Results tagged ‘ Mike Scioscia ’

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.”

 

 

Glaus, not McPherson, valid model for Wood

Why is it Dallas McPherson is the name fans and insiders always seem to summon with respect to Brandon Wood and his attempt to replace Chone Figgins? It seems clear to your faithful correspondent that Troy Glaus is a more valid precedent to cite, if you really give it some thought.

Glaus was a tall, rangy shortstop who was moved to third base. He was more mature when he came to the Angels than Wood, signing out of UCLA, not Scottsdale Horizon High School, but there are a number of parallels.

Glaus could drive a ball out of any park known to man and brought the athleticism of a natural shortstop to the hot corner. That sums up Wood fairly well, I’d say.

Mike Scioscia doesn’t always agree with me, but the Angels’ manager did second my motion when I presented it this morning in our daily media get-together.

“There are probably more similarities with Troy than McPherson with Brandon,” Scioscia said. “Brandon’s taken a little different path, but they’re similar in ages. Brandon’s got a lot of power. One thing Troy brought was the ability to walk a lot. Troy was a special player.”

And Wood can be a special player…in time. 

Glaus, in his first exposure to Major League pitching in 1998, struck out 51 times in 165 at-bats, batting .218 with one homer, 23 RBIs.

Breaking in as the full-time third baseman in ’99, Glaus hit .240 in 154 games with 29 homers, 79 RBIs. He struck out 143 times in 551 at-bats.

Those, it seems to me, are reasonably attainable numbers for Wood in what he plans to make his first full season in the big time.

Glaus, as we all know, went on to much bigger and better things, and McPherson, largely because of physical problems, fell short of fulfilling expectations as his replacement. Wood has no injury history to speak of, and appears to be in superb shape heading into camp.

The point is, this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. Wood, a very smart young man, understands. All he wants is a chance with the hope that there is some patience shown.

Mike Schmidt’s early-career numbers weren’t much better than Glaus’, and neither were Brooks Robinson’s. A case can be made that those are the two greatest third basemen in history.

 

Kazmir session goes well

Scott Kazmir came to camp with a right hamstring “tweak” that he sustained, he said, in early January in his workouts at home in Houston.

But he managed to get in three mound sessions before coming to Tempe for Spring Training, and the Angels’ talented southpaw made it through a five-minute bullpen on the mound on Sunday despite damp conditions at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

“It went well,” Kazmir said. “I’m feeling good. They’re being a little cautious with me, but it’s early. No reason to push anything.”

Kazmir, a two-time American League All-Star who turned 26 on Jan. 24, was 2-2 with a 1.73 ERA in six starts for the Angels after arriving in an Aug. 28 trade with Tampa Bay last season. He finished the season 10-9 overall with a 4.89 ERA, missing about five weeks in May and June with a right quadriceps strain.

“If all our starters go through their progressions,” manager Mike Scioscia said, “all five should be ready [for Opening Day].”

The Angels opened last season with John Lackey and Ervin Santana on the disabled list, and they were devastated by the death of Nick Adenhart in the first week.

Because of the damp grounds, Scioscia limited some activities, but overall he was content with the workout.

“As long as we get our bullpens in, we’re fine,” he said.

 

Aybar reportedly agrees to ’10 contract

The Angels have avoided arbitration with shortstop Erick Aybar, settling on a $2.05 million contract for 2010, according to Enrique Rojas from ESPNDeportes.

A ruling in catcher Jeff Mathis’ arbitration case is expected soon. Mathis is seeking $1.3 milion, while the club offered $700,000. The Angels settled with catcher Mike Napoli earlier for $3.6 million. Mathis and Napoli have shared the job evenly the past 2 1/2 seasons, Mathis respected for his defense, Napoli more for his booming bat.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said starter Scott Kazmir has a hamstring issue but has thrown off the mound, indicating that it’s nothing serious. New reliever Fernando Rodney has some soreness in his shin, Scioscia added. They’ll probably be kept out of pitchers’ fielding practice until fully healed, along with Scot Shields as he mends from June surgery on his left knee.   

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.

 

 

Familiar faces fortify division rivals

If you can’t beat ‘em, sign ‘em. Or deal for ‘em.

That seems to be the shared philosophies of the Mariners and Rangers, who have been busy importing former Angels as they try to overtake the three-time American League West champions.

Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman have moved to Seattle, giving the Mariners superior defense, quality offense and a whole lot of desire.

Texas, meanwhile, has upgraded its bullpen with Darren Oliver joining Darren O’Day and given the offense another lethal weapon with Vladimir Guerrero bringing his bat to an Arlington playground he has made look very small in his six AL seasons.

All that’s left is for the Mariners, Rangers or A’s to sign free agent Garret Anderson, who’d look especially good in Seattle with best buddies Figgy and Kotchman.

The Mariners and Rangers certainly have improved with these moves. Seattle also added a second ace to its rotation, with Cliff Lee joining Felix Hernandez for what could be the best 1-2 punch in the division. Texas also brought in a potential ace in Rich Harden, but it surrendered one when it sent Kevin Millwood to Baltimore. It remains to be seen how beneficial that will be, hinging almost entirely on Harden’s ability to get through a season intact.

The Angels are looking primarily within to replace the departed, having thus far limited their acquisitions to DH/left fielder Hideki Matsui and reliever Fernando Rodney. It says a great deal about the depth of organizational talent that they can do this and remain confident that they’re still the team to beat in the division.

Their deal for Scott Kazmir at the Aug. 28 deadline enabled the Angels to let John Lackey go to Boston for a king’s ransom. They wanted the big Texan back, but not for five years and $82.5 million.

A fifth starter to complement Kazmir, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana remains a priority, and it’s likely the Angels will get their man – if not now, sometime this spring. There are at least al dozen legitimate candidates out there, a market glut that could bring prices down to a reasonable level.

Of the AL West clubs, Seattle has made the most dramatic moves, obviously. If they’re going to claim the division, they’ll do it in a style reminiscent of the ’60s Dodgers: dominant starting pitching, defense and speed. They don’t have anything close to the power of the Angels or Rangers, but their defense should be the best in the game.

It is remarkable, in a sense, that the Angels’ biggest advantage over the vastly underrated division is their offense.

For years, fans have fired off emails by the hundreds expressing disenchantment with a lack of clout. But this is an offense that should roll up big numbers again with Matsui driving the ball in the middle of the order and Brandon Wood, if he fulfills his potential, bringing another loud bat to the mix at third base.

Their overall balance and depth make the Angels the team to beat again. You’ll hear differently from insiders who want to be able to boast in October that they told you it would be Seattle’s year, or Texas’ year. They conveniently forget those predictions when the Angels prevail.

Recent history shows rather conclusively you’ll save face — and money – if you resist betting against Mike Scioscia and Co.

A pause for praise

 

There are so many things to respect and admire about the Angels. Here are some that leap to mind in the afterglow of one of the franchise’s greatest triumphs:

The tireless commitment of Torii Hunter, who represents every day, in every way. A guy couldn’t have a better teammate. When you play with Torii, you know he’s got your back, without hesitation, no questions asked.

The quiet assurance and endearing presence of Bobby Abreu, who walked into a new room and won it over from day one with his style, elegance, humor and wisdom. I had no idea he was this good a player and this brand of leader. If the Angels can’t keep him, they’ll be losing much more than hits, walks, RBIs, runs and steals. They’ll be losing a whole lot of class.

The unique greatness of Vladimir Guerrero. He seems oddly undervalued and underappreciated in this era where so much value is attached to working counts. Sure, he takes some wild swings. But he has been one of the most feared and productive hitters of this or any era, and it was so sweet to see him deliver at the big moment on Sunday – right after Abreu, a clutch hitter with few peers, came through.

The astounding athleticism of Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar on the left side of the infield. It doesn’t get any better than this. Figgins and Aybar have more range and stronger arms than any left-side combo in the past 35 years.

That’s how long I’ve been covering the sport – too long, some would say – and I’ve never seen a better third-base coach than Dino Ebel. He does his homework, knows every outfield arm in the game, stays on top of every possibility and rarely makes a bad decision.

The way Figgins keeps improving, simply by being so dedicated. He is totally immersed in the game, driven to succeed. He struggled finding hits against the Red Sox – Jacoby Ellsbury robbed him of what would have been an inside-the-park homer – but Figgy worked a huge walk against Jonathan Papelbon during the big rally and has a history of delivering in New York. As with Abreu, Figgins’ many gifts would be hard to replace as he ventures into free agency.

Jered Weaver’s emergence as a sturdy, dependable top-of-the-rotation starter, smart, resourceful and – most of all – extremely tough under duress. He learned his lessons well from John Lackey, his mentor.

Lackey’s true grit.

The style and competitive natures of lefties Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir. Kazmir’s arrival on Aug. 28 from Tampa Bay made this team complete. He’s a keeper.
 
The very real and productive mutual respect catchers Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli continue to display. In another environment, this could be a toxic situation, but these guys have been so close for so long, nothing could pull them apart – not even competition over who catches which pitcher and how often.

Along those same lines, the way Maicer Izturis and Howard Kendrick have handled their second-base platoon with such uncommon grace. Both are everyday players and know it, but they’ve created not a single ripple of discontent over sharing a job.

Kendry Morales’ intelligence. By wisely taking advice from his elders (Abreu, Mickey Hatcher) and controlling his aggression, he turned all that potential into production and accomplished the impossible in making fans get over Mark Teixeira’s loss.

Young relievers Jason Bulger and Kevin Jepsen holding up under a heavy workload and holding it together in front of Brian Fuentes.

Fuentes: 50 saves. How can you not appreciate that? He might not be a prototypical closer with premium gas, but the guy gets outs, and that’s the whole idea, right?

The strength and consistency of Juan Rivera, a rock-solid left fielder, and the manner in which Gary Matthews Jr. handled his very difficult role – and came through repeatedly in the clutch.

The enduring cool of Darren Oliver. Nothing rattles this guy. A pro’s pro.

The way Ervin Santana retained his humor while searching for the right stuff to come back after elbow issues made for some long nights.

The big, good-natured manner of Matt Palmer, who came out of nowhere to deliver much-needed innings and wins and went so respectfully to the bullpen, embracing any role handed him. Nobody appreciates wearing a big-league uniform more than this guy.

The willingness of Robb Quinlan, Reggie Willits, Brandon Wood and Bobby Wilson to do whatever is needed to bring their team closer to a win. Even if it’s not something that will show up in a boxscore.

Shane Loux, Dustin Moseley, Kelvim Escobar and Justin Speier, who did their part until they parted, and and all the young pitchers who helped stitch this crazy-quilt pitching staff together over the long haul.

The inner strength of Mike Scioscia, who navigated the most turbulent of waters this season with remarkable calm. Manager of the Year, no doubt. Manager of the Decade? Absolutely.

The dedication of coaches Hatcher, Ron Roenicke, Mike Butcher, Alfredo Griffin, Ebel, Orlando Mercado and Steve Soliz. Wise is the manager who surrounds himself with strong, independent thinkers willing to put in long hours for the greater good.

The way everyone mourned respectfully and continually honored the memory of Nick Adenhart, one of the best and brightest, gone much, much too soon.

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.”

 

Setting table for Abreu

With their leading hitter, Erick Aybar, batting in the No. 9 slot for Game 1 of the American League Division Series, the Angels either have an incredibly deep lineup or manager Mike Scioscia has something up his proverbial sleeves.

In this case, it’s probably both.

With Bobby Abreu batting second, between Chone Figgins and Torii Hunter, Scioscia likes to have a pair of table-setters in front of the versatile Abreu – a classic “swing man” in the manager’s mind, meaning he can set or clear the table.

Figgins and Aybar are the club’s fastest two players, and when they get moving, they’re a sight to behold. Abreu has the ability to do a lot of things behind, in effect, a pair of swift leadoff men.

Abreu drove in 103 runs and scored 96 this season, batting third 95 times and second 50 times. The Angels had a better record (60-35) with Abreu batting third than second (26-24), but Scioscia likes the way this lineup sets up.

Aybar, who made tremendous strides offensively in his selectivity in large part because of Abreu’s influence, excelled in the No. 2 spot. The Angels were 26-9 when the shortstop batted second, compared to a pedestrian 28-29 when Aybar batted ninth.

With Maicer Izturis batting second, the Angels were 34-21. Izturis is expected back at second base in Game 2 against Josh Beckett after Howard Kendrick – a .358 hitter in the second half – got the start at second against lefty Jon Lester.
 
Scioscia studies numbers to a degree, but he’s also an intuitive manager who relies on feel. He’d say the Abreu and Abyar lineup numbers are skewed by the times of the season when Abreu batted third vs. second and when Aybar hit ninth vs. second.

And when you’ve won six division titles in your first 10 seasons – something no manger has done before you – you certainly deserve a lot of benefit of any doubt

With Jeff Mathis catching John Lackey, the Angels had a .211 hitter batting eighth, right in front of Aybar and his .312 average. But Mathis made much better contact late in the season and hit .234 in the second half, compared to .192 before the All-Star break.

   

 

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