Decision day is fast approaching. Catcher Bobby Wilson and outfielder Terry Evans are out of Minor League options and can’t be returned to Triple-A Salt Lake without the risk of losing them through waivers. Both almost certainly would be claimed.
Evans is competing with Robb Quinlan, Reggie Willits, Michael Ryan and Cory Aldridge for a backup outfield role. Quinlan can play four positions and is the most experienced of the group. Willits, held back by a hamstring strain, can be sent to Salt Lake, but he’s the only proven center fielder. Ryan has the advantage of being able to play the corner infield spots. Aldridge has scalded the ball all spring. Evans can drive the ball and play all three outfield spots.
It becomes a matter of choice, and it figures to come down to the final days of Spring Training after the club breaks camp and heads west.
The Wilson situation is far more complicated. The Angels have to decide if they can keep a third catcher in support of Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis. If they can’t, Wilson will have to be dealt or lost.
Just the other day, manager Mike Scioscia liberally praised the 26-year-old Wilson, a Seminole (Fla.) High School teammate of former Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman who has spent seven years honing his skills in the farm system.
“Willie from the defensive end is a terrific catcher,” Scioscia said. “He’s got terrific, is a great receiver and throws well. From the offensive end, he’s going to be a good situational hitter. He’s going to be a good offensive player in the Major Leagues.
“Obviously, we have some decisions to make. He’s a player that is in our discussions as to what role he’ll have with us. He’s a good player who’s going to be able to catch every day in the Major Leagues when he has the opportunity.”
Wilson is hitting .316 in Cactus League play with a .435 on-base percentage. He skillfully managed 20-year-old Trevor Reckling through four scoreless innings against the Giants on Friday in his second spring start.
“I feel like I’ve gone out and played hard, gone after it, done everything I can to stick,” Wilson said. “I’m still trying to prove to the staff here that I am able to play, and I feel like I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to do. I’ve paid attention to the little details of everything that’s gone on.
“The one knock on me when I came up was, `Yeah, he can hit, but he’s an average catcher.’ To be voted best defensive catcher in the Pacific Coast League last year by the managers, that shows me I came in and did the job. I can block [pitches and the plate], I can throw, call a game, handle a pitching staff. I feel like I’m well-rounded.
“I pride myself on putting up zeros. Catching Trevor, 20 years old and facing Tim Lincecum, that wasa great experience for both of us. He did it with just his fastball and slider first time through the lineup, then we went to his changeup, one of his best pitches. He was in and out, back and forth, with a good tempo. That’s the one thing I pride myself in, that pitcher-catcher relationship.”
Carrying three catchers has benefits. It would give Scioscia flexibility with Napoli as a pinch-hitter and occasional designated hitter, while providing support in the event of injury to either of the main receivers.
Crucial to the makeup of the 25-man roster is the pitching staff, whether Scioscia decides to carry 11 or 12 arms. Brian Stokes’ ability to go multiple innings – he’s done it three times this spring – could swing it toward 11 pitchers . . . and one more roster spot for a position player.
Decision day draws near. – Lyle Spencer
The Angels have Jered Weaver pitching six innings in a camp game against the Athletics today to get him in a more controlled environment. He can continue to work on his two-seam fastball and cutter while bringing his pitch count up into the 90 range.
Taking Weaver’s place in Scottsdale against reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum is Trevor Reckling, the Angels’ 20-year-old lefty from New Jersey. Reckling has impressed with his poise and command as well as his premium stuff.
“He has the whole package,” catcher Bobby Wilson said. “It’s just a matter of getting command of everything. He’s very confident in his fastball, breaking ball and change and can throw them in any count.”
With Scott Kazmir rebounding from shoulder tightness and Ervin Santana set to test his bruised right bursa sac (funny bone) on Sunday, the Angels are hoping to have all five starters ready to go in the opening week.
If any of the five is set back, Matt Palmer gets first call, followed by Sean O’Sullivan. But Reckling isn’t far removed from contention. He showed his poise in pitching out of trouble in the first against the Giants, getting ground-ball outs from Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff to leave Aaron Rowand stranded at third with one out after his leadoff double.
PHOENIX – Angels fans visiting Tempe Diablo Stadium on Friday were treated to a sneak preview of potential coming attractions at Angel Stadium.
Trevor Reckling and Tyler Chatwood, back to back, put on impressive displays, going two innings each against the Rockies. Reckling allowed a run while striking out three men, and Chatwood yielded two hits in two scoreless innings.
Reckling, a lefty from New Jersey, has star qualities and is mature beyond his years. He’ll be 21 on May 22, and it appears as if he’s on the fast track to the big time.
The Angels’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009, Reckling has a delivery quirky enough to disrupt hitters’ timing, and he unleashes mid-90s fastballs along with a big bender and a quality changeup. As his command improves, he’ll move closer to The Show.
“It felt good being out there,” said Reckling, a steal in the eighth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. “I thought I had pretty good stuff and made some good pitches. It’s always a challenge facing big league hitters, and I’m trying to make the best of my opportunities.”
Chatwood, the club’s second-round choice in 2008, is entering his third professional season at 20. By 2012 or 2013, the kid from Redlands, due east from Angel Stadium, could be joining Reckling in the Angels’ rotation.
Chatwood grew up in Redlands, about an hour east of Angel Stadium. His tool kit, Like Reckling’s, is loaded with sharp instruments. Unimposing physically at 6-foot and 185 pounds, he has adopted as role models two pretty fair righties who make up for physical stature with talent and production: Tim Lincecum and Roy Oswalt.
“Those were the guys I was looking at when I started pitching my junior year [at Redlands High School] – mostly Lincecum,” Chatwood said. “I was a position player my whole life before I began pitching seriously as a senior.”
He’d undergone Tommy John surgery for a loose ligament in his right elbow at age 15, having pitched one inning while he was in the process of making a U.S. national team as a third baseman in a tryout in Phoenix.
His sophomore year was wiped out by the surgery, and he got a feel for pitching as a junior before putting it all together in his senior year, drawing the attention of Angels scouts.
Drafted in the second round in 2008, he has put together two solid Minor League seasons and needs only to develop his changeup and find consistent command to make a major jump.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he was impressed with the way Reckling and Chatwood attacked hitters with their live arms and attitudes against the Rockies.
“They weren’t scared,” Scioscia said.
Anxious, maybe, but not afraid to take a big step toward their eventual destination.
Ichiro is as hip, stylish and in step with the times as any player in Major League Baseball, even if he doesn’t express it in fluent English.
Before the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium last season, Ichiro willingly gave me a brief taste of hip-hop. I’m no music critic – although I did once review a Bruce Springsteen concert for the late, lamented Los Angeles Herald Examiner — but it sounded dead on to me.
“Ichiro is as cool as it gets, man,” Reds manager Dusty Baker had told me. “He’ll bust out some Snoop on you.”
The Mariners’ superstar, alone at his locker in the ancient home clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, was just starting to feel it before I was ushered away, deprived of more Ichiro unplugged by pre-game time constraints.
Now here he is, on the verge of reaching 200 hits for the ninth consecutive season, meaning every season he’s played in the Major Leagues of this country. We’re fortunate that it could happen here, at Angel Stadium, because this is a performer to savor, one for the ages.
As contemporary as he is on every level, Ichiro, more than any other current player, takes us back to another time, another century.
If you’re younger than dirt and would be curious to know what Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, greats of those early times, played like, Ichiro is your ticket.
He slaps and dashes. He laces line drives everywhere. He runs as if swept by a quiet storm. He makes difficult plays routine and has a cannon for an arm. I’ll never forget the throw he made his rookie year to erase Oakland’s Terrence Long trying to reach third base on a single. I was thinking, that’s Clemente, Roberto Clemente.
Ichiro has pounded out and beat out his singles on wonderful teams (2001) and dismal ones. He has been as consistent as the weather in the Pacific Northwest. You know it’s going to rain base hits when this guy is on the field.
Ichiro is much like Pete Rose in that way, without the fury. Ichiro is a better hitter than Rose was, with all due respect, and much faster. Defensively, it’s no contest. Ichiro is among the best ever; Pete took his talents to physical limits that never constrained Ichiro.
If Pete was Charlie Hustle – and he was – Ichiro is Mr. Cool, in any language.
Seattle likely will finish no better than third in the American League West this season, but it led the division in legends with Ichiro and Ken Griffey Jr. The Mariners also own perhaps the game’s most gifted young pitcher in Felix Hernandez, who takes his place right alongside Tim Lincecum.
Griffey has been, in my judgment, the player of his generation. Nobody ever had more fun playing the game than The Kid, and nobody ever was more fun to watch.
Ichiro Suzuki has been simply unique. His value can be measured with statistics that will carry him to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but there’s never been a number that defines style and class packaged in the one dynamic frame.
I’ll settle for No. 51, the one worn by the great Ichiro, a blazing star for several continents and all time.
In a camp game at Scottsdale against the Giants’ Triple-A players, Angels starter Dustin Moseley went seven innings and made 88 pitches, four of them leaving the park. Moseley yielded six earned runs, walking one man while giving up 10 hits and striking out three.
In that same game, facing reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, Mike Napoli went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two walks. In the informal setting of such games, players can bat multiple times, prompting Lincecum to remark, “Man, that was a lot of Napolis.”
Young first baseman Mark Trumbo homered for the Angels.