Los Angeles Angels: Jason Isringhausen

Garrett Richards optioned to Triple-A

July, 5, 2012
7/05/12
11:51
PM PT
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The long line of encouragement began with reliever Jordan Walden, who walked over to a broken Garrett Richards in one dark corner of the Angels clubhouse Thursday night. Then it was 39-year-old veteran Jason Isringhausen who dropped by to offer his words of wisdom, followed by All-Star C.J. Wilson and pitching coach Mike Butcher.

Richards, 24, had just been optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake City, the roster move acting as one last dagger in his worst night as a big leaguer. He's still young, though, and highly regarded in the organization. The outpouring of support from fellow pitchers proved it.

"I have to start throwing strikes more consistently," Richards said after cleaning out his locker. "I have to go back to the drawing board."

The Angels came from behind to beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-7, but Richards was battered for a career-high seven earned runs, 10 hits and three home runs, failing to make it out of the fifth inning. He gave up 15 earned runs over his past three starts after giving up only two in his previous three. The potential is undoubtedly there, but the Angels couldn't wait for him to figure things out.

"Garrett's starts have been a little short recently," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It became apparent tonight that we needed another arm this weekend."

On a day when right-hander Dan Haren went on the disabled list for the first time in his 10-year career, the Angels rotation was dealt another blow. Ervin Santana (4-9, 5.75 ERA) has been unable to snap out of his funk and fifth starter Jerome Williams (chest) won't be back until after the All-Star break. Sunday's starter has yet to be named. A corresponding move to Richards' optioning will be announced Friday.

Scioscia said Richards will get at least one start at Triple-A next week and, depending on the team's needs, could be back fairly soon.

"I still feel like the same pitcher. Pitchers are going to go through streaks just like hitters are," Richards said. "I'm not discouraged. I'm motivated. It's back to work."

Are they inventing a new bullpen model?

June, 25, 2012
6/25/12
10:39
AM PT
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, Giants 0

June, 20, 2012
6/20/12
9:53
PM PT


ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver returned from the disabled list and looked no worse for wear.

The Angels' ace dominated the San Francisco Giants in a 6-0 Angels win Wednesday. Only a tight, precautionary pitch count could knock Weaver out: He exited after six innings of two-hit baseball and throwing 78 pitches.

Weaver spent three weeks on the DL after limping off the mound because of lower-back spasms in his May 28 start here. He is practically unbeatable in Anaheim: Weaver is 5-0 with a 0.70 ERA at Angel Stadium this season.

The Good:

Still No. 1. Weaver made it look as if he missed four days, not three weeks. Surprisingly, the Angels went 14-7 without Weaver, but make no mistake: They're glad he's back. He's 7-1 with a 2.40 ERA and, even after missing all that time, looks like a candidate to start the All-Star Game again. Some guys filled in capably while he was out, but this is Weaver's pitching staff to lead.

Bottom's up. Seeing Howie Kendrick hammer a ball off the center-field wall and line a double into the alley was as encouraging as anything the Angels saw Wednesday. What offense they've gotten as the team has heated up usually has come from the top of the lineup, with Kendrick and Erick Aybar slumping. On Wednesday, the Nos. 6-9 hitters had five of the seven hits off Ryan Vogelsong and created most of the action.

Late-inning lockdown. Jason Isringhausen just keeps going. He's a totally different guy from the pitcher who used to throw 96 mph with a big curveball, but the salty 39-year old has re-invented himself with a cutter and is proving to be a valuable bullpen piece for the Angels. He pitched a scoreless seventh, which set up Scott Downs and Jordan Walden perfectly for the final two innings.

The Bad:

Might Kendrys has... The Angels designated hitter just didn't look right.. and then he did. Kendrys Morales had one hit in his last 22 at-bats and none in his last 13 before he hit a deep home run to right field to give the Angels an insurance run in the eighth. Morales had struck out in eight of his last 17 at-bats. Considering Mark Trumbo has nine more home runs, he seems like a logical candidate to take over full-time cleanup duties.

Off night. Here's a thought: Will players vote Albert Pujols onto the AL All-Star team so he can compete in his hometown of Kansas City? Pujols' numbers don't jump out as particularly worthy of an All-Star appearance. After going 0-for-4 Wednesday, he's batting .255 with 11 home runs. If he doesn't go to Kansas City, it would be only the third time in his career he has been left out of an All-Star Game.

Sportsmanship? The Giants apparently were a little miffed at Trumbo for his bat flip after hitting his three-run triple Tuesday, so they ... hit two guys not named Trumbo? Who knows, it probably had nothing to do with it, but Torii Hunter looked as if he took a painful shot to the left side from a Vogelsong fastball in the seventh inning. Vogelsong also grazed catcher Bobby Wilson in the fifth.

3 up, 3 down: Angels 6, Mariners 1

June, 5, 2012
6/05/12
10:01
PM PT


ANAHEIM -- The Angels kept their momentum going, beating the Seattle Mariners 6-1 Tuesday night behind Garrett Richards' first major-league victory.

The Good:

Big threat. A year ago, Mark Trumbo led the team in home runs (29) and RBIs (87), the first Angels rookie ever to do so. The Angels didn't figure it would happen again after signing Albert Pujols, but after more than one-third of the season, it's happening again. Trumbo blasted home runs Nos. 11 and 12, a team high, and drove in his 31st run, equaling Pujols. The explosion was welcome news for an Angels offense that was showing signs of slumping again. Trumbo, for example, was 1-for-16 with seven strikeouts coming into the game.

Power arm. Richards had a rough May at Triple-A Salt Lake, but the Angels needed a starter to plug Jered Weaver's spot in the rotation and he was next in line. Richards exceeded everybody's expectations with a masterful performance against a lineup that had been scorching the ball. The rookie right-hander's fastball was popping at 95 mph in the sixth inning and he cruised through seven innings, allowing only four hits and striking out eight Mariners. If he keeps this up, he'll stick in Anaheim even after Weaver gets back.

Underrated arm. The Angels are 5-16 when Jason Isringhausen pitches, but that's largely a product of the role manager Mike Scioscia has slotted him in. It's sometimes a highwire act, but Isringhausen has been solid, especially lately, and might merit a more meaningful role. Sixteen of his 21 outings have been scoreless, not bad for a 39-year old who has had his right elbow reconstructed three times.

The Bad:

Slip-sliding. Tuesday night was Erick Aybar's first time in the No. 9 spot in the batting order. It looks as if he might be there to stay, mostly because he can't bat any lower. Aybar just can't get his bat to activate. He has been moderately warm lately (batting .275) in his last 18 games, but since the start of last weekend's Texas series he has just three hits. Oh, and he has walked only seven times after nearly 200 at-bats.

Bourjos situation. Peter Bourjos is a promising 25-year-old player who, last season, blossomed into a star center fielder and a solid hitter. Is it really fair to his career to slot him as a part-time player and pinch runner? That seems to be the role Bourjos is settling into. He pinch ran and played a little late defense, but Bourjos has started only 12 of the Angels' last 36 games. The need to resolve this situation one way or another before long.

Callasp-is. Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis have had solid careers and have made underrated contributions to this team, but this season they've just kind of been there. And you certainly don't need two guys like that. The two switch-hitting infielders are splitting up playing time largely because neither guy can take it and run. They came into the game batting an identical .235, which seems appropriate since their skills are largely redundant.

3 Up, 3 Down: A's 5, Angels 0

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
10:13
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- Tyson Ross had a 7.71 ERA going into Monday, but like a lot of other undistinguished pitchers who have stymied the Angels this season, he looked invincible against this struggling team.

Ross pitched his only scoreless outing of 2012 as the Oakland A's beat the Angels 5-0 Monday at Angel Stadium. After a modestly warm streak, mostly at the expense of the hapless Minnesota Twins, the Angels have lost three of their last four games to stay mired in last place in the AL West.

The Angels are 2-6 in their own division so far.

The Good:

Feeding Albert. Manager Mike Scioscia seems to have settled on Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis as his No. 2 hitters because they're willing to take walks, unlike virtually anyone else in the lineup. Izturis did what he's supposed to do -- got on base in front of Albert Pujols -- three times to build a little excitement for those at-bats. Pujols didn't exactly maximize the opportunities, but more on that later.

Certain swings. The Angels looked flat most of the game. Early on, they were just unlucky. Pujols, Kendrys Morales and Vernon Wells all hit rockets in the first two innings. Two of them were ground-outs and another was an inning-ending double play. The Angels seemed to have some decent offensive vibes coming off a good hitting night the day before in Texas, but those soon drifted off as the night advanced.

Bullpen not too bad. Hey, guess what, the bullpen no longer is the problem. The addition of Ernesto Frieri has helped and some other relievers finally seem to be gaining a measure of confidence. Five of Hisanori Takahashi's last six outings have been scoreless. Jordan Walden hasn't given up a run since losing the job as closer. Next, maybe we'll get to see how these guys do protecting leads instead of helping mop up.

The Bad:



Albert. It's confidence. It's just a slump. It's because he's not comfortable. He doesn't know the pitchers. Everybody's got an opinion on why Albert Pujols is batting .197 (after a 1-for-4 night). Ultimately, who cares? The booing at Angel Stadium continued and Pujols had another ho-hum game. He's getting some hits here and there -- an improvement over a week ago -- but he's still not producing runs as he normally does. Everyone continues to wait for the real Albert Pujols to show up.

Haren's stuff. The poor command -- four walks and a hit batter -- seem to be the result, not the cause, of Dan Haren's problems. For years, he has had better control than all but the most elite starting pitchers, but he used to have a low 90s fastball and a nasty split-finger pitch. As Haren's stuff has diminished, he seems less willing to throw strikes -- and probably for good reason.

Ay, Aybar. Erick Aybar just doesn't look like the same guy. A Gold Glover last year, he appears passive at times in the field (Collin Cowgill's third-inning hit probably should have been an error on Aybar) and he has been an easy out for weeks. Aybar has two hits in the last eight games, his average slipping to .193. Since he's got only four walks all year, his on-base percentage isn't much better.

3 up, 3 down: Rays 3, Angels 2

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
8:00
PM PT


If the Angels haven't reached rock bottom, this season is going to feel endless.

The hitting slump continued in a 3-2 loss Wednesday to the Tampa Bay Rays, the latest pitcher to dominate them being 2011 rookie of the year Jeremy Hellickson. The Angels have lost three games in a row and six of their last eight.

Less than three weeks into the season, they're already 8 1/2 games out of first place and floundering in last place.

The Good:

Coaching tree. Imagine if Mike Scioscia still had Joe Maddon on his staff. One of the brighter, more free-thinking minds in baseball, Maddon worked for the Angels for three decades. The Rays manager used his scouting reports to his advantage as usual by employing infield shifts on three of the Angels' key hitters. Other teams see what everybody who watches this team sees: They're trying to pull balls and hit home runs. It's not working.

Sweet stroke. Torii Hunter seems to be the only Angels hitter taking what the pitcher is giving him and having consistently good at-bats. He was 2-for-4 and did his best to spark a late rally by singling through the right side leading off the ninth inning against erratic (in 2011) closer Fernando Rodney. The rally fizzled, which is a common refrain these days.

Going strong. Nobody is pulling harder trying to get this team on track than two starting pitchers, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. They have both been brilliant through their first four starts. Wilson, however, has suffered from minimal run support lately. He struck out 11 Rays and deserved to get the win.

The Bad:

Historic skid. This Albert Pujols slump is now the worst of his career. He has gone five straight games without a hit, only the second time in his career he has done that. And, yes, the homer-less streak goes on, now 72 at-bats. The last time he went this long without a hit? In his rookie season, 2001. The Angels can only hope he recovers as well as he did that year, or even last year, because they're not going anywhere without him. He is batting .222, struck out twice Wednesday and has four RBIs all season.

Wild man. Jason Isringhausen has been a pleasant surprise in the bullpen, but the 39-year old will find his stay short if he follows the Rodney plan (from 2011): walking people. He walked four Rays to force in a run, which proved to be the margin of victory for Tampa Bay. Not exactly what you're looking for from a reliever.

Pressure points. This team seems to be having trouble handling stress. With the pressure on, it seems to grow tight and perform at its worst. Hitting with runners on base has been the main problem all year, never more than Wednesday when the Angels went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Scioscia or one of the team leaders needs to find a way to lighten the mood, because right now the Angels look tight and uncomfortable. It's hard to watch.

Is the bullpen still the weak link?

April, 3, 2012
4/03/12
10:07
PM PT
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)

Things that mattered Friday

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
3:37
PM PT
C.J. Wilson, unlike some pitchers at this time of the spring, seems to have avoided a dead arm phase. His fastball was lively Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, helping him pile up six strikeouts in the first 10 batters he faced.

Wilson got through six innings, giving up five hits that included a long Ryan Roberts home run and two runs. Wilson's next start figures to be truncated and will be his last this spring, putting him on target to open the season as the Angels' No. 4 starter against the Minnesota Twins.

Still no explanation from Mike Scioscia about why he slotted Wilson at No. 4 ahead of Ervin Santana, but it could relate to the fact the Twins hit .249 against left-handed pitching last year. The Kansas City Royals, the Angels' opponent in the opening series, were fifth in the AL with a .269 average against lefties.

* Two developments will adversely affect some of the players scrambling for the final spots on the roster. The Angels have not yet traded Bobby Abreu and they added reliever Jason Isringhausen to the 40-man roster and promised him a spot on the team come Opening Day.

Abreu occupies just one roster spot, but the Isringhausen move was a double blow to guys like Jorge Cantu, in camp on a minor-league deal. The Angels' 40-man roster is now at the limit, meaning to add Cantu means the Angels would have to subtract somebody else. That person could well turn out to be Abreu, of course, as the Angels figure to continue to look at trades and might simply decide to release Abreu, who has no apparent role.

* The demotion of Mike Trout surprised nobody who has been around the team this spring, including Trout. The question now becomes how much his lengthy absence due to an illness will affect his season at Triple-A and, perhaps, prolong his rise to the major leagues.

Trout lost somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds and, according to reports, has only put on about 10 since the illness. He still isn't playing outfield due to a stiff right shoulder. It's been a frustrating spring for a promising young player.

Things that are rapidly crystallizing

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
4:58
PM PT


* Spring training is unnecessarily long for hitters. The main guys in the Angels' lineup look absolutely ready for Opening Day. If anything, you wonder whether they might grow bored in this final week, exactly when you would want them to ramp up the intensity.

Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick and Albert Pujols combined for nine hits (and only made two outs) in an 11-8 win over the Kansas City Royals. The Angels hit three home runs and five doubles.

* Is Kendrys Morales going to be ready? Yeah, it looks like he's going to be OK. He's batting .625 in 16 at-bats and has already hit two home runs. He hit one batting right-handed Thursday and that's a good sign that he's locked in from both sides of the plate. He may not have done much running over the past two years, but he apparently has continued to take batting practice.

* 39-year-old reliever Jason Isringhausen looks like he'll make it. Thursday was a key date for him because it was his first back-to-back appearances (a key milestone for a reliever) and because the Angels pretty much had to decide if he was going to make the Opening Day by Thursday.

Part of it was Isringhausen's two perfect innings, part of it was attrition. Two other relievers, Bobby Cassevah and Michael Kohn, are going to start the season on the disabled list and the team sent Francisco Rodriguez to minor-league camp Thursday morning.

* A testy moment might have helped build a little team chemistry. The Angels looked more than a little upset after Kansas City pitcher Everett Teaford hit Peter Bourjos in the back after giving up three straight home runs, including tape-measure blasts by Morales and Mark Trumbo. Mike Scioscia spent a few minutes yelling at umpire Dana DeMuth, Bourjos gestured Teaford's way and many of the Angels were on the top step of the dugout watching intently.

It has been an easy, mellow spring, so maybe a little turmoil will help break the monotony and build a little team unity.

Jason Isringhausen's last stand?

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
10:30
AM PT
It might be as simple as this: If Jason Isringhausen pitches well today against the Kansas City Royals, he will be an Angel.

If not ...

"I'll just go home and be with my girls," he told MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, referring to his 9- and 2-year-old girls back home in Illinois.

The issue is a section in the new collective bargaining agreement that stipulates teams must pay major-league veterans on minor-league contracts an extra $100,000 if they keep them on the roster past today. The Angels probably wouldn't shell out that kind of money to evaluate Isringhausen for a few more days.

Isringhausen isn't interested in spending any more time in Triple-A, and it's hard to blame him considering he's been in the majors since 1995, is third on the active saves list with 300 and has been through three Tommy John surgeries.

He didn't pitch well early in camp, so this could well be his final stand.

When I talked to him last week, he sounded a little conflicted about the whole thing anyway.

Isringhausen, 39, missed all of 2010 and didn't expect to pitch last season until a deal came together at the last minute to join his first team, the New York Mets, for spring training. He wound up making it and had a decent season (4.05 ERA) after everyone thought he was retired.

"I can do without baseball, I just can’t do without the competition, the adrenaline, the one-on-one battles," Isringhausen said. "All the traveling, all the nonsense that goes on with everything, the monotony. ... It gets a little old.

"This is my 21st spring. I sat out a year and nothing compares to facing hitters. It's still a lot of fun."

Will today be the last major-league hitters he ever faces?

Things we're close to knowing

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
6:17
PM PT
Opening Day is a week from Friday and, with only four more games in Arizona -- three with the regular lineup -- the Angels are zeroing on some decisions.

The bullpen is practically set. Kevin Jepsen (probably) is in and Bobby Cassevah and Michael Kohn probably are out, because of nagging injuries. The Angels would love for Jason Isringhausen to make it so closer Jordan Walden would have twin pillars of 39-year-old wisdom along with LaTroy Hawkins, but Isringhausen had been shaky and his mechanics, by his own admission, were askew.

Isringhausen is set to work in back-to-back games for the first time this spring and the first day helped his cause. He worked a scoreless inning Wednesday and Mike Scioscia told reporters his stuff looked more crisp. ...

Dan Haren is right on track to pitch Game 2 against Kansas City, though Wednesday was a bit of a bump in what had been the smoothest of springs for the big right-hander. Haren gave up nine hits against the Cincinnati Reds in less than six innings and told reporters afterward he was going through a bit of a "dead-arm phase. Most starting pitchers experience that in spring training, so it's probably no big deal.

"Spring training is getting a little bit monotonous at this point," Haren said.

No kidding. ...

Vernon Wells needed a "do-over" after his dismal 2011 season, so he worked with Chicago Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on fundamentally changing his swing, but thus far the results look pretty similar. When Wells hits it, he hits it hard. He hit his third home run of the spring in the third inning off Bronson Arroyo.

But the vast majority of his at-bats are ending with mishits and misses. He is batting .250 this spring, which isn't that bad when you consider he batted .218 last season.

Erick Aybar contract talks heat up and other stuff

March, 15, 2012
3/15/12
10:48
AM PT
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto has said it's unlikely the team will sign shortstop Erick Aybar to a long-term contract extension before the season, but that doesn't mean he isn't working overtime on it.

Aybar's agents were at Tempe Diablo Stadium Thursday morning meeting with Dipoto. It was at least the second face-to-face meeting the sides have had since agent Fernando Cuza and his assistants arrived in Arizona on Monday. Aybar, a Gold Glove winner, is signed to a one-year, $5.075 million and is eligible for free agency this fall. It's believed he's seeking at least a five-year deal.

If the Angels can't sign Aybar before November, they could find the competition for his services prohibitive. Several big-market teams, including the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves, could be looking for a shortstop. ..

Pitcher Ervin Santana said he felt "way better," the day after being struck in the right shoulder by an Alexei Ramirez line drive. Santana is playing catch Thursday and, if he feels good afterward, will make his next scheduled start against the Colorado Rockies Monday. ..

Reliever Jason Isringhausen is scheduled to make his spring debut Friday. ..

The Angels made nine more cuts and have trimmed their spring roster to 44. The guys sent to minor-league camp were: Matt Shoemaker, Daniel Tillman, Matt Meyer, Robinzon Diaz, Doug Deeds, Johnny Hellweg, Ariel Pena, Fabio Martinez and Luis Jimenez.

Aybar contract talks and other Tuesday tidbits

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
11:07
AM PT
The agent for shortstop Erick Aybar arrived in Arizona Monday night and is expected to meet face-to-face with Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto this week, a source said. The agent, Fernando Cuza, and the Angels are trying to negotiate a long-term contract extension for Aybar, who otherwise would become a free agent in the fall...

Kendrys Morales experienced some tightness in his right calf after running Monday and it could delay his timeline for getting into games. Morales ran the bases for the first time on Sunday. He fractured his ankle in May of 2010 and hasn't played since. The Angels were hoping he could play in a game later this week.

"His ankle is fine. He needs to get his legs in shape," manager Mike Scioscia said...

Mike Trout is on the travel roster for Tuesday's game at Salt River Fields against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Trout, who lost 10 pounds with a viral infection and hasn't played yet this spring, isn't in the starting lineup. Scioscia said Trout will play a few innings of defense....

Pitcher Jason Isringhausen, who hasn't pitched yet this spring due to some shoulder tightness, will be pitching in games within 2-3 days, Scioscia said.

Scioscia had an interesting quote when he was asked about the work ethic of Albert Pujols and some of the other star players on this roster: "This team has a blue-collar fabric and a Mercedes Benz look."...

The tallest pitcher in professional baseball got reassigned to minor-league camp. Loek Van Mil, 7-foot-1, wasn't surprised by the move as he had been taken off the team's 40-man roster over the winter. Van Mil allowed four runs on five hits in 3 1/3 innings this spring. He likely will begin the season at Triple-A Salt Lake.

Where is Mike Trout (and others)?

March, 9, 2012
3/09/12
10:41
AM PT
The Angels are nearly a week through their spring training schedule and their top prospect and four of their main relievers have yet to appear in a game. What's the deal?

Trout missed several days of camp earlier with a viral infection and lost about 10 pounds, so the team is giving him at least a week to get his strength back up. Look for Trout to be playing by Tuesday or Wednesday.

Reliever Bobby Cassevah showed up with some shoulder tightness, will throw a bullpen Sunday and should be showing up in games next week. He said he's not concerned that it will become a more serious injury. He had the same delay last spring.

Manager Mike Scioscia is easing veterans Scott Downs, 37, Jason Isringhausen, 39, and LaTroy Hawkins, 39, into action, but all three should be pitching in games next week. Relievers typically only need eight or nine innings in spring training. Once they've pitched in back-to-back games, they're usually ready to go.

Pitcher Jerome Williams (hamstring) needs to start showing up in games by around March 20 to be on target to win the team's fifth starter job. Otherwise, it likely will be rookie Garrett Richards, who makes his second spring start on Sunday.

[UPDATE: For those asking, Kendrys Morales continues to run in the base paths with no bases. They hope to have him run the bases early next week and to be playing in games by next weekend. Scioscia said he "got a really good report," from trainers after Morales ran Friday morning.]

Let the bonding begin

March, 1, 2012
3/01/12
10:54
AM PT
Mike Trout is spending Thursday afternoon shopping in a nearby toy story.

No, Trout isn't that young. The 20-year-old outfielder's task this spring is to collect money from players to go toy shopping for older players' children. The toys that are left over -- most of them -- go to a local homeless shelter.

By stopping by the locker of every player in the clubhouse, including sidling up to Albert Pujols, Trout -- clipboard and pen in hand -- raised $4,000 for toys. He also talked to a whole lot of people he might otherwise never have approached.

Pujols
Scioscia
That's just one of the many chores players have to go through during team-building exercises in the Angels' morning meetings, which have now became a famous part of the spring routine around here. At about 10 a.m. every morning, reporters standing outside the metal doors to the clubhouse typically hear loud peals of laughter coming from inside.

For newcomers, it can be a surprising part of camp.

"With the Cardinals, we had meetings every day, but they were all about baseball, none of this kind of stuff," new reliever Jason Isringhausen said. "[Mike] Scioscia and Tony [LaRussa] aren't quite the same manager, but I know they say when the season starts, Scioscia ain't like this."

Scioscia began the daily meetings in the spring of 2000, shortly after he was hired, but they have gradually become well known around baseball. One spring, players brought a live ostrich into the clubhouse, prompting pitcher Ramon Ortiz to hop in his locker in fear of the "pollo grande," or giant chicken.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Mike Trout
BA HR RBI R
.303 20 64 60
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 20
RBIM. Trout 64
RM. Trout 60
OPSM. Trout .986
WG. Richards 10
ERAG. Richards 2.71
SOG. Richards 119