Results tagged ‘ Kevin Jepsen ’

Roster squeeze not so tight after all

TEMPE, Ariz. – If the Angels open the season with Joel Pineiro joining Kendrys Morales, Scott Downs and Reggie Willits on a crowded disabled list, they won’t have as many difficult roster decisions to make as originally projected.

There will be room for Brandon Wood and Mark Trumbo, for Chris Pettit and Hank Conger, for Rich Thompson and Jason Bulger. All had been considered possible Opening Day discards.

Thompson, Bulger, Wood and Bobby Wilson are all out of Minor League options and must be on the 25-man roster or disabled list to avoid being subjected to waivers.

With three off days surrounding the first 12 games of the season, the club can get by with four starting pitchers. This gives Pineiro the opportunity to fully recover from a muscle issue in his back by recovering at his own speed in camp.

Willits has been slowed by a left calf strain, clearing the way for Pettit to show he’s capable of being a quality backup outfielder with his slashing hitting style.

Wood’s has the ability to play three infield positions well and bring the threat of thunder off the bench along with depth at third with Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo.

Trumbo will open at first base in Morales’ absence. Coverage there will come from Howard Kendrick, Wood and Wilson, who figures to open as Jeff Mathis’ backup behind the plate.

Thompson and Bulger provide middle relief support in the early going. When Downs returns, his left big toe mended, and a decision will have to be made, assuming Pineiro already has returned to the rotation.

If Conger is dispatched to Triple-A Salt Lake, it will be with the specific purpose of keeping him sharp catching regularly. He has the ability to be a switch-hitting weapon off the bench, but that doesn’t come into play in the American League as much in the National League.

Sure-handed shortstop Andrew Romine is a candidate to break camp with the club if Conger is sent to Salt Lake.

Reliever Kevin Jepsen, who felt tightness in his left hip while warming up on a cold, rainy Monday in Tempe, was feeling better on Wednesday and expects to be back in game conditions as early as Thursday. – Lyle Spencer

Butcher back in his element

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.

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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.

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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

Butcher misses first workout

Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher was not on hand on Monday as the team opened Spring Training at Tempe Diablo Stadium in perfect weather. Butcher is recovering from surgery performed on Thursday for the removal of a cancerous nodule on his thyroid gland.

Manager Mike Scioscia said roving pitching coordinator Kernan Ronan and Triple-A Salt Lake pitching coach Erik Bennett would handle Butcher’s duties until he’s able to return.

Butcher laid out the groundwork for the spring during a meeting of the staff on Sunday morning.

“Butch did a lot of work with me over the winter,” Angels pitcher Matt Palmer said. “He was typical Butch, in a great mood, full of energy. I didn’t know anything was wrong with him until I went home after working out [Sunday] and got on the Internet. I was shocked.”

Butcher, a resident of Chandler, Ariz., also spent time over the winter working with Scott Kazmir, Jason Bulger and Kevin Jepsen.

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Scioscia’s early-morning comments on Monday made it clear his preference is to have Maicer Izturis play at least 100 games, primarily at third base, and lead off, with Peter Bourjos holding down the center field job between Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter.

“Maicer is a guy who a couple years ago played [114] games,” Scioscia said. “It’s feasible for him to play in that range. I don’t know if he’s a 162-game guy, but hopefully we get him in enough games to take the pressure off other guys to be in that leadoff position. When he’s in the lineup, he’s going to lead off. If you project Izturis and [Bobby] Abreu 1-2, you’re going to have as good a 1-2 as you’re going to see.”

Izturis’ absence was felt last year when injuries limited him to 61 games and 221 at-bats. He was one of the club’s most versatile weapons in 2009 and is an exceptional clutch hitter.

As for Bourjos, who made a series of highlight-reel plays in his two months with the club last year, Scioscia said: “When we had Peter Bourjos in center and Torii Hunter in right field, our pitching staff pitched at an incredible level. That wasn’t a coincidence.”

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Scioscia on new lefty Hisanori Takahashi, who excelled for the Mets in a variety of roles in his debut 2010 Major League season after working as a starter in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants: “He’s a pitcher who’s going to be lengthened out for Spring Training. He has the versatility for multiple innings and is on the depth chart as a starter. He’s way ahead of where a lot of pitchers might be. He’s [throwing] off the mound, throwing all four pitches. He hasn’t expressed any preference to [GM] Tony [Reagins], Butch or me. He was a starter in Japan. His value is his versatility.”

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All hands on deck. There were no absences on the first day of camp. – Lyle Spencer

 

Fuentes to DL; Willits, Rodriguez recalled

The Angels have placed closer Brian Fuentes on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 6, making him eligible to return on April 21.

Fuentes said he tweaked a muscle mid-back on the left side on April 6 after making a save in the season opener the day before. He has not pitched since but feels he is mending and threw again, playing catch, for the first time on Tuesday and again before Wednesday’s game against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Fernando Rodney, Scot Shields and Kevin Jepsen are expected to share ninth-inning duties until Fuentes returns. Rodney was 37 for 38 in save opportunities for Detroit last season and likely will get first call, manager Mike Scioscia said.

“I was lifting weights — I just picked up a dumbbell, and it was a freak thing,” Fuentes said. “I didn’t have a lot of weights. I saw a chiropractor, and he said he didn’t believe anything was structurally wrong. It’s a tissue issue. With the rehab we’ve done, it seems to be getting better.”

The Angels recalled outfielder Reggie Willits from Class A Rancho Cucamonga, where he was rehabbing a strained hamstring, and reliever Francisco Rodriguez from Triple-A Salt Lake while reliever Bobby Cassevah was returned to Salt Lake.

Another move will be required on Thursday when Scott Kazmir is activated to start the series finale against the Yankees. Kazmir pitched a rehab game at Rancho Cucamonga on Friday after experiencing left shoulder tightness on March 25 and missing a turn in the rotation.– Lyle Spencer

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Back stiffness grounds Izturis

TEMPE, Ariz. — Angels infielder Maicer Izturis left Saturday’s game against the Giants at Tempe Diablo Stadium with stiffness in his back during his only at-bat, grounding into a double play in the second inning.

“He felt a little stiffness in his back, mid-back, on one of his swings,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said following a 4-3 victory. “He’s fine. It was a precaution. I don’t think it’s going to be more than a couple days. He might feel good tomorrow. He might be ready when we have our split-squad [games on Monday].”

Izturis, who signed a three-year, $10 million deal this winter, is having a strong spring, hitting .351 in 37 at-bats. He provides quality support at third base, shortstop and second base, where he was stationed on Saturday with Howard Kendrick getting a day off.

Angels starter Joe Saunders “felt good, real good” about his 4 1/3 innings, yielding three earned runs on seven hits and three walks. He struck out six men, including three in a row after loading the bases with singles in the fourth.

“When the heat’s on like that,” Saunders said, “you can treat it like a Spring Training game or say, `Hey, let’s get out of this and minimize damage.’ I tried to get ahead of guys and threw a little bit of everything.

“In the fifth, I fell behind a couple guys and threw a two-seamer to [Bengie] Molina. He got extended and dropped the barrel on it. I fell behind 1-0 and had to come with a strike. He’s a good hitter.”

Molina rocketed a three-run double after two walks and a single to give the Giants the lead, but the Angels rallied for two in the sixth against Barry Zito. Erick Aybar, who has reached base safely eight of his past 12 plate appearances, walked and scored on Torii Hunter’s double, Hunter scoring on Hideki Matsui’s RBI single. Aybar had singled in front of Bobby Abreu’s homer in the third to right center, Abreu’s second of the spring.

Scioscia liked the offensive continuity and Saunders’ work – until he lost command in the fifth. The lefty went to the bullpen to finish his work.

There were several positive developments with the pitching staff. Scott Kazmir, saying he was “completely over” left shoulder stiffness that took him out of his most recent start, threw a 60-pitch power bullpen and is set to go on Tuesday against the Brewers in Tempe.

The bullpen excelled after Saunders’ departure, starting with young right-hander Bobby Cassevah. He induced a double-play grounder to end the fifth and worked a perfect sixth. Kevin Jepsen, Scot Shields (working his second day in a row) and Fernando Rodney each delivered scoreless innings, Rodney closing it out by striking out two of the three men he faced in the ninth. – Lyle Spencer

 

 

Shields, Jepsen pass tests

TEMPE, Ariz. – Scot Shields and Kevin Jepsen, constant companions throughout Spring Training in the clubhouse and on the field, were beaming on a cool Tuesday as they made the walk back from the Minor League fields to Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Accompanying the two Angels relievers was the club’s all-time saves king, Troy Percival, who is in camp with a pair of southpaws of renown, Chuck Finley and Mark Langston, providing equal measures of wisdom and good humor.

Percival had watched two of his heirs in manager Mike Scioscia’s bullpen throw 20 pain-free pitches in a simulated game, taking what they hope were the final steps leading to their Cactus League debuts sometime this week.

Shields is coming back from June surgery on his left, landing knee, while Jepsen got a late start because of some stiffness in his pitching shoulder when he arrived in camp.

“A good day,” said Shields, the game’s most durable and productive setup man since 2004 and the club’s elder statesman in terms of service with the Angels. “I threw fastballs, three or four curveballs, no changeups. I got behind a couple guys but got back [in the count]. The movement was there.

“Everything felt good. I think I’m ready to get in a game, but it’s their call on that.”

Jepsen, who threw 54 2/3 innings for the Angels last season and 18 more for Triple-A Salt Lake, felt the wear and took it relatively easy in the off-season, highlighted by his Nov. 13 Cabo San Lucas, Mex., marriage to Andre Foisy.

“It didn’t feel like 20 pitches,” Jepsen said. “I felt great, ready to go. I felt strong for the first time throwing to hitters this spring. I’m ready to go at it.”

How these two valuable right arms feel on Wednesday in response to the workouts will factor into whether they’re turned loose next in live game action or given another outing against hitters wearing their own jerseys.

Joel Pineiro, scheduled to start on Tuesday against the Padres, had a meeting with the dentist instead when he showed up with a very sore mouth. Anthony Ortega took his place and pitched effectively in the 6-5 win, holding the Padres to one earned run in three innings. Brian Fuentes also had a strong second outing, and Trevor Bell (two unearned runs in two innings) impressed Scioscia along with Francisco Rodriguez, who pitched a perfect ninth.

Ryan Mount homered, and Bobby Wilson’s two-run triple and Reggie Willits’ two-run single were the big offensive blows of the day. Right fielder Michael Ryan — a “real sleeper” in Scioscia’s eyes — had another superb game with a diving catch in right center and a double, RBI single and walk for a perfect day at the plate.

Bobby Abreu was a right field scratch, giving Ryan the start, as rain delayed the game’s start and created damp conditions.  – Lyle Spencer
 

Morales delivers in debut

Kendry Morales made his spring debut on Monday at Surprise Stadium and picked up right where he left off last season — banging base-hits and driving in runs.

 

Morales singled home a run during a two-run first inning and singled home another in the fifth as the Angels erupted for four runs.

 

The reigning AL West champs saved their best offensive performance of the young spring for their division rivals, the Rangers, who were showing off new DH Vladimir Guerrero.

 

Maicer Izturis singled to right twice to send leadoff man Erick Aybar scurrying to third after a walk and single. Juan Rivera hammered a pair of run-producing hits, a single and double, and the big thunder came from Mike Napoli and Brandon Wood. Napoli launched one to dead center, his second homer of the spring, and Wood’s first hit landed on the grass  beyond the 379 sign in right center.   

 

 

Scott Kazmir, slowed by a sore right hamstring he brought into camp, will pitch two innings in an intrasquad game on Wednesday. The plan, if that goes well, is to get him to 45 pitches in a Cactus League game five days later.

 

Torii Hunter hopes to be able to play alongside Hideki Matsui, in his Angels debut as the DH, on Tuesday when the Padres send towering Chris Young to the mound at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Hunter felt a twinge in the area of his surgically repaired right groin on his first slide of the spring on Friday against the Rockies on a double.

 

“Right now, there’s no sense of urgency,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’ll play tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, a matter of days. We’re not concerned with him. If it was March 28, it’d be another story.”

 

Kevin Jepsen (tender right shoulder) and Scot Shields (knee surgery recovery) are down to throw 15 pitches each in simulated games on Tuesday. Fernando Rodney (sore shins) is progressing in bullpen sessions, Scioscia said. – Lyle Spencer

 

Fuentes: mission accomplished

Early March Cactus League games are about the process, not results. It’s more about how you feel than how you do, unless you’re trying to catch a manager’s eye.

Accordingly, Brian Fuentes accomplished what he set out to do in his spring debut on Friday at Tempe Diablo Stadium during a 7-5 loss to Colorado.

Entering in the third inning against his former club, Fuentes struck out the first man he faced, Ryan Spilborghs. He walked Troy Tulowitzki and yielded a single to Ian Stewart for a first-and-third situation. Miguel Olivo went down for a breaking ball and hit it to the wall in left for an RBI double.

After striking out Matt Miller, Fuentes’ day ended.

Not bad, not great. A good day’s work, which is exactly what the Angels’ closer had in mind.

“For me, I just want to show I’m healthy and throwing pitches where I want to, and for the most part I did that,” Fuentes said. “I did walk a man and started falling behind and made a bad pitch to Stewart, a breaking ball that stayed up. But the breaking ball to Olivo was a good pitch, down, and he hit it to the wall. I’m all right with that.

“I moved the fastball around and put pitches where I needed to, so it was a good day.”

It could have been a lot worse. Fuentes could have been stuck in traffic for more than three hours like Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who didn’t reach the ballpark until the game was underway because of a wreck on I-10.

“I didn’t move forever,” said Jimenez, who chose to drive on his own and not take the team bus. “I left [Tucson] at 9 and got here at 1:30.”

Jimenez entered in the fourth and worked two innings, yielding four earned runs on two walks and three hits while striking out three men.

Fuentes, meanwhile, was throwing more off-speed stuff than is his custom this early in the spring. He feels he has plenty of time to find his fastball command.

“I never really push it too hard in the spring,” he said. “No matter how many bullpens you have, you don’t have the same arm strength. I had two batting practices and three bullpens under my felt.”

Fuentes endured back spasms that set him back last spring, but he found his rhythm after a rocky start and led the Majors with 48 saves in 55 opportunities.

“I try not to base it on results and numbers,” he said, referring to his springtime evaluations. “Do you feel healthy or not? That’s all I focus on now.”

Fernando Rodney, who closed for Detroit last season and brings his heat to the Angels’ bullpen as a free agent, was cleared on Friday to begin throwing bullpen sessions after experiencing soreness in both shins.

“We haven’t discussed it yet,” Fuentes said when asked about how Rodney will fit along with Scot Shields, Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger in the back of a deep bullpen. “My personal opinion is having Fernando in the back of the bullpen is a good thing. I saw him in Detroit, and he’s thrown lights out.

“From the outside looking in, it’s good to have him.”

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has made it clear Fuentes is his closer, and that Rodney and Shields occasionally will spell him in the ninth inning when he needs a breather.

“His arm speed was good, his arm slot was good,” Scioscia said when asked about Fuentes. “He had good stuff. He threw a lot of pitches, 27, 28, and we didn’t want him getting in the 35-pitch range. That was a full workout for him.”

Angels starter Sean O’Sullivan yielded five earned runs on four hits and a walk while getting four outs, but prospects Trevor Reckling and Tyler Chatwood had impressive debuts. Each worked two innings, Chatwood holding the Rockies scoreless while Reckling yielded a run while striking out three hitters.

“Sully had a tough start,” Scioscia said, “but I thought our younger pitchers — Chatwood, Reckling — you could see the life in their arms. They weren’t scared. They went right after guys.”

Offensively, Maicer Izturis (two walks, single) had a perfect day leading off, and Terry Evans stroked a pair of singles, driving in a run. Mark Trumbo slammed an opposite-field double to open the ninth inning, and Michael Ryan drove in a pair of runs with a single and had a lenghty at-bat to prolong the ninth before the Rockies nailed down the win.    
 

Jepsen, Shields make progress

Scot Shields and Kevin Jepsen, two valuable members of the Angels’ bullpen, stretched it out on Thursday in the warm sun of Tempe Diablo Stadium and came out of the session feeling ready for the next step toward the mound.

“Shiedsy and l got back for 10 minutes of long toss, and it felt great — for both of us,” Jepsen said. “I’m happy. The best part is I felt good after I’d stopped throwing for a while and went back out. No issues at all. This was a very good day.”

Shields, rebounding from left knee surgery, and Jepsen, who experienced some shoulder pain early in camp, have been delayed in throwing off the mound.

“I feel like I could throw right now,” Shields said, “but I understand them being cautious with me. You’ve got to look at the big picture.”

It was the first day of live batting practice, and starters Ervin Santana, Joel Pineiro and Joe Saunders all threw effectively.

“I was focused on fastball command,” Saunders said, “and it really felt good to be out there. The second pitch I threw was a line drive right back at me, but I got out of the way.”

First baseman Kendry Morales remained absent as he goes through the final stages of acquiring his work permit. The Cuba native established residency in the Dominican Republic after defecting in 2004. He is expected in camp any day. 

 

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.”

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