Jason Vargas got a couple pitches up against the Brewers in Cactus League action Tuesday.
But cutting these kinds of corners risked incurring a different expense, priced in wins and losses. There are open questions over how effective Vargas will be outside of Safeco Field now that he's no longer in Seattle. Even in a career-best 2012 season, he allowed 35 home runs, and that was with the benefit of the best park in the league in suppressing big flies, especially homers off right-handed bats (per Baseball Info Solutions), indexing at a league-low 67 over the last three years. Angel Stadium is also one of the better parks to pitch in, with a righty-homer index of 81 over that same stretch; that's still 21 percent easier to homer in relation to Safeco.
The Cactus League is never friendly to men on the mound, and spring stats don't matter. But Vargas got off on the wrong foot from the outset on Tuesday, allowing a titanic two-run tater to Rickie Weeks in the first inning. Weeks pulled a double hard to the left-field corner his next time up, fueling another two-spot on the scoreboard for the Brewers. Add in Aramis Ramirez's fifth-inning homer, and it wasn't the best day for Vargas.
Vargas didn't make light of getting lit up by Weeks, saying afterward, “I'm still trying to figure out how to get him out. He's gotten me more times than not over the past few years.”
Still, Vargas took the broad view of his start, focusing on getting his work in. “It was good to get into the sixth inning, get the pitch count up, continue to get stronger.”
That was Angels manager Mike Scioscia's pointed purpose on Tuesday. Despite the five runs allowed through five, Scioscia sent Vargas out to the mound in the sixth to get one more out (first baseman Alex Gonzalez), as he has with C.J. Wilson and Joe Blanton as well this spring.
“Just getting up, get up, take your warmups, get out there for an inning to give yourself a little bit of stamina,” Scioscia said. “There's no doubt the ups are as important as the pitches.”
As far as the results, Scioscia observed, “Vargas got the ball up a little bit. He threw some good off-speed pitches, some good changeups, but this is not a forgiving park when you get the ball up.”
Vargas mulled his objectives for the day, and said, “I was just trying to execute like I would in the regular season. The goal is to get comfortable doing what I've had success doing: Changing speeds, making the hitters move back and forth, that's been a key for me.”
It has worked for him in the past, but today's pair of homers might foreshadow what's to come for Vargas in the Big A. If so, it might be a long season in Anaheim.