Los Angeles Angels: Kansas City Royals

Can they win despite their pitching?

July, 26, 2012
7/26/12
12:23
PM PT

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."

Torii Hunter, remember him?

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
4:58
PM PT
Torii HunterGary A. Vasquez/US PresswireTorii Hunter can still on occasion prove that he's a very important player for the Angels.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- For most of Torii Hunter's time in Anaheim, he was the conscience of his team, the player reporters sought for perspective.

He was the center of the clubhouse and, many times, the best player wearing an Angels uniform.

Now, he's probably the fifth-most visible player on the club, relegated to the shadows by the blinding talent of young Mike Trout, the universal celebrity of Albert Pujols and the emerging star power of Jered Weaver and Mark Trumbo.

Every once in a while, Hunter reminds everyone he's not just a Buddhist monk dispensing words of wisdom. He can still play this game.

Hunter was in the middle of the Angels' 11-6 win over the Kansas City Royals, going 4-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs -- this a day after taking such a beating diving for a line drive he said it was like getting hit by Ray Lewis.

Unlike some veterans who get crowded out near the ends of their careers and stew about it, Hunter seems to be enjoying this season. Come to think of it, he seems to enjoy every season.

"With Trout up and coming, the new thing, the five-tool player. ... I mean, he's special to me," Hunter said. "I can imagine the average fan, the media. This guy is something special. It's my goal to be fruitful and give him everything he needs, whether it's off the field or on the field to help his career and push his career.

"That's what I'm going to do as a veteran player. I'm not going to sit back and say, 'I'm jealous, whatever, whatever.' I'm 37! I mean 27! So, that's my job and goal in life and every veteran should do the same."

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3 up, 3 down: Angels 11, Royals 6

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
3:54
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Angels continue to thrive at home.

They jumped out to a 7-0 lead off Luke Hochevar in the third inning and cruised for a while behind Jered Weaver before hitting late turbulence in an 11-6 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday afternoon.

The Angels have won six straight series at home and are 4-2 on this homestand following a 2-5 road trip to start the second half.

The Good:

Weaver Day. Weaver's day to pitch should be a holiday for Angels fans. It's the one day of the week they're practically guaranteed to see a win. He wasn't as efficient as a typical outing, in part because he hit Lorenzo Cain with pitches twice. Not sure why Weaver held a grudge against Cain (who homered Tuesday night), but it's hard to believe one of the finest control pitchers in baseball had two of them just slip out of his hand. Weaver has won seven straight starts.

Heart and soul. At this stage of his career, Torii Hunter has little to play for aside from a chance at the World Series, and he senses this team could offer him a golden opportunity. You can see that with how hard he is playing. He made a full-out dive for a line drive Tuesday night and came up with a bruised hip. As the designated hitter Wednesday, Hunter broke out of a bit of a slump with four hits, including his 11th home run and a two-run single that gave the Angels a 5-0 lead in the second inning.

New streaks. Mike Trout had his run streak snapped at 15 on Tuesday night, but he wasted little time starting a new one. He led off the game with a double and later scored on a wild pitch. He added his 16th home run later. Trout was on base four times and scored three times. Even after missing the first three weeks of the season, Trout leads the majors with 74 runs scored. The Angels' record is 124, set by Vlad Guerrero in his 2004 MVP season.

The Bad:

Tit for tat. Bob Davidson tossed Hochevar immediately after he hit Trout in the fourth inning, prompting a short argument from the Royals. If that was in retaliation for the Angels hitting Cain -- and Trout would have been a likely choice since Cain is K.C.'s best young player -- it seems more barbaric than old school. The Angels can take small pleasure in the fact that Hochevar will get a fine, at the very least, and big pleasure in the fact that Trout was not hurt.

Still struggling. Kendrys Morales won a big game for the Angels with a three-run single Monday night, but he generally has been unproductive for the past month. Manager Mike Scioscia indicated Morales (who went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts Wednesday) has been swinging at pitches outside the strike zone too often. You wonder whether Morales might not benefit from a change of scenery. He could be the centerpiece of a trade that might land the Angels a starting pitcher. He could go to a team that needs a bat, and he might produce better if he can play in the field more frequently. Being a DH isn't easy, and it's his first season trying it.

Downs decline. When Scott Downs picked up his eighth save on July 7, he had a 0.30 ERA and the Angels had virtually nothing to worry about when it came to holding leads. Things are different now. In his past five outings, he has an 18.00 ERA and a blown save. The Angels are believed to be looking most keenly for starting pitching as the trade deadline approaches, but there are reports they're also looking to upgrade the bullpen. Is Downs in danger of being demoted to a situational role earlier in games?

Pujols out with arm injury

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
11:49
AM PT
ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols swung at an inside pitch that hit him in the right forearm during the third inning of Tuesday night's 4-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals. Inflammation must have persisted, because Pujols is not in the lineup for Wednesday's afternoon game.

X-rays proved negative and Pujols is viewed as day to day. Meanwhile, Angels manager Mike Scioscia told reporters it's "questionable" he would use Pujols as a pinch hitter Wednesday.

Torii Hunter, who bruised his hip diving for a ball, is at designated hitter.

Here is the Angels' lineup:

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

Angels' rotation wobbles along

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
11:13
PM PT
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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3 up, 3 down: Royals 4, Angels 1

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
10:20
PM PT


ANAHEIM -- The Angels missed out on a nice opportunity to gain ground on the Texas Rangers by playing one of their drabbest games of the season.

They managed just four hits in a 4-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Angel Stadium on Tuesday night. For the first time since May 25, the Angels are not alone in second place. The streaking Oakland A's pulled into a tie with them, five games behind Texas, which lost 2-1 at home to the Boston Red Sox.

The Good:

Point of debate. On a night when the man who replaced him in the rotation struggled, Jerome Williams shined. He pitched four scoreless innings to give the Angels a chance to rally. After starting the season 6-2, Williams lost his next five starts and that cost him a demotion to the bullpen. Manager Mike Scioscia reiterated before the game that the move could be temporary, however. Williams might have given Angels management something to think about as it tries to cobble together a capable rotation.

Short work. Garrett Richards is exactly the kind of pitcher bad teams are trying to acquire this time of year. He has shown flashes of promise in the major leagues, is young and cheap and has good enough stuff to suggest there's a nice upside. What the Angels are trying to decide is whether he's ready for a pennant race. Lately, he has given mixed signals. His first three starts were strong, but since then he has pitched five innings or fewer in three of five starts. The Royals were all over him in the first two innings, putting the Angels in a steep hole immediately, but he steadied himself to finish on a good note with three scoreless innings.

Redemption. A lot of people in the Angels organization can take a little slice of credit for whatever Royals pitcher Will Smith does in his career. The Angels drafted him in the seventh round in 2008 and he spent three seasons in their organization before departing in the trade that brought Alberto Callaspo back to the Angels. Tuesday, the lefty showed the Angels what they're missing. He buzzed through seven innings, allowing just two hits and working around four walks.

The Bad:

Streaks snapped. Mike Trout went 0-for-3 to snap a career-best 12-game hitting streak, but he still had a chance to get closer to the AL record for consecutive games scoring a run. He walked in the eighth inning, but after a long at-bat, Torii Hunter popped up to end the inning. Trout had scored in 15 consecutive games before Tuesday. As Trout goes, the Angels tend to go and they looked dead without their spark at the top of the order.

Un-designated. Everybody said it was a great advantage for Albert Pujols to come to the American League so he could get some rest at designated hitter once every 10 games or so. That hasn't been working out so well. Pujols is 4-for-31 (.129) at DH this year with two home runs and seven strikeouts. He had an awkward, 0-for-3 night at the plate, to say the least. In the third inning, he swung at a pitch and hit it with his right forearm, near the elbow. How is that possible?

Rough debut. Jean Segura might well prove to be a fine major-league player. In his major-league debut, however, he appeared a bit overmatched. Segura struck out on four pitches in his first at-bat and three pitches in his next. He hit a sharp grounder and reached on an error in his last. He also was a bit slow starting what might have been an inning-ending double play hit by Alcides Escobar in the second inning. It resulted in a run-scoring fielder's choice.

Jean Segura makes major league debut

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
5:29
PM PT
When young Angels shortstop Jean Segura called the Dominican Republic to inform his mother, Maribel, that he was being called up to the major leagues Saturday night, she got a little emotional.

"I thought she was going to have a heart attack," Segura said.

Imagine how things will be in the city of San Juan de la Maguana tonight when Segura makes his first major league start. Segura, the Angels' top prospect, was batting .294 with seven home runs and 33 stolen bases at Double-A Arkansas before the Angels summoned him after Erick Aybar's toe injury.

Segura's family plans to gather for the game at the house of a friend who has DirecTV. The game begins after 10 p.m. there.

"I'm a little emotional. I'm not nervous at all," said Segura, 22. "This is my debut, my first game here in the big leagues. Every player is going to feel emotional for that. I think I can play here for a long time if I get a chance. I trust myself."

The Angels still haven't put Aybar on the disabled list, but even if they do, Segura's stay in Anaheim could be short. They're going with Maicer Izturis as their everyday shortstop in Aybar's absence and they likely will bring up Andrew Romine from Triple-A either Sunday or Monday if they still need a backup shortstop. At Segura's age, they want him to play every day.

Here are the rest of the lineups for Tuesday night's game vs. the Kansas City Royals:

Kansas City
Alex Gordon LF
Alcides Escobar SS
Lorenzo Cain CF
Billy Butler DH
Mike Moustakas 3B
Salvador Perez C
Jeff Francoeur RF
Eric Hosmer 1B
Chris Getz 2B

Angels
Mike Trout CF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols DH
Mark Trumbo LF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Kendrys Morales 1B
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Jean Segura SS
John Hester C

Patchy pitching, but splashy defense

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
12:05
AM PT
In the third inning of Monday night's 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, with Angels starter C.J. Wilson teetering on the brink of a second straight meltdown, Peter Bourjos retreated to the warning track, jumped and turned what might have been a Lorenzo Cain three-run home run into a fairly innocuous sacrifice fly.

The next inning, Wilson was again stumbling into some trouble when Jeff Francoeur hit a bullet to the left side of the infield. It nearly knocked Maicer Izturis down, but Izturis threw from his knees to start a difficult double play that helped Wilson get out of the inning.

And those are just the backups.

Both Izturis and Bourjos have played only part-time this season, Izturis because of the presence of Gold Glove shortstop Erick Aybar and Bourjos because of the presence of league batting leader Mike Trout, who, incidentally, made an even more impressive play taking a home run away in Baltimore earlier this season.

The Angels have premium defenders at most positions on the field and, often, all over their bench, which is another reason they are surviving some fraying in their starting rotation. Combined with an offense that has sprung to life -- leading the majors in runs per game over the past two months -- it has helped stabilize the Angels during this difficult stretch of schedule.

"There have been some phenomenal players out there behind everybody on the pitching staff," Wilson said.

The Angels, according to ESPN Stats and Info, rank fifth in the majors in defensive runs saved (DRS) and second in another measure of overall defense called Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR. Their outfield ranks third in DRS and third in UZR.

"Statistically, there are some things you can point to and say we're just playing average defense, but if you see it every day, you see the range, you see guys that are taking hits away, helping our pitchers shrink the field a little bit," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Our defense is a plus, there's absolutely no doubt about that."

Nor is there any doubt they need it. Had Bourjos not made that catch, for example, Wilson likely wouldn't have been able to pitch into the seventh inning. He might have given the Angels their second ultra-short outing in the past three games. Ervin Santana, who is 4-10 with a 6.00 ERA, couldn't get out of the second inning Saturday. Wilson, in his previous start, gave up seven runs on five walks, and he hasn't picked up a win this month.

General manager Jerry Dipoto is searching high and low for help from starting pitchers, but he has yet to hit the high end of the market. He acquired Barry Enright from the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday, but Enright will report to Triple-A and figures to join the Angels only if they have another crisis. He had a 5.21 ERA with Triple-A Reno.

Good starting pitchers aren't easy to come by via trade, so the Angels might have to make do with who they have this season. It will be easier to pull that off if their teammates keep making virtually all the plays behind them.

3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 6, Royals 3

July, 23, 2012
7/23/12
11:23
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- Monday night was a slow, sometimes-ugly grind and a far cry from the Angels' explosiveness of recent games. But they kept their momentum rolling along with a 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals at Angel Stadium. Pinch hitter Kendrys Morales slammed a three-run single off the right-field wall to cap a two-out rally in the eighth inning.

The Angels stayed on top of a crowded wild-card race and remained five games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West.

The Good:

Stopping power. Peter Bourjos got to the wall and jumped to take away what looked to be a home run from Lorenzo Cain and save two runs. Maicer Izturis practically got knocked over by Jeff Francoeur's sharp grounder, but got up to start a crucial double play. The Angels have premium defense up the middle in excess. They have two center fielders and two shortstops capable of making highlight plays. Their pitchers are lucky in that regard.

Streaking on. Guys who go on long hitting streaks don't just ride hot stretches, they get through nights when they don't feel great at the plate. Monday wasn't the most dynamic night for Mike Trout -- he went 2-for-5 with two singles and no stolen bases -- but it kept alive a couple of streaks. He has hit in 12 straight games and has scored a run in 15 straight games. The run mark extends the new franchise standard and puts him three away from the AL record, held most recently by Kenny Lofton, a pretty good leadoff hitter not so long ago.

Surprise production. The deep lineups in the AL typically fill out the bottom third of their lineup with light-hitting, speedy players or low-average hitters with decent power. The Angels sometimes have an unwieldy look, with Bobby Wilson clogging the bases for Trout, and have gotten scant production from the bottom third. But Monday that bottom third got the winning rally started. Izturis had two clutch hits. He, Wilson and Bourjos were on base five times between them and primed the winning rally with an Izturis hit and Bourjos walk.

The Bad:

Step back. Albert Pujols has been among the most productive hitters in baseball for more than two months, but Monday wasn't a good night for the Angels' No. 3 hitter. He looked off-kilter all evening, picking up his only hit on a pop-up that landed between a couple of outfielders and his only RBI on an awkward chopper to the first baseman. Trout has been the most impressive offensive player, but the Angels do tend to rise and fall on Pujols' performance.

Another step back. A lot of the same things could be said for Mark Trumbo. He walked in the first inning, which was encouraging since his patience had waned in recent games (one walk in 10 days), but he also struck out twice and is 4 for his last 16 with four strikeouts. The Angels have led the majors in home runs over the past month, paced largely by Pujols and Trumbo. Monday the power took a night off, but the Angels found other ways to get a win.

No 'W' in Wilson? It was far from an artful outing by C.J. Wilson. He had bushels of trouble, allowing nine hits in less than seven innings. On the other hand, they were all singles and he was able to grind through most of his difficulties, unlike his previous start in Detroit. Wilson has allowed 17 hits and six walks in his past two starts, so he's not exactly on top of his game. But he was able to take the ball deep enough in the game to give the Angels a good chance. Wilson rattled off five straight wins to get to 9-4 and made the All-Star team, but he hasn't earned a win since June 26.

Albert Pujols, third wheel?

July, 23, 2012
7/23/12
4:00
PM PT
Only one person knows what it's like to be Albert Pujols, of course, but it seems like a safe assumption that this season has felt strange, and not just for the obvious reasons.

After about a decade as the game's best player, Pujols has been the third-most productive hitter on his team this season, behind Mike Trout, who leads the league in multiple offensive categories, and Mark Trumbo, who leads it in slugging percentage. A week or more can go by without Pujols conducting an interview after a game, reporters gravitating to Trout or Trumbo.

"I heard a lot of guys on TV saying maybe that I was trying too hard and Trout and Trumbo will take the pressure off myself," Pujols said. "Come on. I've been doing this for 11 years. I think I may have felt pressure my first and second year, but I've got too many games on this level. I know what I can do and I'm going to try to go out there and give my best for the fans, for the this team, for this organization."

Pujols is hitting .375 with four doubles and four home runs in the 10 games since the All-Star break.

Here is the Angels' lineup for Monday night's game vs. the Kansas City Royals:

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

Jered Weaver leads the Angels' charge

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
11:02
PM PT

John Cordes/Icon SMI
Jered Weaver has been around these parts for a while. He came up with the Angels six years ago, went to college 15 miles from their stadium and grew up an hour-and-a-half drive north.

Starting this winter and building toward Friday night's crescendo, Weaver could sense a change in Orange County and beyond when it came to Angels baseball.

"I think it's a little bit more electric," Weaver said.

Maybe so, but for seven innings this Angels team looked exactly like the 2011 and 2010 models, which is to say far from electric, borderline dull. Weaver was out there all by himself for a time. He was practically embarrassing Kansas City Royals hitters, striking out 10 of them, but the Angels hitters -- including Mr. Electricity himself, Albert Pujols -- couldn't solve a riddle known as Bruce Chen.

After a while, that sense of déjà vu was starting to cause some squirming in the Angels' dugout. Last season, the Angels criminally neglected their pitching staff, getting shut out through five innings a major league-leading 50 times. It got so bad, owner Arte Moreno apologized to Weaver and Dan Haren after the season, promising them a little more run support.

"It's funny. After five innings, that did pop into my mind," manager Mike Scioscia said.

Maybe all that practice paid off for Weaver, because he just kept soldiering on while the zeroes lined up on the center-field scoreboard. Eventually, something gave, specifically a pretty good Kansas City bullpen, and the Angels rallied for five runs in the eighth to make a success of Opening Day.

If there's anybody around here who can upstage Pujols, the greatest player in a generation, it's Weaver. Pujols used to have to face him every few years. He'd much rather stand and watch him from the comfort of first base.

"The way he hides the ball is amazing. It almost looks like a rosin bag coming out of his hand," Pujols said.

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3 up, 3 down: Angels 5, Royals 0

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
9:46
PM PT


ANAHEIM -- There are few baseball players capable of upstaging Albert Pujols, but on certain nights, Jered Weaver is one of them.

The Angels’ ace shut down the Kansas City Royals just long enough for the Angels to rally in the eighth inning and open their 2012 season with a 5-0 win. Pujols was 0-for-3 with a strikeout, a double play and an intentional walk.

The Good

Ace of aces. So much for spring training statistics. Weaver was a little wobbly in Arizona, but does anybody really care? He was as dominant as ever in breezing through eight innings, holding Kansas City to four hits and striking out 10. Only two other Angels pitchers had struck out so many on Opening Day. Nolan Ryan did it twice and Andy Messersmith once. Weaver looks like a different guy when the games count, fiery as ever.

Foot traffic. I asked Mike Scioscia about how much running he plans on doing now that Pujols and Kendrys Morales are in the middle of his lineup. He said it was about finding a balance, running when the opportunity is there. The Angels look like a bunch of pulling guards in the Nos. 3 through 7 spots in their lineup, but have blazing speed on the fringes. The key shot was Erick Aybar’s three-run triple into the right-field corner, Peter Bourjos sliding into home safely.

Comeback story. For Morales, just being on the field in a meaningful game had to be redemptive. He’d sat out 23 months -- 10 baseball months -- since fracturing his left ankle here at Angel Stadium. Oh, and by the way, he started the winning rally with a one-out single off fireballer Aaron Crow in the eighth inning.

The Bad

Progress. Mark Trumbo worked so hard this spring trying to become a competent third baseman, but his first effort with the lights on was rough. He sped up on Yuniesky Betancourt’s grounder in the third inning and made a throwing error, then overran a foul popup for his second error, sixth if you count spring training.

Common sense. The teams put on a clinic in needlessly aggressive baserunning. The most egregious case was Royal Jeff Francoeur getting picked off second base in a scoreless tie with one out. But there was more. Howie Kendrick was doubled up off second on Albert Pujols’ soft liner and Bourjos was picked off first in an obvious steal opportunity.

Get used to it. The crowd was so excited for Pujols’ fourth at-bat, but soon it was booing after the Royals elected to intentionally walk him with a runner at third and two outs. It’s going to happen all the time, folks. From 2005 to 2010, Pujols led the National League in intentional walks four times. A lot of that time he had Matt Holliday hitting behind him.

Trumbo's at third: Opening Day lineups

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
3:42
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- Mark Trumbo will make his first major-league start at third base and Albert Pujols will make his Angels debut Friday night when the Angels take on the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day. It's not surprising since Kansas City is starting lefty Bruce Chen and the Angels are pitching Jered Weaver, an extreme flyball pitcher.

Trumbo had an adventurous spring trying to make a difficult transition to third, but the Angels love the idea of stacking their lineup with right-handed power against lefties.

Here are the lineups:

Kansas City

Alex Gordon LF

Lorenzo Cain CF

Eric Hosmer 1B

Billy Butler DH

Jeff Francoeur RF

Yuniesky Betancourt 2B

Mike Moustakas 3B

Brayan Pena C

Alcides Escobar SS

Angels

Erick Aybar SS

Howie Kendrick 2B

Albert Pujols 1B

Torii Hunter RF

Vernon Wells LF

Kendrys Morales DH

Mark Trumbo 3B

Chris Iannetta C

Peter Bourjos CF

Morales makes it all the way back

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
5:28
PM PT


TEMPE, Ariz. -- Everything that has happened this spring has felt like background noise compared with what’s been going on with Kendrys Morales.

Two questions have dominated camp: Is he healthy, and can he still play? It’s almost as if Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson never switched teams. Landing those guys has fueled excitement heading into 2012, but the question of Morales’ health has been the paramount riddle for months.

Nobody really had any idea what he’d look like when he ran, whether his swing would hold up.

And now we’ve got an answer. He’s going to be OK. He might even be very good, maybe even as good as he was three years ago. Add up all the numbers in September and we’ll have an idea, but he’s already answered the only question he could in Arizona.

It wasn't as if he rolled out of a hospital bed and smacked a couple of singles into the outfield during the Angels’ 7-4 win over the Kansas City Royals at Tempe Diablo Stadium. In reality, it’s been weeks of hitting in private, jogging on a treadmill and even playing in minor league games that got him here, but this was the biggest hurdle yet.

Early Thursday morning, Morales’ teammates were generally excited to see him returning -- not only because he’s the second-best hitter on the team, but because it meant he would be around them in the dugout. He’s one of the funniest guys on the team. According to manager Mike Scioscia, he’s also one of the most popular.

“I’d been sitting at home watching them for a long time, and I couldn’t support my teammates,” Morales said. “To finally be out there with them and interact with them felt really good.”

Soon, we'll get an idea of what kind of production to expect.

(Read full post)

Kendrys Morales' return delayed

March, 20, 2012
3/20/12
9:31
AM PT
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels scratched Kendrys Morales from Tuesday's Cactus League game against the Kansas City Royals. It would have been the slugger's first game against major-league competition since May 29, 2010, when Morales broke his left ankle hopping onto home plate in celebration of a game-winning home run.

Morales experienced some soreness in his right shin after a minor-league game Monday. He said he will get Wednesday off -- the Angels have an open date -- and be at designated hitter in Thursday's home game against the Royals.

"It’s nothing, not serious at all," Morales said. "I feel a lot better, but it’s a little cold and they decided to be careful."

Temperatures in the Phoenix area Tuesday morning were in the 40s. The Angels are hoping Morales can return and provide lineup protection for newly acquired superstar Albert Pujols. Morales hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 RBIs in 2009.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said his optimism about Morales being ready for Opening Day hasn't diminished at all.

"He'll be ready, barring some unforeseen lack of progression," Scioscia said.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Howie Kendrick
BA HR RBI R
.293 7 75 85
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
WJ. Weaver 18
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169