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
The Angels welcomed two of their best and most popular pitchers in franchise history — Jim Abbott and Mark Langston — to camp on Monday, to interact with the younger athletes and enrich them with the club’s rich tradition.
“These guys were terrific pitchers,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “Even more, they’re terrific people. We’re excited to have them interact with our pitchers, especially the young pitchers. Sometimes a pitcher thinks he’s on an island; that’s not the case. It’s great to have those guys here.”
Scioscia said another great Angels lefty, Chuck Finley, will make an appearance along with Tim Salmon and Bobby Grich. Don Baylor, who spent time with the team last spring, is busy in his new role as a coach for the Rockies.
Scioscia, who spent his Dodgers youth getting to know legends such as Roy Campanella, John Roseboro and Sandy Koufax at Dodgertown, has been trying to connect his players with those who preceded them in the Angels’ colorful tradition.
Joe Saunders, who emerged as an All-Star last season after battling Ervin Santana for a spot in the rotation in the spring, is the latest in a long line of superb — and occasionally eccentric — Angels southpaw starters. It all began with the inimitable Bo Belinski of no-hit and extracurricular fame, followed by the superb Clyde Wright and remarkably gifted Frank Tanana.
Few teams in history have had a better trio of lefties in the same rotation than Abbott, Finley and Langston from 1990-92. They were a combined 55-28 in ’91 — Langston winning 19, Finley and Abbott 18 apiece — for a club that finished 81-81.