Los Angeles Angels: Hisanori Takahashi

3 Up, 3 Down: Tigers 5, Angels 1

July, 19, 2012

Heading into their most important home series of 2012, the Angels don't exactly have a head of steam.

They lost 5-1 to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon and have dropped five of their seven games since the All-Star break. The Angels play the first-place Texas Rangers this weekend in Anaheim.

The Good:

Adjustments. One of the reasons Mike Trout is such a dazzling young talent is that he's able to figure out what pitchers are trying to do to him and do something about it. Trout didn't look good striking out in his first two at-bats, but he looked for a slider against Max Scherzer, got it and golfed it deep into the stands in left field. That was kind of it for the offense. Sometimes Trout is a one-man show, and those are the bad days for this team. Trout has scored at least a run in each of the past 11 games, two short of a team record.

Help coming. Dan Haren didn't look dominant in a rehab start at Class A earlier this week, but after a full-effort bullpen session in Detroit on Wednesday, he told reporters he's ready to go for this weekend. Haren also sounds keen to prove to people that he's still one of the best starters in the game. A highly motivated Haren could provide the boost this rotation needs.

Bullpen. He hasn't been the most efficient pitcher in the league this season, but Hisanori Takahashi kind of kept the Angels in the game by getting out of a jam in the seventh inning and striking out a very tough right-handed hitter, Miguel Cabrera. Ernesto Frieri looked dominant again after a rough outing in his previous game. It was a good day for the bullpen.

The Bad:

Production problem. Some hitters can afford to have days like Peter Bourjos had. He's not one of them. Bourjos struck out with a runner at third and one out in the seventh inning, just as the Angels were trying to claw back into the game. Because of his glove, the Angels would like to play Bourjos more, but he does sometimes look overmatched at the plate.

Power problem. Jerome Williams looked a lot more effective when he was facing teams such as Seattle, Oakland and the Dodgers. He has struggled to keep a couple of brawnier teams inside their stadiums. Williams has given up four home runs in his past two starts, against the Yankees and Tigers. Otherwise, he has pitched pretty well, but that's a big "otherwise." Williams is just clinging to his rotation spot, having given up five earned runs in four of his past five starts.

Focus problem. Erick Aybar has had trouble finding the target lately. He had another throwing error and now has 10 errors, which puts him on a trajectory closer to a dismal 2010 (21 errors) than to his Gold Glove 2011 (13). For a while, Aybar's problem was hitting. Lately, it's been making routine plays.

3 up, 3 down: Indians 9, Angels 5

July, 3, 2012

The Angels had to endure two rain delays before they swallowed a 9-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Tuesday, with No. 2 starter Dan Haren continuing to struggle.

The Good:

Splash continues. Mike Trout moves differently than the other people on a baseball field. He just looks more athletic than virtually anyone else. He's also statistically dominant these days. He hit a three-run shot to tie the score, a ball that traveled on a vicious line out to left field. He also had a single and is batting .340. You can rest assured that, when the All-Stars convene in Kansas City next week, he will get as much national publicity as anyone in the stadium. Angels fans will already know what everyone else will be catching up on: This guy is an extraordinary talent.

Upward trajectory. It's amazing to think that, on May 14, Albert Pujols was batting .197 with one home run. Less than two months later, after hitting his 13th home run, he is batting .272. Here's a fun game to play at home: wager on who will hit for a higher average this season, Pujols or Mark Trumbo. Pujols has a lot of ground to make up, more than 30 points, but he's got a track record to suggest he could do it.

Scoreboard assist. As hot as the Angels have been for the past couple of months, they've gone virtually nowhere in the AL West standings, gaining just 2 1/2 games on Texas since May 3. But Tuesday offered the Angels a small respite from Texas' rampage, as the Rangers got absolutely pounded in Chicago. It seems a little too early to focus on the wild-card standings, so anything that slows down Texas is a big help to the Angels.

The Bad:

Haren. He just isn't right. His command isn't as sharp as it normally is. Getting him straightened out in the second half will be one of the Angels' biggest priorities. The team rallied to get out of the 4-0 early hole and he went back out and gave up a pair of doubles. Poof, the lead was gone. This might be a worse first half than the one he had two seasons ago in Arizona. He pitched great for the Angels after that. Maybe he can replicate the turnaround.

Decision making. Maybe one of the reasons Albert Pujols is such a good first baseman is that he usually errs on the side of aggressiveness. Maybe, but boy does it go wrong sometimes. He got overly ambitious on a grounder to first in the fifth inning and tried to throw home. The ball got away from catcher John Hester and two runs scored. Probably under the "not worth it" category.

Squandered talent. For a pitcher who throws 97 mph and up, it seems like Jordan Walden gives up a surprising number of hard-hit balls. He gave up three rockets in the eighth inning. To his credit, he got out of it while allowing just one run to score, but that run seemed to take the air out of any hopes the Angels had of rallying. Walden, who was the team's closer to start the season, seems like he's going backward in his career and that's a bit troubling.

Are they inventing a new bullpen model?

June, 25, 2012
In the late 1990s, relief pitcher Jose Mesa saw veteran sports writer Jerome Holtzman in the Cleveland Indians clubhouse and ran across the room to embrace Holtzman in a bear hug.

That’s not the typical behavior of major-league baseball players toward journalists, but 30 years earlier, Holtzman had invented the save rule, a statistic that had made Mesa -- and hundreds of other pitchers of his ilk -- millions of dollars.

Holtzman, a member of the Hall of Fame who died four years ago, had no idea that he was creating a monster.

After the save rule, baseball gradually settled into the era of specialization. Every team has to have a closer, who can earn a 10-figure salary, a setup man or two and specialists, usually left-handed but sometimes right-handed, who often face only one batter.

For nearly two months now, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has tried a different approach, a more democratic use of his late-inning pitchers that has achieved stunning results. Shortly after Scioscia pulled Jordan Walden from the closer’s role -- and after the arrival of hard thrower Ernesto Frieri -- the Angels bullpen has taken off while spreading the credit liberally.

In the Angels’ first 32 games, the bullpen was 1-6 with a 4.70 ERA and four saves.

In the last 41 games, it is 7-2 with a 1.87 ERA and 13 saves. Angels relievers haven’t allowed a run in nearly a week.

They just have to stay ready from the sixth or seventh inning through the end of the game. There’s not a lot of time to lounge and enjoy a game.

“As soon as the phone rings, four of us get up to take our coats off,” Angels reliever Jason Isringhausen said.

So far in June, lefty Scott Downs has pitched twice in the seventh inning, four times in the eighth and twice in the ninth. He has six saves. Since he arrived in a trade from the San Diego Padres in early May, Frieri has pitched the ninth inning 12 times, the eighth inning nine times and the 11th inning once. He has nine saves.

On any given night, Walden, Isringhausen, Hisanori Takahashi or LaTroy Hawkins could pitch in a crucial point in the latter innings of a game. And nobody seems to be complaining. You almost get the impression that general manager Jerry Dipoto, who acquired about half the members of the bullpen, planned it this way.

Dipoto knows a few things about relief pitching because he did it as a job for eight major-league seasons. He showed little appetite for spending millions on a closer even though several were available in free agency over the winter.

“It’s one of the beauties of having a group that has risen to an occasion. There are no previous positions, there’s very little in the way of egos that get in the way of a job to do,” Dipoto said. “It’s almost like a tag team the way the bullpen works. You’re just passing the baton to the next guy.”

Scioscia isn’t willing to commit to the practice long-term and, lately, Frieri has settled into something resembling a traditional closer’s role. Downs has been the X-factor, being deployed in one of the final three innings depending when the other team’s best left-handed hitters are due up.

“We’re going to continue to match up until we get some roles that are in concrete,” Scioscia said. “The ability to be flexible makes your bullpen better.”

If it’s not broken, why fix it?

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 6, Mariners 4

May, 25, 2012
The Angels did something they've rarely done this year: they rallied.

Down by a run going into the ninth inning Friday night, the Angels scored three times off Seattle Mariners closer Brandon League for a 6-4 win that gave them their first four-game winning streak this season. Howie Kendrick, making a rare pinch-hitting appearance, drove in the winning runs with a two-run single.

The Good:

Hot Albert. The focus all season has been on the home runs, but the most damaging part of Albert Pujols' slump was the lack of run production. He had four RBIs in April. That tune has changed dramatically lately, with Pujols driving in 20 runs in his last 19 games. Oh, and the home runs? Those are way up, too, with five -- including the three-run blast in the sixth that got the Angels in the game -- in the last 10 games. He had one in the first 36.

Hot bullpen. What was once a major concern is now far less of a concern. The Angels bullpen has been sharp for weeks. It wasn't as high-pressure as some roles, but it also wasn't blowout duty and Hisanori Takahashi and Jason Isringhausen did what the rest of the relievers have been doing lately -- they got a bunch of outs, three innings worth. Then Scott Downs in the ninth did what he always seems to do: pitched a drama-free inning, quickly getting his fourth save.

Sparking things. When you're as hot as Mark Trumbo was for a couple of weeks, you know it's not going to last forever. You just hope for a soft landing, which is unlike what had been happening to the Angels' second-year slugger. The 0-fors were piling up for Trumbo, who has five hits in his last 35 at-bats. Perhaps his ninth-inning single, which sparked the winning rally, will get him going again.

The Bad:

Swervin' Ervin. Lost in the fact that the Angels can't score runs in support of Ervin Santana is the fact that Santana hasn't pitched very well. He has allowed 13 home runs in 10 starts and has an ERA well north of 4.00. He has only had two starts this year when he struck out more than six batters. Walks (seven!) were a big chunk of the problem Friday, but it seems like it's always something that keeps Santana from winning games these days.

Chilled Trout. Similar things as we said about Trumbo could be said of Mike Trout. The rookie was red hot for a while, but not so much lately. The rookie leadoff man didn't get on base again and is now 2 for his last 22, his batting average going from .355 to sub-.300.

Power outage. Kendrys Morales' last home run came on May 13. That also happened to be his last extra-base hit. When you are coming off a catastrophic leg injury, becoming a slap hitter normally isn't a great idea. The Angels need Morales to start driving the ball again, because pitchers are starting to become awfully careful with Pujols all of a sudden.

3 Up, 3 Down: Yankees 11, Angels 5

April, 15, 2012
NEW YORK -- The Los Angeles Angels have lost each of their first three series, a drab start to a season with so many high hopes.

Pitcher Jerome Williams struggled in his season debut and the Angels' offense couldn't quite overcome it in Sunday's 11-5 loss at Yankee Stadium. The Angels are in last place, already 4 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers 10 days into the season.


Spring cycle: Howie Kendrick tends to do this, snapping out of slumps in spectacular ways. He was benched in the first game of this series because of an 0-for-12 stretch, but has gone 6-for-10 since. Sunday he fell a home run shy of the cycle, pounding a triple off the center-field wall in the first, doubling to right in the fifth and bunting for a single in the seventh.

Pushing hard: Mark Trumbo doesn't have a position, but he does have a hot bat. One of those two propositions is going to have to give. Trumbo is hitting the ball harder, more consistently, than any other Angels hitter. He mashed a towering home run to left-center and is batting .375. He's even walking, something he rarely did a year ago. It looks like he might be morphing into a more complete hitter, but can the Angels get him in their plans?

Catching fire: At this point, Chris Iannetta looks like as decent a choice as anybody to protect Albert Pujols. He leads the Angels in extra-base hits after smashing a fifth-inning two-run home run off Ivan Nova. The Angels' previous No. 1 catcher, Jeff Mathis, didn't pick up his sixth extra-base hit until May 31, Game No. 31. Iannetta could get there in Game 10 if he hits a double, triple or home run Monday night.


Slow start: Williams readily admitted he was nervous about pitching his first game at Yankee Stadium, on ESPN and on Jackie Robinson Day. But he didn't show it in the first inning, breezing through the first three Yankees hitters. Things quickly unraveled after that, however, with Williams lasting less than three innings in his season debut and, once again, raising questions about the back of the rotation.

Cleanup mess: First, Kendrys Morales, now Torii Hunter. The guys who hit behind Albert Pujols have been taking turns slumping. Morales was benched after going 1-for-23 with seven strikeouts and Hunter is making scant contact lately. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and has yet to drive a ball this season.

Scant relief: On the New York Mets, Hisanori Takahashi was a versatile and valuable pitcher, making some good starts, pitching solidly in middle relief and even closing at times. In two seasons with the Angels, he hasn't found a role that suits him and he certainly hasn't performed well. The Angels' offense showed some life as the game wore on, but thanks to Takahashi's rough outing -- three runs in two innings -- it never quite mattered.

3 up, 3 down: Twins 6, Angels 5

April, 11, 2012
The Angels continued to get their season off to a sluggish start with Wednesday's 6-5 loss at Minnesota in which ace Jered Weaver and the bullpen couldn't protect a pair of leads.

The Good:

Speed. You don't often see inside-the-park home runs to begin with. You particularly don't see them hit to left field. Then again, few players are as fast as the Angels' Peter Bourjos. The center fielder smacked a ball off the wall and, when Josh Willingham hit the wall and fell down, Bourjos just kept motoring for a three-run home run the unconventional way. He also later had an RBI infield single, but the umpire mistakenly called him out at first.

Pressure. When is bad base running good base running? When it causes the other team to make mistakes. That's part of the reason the Angels run so relentlessly. When Denard Span dove and couldn't come up with Torii Hunter's bloop liner in the seventh inning, Hunter kept running and, while Span's throw beat him easily, it got past the second baseman and Hunter had a leadoff double. He also hustled out a double in the ninth inning on a slow roller into center field.

Bottom feeding. The Angels have become accustomed to limited -- very limited -- offensive contributions from their catchers. Chris Iannetta might be about to change all that. He already has three doubles and his clutch two-out RBI to drive in Hunter was an important moment in the game.

The Bad:

Bad relief. Nothing about Hisanori Takahahi's performances the past two seasons suggests he can be trusted in the clutch. He inherited two runners from Jered Weaver and instantly gave up a triple -- to left-handed hitter Chris Parmalee -- to drive them all in and blow the Angels' lead. In high-leverage situations last year, the league hit .262 against Takahashi. That's too high for a left-handed specialist.

Stopping Willingham. One of the best things to happen to the Angels over the winter was Josh Willingham leaving their division, but they can't escape him entirely. Willingham had five career home runs against the Angels in just 18 games before Wednesday and he did it again, hitting a long home run off Weaver to give Minnesota a 3-1 lead.

The gluts. There actually is a down side to the Angels' newfound depth. Mike Scioscia is finding it particularly difficult to get at-bats for his corner infielders. Maicer Izturis has barely played and Alberto Callaspo doesn't look like he's coping well so far with a reduced role. He has one hit in 13 at-bats this season. Callaspo led the Angels in batting average and on-base percentage last season.

Is the bullpen still the weak link?

April, 3, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Things have gone so smoothly this spring for Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales and the Angels’ four aces, fans’ angst has to drift somewhere and it has landed on the bullpen. Is it this team’s Achilles heel?

Evidence this spring has suggested it might be, and the Angels’ front office apparently shares the fans’ concern. Already, general manager Jerry Dipoto has signed a couple of free agents with major league experience, Jason Isringhausen and David Pauley, to minor league deals.

And his search for arms hasn’t ended. Dipoto has been working the phones fairly aggressively, a source said, to try to dig up pitchers that can secure leads for Angels starters and make the rebuilt offense’s work stand up.

“If you said, ‘Would you want to add bullpen depth? Well, of course,’ “ manager Mike Scioscia said, “but if we don’t, I think we’re in a position where we’re going to be very comfortable if guys just pitch to their potential.”

It’s not that the bullpen has looked bad, just unsteady. And with the money owner Arte Moreno has spent to improve other areas, it’s a major, maybe fatal, gamble to enter a season with uncertainty in such a key area.

Some signs are positive -- the Angels clocked closer Jordan Walden throwing more than 100 mph this spring and Kevin Jepsen, whose velocity was diminished by a knee injury last year, at 98 mph. Lefty Hisanori Takahashi had pitched nine scoreless innings before a wobbly outing at Dodger Stadium Tuesday.

Even Isringhausen’s struggles may not be as dire as they appear. Monday night, he threw practically all sinkers, a pitch he doesn’t throw during the regular season, simply to see if he could get a feel.

(Read full post)

The mentoring of Jordan Walden

February, 23, 2012

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese
The Angels hope to avoid scenes like this by pairing Walden with veteran relievers.

If it seems the Angels are filling their bullpen with veterans whose most-dominant years are behind them, it's not an accident.

The additions of LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen, both 39, are intended -- in part -- to provide mentors for second-year closer Jordan Walden. In his rookie season, Walden, 24, was essentially thrown to the wolves, to mixed results.

Hawkins and Isringhausen both have been closers and have combined to pitch in 17 playoff series. The bonding experience has already begun. The Angels relievers have played golf together and dined together. Next up is movie night.

"There's nothing he could go through on a baseball field I haven't gone through," Hawkins said. "If I can help him avoid some of the mistakes I made, then we'll be all right. He has the stuff, without a doubt. From what I heard from Torii [Hunter], he has unbelievable stuff. It's all about honing that in and then doing it day in and day out."

The Angels departed from a familiar pattern last season. They prefer young relievers to grow into the closer role under a veteran. Troy Percival waited behind Lee Smith. Francisco Rodriguez waited behind Percival. Brian Fuentes was an established veteran when he arrived. The plan dissolved last year after Fernando Rodney struggled and was demoted to eighth-inning duty.

The only two other veteran relievers last year were both soft-throwing left-handers, Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi. Neither has pitched in the postseason.

"We were some young guys down there last year. It's going to be huge to have guys I can talk to who have been there and done it," Walden said.

Position previews: Relievers

February, 14, 2012
Three days into the 2011 season, the Angels' bullpen had set a tone the team would scramble for six months to change. It never quite did.

It's not often a team comes together for an impromptu, players-only meeting so close to Opening Day. But after that Saturday game in Kansas City, several Angels veterans -- including Scott Downs and Torii Hunter -- huddled in the trainers room with a couple of the team's young relievers for a pep talk.

Kevin Jepsen and Michael Kohn got their seasons off to awful starts and they eventually would be demoted to Triple-A, yanking two key relievers from the Angels' bullpen and forcing management to scramble for solutions, a process that would go on for months.

Given the rocky start, things actually came together pretty well by mid-season. The Angels' bullpen ERA (3.52) was second only to the New York Yankees' in the American League and rookie Jordan Walden used a 96-to-100 mph fastball to cement himself in the closer's role Fernando Rodney couldn't hold.

(Read full post)

Question No. 5: Is the bullpen good enough?

January, 15, 2012
We’ll preview spring training 2012 – one of the most anticipated in Angels’ history – with a series of five crucial questions about the upcoming season. First up: relief.

The Angels' bullpen was the area of the team that experienced the least upheaval this winter. The offense got an injection of power and plate discipline from future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. The rotation finally took on a left-hander, and a pretty good one, in C.J. Wilson.

General manager Jerry Dipoto didn't neglect the bullpen -- he added veteran setup man LaTroy Hawkins -- but it probably wasn't the overhaul some Angels fans had hoped for. Unless something changes in the next four weeks (and it might), the Angels will go into spring training banking on second-year closer Jordan Walden. Considering he's 24 and maintained his upper-90s fastball all year, that's not necessarily a bad thing. When I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, Walden sounded excited to erase bad memories from the end of his 2011 season.

But if you're poking this team for soft areas, places where it might be susceptible, you'd probably point your stick at the relief pitching. Angels relievers actually had the second-best ERA in the American League (3.52), but that obscures some of deeper problems. They allowed opponents to bat .247 against them, which ranked ninth, and they walked 185 batters. Only six teams saw more walks from their relievers. When the Angels were trying to find their footing early in the season, the bullpen was awful. When they were chasing teams late, it tended to implode at inopportune times.

Letting Fernando Rodney walk (pun intended) will solve only so many problems. The scrutiny will be on Walden, but it's almost equally vital that some other young arms continue to develop. Let's assume that Hawkins and Scott Downs stay healthy and do what they normally do, which is to be two of the more-dependable eighth-inning guys. Hisanori Takahashi is probably fairly bankable in low-stress roles.

No other Angels reliever has proven he can lock down an inning or two. Rich Thompson was the best of the youngsters, but had some shaky moments, especially late in the season. Bobby Cassevah and Trevor Bell will be fighting to stay on the roster as usual.

When the Angels were throwing a blanket over the late innings in 2002, Francisco Rodriguez got much of the credit, but it was depth that made the team so hard to rally against. Troy Percival, Brendan Donnelly and Ben Weber gave Mike Scioscia options when he was mapping out the final three to 15 outs of a game.

The Angels might not need that kind of dominance to rumble into the playoffs in 2012 -- on paper, they've got the talent to barge right in -- but as we sit a month before spring training, the bullpen remains a major question mark.

Angels bullpen and that ticking sound

August, 30, 2011
A punchless offense has been the anchor on this Angels' season, but it might be the bullpen that eventually keeps this team home in October.

We got a little sneak preview of that Monday night when the Angels lost a game in Seattle, 5-3, because reliever Hisanori Takahashi gave up two eighth-inning runs on a towering Mike Carp home run. That seemed like a bad idea at the time.

The Angels' bullpen issues were evident back in the first series in Kansas City.

Middle relief is the most fluid position in baseball. Most teams have a carousel of relievers shuttling between Triple-A and the majors until they find the right combinations. In Mike Scioscia's clubhouse, that still hasn't happened and they're running out of time.

The Angels lead the league with 21 blown saves and have lost 17 games they either led or were tied after seven innings.

Even if things go well in the next four weeks and those final three games in Anaheim against the Rangers are winner-take-all, you know Scioscia will be sweating out a call to the bullpen every time he has to make one.
ANAHEIM -- The Angels got blown out 8-4 in the opening game of their key four-game series against the first-place Texas Rangers Monday night.

Starting pitcher Garrett Richards left the game in the first inning with a strained groin and relievers Hisanori Takahashi and Rich Thompson got pounded in a six-run fifth inning.

The Angels have lost five of their last six games and fell to five games behind Texas in the AL West, their biggest deficit since July 19.

The Good:

Comeback. The reason Richards was in Anaheim Monday and not with the Arkansas Travelers is because Joel Pineiro could barely get anybody out in four straight starts. Pineiro looked better while striking out the side in the seventh inning and going three strong innings. Pineiro might be headed back into the rotation and getting him turned around would be a boost to the Angels' sagging chances.

Late muscle. In his last two pinch-hitting appearances, Russell Branyan has homered off Mariano Rivera and Alexi Ogando. Not bad for a guy who went nearly three weeks without playing. Before Branyan's blasts, the Angels hadn't had a pinch-hitting home run since 2009.

Baby steps. Some players are trying to emerge from massive slumps. A couple of them, Vernon Wells and Erick Aybar, at least made grudging progress. Wells, who went 2-for-23 on the last road trip and is batting .205, sliced an RBI double to right in the second inning to tie it. Aybar, stuck in a 1-for-41 rut, led off the fifth by slashing a single to left and bunted for a hit in the ninth.

The Bad:

Catcher problem. Let's dispense with this first: The Angels traded Mike Napoli because they didn't want to pay $6 million for a guy who was only going to catch 60 games a year because of a history of arm injuries. But yeah, it hurts in retrospect. Napoli smacked his 19th home run. Meanwhile, Angels catchers collectively are hitting .199 (30th in baseball) with 36 RBIs (25th). It seems ridiculous for Hank Conger to be playing at Triple-A when his bat is needed in Anaheim.

Options. The Angels obviously aren't too thrilled with their options at Triple-A or Richards would still be an Arkansas Traveler. But if they don't go with Pineiro in Richards' rotation spot, one possibility is ex-major-leaguer Jerome Williams, who pitched a complete game Sunday night for the Angels' Triple-A Salt Lake team.

Slop. One of the few edges the Angels have over Texas is a superior defense, but they were awful Monday. They made three errors and two of them led directly to runs. Given the pitching turmoil, the last thing they could afford to do was play sloppily and it doesn't bode well for this series.

Garrett Richards, come on down?

August, 9, 2011
For the second time this season, the Angels are about to plug a rookie into a hole in their starting pitching rotation, it would appear.

This time, it will be Double-A right-hander Garrett Richards joining fellow rookie Tyler Chatwood. ESPN.com baseball analyst Keith Law, well connected in the player development world, just tweeted, "Also just heard Angels RHP Garrett Richards is getting called up."

If Law is right (and I'm awaiting confirmation), Richards will be making his debut Wednesday on a grand stage: Yankee Stadium.

Richards (12-2) ranks second in the Texas League with a 3.06 ERA. In 141 innings, he has struck out 100 batters and he has cut down on his walks, something that used to plague him. Richards, 23, has a mid-90s fastball, a curveball and changeup.

The Angels debated between Richards and pitchers already on their roster, primarily left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, who shut out the Yankees over 12 innings in his two starts against them last season for the Mets.

Takahashi ready to start

August, 5, 2011
Most signs point to veteran left-hander Hisanori Takahashi moving from the bullpen into the Angels' rotation, but the team still hasn't made the announcement.

Part of the issue is Jered Weaver's appeal of a six-game suspension, which he's expected to drop after tonight's start. If he does, the Angels can use Joel Pineiro's replacement in Weaver's spot without finding a second fill-in. Weaver could return to the rotation next Saturday in Toronto, meaning he'd be pitching on only three extra days of rest.

Takahashi, 36, was a starter for 10 seasons in Japan and pitched two six-inning shutouts for the Mets against the Yankees last season, one of which was at Yankee Stadium. It's doubtful the Angels would recall 23-year old Garrett Richards from Double-A to make his debut against one of baseball's best offenses at the most high-profile venue in the sport.

Takahashi said he enjoyed pitching at Yankee Stadium last season, because he was accustomed to watching games beamed back to Japan when Hideki Matsui was a Yankee. He said he could throw 100 pitches if necessary.

Meanwhile, Pineiro took his bullpen demotion in stride, despite the fact that it could cost him a lot of money. He is a free agent following this season.

"If I was young, I'd probably be throwing things around and yelling at people. Now, I'm too old for that," Pineiro said. "I've been around long enough. Like I said, I would really be worried if I wasn't healthy."

Here are the lineups for Thursday's game, with Weaver going for his 15th win against the 48-62 Seattle Mariners:


1. Ichiro Suzuki RF

2. Jack Wilson SS

3. Dustin Ackley 2B

4. Mike Carp 1B

5. Adam Kennedy 3B

6. Miguel Olivo C

7. Casper Wells DH

8. Franklin Gutierrez CF

9. Trayvon Robinson CF


1. Erick Aybar SS

2. Bobby Abreu DH

3. Torii Hunter RF

4. Vernon Wells LF

5. Howie Kendrick 2B

6. Mark Trumbo 1B

7. Alberto Callaspo 3B

8. Peter Bourjos CF

9. Jeff Mathis

What to do with Joel Pineiro's spot?

August, 3, 2011
The Angels are on the verge of trying to fix the one-fifth of their pitching rotation that is broken.
[+] EnlargeJoel Pineiro
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireIn Joel Pineiro's last four starts he has posted a 14.85 ERA and has struck out a grand total of two batters.

While starting pitching has kept the Angels in the thick of the AL West race, No. 4 starter Joel Pineiro has stumbled into the deepest rut since he reinvented himself as a sinkerball pitcher three seasons ago. After watching Pineiro struggle yet again in an 11-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins Wednesday night, manager Mike Scioscia said virtually every solution is on the table.

Pineiro could head to the disabled list (though he insists he's healthy). He could be shuffled off to the bullpen until he figures out why his sinker isn't sinking.

But it sounds like his days in the rotation are numbered... and that number might be zero.

"The ball absolutely is not coming out of his hand the way we know it can, so we're going to look into some things tomorrow" Scioscia said.

Among the options Scioscia confirmed are on the table for the Angels' rotation: reliever Hisanori Takahashi, who was an ace starting pitcher in Japan a few years ago and filled that role at times for the New York Mets; top pitching prospect Garrett Richards, who is 12-1 with a 3.04 ERA at Double-A Arkansas; Triple-A pitcher Trevor Bell, who has been up and down for the Angels the past two seasons; and Pineiro.

Meanwhile, Pineiro is at a loss for why his ERA is 14.85 his past four starts and he has allowed five home runs. He called his recent results, "embarrassing."

"I’ve tried everything I can," Pineiro said. "Honestly, the next thing I can do is to sacrifice a live chicken. There’s no excuse. I wish I knew what was going on.”

Asked if he would prefer to work through his issues as a member of the Angels' rotation, Pineiro's pride seemed to puff up. He seemed to hint that the Angels might be looking to trade him, which isn't entirely absurd since he'll be a free agent following this season and he makes the kind of money ($8 million) that might allow him to clear waivers.

“I know I’ll be pitching somewhere, I know that for sure," Pineiro said. "I don’t know their plans, what they have in mind, but I'll be pitching somewhere because I know I’m healthy."



Howie Kendrick
.293 7 75 85
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
WJ. Weaver 18
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169