with runners in scoring position and striking out a total of 28 times.

Bobby Abreu was bumped up to No. 2 from No. 3, with Torii Hunter assuming the spot between Abreu and Vladimir Guerrero. Giving Erick Aybar a day off and taking over at shortstop, Maicer Izturis was placed in the No. 9 spot, giving the Angels a pair of table-setters in front of Abreu.

Two RBIs shy of 100 for the seventh straight year, Abreu has not been himself lately. He is in a 2-for-27 slide with 14 strikeouts, an uncommonly high number for a guy known not only for his ability to work counts but to put the bat on the ball and move it around the field.

By hitting Abreu second, Scioscia might free him up from thinking about driving in runs in favor of putting the ball in play behind leadoff catalyst Chone Figgins.

Abreu, 35, has 640 plate appearances in 145 games, trailing only Figgins among teammates. It could be a case of mental fatigue setting in for Abreu, who has made 119 starts in right field, 10 in left and 12 as a DH.

“I don’t know if it’s mental fatigue,” Scioscia said. “We talk to him every day to make sure he’s moving in the right direction. He feels fine physically. Mentally, he’s as strong as anybody I’ve been around.

“I don’t think that’s an issue. He’s been through pennant races. For a while he started squaring it up, but lately, obviously, he’s trying to find some things.”

Catchers Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis have been spending most of the time in the No. 9 spot with Abreu batting third. The start in that spot is the fourth for Izturis, and the Angels are unbeaten with him in the No. 9 hole.

“In theory, there are more options [with Izturis in front of Figgins],” Scioscia said. “We’re going to try to connect our hitters with this lineup, and the situational look is going to have to come from the bottom.”

Despite their recent struggles, eight of the nine hitters in the lineup were at .288 (Juan Rivera) or higher, but only three – Figgins and Kendry Morales (both at .301) and Hunter (.300) — were at .300 or better. Mathis is batting .209.

Guerrero, in quest of a 13th consecutive season batting at least .300, comes in at .296.

Even with their 0-for-19 the past two games, the Angels still lead the Majors in hitting with runners in scoring position at .295 and lead in overall batting average as well at .284.

 

 

Scioscia touts Morales as MVP candidate

Kendry Morales, MVP candidate.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia came out firmly in support of his first baseman in the American League’s Most Valuable Player derby,

“Absolutely no doubt,” Scioscia said when asked about Morales’ candidacy. “Look at his individual stats, what he’s meant to his team. [If you] look at what Kendry has meant to his club opposed to what other players have meant to their club, the only guy [in that category] is Joe Mauer in Minnesota.”

Scioscia alluded to Mark Teixeira, the man Morales has replaced at first base for the Angels, as a strong candidate as well. But Teixeira will likely get stiff competition from venerable Derek Jeter for MVP sentiment (and votes) on the East Coast.

As for Morales, batting .314 with 30 homers and 94 RBIs in his first full season as a regular, the campaign is getting a late start.

“It seems word travels from West to East a little slower in the game of baseball,” Scioscia said. “But I think the world of baseball knows what he’s meant to our club.”

With 274 total bases, Morales has 58 more than the next highest Angels hitter, Juan Rivera. Morales’ .598 slugging percentage trails only Mauer’s .615 in the AL, and the Cuban-born switch-hitter also is second in extra-base hits with 68.

While he’s not yet at Teixeira’s level defensively, Morales has improved by leaps and bounds with the glove, playing with visibly higher confidence as the season progresses.

Morales is coming off the best month of his career, making himself a strong candidate for AL Player of the Month for August. He batted .385, leading the league with his .734 slugging percentage and 33 RBIs while trailing only the Rays’ Tony Pena in homers with 10. Pena had 12.

By now, it would seem, pitchers would have found any serious flaws in Morales’ offensive game.

“It’s one thing figuring out what a hitter’s hole is and matching it with the pitcher’s ability to go out and [exploit] it,” Scioscia said. “Kendry’s at the stage where he’s had enough at-bats [502 plate appearances] that pitchers have an idea of his strengths, the things he can do.

“I don’t think there are a lot of secrets with what pitchers are trying to do with Kendry. Good hitters are going to have holes that are very small.”

Scioscia lifted Morales into the No. 5 hole in the order, dropping Rivera one spot, on Tuesday night against right-hander Doug Fister. This prevents righties from seeing three right-handed bats in succession: Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero and Rivera.

“Kendry is in a good spot to hit behind Vlad and also to break up some of the righties,” Scioscia said. “We’ll tinker with some things. The way Kendry’s swinging, it’s nice to get him behind Vlad against right-handed pitchers.

“If you take Kendry out of our lineup, I think you’re looking at a different offense,” Scioscia said.
 

Vlad, Torii due back in action this week

Vladimir Guerrero “ran great today,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before Sunday’s game against the Twins. Torii Hunter, also eager to get off the disabled list and get his Rawlings Gold Glove back in center field, “ran very well,” Scioscia added.

“We’ll wait and see how they come out of it. Vlad’s probably a couple of days ahead of Torii now.”

Guerrero, if all goes well, could be back in the designated hitter role by the time the Angels leave Chicago on Thursday night. Because he won’t be playing in right field for a while, if at all, the big bopper won’t need any Minor League rehab games, Scioscia said.

Hunter, on the other hand, figures to play a few games next weekend with one of the Angels’ Minor League affiliates – perhaps in his native Arkansas with the Double-A Travelers. Triple-A Salt Lake and high Class A Rancho Cucamonga are also possibilities.

“I’m dying to get off the DL,” Hunter said, frustrated by his inability to play this weekend in what would have been his farewell to the Metrodome, where his career started with the Twins.

“In Torii’s case, he’s going to most likely go down and play a few games to work his way out of stiffness connected to playing the outfield again,” Scioscia said. “With Vlad, the earlier he starts seeing Major League pitching, there’s a better chance of being productive early.”

The Angels, in a tribute to their remarkable depth and the tremendous offense generated by the likes of Bobby Abreu, Kendry Morales, Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli in the heart of the order, are 16-3 since their 3-4 hitters went on the DL together on July 10 – Guerrero with a muscle strain behind his left knee, Hunter with an adductor muscle strain on his right side.

Scioscia said Guerrero will be “somewhere in the middle” of the order when he returns but is unsure exactly how he’ll fit him in. There are a variety of lineup options.

So deep are the Angels, Napoli couldn’t find his way into the lineup on Sunday after collecting a total of seven hits in the first two games of the series. Abreu assumed the DH spot with Rivera going to right field.

With 19 hits on Friday night and 18 on Saturday night, scoring 11 runs each time, the Angels accomplished something unprecedented in franchise history, spanning 7,751 games. It’s the first time they’ve ever put together back-to-back games with 18 or more hits.

 

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