Posted on: February 27, 2012 5:40 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 5:50 pm
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Was it the Angels, or were their halos actually glowing a little brighter in the Arizona sun as they convened for their first full-squad workout with Albert Pujols on Monday?
"Absolutely, you can feel his presence," ace Jered Weaver said.
"There's a sense of excitement, with all the big names," second baseman Howard Kendrick said.
There wasn't any real drama to Monday's workout, unless you count the crush of fans down the right-field line near the team's clubhouse entrance that surged forward so intensely when Pujols stopped to sign that a couple of those in the front row were pinned dangerously against the fence. One cried out in pain.
Maybe that's why Pujols didn't stick around very long to sign.
But though there was nothing to write home about on the field, not even Pujols' live batting practice session against journeyman reliever Brad Mills, the Angels were marking this day on their calendars anyway.
And from Pujols' perspective, he didn't appear to lose his bearings at all.
"He was everywhere," veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said. "He was where he was supposed to be.
"He ran with us. He stretched with us. He hit in the right group.
"He was following Erick Aybar. Aybar knows where he's going. As long as he wasn't following Howie Kendrick. ..."
Kendrick chuckled when he heard that.
"Torii might be right," Kendrick said.
Following more than a decade of spring training with the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., Pujols said there really isn't a dramatic difference in the way St. Louis and the Angels conduct things. It's not like, say, there's a secret entrance to the infield at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
"Camps are the same," Pujols said. "There's nothing different."
The nuances will come later.
"It's going to be fun once we start right-side defense," said Kendrick, who will play next to Pujols on that side of the infield. "That's when we'll start interacting.
"I've got to figure out what his range is, how he likes to play. I think with the Cardinals, it looked like he went to his right pretty well. It didn't look like he was afraid to go to his right.
"If he does that, then that allows me to play up the middle more. And we can cover a lot more ground."
Weaver said he got to know Pujols some during the 2006 World Series, when Jered's brother, Jeff, pitched for the Cardinals.
"He's a great guy," Weaver said. "He's always been nice to me and my family. Plus, not only can he hit, but he's a Gold Glove first baseman [winning in 2006 and 2010].
"It's not going to take him long to fit in, I know that. It's exciting. This is my seventh spring here, and there's always been talk in the offseason of us going and getting some people, and we haven't always done it. But with him and C.J. Wilson and LaTroy Hawkins. ..."
The Angels did it this winter, and now they can't wait to get going.
And that scene with the fans as Pujols was leaving the field for the day?
"It also helps with the autograph hounds," Weaver said, chuckling. "They all run to him.
"It takes a little pressure off the rest of us."
Sunblock Day? Sure was, for now, at 78 degrees. But by the time the Angels were wrapping things up around 12:30 p.m., the wind gusts were already starting to howl. Strong winds are predicted to sweep through the desert tonight and knock the temperature down to a high of 62 Tuesday.
Likes: Looking forward to being a panelist this evening at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State in a forum discussing spring training coverage. Other panelists: Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Janie McCauley, the AP writer in San Francisco. ... Not only is Bobby Valentine going to be great as a manager in Boston, it's going to be great fun with him at the helm. Ex-Red Sox manager Terry Francona had barely finished calling Boston's clubhouse beer ban a "PR move" on the radio Monday morning when Valentine fired back after the Sox workout. "Remember, you're getting paid over there for saying stuff," Valentine said. "You get paid over here for doing stuff. I've done both." Nice. ... Love Craig Counsell moving from the field to being a special assistant to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. And how about this: The other day, Counsell and Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke went together to scout a pitcher during a game at Arizona State University. ... Dodgers GM Ned Colletti in the crowd at the Oscars on Sunday night, with great seats not far behind Michelle Williams, who was up for Best Actress for My Week With Marilyn. ... Man, with Colletti and Athletics GM Billy Beane both attending the Academy Awards (Beane to support Moneyball, of course), next thing you know, Cubs GM Theo Epstein will become a regular at the Grammys. ... Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on Jimmy Fallon's show Monday and Friday nights this week. ... Love what I've heard of Wrecking Ball, the new Springsteen record out March 6. Some rock, some Seeger Sessions-style stuff, some gospel, some folk ... great mix.
Dislikes: Aw, Johnny Cash would have been 80 on Sunday. Happy birthday anyway to the Man in Black. Got a chance to walk through his tour bus a couple of years back when it was on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Very, very cool. Reading daughter Rosanne Cash's memoir, Composed, now. In turns, a very thoughtful, emotional and introspective work.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I go out on a party
"And look for a little fun
"But I find a darkened corner
"Because I still miss someone"
-- Johnny Cash, I Still Miss Someone
Posted on: August 21, 2011 9:39 pm
The Angels suddenly are on a roll: Not only have they won four straight to crawl back to within four games of first-place Texas in the AL West, they also struck a multi-year contract extension Sunday afternoon to keep Cy Young-candidate Jered Weaver in Anaheim through at least through the end of the 2016 season.
The Angels and Weaver have agreed to a five-year, $85 million deal, according to sources with knowledge of the agreement, that also includes a full no-trade clause. The club has scheduled a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
The deal came unexpectedly on Sunday afternoon, unexpected because as a client of agent Scott Boras, Weaver was expected to play through the 2012 season and then jump into the free agent market. But Weaver, a Southern California native (Simi Valley), has made his preference for staying at home clear.
While Boras probably could have scored an even bigger contract on the free agent market assuming Weaver remained healthy, the full no-trade clause is evidence of Weaver's desire to extend his career in Anaheim.
The deal Weaver reached with the Angels is comparable to the contracts Felix Hernandez reached with the Seattle Mariners last year (five years, $78 million) and Justin Verlander signed with the Tigers before the 2010 season (five years, $80 million).
Verlander and Hernandez each had two more years of arbitration available to them when they signed, Weaver would have had just one.
Undoubtedly, the deal will be a load off of Weaver's mind in what already is shaping up as a career year. At 14-6 with a 2.10 ERA, Weaver is on pace for a career-high in wins and a career-low in ERA. Weaver's ERA currently is the best in the AL, and he ranks third in opponents' batting average (.207), fifth in innings pitched (188 1/3) and seventh in strikeouts (158).
The contract is said to also include significant award bonuses for Weaver for winning the Cy Young Award, MVP and earning an All-Star berth, among other things.
Posted on: August 21, 2011 7:36 pm
Late August, and if you're looking for stretch-run drama, well, you'd better go find a good book. May I recommend David Halberstam's Summer of '49? Great book chronicling an epic Red Sox-Yankees pennant race. Sigh.
There's still time for things to change, of course, but as we sit here today (unless, of course, you're standing), there is less than a four-game difference in only one of eight potential playoff races. (I'm dismissing the half-game separating the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East because both clubs have all but formally qualified for October: The Red Sox own a 7 1/2-game margin over Tampa Bay in the AL wild-card chase).
No, after Detroit's beat-down of Cleveland, the only real drama heading into this week is in the NL West, where the Giants have pulled back to within 1 1/2 games of Arizona. The Diamondbacks were and are a nice story, but not quite so much after getting swept in Atlanta.
Anyway, for all of this, I blame California.
The Not-So-Golden State right now is playing harball at a level ranging from head-shakingly bad to maddeningly sporadic and is in danger of being shut out of postseason baseball for the first time since 1999:
-- The World Series champion Giants, playing catch-up with Arizona, currently rank 29th in the majors in runs scored and seemingly have more players on the disabled list than on the active roster. Carlos Beltran, hello?
-- The Dodgers' back-to-back NLCS appearances in 2008-2009 currently are tied up in divorce/bankruptcy court.
-- The Padres' 90-win season of a year ago has turned to dust.
-- The only way the Athletics will see October is in Moneyball -- literally. The movie opens Sept. 23.
-- The Angels were nearly extinguished by Texas last week before rising from the ashes with a four-game winning streak that has moved them back to within four games of the Rangers.
Starting in 2000, the Angels have made the playoffs six times, the Athletics five, the Giants and Dodgers four each and the Padres twice.
Now? The Giants are clawing and the Angels have regained a faint pulse. Those two right now are a couple of the last hopes to goose a stretch-run that is threatening to boost football's television ratings even more.
Now, with colleague Danny Knobler hopefully somewhere with his feet up and an ice-cold lemonade nearby ... on to this week's 3 to Watch:
1. Time was, the Red Sox looked loaded and dangerous. Aw, truth be told, they still mostly look that way, but with Clay Buchholz out until mid-September, Daisuke Matsuzaka done for the season and Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew, David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury all hurting, they're vulnerable. The pitching situation in particular is why they acquired Erik Bedard at the July 31 deadline, and it is Bedard who takes the ball in the series opener of Red Sox at Rangers, Monday night (8:05 ET) at the Ballpark in Arlington. It's an intriguing four-game series for a few reasons, not the least of which is because, if the season ended today, these two teams would face each other in the first round of the AL playoffs. One thing to watch between now and then, though: The Rangers' schedule down the stretch is more difficult than the Angels, with seven games against the Red Sox, six against Tampa Bay and three against Cleveland (the Angels have two against the White Sox and three against the Yankees, but they also get Baltimore again).
2. Speaking of tough schedules, what Manny Acta's Cleveland Indians are facing is pure torture, and the Indians did not get off to a good start in Detroit over the weekend, where Cleveland was swept. Thanks to early rainouts, the Indians are in the midst of playing 45 games in 44 days. They've got two home doubleheaders -- White Sox and Twins -- the final full week of the season. Before that, though, Seattle pulls into town on Monday, and Cleveland dives into its double-dips with Mariners at Indians, Tuesday afternoon and evening (1:05 and 7:05 ET) at Progressive Field. It doesn't get any easier with rookie second baseman Jason Kipnis (hamstring) on the disabled list and with slugger Travis Hafner nursing a right foot strain (he left Sunday's game in Detroit and the Indians will know more Monday).
3. Two teams struggling mightily to tighten a couple of AL races hook up for a quick two-game series, and by the time Chicago rookie Zach Stewart is finished facing Los Angeles' Jered Weaver in the finale of White Sox at Angels, Wednesday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium, we'll have a better idea of whether Ozzie Guillen's club is in or out in the AL Central, and whether the Angels are serious players in an AL West race that right now is Texas' to lose. The White Sox took two of three from the Rangers and are five games behind the Tigers in the AL Central. Thanks to the Sox, the Angels were able to gain a couple of games back on Texas to pull to within four in the AL West. Considering that Texas pushed the Angels to six back last week and was one out away from seizing an eight-game lead on the Angels last Thursday night, Mike Scioscia's club is living large.
Tags: Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Indians, David Halberstam, David Ortiz, Erik Bedard, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Kipnis, Jered Weaver, Kevin Youkilis, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Mike Scioscia, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Travis Hafner
Posted on: July 12, 2011 7:33 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 8:16 pm
PHOENIX -- Talked to both All-Star pitching coaches during batting practice, Mike Maddux of the Rangers and Dave Righetti of the Giants, and here's the tentative pitching plans for tonight's All-Star Game:
AL starter Jered Weaver is only expected to go one inning. Angels manager Mike Scioscia talked to Rangers and AL skipper Ron Washington and requested Weaver go no more than one inning or 25 pitches because he's due to start Saturday during the Angels' doubleheader in Oakland.
Boston's Josh Beckett is expected to follow Weaver to the mound, according to Maddux. After that, look for either Michael Pineda of the Mariners or Texas' C.J. Wilson. The way things were set up going into the game, Washington and Maddux were planning to use Pineda as the third pitcher in.
After that it's less planned, though Angels rookie closer Jordan Walden has been told there is a good chance he'll pitch in the fifth inning. While that's not guaranteed, Maddux said he did speak with some of the closers because, obviously, not everybody can pitch the ninth.
"Guys used to pitching the ninth inning, we gave everybody a heads up because if we need them early, normally, they wouldn't have even gone to the training table yet," Maddux quipped.
As for overall pitching plans, Maddux had another good line: "The only sure thing is, if Weaver carries a no-hitter into the second inning, he's not gonna get it."
As for the NL, starter Roy Halladay likely will pitch two innings unless he goes through a long first inning. Phillies teammate Cliff Lee will follow him to the mound. Then, Righetti said, it will be either the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw or Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens -- probably Kershaw.
Posted on: July 11, 2011 9:07 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 10:12 pm
PHOENIX -- You know what would really throw some gusto into this All-Star Game?
Except, as you may have heard, because of a new rule instituted last year, starting pitchers who work on Sunday are ineligible to play in the All-Star Game.
So Verlander is here, watching the game just like you. Only difference is, Verlander gets to dress in uniform and hang out in the clubhouse.
It is a well-intentioned rule, and the spirit in which it was instituted is right (and no disrespect to the Angels' Jered Weaver, who will start for the AL and is pretty darned good himself). But it needs to be revisited.
In most cases, a pitcher throws in the bullpen two days after a start.
So there is no reason why, say, Verlander, can't contribute one inning in Tuesday's game (in what effect would be akin to a post-start bullpen session).
NL (and Giants) manager Bruce Bochy disagrees.
"I think it's a good rule," Bochy says. "I was caught in this back in '99 where a couple of pitchers pitched on Sunday, and I was actually told that they would be available for an inning. Then once they got there, [I was told] they would prefer them not to pitch, so it puts the manager in a tough spot.
"I think that takes care of that. If he throws on Sunday, he can't pitch. And that way you don't come out short-handed. We need to have all 13 pitchers available."
There you have it, same as designating a closer and refusing to change: It allows a manager to cover his rear end and shut down all critics with an easy answer along the lines of, "That's the way it is, I didn't have a choice."
No question, managers are put in tough positions at the All-Star Game, especially in regard to pitching.
A manager's first responsibility is to return pitchers healthy to their respective teams. You can't blame clubs for getting jumpy about it. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly planned to ask Bochy to only use Clayton Kershaw for one inning Tuesday night because the Dodgers have slotted Kershaw to start their second-half opener Friday in Arizona.
Still. They can't contribute one inning on Tuesday?
AL (and Rangers) manager Ron Washington said "I'm all good with it."
The Sunday rule -- and other All-Star issues -- is being discussed by players and owners as they work toward reaching a new Basic Agreement (the current one expires after this season), according to sources.
It's too early to say whether there will be a change for 2012. But certainly, the trend has been to protect players more, not less.
Verlander, who beat Kansas City on Sunday, is enjoying the scene here and said Monday he understands why the rule was put into place -- and supports it.
"I think it's probably a smart rule," he said.
Yeah, but if his Tigers advance to the World Series this year ... but have to open on the road because the NL won the All-Star Game when Verlander couldn't pitch?
Wouldn't he be angry then?
"I probably would be, in that case," he said, grinning.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 4:39 pm
-- After tagging Jered Weaver with the only loss he's taken in 2011 -- an arbitration beating last winter -- Angels general manager Tony Reagins confirms Weaver's account, that it was business as usual when the right-hander came to camp this spring.
"Unchanged," Reagins says of Weaver's demeanor. "I think he knew what to expect in the process. He went through it, but he didn't let it affect him.
The Angels had offered $7.365 million. Weaver, who earned $4.265 million in 2010, countered at $8.8 million. Weaver says he arrived in spring camp with neither a chip on his shoulder or with excess motivation to prove that he should have been awarded his payday.
"Not at all," Weaver says. "Business is business. Obviously, it was the first time I've gone through anything like that. You never take the business side of baseball and bring it to the fun part of it. That gets you in trouble. I've got pretty thick skin."
-- Weaver is eligible for free agency after the 2012, season, by the way. And with Scott Boras as his agent, Angels fans are advised not to fall too deeply in love with him.
-- Weaver gives off the appearance of a quiet, laid-back guy. But there's more beneath the surface.
"I see a guy who is a leader," Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher says. "He really stepped into the role last year. He wanted to challenge himself, and he reaped the rewards. He puts in a lot of hard work. He communicates very well with his teammates. He's very open. He mingles with everybody."
Says fellow starter Dan Haren: "I'm laid back off the field, and I don't wear my emotions on my sleeve on the field. He's laid back off the field, but on the field he's competitive and fiery. I've pitched on quite a few teams, and he ranks right up there with his will to win. He'll do anything. I've seen him throw 125 pitches and then beg to go back out there.
"You don't see that much anymore. At least, I don't."
-- Weaver doesn't throw as hard now as when the Angels made him their No. 1 pick in 2004, but he's acquired the wisdom that comes with five years in the league and that's made him more dangerous.
"He understands how to pitch," Reagins says. "When we took him, he threw much harder than what he throws now. But velocity is not as important as being able to throw the ball where you want to."
Weaver's fastball averaged between 93 and 95 m.p.h. a few years ago. Now, it averages somewhere between 91 and 93.
"But I like the results better," Reagins says.
Likes: Glad to see Ryan Ludwick slam the game-winning homer in the 13th inning in San Diego the other night. Not because I was rooting against Atlanta, or rooting for the Padres. It's just that Ludwick is a good man and has been buried in such a dreadful slump all season. Cover this game long enough and that's what happens: You don't root for teams. You root for people. ... Speaking of which, a pleasant memory came floating back Tuesday when a friend was trying to recall the name of the sweet old elevator operator at Tiger Stadium. Sarah, bless her soul. ... The framed Tiger Stadium print in my home office. Takes me right back to Midwestern summer nights. We're never too old to be reminded of our youth, are we? ... Here We Rest, the new CD from Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. ... Blessed, the new CD from Lucinda Williams. ... Pipes Cafe, a great breakfast and lunch joint in Cardiff, Calif. Get the breakfast burrito.
Dislikes: The dead hummingbird I found on by back porch Tuesday morning, courtesy of my cat. At least, that's my current suspect, though CSI is still investigating and there is no proof. ... Never saw the J. Geils Band before they split up. That's probably the only band I never saw live that I really, really wish I would have (not counting groups that existed before I was old enough to go to concerts, like The Beatles). I would think there would be a ton of dough to be made with a J. Geils reunion tour. (I'm also not counting U2, which I've never seen, because they're currently on tour and, as such, they don't rank in the "Missed Chance" category. They're coming to a stadium near me in June and I figure I'll catch 'em.).
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You talk about the junk you do
-- Lucinda Williams, Buttercup
Posted on: April 23, 2011 9:12 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 12:00 am
Guess life isn't going to be a tire swing all summer for the Texas Rangers, after all.
Not that the Rangers themselves ever expected to run away with the AL West, but when they were 9-1 and owned a four-game AL West lead on April 11, you sure heard some chatter in other quarters about the possibility.
Now, Hamilton is out for up to two months with a broken bone in his arm, and Saturday the Rangers disabled their closer with soreness in his shoulder before Saturday's game with Kansas City. Maybe Texas doesn't miss a beat, but if ever there was a time for an AL West rival to make an early-season move, this is it.
Question is, is anybody in a position to do so?
The Angels actually left Texas in first place on Wednesday night after taking two of three from the Rangers. But Boston devours Los Angeles like kids gobble Easter candy and, in winning the first three of a four-game weekend series -- the latest a 5-0 cakewalk on Saturday -- helped dump the Angels back into second place. The Red Sox have won 12 of their past 13 against the Angels, including nine of 10 in 2010.
Oakland ranks 13th in the AL in runs scored. Only Minnesota (57) had scored fewer than the Athletics (66), and Bob Geren's team needs to hit .500 (they were 9-11 before Saturday's game with Seattle) before worrying about passing the Angels and Texas.
The Angels had stabilized some after losing three of their first four, though Vernon Wells was still hitting just .183 with one homer and four RBI into Saturday night's game and the club's bullpen had walked an AL-high 41 batters -- five more than next-most Kansas City.
This isn't exactly how Wells would prefer to introduce himself to Southern California fans, though the nine-year veteran isn't panicking.
"It's not my first time," Wells says of a slow start. "I've hit .180 for the month of April before."
Not quite, but close: .191 in April, 2005.
Meantime, the Angels still are not sure when slugger Kendrys Morales, out since surgery to repair a fractured leg last May, will return.
"Early, it was really hurting us, especially with Rodney, Kohn and Jepsen," Scioscia says. "Obviously, they've got to work on command issues to get where they need to be. It's not a good trend.
Angels pitchers have walked 17 batters in the first two of the four games against Boston, 10 by the bullpen.
"We have some power arms down there [in the bullpen], but power arms that should be able to command counts better than we've seen," Scioscia says. "It will work its way out as the season goes on."
The Rangers, no doubt, figure the same thing about their current spate of injuries. And the run-challenged Athletics, about crossing the plate. And Seattle ... well, let's not get carried away here.
Posted on: April 10, 2011 8:25 pm
And they're not alone.
Now 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA, the Angels' ace is racking up impressive starts like he racked up a career-high 15 strikeouts against the Jays in Sunday's 3-1 win.
"I'm just trying to keep my team in the game," Weaver said. "And if it takes a couple of strikeouts every now and then, then that's what it's going to take."
It's usually more than just a couple. Weaver led the AL with 233 punchouts last season and is off to a roaring start in 2011. The Blue Jays were overmatched from the start Sunday, unable to even get a hit against Weaver until Travis Snider's infield single in the fifth.
Most importantly, after manager Mike Scioscia stuck with Weaver into the eighth, he issued two one-out walks with the Angels leading 3-1 before striking out Bautista to finish his afternoon.
Bautista took two balls to start the at-bat, then took called strike one and then ball three before a foul tip ran the count to full.
"The one pitch I tipped with my bat, that would have been ball four," Bautista said. "I couldn't hold on."
Bautista quickly made sure to say he was making no excuses and taking nothing away from Weaver. He was just beaten in the at-bat.
"You look at his numbers the last couple of years, he ranks with anybody," Bautista said. "Righty on righty, he's as good as anybody. He's very deceptive with that weird delivery that comes across his body.
"He's on top of everything, and he can locate all of his pitches. That's a good recipe for success right there."
Weaver's effort was especially welcomed by the Angels because it came after a 14-inning win Saturday night in which Scioscia emptied his bullpen and wound up using starter Dan Haren to work the 14th. Furthermore, it was the second time in four games the Angels' skipper had used every single one of his relievers in a game.
"Part of what you do [Saturday night] is because you know you have a guy like Weav coming up," Scioscia said. "Same with Haren. You know the guy is routinely going to get you to a point in the game."
Weaver became the first Angels pitcher to record 15 or more strikeouts in 16 years, since Chuck Finley did it against the Yankees on May 23, 1995. He was the first right-hander to do it for the Angels since Mike Witt on July 23, 1984, against Seattle.
"My command of the fastball was good, and the slider was better than it's been in awhile," Weaver said. "And matching up with a bunch of right-handers is going to play good."
"He pretty much did what he's good at, throwing strikes and mixing it up," Nix, the Jays' third baseman, said. "There are a number of things about him. He's deceptive, he's able to throw four pitches for strikes to both sides of the plate ... that's what he's usually able to do."