Los Angeles Angels: Jerry Dipoto

Angels 2014: Could this be the year?

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
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The other day, a reporter asked Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto to assign blame for the acquisition of pitcher Joe Blanton, the occasion being the Angels’ unconditional release of the, ahem, struggling right-hander. Dipoto’s answer was refreshing.

“It’s a mistake on my part. There’s no one else to blame,” Dipoto said.

That little bit of accountability had to be music to Angels fans ears. For four long years, a team with three of the most dangerous hitters in baseball, a strong manager and one of the best starting pitchers in the game has been shut out of the playoffs, and the atmosphere in Anaheim has been a bit more drab with each passing season.

It should be noted, by the way, that owner Arte Moreno didn’t do Dipoto any favors in recent seasons by jumping in on the big-splash signings of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, leaving Dipoto scant resources to build a pitching staff.

Jered Weaver
AP Photo/Jim CowsertJered Weaver still has the deception, movement and savvy to serve as a legitimate No. 1 starter.
Perhaps Angels fans didn't realize how spoiled they had become by the team’s run of excellence under Mike Scioscia from 2002 to 2009, a stretch that included a World Series title, three trips to the ALCS and six trips to the postseason.

Did the release of Blanton and Dipoto’s frankness signal a new era for Orange County’s baseball team?

The Angels' offseason makeover wasn't all that different from what the Boston Red Sox underwent going into the 2013 season. It was a bit of a reboot, with an emphasis on quality, low-impact moves rather than the big winter meetings splash that winds up weighing the team down.

Dipoto has certainly been making every effort to improve the team’s pitching, which -- even more than underperformance and injuries from Pujols and Hamilton -- has been this team’s demise. Presuming even a marginal uptick in those two sluggers’ production, the Angels look like a team with vast potential to improve. Who wouldn’t take a lineup that includes Mike Trout, Pujols and Hamilton?

This pitching staff has potential. When Jered Weaver first arrived in the major leagues, he could touch 95 mph and, combined with his off-speed pitches and funky delivery, made for one of the more uncomfortable at-bats in baseball. He’s different now, with the years of heavy workloads reducing his fastball velocity to the sub-90 range most games. But he’s still got the deception, the movement and the savvy to serve as a legitimate No. 1 starter.

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Scioscia continues to drive Angels' ship

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn't like change very much.

He has lived in Westlake Village, a quaint community on the Los Angeles and Ventura county line, for 20 years. He has continued to live there with his wife, Anne, and make the 140-mile round-trip commute to and from Angel Stadium on game days despite working a stone's throw from some of the most sought-after real estate in Southern California.

He also is the longest-tenured manager in Major League Baseball, getting ready to wrap up his 13th season with the Angels after being hired in 1999. Two years ago, he signed a 10-year contract that runs through 2018, seemingly assuring him that he wouldn't have to make any changes in the foreseeable future.

[+] EnlargeMike Scioscia
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillMike Scioscia doesn't like change and figures to be the Angels' manager for the foreseeable future.
Of course, much of that security was swiped from him this season as he has had to adjust to working with new Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto and assistant general manager Scott Servais, not to mention dealing with the new-found expectations that come with managing a payroll that ballooned to one of the biggest in baseball this offseason.

With the Angels on the outside looking in at the playoff race this entire season, there had been some speculation that Scioscia's job might not be as secure as it once was. That speculation was put to rest Saturday when Angels owner Arte Moreno said Scioscia and Dipoto would return regardless of what happens in the team's remaining games.

When I asked Scioscia about coming back next season, he smiled, "That's last week's news. Did you hear the price of a gallon [of gas] is over four dollars, too?"

Considering the price of a gallon of gas was about $1.40 when he was hired, that probably speaks to his longevity better than anything else.

The bigger question is what took Moreno so long to make the public declaration if Scioscia knew "long ago" that he was coming back.

"I couldn't say anything because it wasn't a question for me," he told me.

Fair enough, but is this still the team Scioscia wants to manage given the way he was essentially left out in the cold by his owner, at least publicly, when many questioned his job security? Remember, this is after Moreno and Dipoto already fired Scioscia's close friend and longtime hitting coach, Mickey Hatcher, on May 15 against his wishes.

"I'm passionate. This is where I want to be," Scioscia said. "I feel very strongly that I love this opportunity and Arte obviously feels the same way. There's a lot of chatter out there and we're just concentrating on baseball now."

After Wednesday night's 4-3 win over the Seattle Mariners, the Angels remained two games back with seven games to play in the chase for the final wild-card playoff spot in the American League. One person who has been keeping tabs on Scioscia and the Angels is Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, who was Scioscia's bench coach until 2005 and was the Angels' manager before Scioscia was hired. His Rays are one game behind the Angels in the race for the final wild-card spot.

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Angels excited to welcome Zack Greinke

July, 27, 2012
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ANAHEIM -- As the Angels players came off the field following batting practice Friday, several of them wondered what all the commotion was about as a large contingent of reporters waited to talk to general manager Jerry Dipoto about the trade that had landed Cy Young winner Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers.

Some of them had an inkling something was about to go down.

Right fielder Torii Hunter faced Greinke plenty of times when both players were in the American League Central, Hunter on the Minnesota Twins and Greinke in Kansas City.

"I've seen him mature, as a kid and now one of the best pitchers in the game, so I'm excited to have him as a teammate," Hunter said. "I'll probably be the first one to greet him."

Dipoto indicated Friday's move likely will be the Angels' only trade before Tuesday's deadline. That is welcome news to outfielder Peter Bourjos and pitcher Garrett Richards, both of whom saw their names thrown around in trade rumors over the past few weeks.

"To take away from our major-league club right now, where we stand, would have been particularly painful," Dipoto said.

Here are lineups for Friday night's game with the Tampa Bay Rays:

Tampa Bay
Sam Fuld LF
B.J. Upton CF
Ben Zobrist 2B
Matt Joyce RF
Jeff Keppinger DH
Carlos Pena 1B
Bryan Roberts 3B
Jose Lobaton C
Elliot Johnson SS

Angels
Mike Trout CF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo LF
Kendrys Morales DH
Albert Callaspo 3B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Maicer Izturis SS
Bobby Wilson C

Can they win despite their pitching?

July, 26, 2012
7/26/12
12:23
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AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The Angels are a different team in July than they were in April.

Obviously, right? They have Mike Trout and Ernesto Frieri now. They had Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells then.

But the morphing of the team's personality has been more drastic than the sum of its personnel moves. Over the intervening few months, the Angels have gone from being a light-hitting team with lockdown starting pitching to a menacing group of hitters trying to obscure an erosion in the quality of pitching.

This, by the way, is why all those starters -- being starved of run support early -- were wise to hold their tongues about how frustrating it was. Good karma has its own reward.

"It's a little change of pace," Jered Weaver said Wednesday, after one of his shakiest outings during this dominant stretch of his. Weaver had uncharacteristically poor command, leading to a high pitch count that knocked him out after five innings. It didn't matter much, because the Angels had handed him a 7-0 lead in the first three innings. That was a week's worth of scoring in April.

Even the Angels' good starts are unconvincing nowadays.

"These guys go out and swing the bats and put up some runs for us," Weaver said. "It takes a lot of pressure off us, knowing that if we go out there and give up two or three, that these guys are going to answer back and score some big runs."

The Angels lead the majors this month with 114 runs, and many of them have been loud. Their 33 home runs in July also lead the majors. Meanwhile, the team's ERA in July is 4.85. Only five teams in the majors have pitched worse this month and all of them, other than the Angels, are either in last place or headed that way.

Early this year, the Angels were riding the shoulders of Weaver and what seemed like four other reliable starters while the offense filled up row after row of zeros. They were 13th out of 14 AL teams in runs scored for April.

Much of this surge has been because of Trout, who is scoring 51 percent of the time when he reaches base safely, according to ESPN Stats & Information, by far the highest rate in the majors. Albert Pujols has heated up week by week, of course, and Mark Trumbo has been steadily productive. Guys who were slumping are returning to their career norms.

It doesn't feel fluky or short term, but sadly for the Angels, neither does the breakdown in pitching. Weaver is the one bankable commodity now. The Angels were going to give Ervin Santana one last chance to keep his rotation spot, but even that fell through when they elected to skip Santana and pitch Dan Haren on four days' rest this Friday. C.J. Wilson has struggled with command lately, Haren remains a mystery coming off back issues, and Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams have been stuck in a battle of mediocrity to win the fifth starter spot.

So far, GM Jerry Dipoto hasn't been able to land another starting pitcher. He did acquire Barry Enright from the Arizona Diamondbacks to stash him away in Triple-A in case the Angels' need becomes more dire or Enright finally taps into the potential that made him a second-round pick not so long ago.

Is this sustainable? There have been teams that have hit their way into the playoffs and gone a long way in spite of their pitching. The 2009 New York Yankees won the World Series with ace CC Sabathia followed by so-so starters A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte (and then they prayed for rain, or lots of off days in the playoffs). The team the Angels are chasing, the Texas Rangers, have similar rotation concerns, theirs due to injuries, and they seem to be holding up just fine.

But the Angels aren't counting on going far with such a unidimensional approach, which is why their search for pitching answers is so frantic.

"Offensively, we're trying to take over. When we weren't doing well, the pitching was doing their thing," Torii Hunter said. "We need to just come together and get it going."

Angels' rotation wobbles along

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
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Garrett RichardsAP Photo/Reed SaxonGarrett Richards has been up and down this season with the Angels, who are trying to solve their pitching issues.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rumors swirl this time of year.

They also dart. They almost always die.

A couple of potentially marquee solutions to the Los Angeles Angels' pitching problem might have disappeared late Tuesday, as reports indicated Cole Hamels was nearing a contract extension to stay in Philadelphia and ESPN's Tim Kurkjian reported that the Angels' talks with the Tampa Bay Rays about James Shields had "fizzled."

So much for those big names, perhaps, but Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto still has until 1 p.m. next Tuesday to make the one move that could radically change the AL playoff picture in his team's favor. The Angels have been hoping for a while now that their rotation would heal itself, but that has been like watching paint dry in 80 percent humidity.

After rookie Garrett Richards put the Angels in an early hole they couldn't climb out of in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals, the evidence suggests Dipoto has little choice but to act. In the Angels' last 23 games, the starters' ERA is 5.81. Take Jered Weaver's five starts out of that mix and it's 6.95.

You know the players are pulling for Dipoto, just as he pulls for them night after night. Perhaps they could stand around and clap when he pulls out his cell phone? It can't be fun watching much of their work go for naught. Since the All-Star break, the Angels have averaged 5.2 runs per game and gone 5-7.

Lately, the offense has shown some signs of petering out and that's a truly frightening thought.

"It's always good if you go get somebody," Torii Hunter said. "If it's a veteran guy who's been around, that's fine. If you get him, you get him, but right now, it's not really a necessity. If we get him, we'll be thankful, we'll be happy. Other than that we're going to just go out there and keep doing what we do."

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Sticking with Ervin Santana for now

July, 22, 2012
7/22/12
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Angels manager Mike Scioscia said struggling pitcher Ervin Santana will remain in the Angels' rotation for at least one more start.

Scioscia will limit Santana to 15 outs Friday night, something he has done in the past with struggling pitchers, including Scott Kazmir and Aaron Sele. Santana is 4-10 with a 6.00 ERA and has allowed 23 home runs, second most in the majors.

"We’re in a position right now that we need production from our rotation. We need Ervin to pitch like he can and, hopefully, peeling him back to 15 outs will be a positive for him," Scioscia said.

The Angels considered moving Santana to the bullpen, but don't have many readily available alternatives to start games. Jerome Williams (6-7, 4.85) has also struggled lately and they're bereft of talent at Triple-A. General manager Jerry Dipoto is believed to be in search of pitching before the July 31 trade deadline, but said Sunday he's not necessarily close to acquiring any.

"Pitching will be available. How much of it, I don’t know," Dipoto said. "Pitching’s available every year. There’s going to be a premium on it to access. I don’t think that will change."

Here are lineups for Sunday night vs. the Texas Rangers:

Texas
Ian Kinsler 2B
Elvis Andrus SS
Josh Hamilton CF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Michael Young 1B
Nelson Cruz RF
David Murphy LF
Mike Napoli DH
Yorvit Torrealba C

Angels
Mike Trout LF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Howie Kendrick 2B
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Maicer Izturis SS
Peter Bourjos CF
Bobby Wilson C

It's up to Dipoto to fix the pitching

July, 21, 2012
7/21/12
5:44
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Ervin SantanaAP Photo/Reed SaxonErvin Santana had another rough outing for the Angels, who may be forced to address the situation.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- General manager Jerry Dipoto came to Anaheim under practically ideal conditions. He was following an ineffective predecessor, coming to work for an owner who spends freely and joining a franchise under a respected manager with a winning culture.

Eight months later, it's getting a little warmer in his suite.

After another dreadful outing by pitcher Ervin Santana in Saturday's 9-2 loss to the Texas Rangers, Dipoto's mandate couldn't be more clear heading into the July 31 trade deadline: Land a starting pitcher.

Forget about the bullpen, Jerry. Focus on starters. Santana might even prove to be the solution to some softness in the middle relief. Remember 2005, when he pitched great in relief in the playoffs? Kevin Jepsen has shown enough signs of figuring things out that adding a reliever hardly seems like a red-light priority these days. The rotation, on the other hand, when Jered Weaver or C.J. Wilson is not pitching, threatens to pull this team down.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia hemmed and hawed when asked after Saturday's game whether Santana -- 4-10 with a 6.00 ERA -- will have his rotation spot skipped or be shuffled off to the bullpen.

"There's no decision yet. We're going to do what's best for our team, and, like I said, I think the optimum for our team is to have a guy like Ervin pitching to his capabilities," Scioscia said. "You can't discount the fact that he just did it. ... We're not going back five years; we're going back five days in Detroit."

One way of paraphrasing Scioscia's point: Name a better option.

Jerome Williams had a nice run, but since coming off the disabled list, he has given up 10 runs and four home runs in two starts. Rookie Garrett Richards is already in the rotation, and he hardly has been automatic lately. Brad Mills had a nice five-inning start not long ago, but -- with his 85 mph fastball -- doesn't seem like a long-term fix.

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GM expects a quiet trade deadline

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
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Take what any general manager says this time of year with a grain of salt. Jerry Dipoto doesn't yet know what opportunities are going to arise on the trade market and an injury in the next month could dramatically change his approach to the July 31 deadline.

But in his early public comments on the Angels' wish list, it sounds as if Dipoto is aiming for small game rather than trophy hunting.

"Right now from a position player standpoint, we’ve got a good group of players and they’re all playing well. From a bullpen angle, we’ve got a variety of different looks and they’re all performing well," Dipoto said Sunday. "From a starting pitching standpoint, I don’t know that we’re going to be able to go on the market and replicate or do better than any of the six guys we have now."

One report indicated the Angels are looking for another reliever, probably left-handed, and a Triple-A caliber starting pitcher that would be an upgrade over the talent they have beyond Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards at the back of the rotation. Not exactly earth-shattering stuff.

Dipoto indicated it might be tough even to land a starter who has never pitched in the major leagues.

"Sometimes it's harder to acquire the Triple-A, major-league ready guy than it is the veteran guy who’s going to be a free agent," Dipoto said.

After spending about $330 million over the winter, owner Arte Moreno probably isn't keen on bumping up the payroll much from its current level of $151 million, at least not until he is convinced he has to. And with a second wild card in play, teams are less likely to throw up the white flag and look to shed salaries. The Toronto Blue Jays, for example, are in the thick of the race even with three-fifths of their starting rotation on the disabled list. The Angels will have some say over Toronto's future when they play four games in there starting Thursday.

"We're going to continue to survey and, if the ability or chance to help a given part of our team arises, we'll try to capitalize on the opportunity," Dipoto said.

Are they inventing a new bullpen model?

June, 25, 2012
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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?

Should the Angels upgrade at third?

June, 23, 2012
6/23/12
4:12
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ANAHEIM --Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto was fairly blunt when asked about Kevin Youkilis, who is reportedly close to being traded by the Boston Red Sox.

"We're not involved," Dipoto said.

But should the Angels look to get a little more thunder out of third base? Going into Saturday's game with the Dodgers, the Angels have gotten three home runs from their third baseman. Dipoto said he's not focusing on it before the July 31 trade deadline.

"I don't know that there's an overwhelming market of available power-hitting third basemen that's out there," Dipoto said.

Alberto Callaspo has hit all of three of the home runs from Angels third basemen (he also had a pinch-hit grand slam off Fexlix Hernandez). The other third baseman, Maicer Izturis, still hasn't homered after 134 at-bats. Only the Dodgers and Chicago White Sox have gotten less power out of their third basemen than the Angels.

It appears the Angels' priority before the July 31 trade deadline will be pitching depth, perhaps another arm for the bullpen or a starter they can stockpile at Triple-A.

Here are lineups for Saturday evenings game vs. the Dodgers:

Los Angeles
Dee Gordon SS
Jerry Hairston Jr. 2B
Andre Ethier RF
Bobby Abreu DH
Juan Rivera LF
James Loney 1B
Elian Herrera CF
Juan Uribe 3B
A.J. Ellis C

Angels
Mike Trout CF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo LF
Kendrys Morales DH
Howie Kendrick 2B
Maicer Izturis 3B
Erick Aybar SS
John Hester C

Shopping for … pitchers?

June, 18, 2012
6/18/12
11:30
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Monday’s 5-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants notwithstanding, the Angels have been quietly easing their way back into the heart of the playoff picture in the American League. Their 18-7 record since May 22 ranks second in the majors to the sizzling New York Yankees.

Soon, it might be up to general manager Jerry Dipoto to kick in a little help, assuming he hasn’t already done all he can do by landing closer Ernesto Frieri.

But what do they need and who can they get?

The obvious place to start, of course, is the offense, which, even during a relative hot stretch has shown signs of falling back into a trance. Third base is the easiest fix. Angels third baseman, mostly Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis, have combined to hit .240 with two home runs this season, not exactly erasing the memory of Troy Glaus.

But good luck with that. The most available commodity, the Boston Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis – being dangled around baseball these days, according to reports – is not a fit, according to a source with knowledge of the Angels' thinking.

With Kendrys Morales sometimes squeezed for at-bats and Mark Trumbo being stashed at various positions to keep his bat in the lineup (plus, Vernon Wells' return looming in about six weeks), the Angels aren’t exactly desperate for another lumbering slugger with a questionable glove (especially one who might be in severe decline).

Instead, think arms. Most teams probably will be on the hunt for pitching in the coming weeks and the Angels are no different, believe it or not. They have the best ERA in the American League, so why would they look for help there?

Take a look at Monday’s game, with Jerome Williams unable to get out of the fourth inning. As good as the rotation has been, it’s built on the assumption that it will stay healthy, and that’s a shaky foundation. Behind Garrett Richards, the Angels have virtually no on-hand solutions. Their Triple-A rotation is cobbled together with Four-A types, like Eric Hurley (4.80 ERA) and Trevor Bell (7.56), or pitchers with questionable stuff, such as Matt Shoemaker (5.30 ERA) or Brad Mills (3.76).

What if Williams or Richards hits a bad stretch? Let's hope Williams has no more brushes with the shortness of breath that caused him to be hospitalized late Monday, but what if he is headed for the 15-day disabled list? What if Jered Weaver or Dan Haren, both of whom have had back issues this year, misses an extended period?

The bullpen has similar depth issues. Beyond Frieri and an equally effective left-handed complement, Scott Downs, nobody has stepped up as the lockdown seventh-inning guy. LaTroy Hawkins might become that guy now that he’s healthy. Jordan Walden has a capable arm, but he has tended to struggle in tight situations. Jason Isringhausen has pitched well, but he hasn’t gained Mike Scioscia’s ultimate trust, yet.

Adding one more quality arm could be the final piece to a dominant bullpen puzzle. Look what a couple of well-timed trades did for the Texas Rangers’ bullpen last year.

The problem is that rebuilding teams often look for the very commodity the Angels have traded themselves out of: young pitching. After spreading their talent around both leagues in trades for guys like Haren, Frieri, Callaspo and Chris Iannetta in recent seasons, the Angels simply don’t have much more to give. They do, however, have good young, cost-effective position players with no major foreseeable role this year, including Peter Bourjos and Hank Conger.

Strange as it may seem, the Angels might have to deal from a weakness to fix a strength.

Angels agree to terms with 11 picks

June, 11, 2012
6/11/12
5:36
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Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto didn’t anticipate much of a hassle in signing the team’s draft picks, in part because of the new collective bargaining agreement and in part because he took so many college players. So far, it seems to be going smoothly.

The Angels announced Monday they have agreed to terms with 11 of their picks. After signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, they surrendered their first- and second-round picks.

The team has already wrapped up negotiations with four of its first five picks, including its first selection, Florida Atlantic reliever R.J. Alvarez, a third-round pick.

Eppard brings some familiarity

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
6:39
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ANAHEIM -- Of the nine hitters in the Los Angeles Angels' lineup Wednesday for their game against the Chicago White Sox, new hitting coach Jim Eppard has already coached seven of them during a regular season.

That's the familiarity Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto wanted in his new hire when he decided to fire longtime coach Mickey Hatcher following Tuesday night's 4-0 win over Oakland.

Eppard has tutored Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick -- and everybody else in the Angels' lineup except for big-league veterans Albert Pujols and Vernon Wells.

"A lot of the guys that are here, I've had them come through Salt Lake," Eppard said Wednesday in a pregame meeting with the media. "So I have a mental tape of those guys. And I also had everybody else in spring training, so I'm pretty familiar with the group."

Of course, Pujols and Wells have been two of the club's worst hitters so far this year, as the Angels have stumbled to a 16-21 start. But Dipoto and the Angels are hoping Eppard will bring a different, more patient approach to the entire club, from leadoff hitter Trout to temporary nine-hole man Bobby Wilson.

And Eppard, 52, said his conversations with Pujols are different than they are with other players he's coached. He said he asks Pujols a lot of the questions instead of the other way around.

He also said he's been "very much" surprised by Pujols and the Angels' early-season struggles. The slugger is hitting just .212 with one home run this season and the Angels have posted the fourth-worst team on-base percentage in the majors.

"It's hard to imagine, but it's baseball, and a lot of crazy things happen in baseball," Eppard said.

Speaking before Wednesday's game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia was complimentary of Eppard and the comfort he could bring to the club, but he also made it clear he wasn't happy that Hatcher was axed.

"I think Jim's a terrific hitting instructor," Scioscia said. "He's got a great understanding of hitting. He's a great teacher with a lot of the same attributes that Mickey had and hopefully he'll keep getting these guys in their comfort zone."

Said Dipoto: "Jim Eppard's been here a long time and he's trusted. The players know him."

* Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, expected to be out until the end of June following surgery on his right wrist last week, had the splint removed from the wrist Wednesday, Scioscia said. "The timetable still hasn't changed from the original forecast," the manager said.

* Trout went 3-for-4 with his third homer of the 2012 season on Tuesday. Scioscia said he's not surprised by the 20-year-old's play but is impressed. "Where he is right now, you're just seeing a young talent reaching a comfort level," he said.

Here are the lineups for Wednesday's 7:05 p.m. game against the Chicago White Sox:

Chicago

Alejandro De Aza CF
Gordon Beckham 2B
Adam Dunn DH
Paul Konerko 1B
A.J. Pierzynski C
Alex Rios RF
Alexei Ramires SS
Dayan Viciedo LF
Brent Morel 3B
(Gavin Floyd P)

Angels
Mike Trout CF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Albert Pujols 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Mark Trumbo RF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Vernon Wells LF
Erick Aybar SS
Bobby Wilson C
(Jerome Williams P)

Peter Bourjos feels the squeeze

May, 1, 2012
5/01/12
5:48
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ANAHEIM -- When the Angels promoted top prospect Mike Trout from Triple-A Salt Lake on Saturday, it seemed like a good idea.

The Angels' offense was stuck in a miserable hitting funk, had gotten little production from its leadoff hitters and Trout was batting .403 with a .467 on-base percentage in the minors.

As usual, however, the move struck an innocent bystander. Peter Bourjos, one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball last year, has been on the bench in four of the last five games, having yielded center field to Trout.

Bourjos, 25, is batting .167 with 14 strikeouts in 48 at-bats and could be in jeopardy of being demoted to Salt Lake if playing time doesn't materialize soon. Bourjos hasn't played in the minors since August 2010.

"If that happens, it happens," Bourjos said. "It's part of the game and I have options. I understand that. It's a business at the end of the day.

Bourjos made major strides as a hitter in the second half last season. Overall, he batted .271 with 12 home runs and 72 runs scored.

Here are lineups for Tuesday:

Minnesota

Denard Span CF

Alexi Castilla 2B

Joe Mauer DH

Josh Willingham LF

Danny Valencia 3B

Ryan Doumit C

Chris Parmelee 1B

Clete Thomas RF

Jamey Carroll SS

Angels

Trout CF

Alberto Callaspo 3B

Albert Pujols 1B

Torii Hunter RF

Mark Trumbo DH

Howie Kendrick 2B

Vernon Wells LF

Erick Aybar SS

Chris Iannetta C

Can the Angels find relief in Triple A?

April, 30, 2012
4/30/12
1:14
PM PT
Through a quirk of the schedule, the Angels play the Minnesota Twins nine times in the first five weeks of the season, including tonight through Wednesday. Since Minnesota is one of only two teams in the American League with a worse record than the Angels, you would think that might offer some relief.

But so far this season, the Angels have lost series to the Kansas City Royals (6-15), Twins (6-15), Oakland A's (11-12) and surprising Cleveland Indians (11-9). They've lost to good teams, too, including the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.

It really is a case of -- as Mike Scioscia frequently says -- not who they're playing or where they're playing but how they're playing. You're not going to win many games with the No. 13 offense in the American League and one of the shakiest bullpens in baseball. That's a poor combination, like building a bridge out of toothpicks and hoping it holds.

There's not a lot the Angels can do about a dysfunctional offense other than cross their fingers and hope Albert Pujols is standing at the low point of his season and, yeah, his career. They've already made the one appreciable move to stir the offense to life by calling up phenom Mike Trout and releasing Bobby Abreu.

What's left to stir the pot? Angels relievers have a 5.26 ERA, two saves and six blown saves. It seems that might be an area of focus.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto isn't going to find any All-Star relievers sitting in their living rooms waiting for the phone to ring or dangled by teams in the trade market this early, but he might have some solutions closer at hand. David Pauley, signed to a minor-league deal in March, has some major-league experience, a 2.57 ERA and 1.36 WHIP at Triple-A.

A bolder move would be to recall the team's best pitching prospect, Garrett Richards, insert him into the major-league rotation and hope that Jerome Williams could give you a reliable seventh- or eighth-inning option. Richards is 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA at Salt Lake and arguably out-pitched Williams in spring training.

It may smack of panic, but if I were the Angels, I think I'd want to get all hands on deck pretty soon.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jered Weaver
WINS ERA SO IP
18 3.59 169 213
OTHER LEADERS
BAH. Kendrick .293
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169