Los Angeles Angels: Oakland A's

Angels' approach key vs. Drew Pomeranz

May, 30, 2014
May 30
10:37
AM PT
AP PhotoDrew Pomeranz has been dominant for the Oakland Athletics since joining the rotation.
The Los Angeles Angels have a chance to pick up ground on the team they are chasing in the American League West as they head to Oakland for a three-game weekend series.

Last season the Angels held their own by going 4-6 in Oakland. This season, despite ranking fourth in the league with a .421 team slugging percentage, they may have to manufacture more runs than they did last year when they hit 14 home runs in 10 games – five of which came from Mike Trout.

The Oakland Athletics pitching staff is tops in the big leagues with a 2.89 ERA. At home they are even better with a 2.75 ERA as O.co Coliseum is the seventh-best pitcher’s park in baseball according to Park Factors.

On the mound for the Athletics on Friday is 25-year-old lefthander Drew Pomeranz, who came in a trade from the Colorado Rockies this offseason for Brett Anderson. Pomeranz has excelled in four starts for Oakland this season, allowing just two earned runs and 13 hits over 19 innings.

Still being stretched out as a starter, Pomeranz has yet to throw more than five innings in any game this season. In his most recent start, he was pulled after four innings after throwing a season-high 90 pitches.

So how should the Angels try to get to the former fifth-overall pick?

Be aggressive early in the count
This season opponents are hitting .462 against Pomeranz in the first two pitches of at-bats. Among pitchers who have made at least four starts this season, that is the ninth-worst in baseball.

But once you get to pitch number three, it is advantage Pomeranz, with opponents hitting just .132 against the lefty. Among pitchers to start at least four times this season, the only pitcher with a lower opponent’s batting average once the count gets three pitches deep is Chris Sale (.101).

Lay off the curveball
To say Pomeranz’s curveball has been effective this season would be a huge understatement. He has ended 24 plate appearances with a curve, striking out 11 and inducing 13 groundballs (three went for hits).

Pomeranz’s throws a knuckle curve which his father taught him because he felt it put less strain on the arm than a traditional curveball. Pomeranz described the pitch in a 2011 interview with David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus:

“I hook my middle finger on a seam, and my thumb on one of the seams, and I push off the top of the seam, holding it kind of like a two-seam, but turned out to the front.

ESPN Stats & Information


My fingers that are on the top are like two legs that are crossing, and I just pretty much flick it straight forward, no wrist-breaking action or anything.”

The knuckle curve has been especially effective against right-handed hitters as Pomeranz has been able to locate the pitch so it often lands on the low-outside corner or breaks towards the hitter’s feet out of the strike zone. As a result, righties have just 1 hit in 16 at-bats with eight strikeouts against Pomeranz curveballs.

Angels 2014: Could this be the year?

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
8:00
AM PT


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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3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 5, A's 0

May, 22, 2012
5/22/12
10:46
PM PT
The Angels got a dominating pitching performance from C.J. Wilson and saw some signs of life from Albert Pujols' bat in a 5-0 win over the Oakland A's Tuesday night.

The Good:

Mr. Steady. Other than a rain-shortened outing in Texas and his previous start -- when he was battling a stomach virus -- C.J. Wilson hasn't had a bad start all year. Tuesday, against the punchless A's, was one of his finest -- an eight-inning one-hitter. The jury is still out on the Angels' two marquee off-season acquisitions, but the Wilson investment looks a lot more sound so far than the Albert Pujols deal.

Albert. He hit his first home run on the road and also had a sacrifice fly. Every time you make grandiose statements about Pujols getting hot, he cools off again, so we'll refrain from that. But four home runs nearing the end of May sounds a lot better than zero going into early May. He's at least taking baby steps.

Pushing buttons. This has been a grueling couple of months for manager Mike Scioscia. His close friend, hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, got fired. Scioscia has taken more criticism than ever before. But Tuesday he seemed to set the right tone by giving Angels hitters a day off from on-field batting practice, something he calls "going American Legion." Maybe it helped alleviate a little pressure? Also, Scioscia seems, at last, to have settled on a more or less set lineup, with Mike Trout leading off, one of the switch-hitting third basemen batting second and either Kendrys Morales or Mark Trumbo at cleanup.

The Bad:

Aybar exits. Shortstop Erick Aybar took a breaking ball off the right knee and had to leave the game in the seventh inning. Aybar hasn't exactly been killing the ball at the plate, but if he's out for more than a couple of days, it could put a big dent in the Angels' defensive continuity. Also, the infield options in the minor-leagues are scant since the team sent Alexi Amarista to San Diego.

Maicer struggles. Maicer Izturis has been one of the more underrated players on the roster as long as he's been an Angel, and that's a long time (he's the longest-serving player on the roster, having been acquired from Montreal in 2004). The utility guy, however, has been in a mighty slump lately, just one hit in his last 19 at-bats. He had a rare 0-for-6 Sunday in San Diego and he followed that with Tuesday's 1-for-5 performance.

AL West hitting. Leave Texas out of the discussion and the offensive performance of the AL West is just staggeringly anemic. Wilson was good Tuesday, but was he this good? Oakland entered Tuesday night with a .216 team batting average. That's incredible.

The evolution of Mark Trumbo

May, 15, 2012
5/15/12
3:06
PM PT
Sunday night in Texas, Mark Trumbo took a 2-and-2 fastball from Rangers reliever Mark Lowe that may or may not have brushed the outside edge of the strike zone. Trumbo says he could have lived with it if the umpire had called him out on strikes. One pitch later, Lowe threw him a slider for a ball and Trumbo trotted to first base with a walk.

A year ago, Trumbo admitted, he probably would have swung at the same pitch.

"I thought about it a lot in the off-season," Trumbo said. "I wish at times I could have done a better job getting on base last year. You're a much more valuable player when you do."

The slugging percentage was evident last season when Trumbo hit 29 home runs as a rookie, but his newfound plate discipline (team-high .398 OBP) has been the most surprising development in Trumbo's game. He has nine walks, two more than Albert Pujols.

Last season, Trumbo finished second in rookie of the year balloting despite a .291 OBP, one of the lowest marks in the majors. Chasing fewer balls has also helped get Trumbo pitches to hit. His six home runs and 16 RBIs lead the team and he is hitting .357 this month.

Few players change their approach this dramatically once they reach the major leagues, but it appears to be working for Trumbo. It's also more in keeping with his style in the minor leagues, where pitchers were well aware of his prodigious power. He had a .368 OBP in his final season at Triple-A.

"The fact now that he's getting more walks is probably a byproduct of opposing teams really understanding the threat he is in the batter's box," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

* Scioscia said there is "no update" on the status of Torii Hunter, who is on the restricted list after his teenage son, Darius McClinton-Hunter, was arrested Monday in Texas on suspicion of sexual assault of a child, a second-degree felony.

Here are lineups for Tuesday's 4:05 p.m. game vs. Oakland:

Oakland
Jemile Weeks 2B
Cliff Pennington SS
Josh Reddick RF
Seth Smith LF
Kila Ka'aihue DH
Josh Donaldson 3B
Daric Barton 1B
Kurt Suzuki C
Collin Cowgill CF

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

Trout showing what the fuss was about

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
6:15
PM PT
Mike Trout is batting .368 with a .422 on-base percentage, four doubles and two home runs in 10 games this month, prompting the following comment from Angels manager Mike Scioscia: "He's doing what we'd think he would be doing."

That probably tells you all you need to know about how high the Angels are on their 20-year-old outfielder, one of baseball's shiniest prospects. In his third stint in the major leagues, Trout's talents appear to be blossoming. Last season, he batted .220 in 40 games with the Angels. Why now?

According to Trout, getting second and third looks at pitchers has helped, as has getting used to the various stadiums -- and their hitting backdrops. He is a lifetime .338 hitter in parts of three seasons in the minors.

"It's become more of a game instead of speeding up on me," Trout said. "The main thing was just to keep battling and stay positive."

Here are lineups for Monday, with Angels right fielder Torii Hunter out indefinitely after his teenage son, Darius, was arrested in Texas Monday on suspicion of sexual assault on a child:

Oakland
Jemile Weeks 2B
Cliff Pennington SS
Josh Reddick RF
Jonny Gomes DH
Seth Smith LF
Josh Donaldson 3B
Daric Barton 1B
Kurt Suzuki C
Collin Cowgill CF

Angels
Trout CF
Maicer Izturis 2B
Albert Pujols 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Trumbo RF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Vernon Wells LF
Erick Aybar SS
Bobby Wilson C

3 up, 3 down: A's 4, Angels 2

April, 19, 2012
4/19/12
10:27
PM PT


ANAHEIM -- The Angels showed some signs of breaking out of their hitting slump, but the results were numbingly familiar.

Two weeks into the season, the Angels have lost every series they have played.

With a 4-2 loss to the Oakland A's, their third loss in a four-game series, the Angels have now lost series to the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Oakland. It's not exactly a recipe for a World Series run. The Angels (4-9) now trail the first-place Texas Rangers by seven games, a stunning hole this early in the season.

The Good:

Albert erupts. Oh, so that's what all the fuss was about. Albert Pujols still hasn't hit a home run -- though one ball smacked off the wall inches from clearing it -- but he did just about everything else to stoke this offense to life. He smashed three doubles, the first Angel to do that since Chone Figgins in August 2009, but the rest of the lineup disappeared again and Pujols was stranded on the bases a couple of more times. Another nifty trick would be getting some runners on in front of him. Pujols is batting .302 but he only has four RBIs.

A little relief. Take it for what it's worth since the Angels were trailing from the second inning on, but the bullpen showed some signs of order. The salty veterans -- LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen -- continued to pitch well and a struggling younger guy, Kevin Jepsen, got through his inning cleanly. Now, if the Angels could just do that when they're protecting a two-run lead, they'd have something.

Trum-bonk. The only guy who hit a ball harder than Pujols on Thursday was Mark Trumbo, whose line drive off the left-field wall was so well-struck that Jonny Gomes was able to get it in quickly enough to hold Trumbo to a single. Trumbo also walked and is showing signs of becoming a more complete hitter than he was a year ago. Think manager Mike Scioscia might want to find ways to keep him on the field, considering he has looked like the most dangerous hitter on the team?

The Bad:

E-bar. He signed a four-year, $35 million contract extension in the afternoon and accepted his Gold Glove in the early evening. Before the game, he was even walking around in the T-shirt the team gave away to commemorate his 2011 fielding award. Then, he went out and had one of his most embarrassing games as a professional. Erick Aybar made a couple of errors and had a bad at-bat in the clutch to snuff out a promising rally late.

Wild pitch. It was actually a pretty impressive outing for C.J. Wilson considering he seemed to have very little idea where the ball was going. Wilson needed 112 pitches to get through six innings, walked three guys and made a bad throwing error to usher in two Oakland runs in the fourth inning.

One hole. The Angels can't find a decent leadoff hitter. Aybar flailed at it, Peter Bourjos hasn't gotten his bat going and even Maicer Izturis, one of the hottest hitters on the team coming in, offered a weak case Thursday. In his second game leading off, Izturis was 0-for-5 and struck out three times. The Angels have already tried Bobby Abreu in the 1-hole. Maybe Pujols can do it?

Hunter drops by the manager's office

April, 19, 2012
4/19/12
5:36
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- Angels right fielder Torii Hunter asked to meet with manager Mike Scioscia and the two had a lengthy closed-door meeting before Thursday's game.

Hunter, who two seasons ago moved from center field to right field to accommodate Peter Bourjos, is apparently willing to cede some of his territory again if it produces wins. He spoke with Scioscia about days he could be at designated hitter in order to squeeze Mark Trumbo's powerful bat in the lineup at right field.

"Just trying to get some guys in there," Hunter said. "We'll be all right."

Trumbo is more comfortable in right field than left. The Angels would love to play him more and put their most dangerous lineup on the field, but the third-base experiment wasn't going well. Trumbo made three errors in his first two games at third and has played the position just once in the past nine games.

Scioscia said the team isn't pulling the plug on the third-base move, just exploring other options. Trumbo was at DH Thursday.

"Trum has the potential to be an everyday first baseman, which obviously we're not looking for. He has the potential to be an everyday third baseman and an everyday corner outfielder," Scioscia said. "Absolutely."

Here are the rest of the lineups:

A's

Jemile Weeks 2B

Cliff Pennington SS

Josh Reddick RF

Yoenis Cespedes CF

Seth Smith DH

Jonny Gomes LF

Daric Barton 1B

Kurt Suzuki C

Eric Sogard 3B

Angels

Bobby Abreu LF

Howie Kendrick 2B

Albert Pujols 1B

Kendrys Morales DH

Torii Hunter RF

Vernon Wells CF

Maicer Izturis SS

Alberto Callaspo 3B

Bobby Wilson C

3 up, 3 down: A's 6, Angels 0

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
9:59
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- The Angels have played just 12 games and they're already six games out of first place.

Not exactly the way they drew it up. With Albert Pujols in a funk, the offense has been unreliable and even the starting pitching has only been sporadically effective. The Angels have to figure out a way out of this morass, compounded by Wednesday's lifeless 6-0 loss to the Oakland A's, or they could find themselves in an intimidating early hole.

The Good:

On strike. This isn't necessarily a good thing for the Angels, but Bartolo Colon once was an Angel. He no longer has Cy Young stuff, a la 2005, but he has reinvented himself by absolutely pounding the strike zone. Into the eighth inning, he had only thrown 20 balls out of 97 pitches. At one point, he threw 38 straight strikes. Apparently, he didn't read about how careful he's supposed to be pitching to the Angels' fearsome lineup.

Not quite magic. When Ervin Santana wasn't giving up home runs, he actually had a nice tempo and lively stuff. He sandwiched four good innings between the first and sixth, but Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run home run into the Oakland bullpen and Jonny Gomes hit a towering solo shot and that was that. Angels starters have been disappointing, for sure, but you can see signs that the rotation is coming to life.

Diving stop. Vernon Wells didn't have any hits, but he had a nice game, with signs of life. He smashed a ball to left field, but Gomes happened to be standing right there. He also made a diving catch of a sinking Cespedes liner to center in the fifth. Wells' offensive struggles seem easier to take when he's playing solid defense, particularly when he's in center field, a premium position he once mastered.

The Bad:

Drought lingers. Pujols is getting closer to that first Angels home run, for what that's worth. He fouled several balls straight back, usually a sign that a hitter is just missing pitches. He hit a fly to the warning track in center. At many stadiums, probably most, that would have been a home run. Still, Pujols has gone 49 at-bats without a home run, the longest stretch since a 107 at-bat stretch last year. He just doesn't look like himself. He hasn't walked in nine straight games and has just four RBIs for the season.

Garbage time. It's never a good sign when your closer has worked exclusively in mop-up situations. The Angels still haven't gotten Jordan Walden a save situation, fairly remarkable nearly two weeks into the season. You can't simulate the adrenaline of a high-pressure ninth inning and Walden struggled, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks, and throwing 31 pitches. On the other hand, he hit 101 mph with one before Mike Scioscia relieved him.

Off his game. Alberto Callaspo was a solid player for the Angels last year, leading the team in batting (.288) and on-base percentage (.366). But with playing time divided three ways at third base, Callaspo is not, apparently, adjusting well. He usually is one of the hardest players in baseball to strike out, but he went down twice against Colon and is now 4-for-26 (.153). At this point, Maicer Izturis looks like the best all-around third baseman the Angels have.

Bullpen's bumblings test Mike Scioscia

April, 17, 2012
4/17/12
10:52
PM PT
Dan HarenKirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireDan Haren threw only 85 pitches before he was pulled from his start Tuesday against the A's.

ANAHEIM -- It would appear Mike Scioscia is having a difficult time getting a feel for this team.

Given a deep, but unwieldy roster, he has been unwilling to pick his best nine hitters and stick with them. Left without a reliable bullpen, he's finding his late-game pitching moves are backfiring.

And it has made for an awkward, sideways start to a season filled with promise.

Scioscia seemed to be grasping for something solid and came up empty in Tuesday night's 5-3 loss to the Oakland A's. Pitcher Dan Haren was far from dominant and hasn't been yet this season, but when Scioscia pulled him after 85 pitches, the Angels clinging to a 2-1 lead, you had a feeling things could get weird.

Scott Downs got out of the jam, but his arrival in the seventh slotted other relievers into roles they haven't proven they can handle and things imploded the following inning. Oakland scored four times off Kevin Jepsen and rookie David Carpenter.

What, exactly, did Scioscia see in this bullpen that suggested it would drive this game home safely? In its two previous save chances, it had blown it.

"I thought Dan was getting a little bit tired," Scioscia said. "He'd come off a couple of outings where his stuff just wasn't as crisp as it should have been. I think he was holding up, but we just didn't feel it was going to be the right time to try to stretch him."

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3 up, 3 down: A's 5, Angels 3

April, 17, 2012
4/17/12
10:04
PM PT


ANAHEIM -- The Angels continued to stagger through the early part of their schedule, blowing an eighth-inning lead and losing 5-3 to one of the more anemic teams in baseball, the Oakland A's.

In a familiar theme, the bullpen was the primary culprit, but the offense has been a disappointment so far, as well.

The Good:

Command center. It seemed a bit curious when Mike Scioscia came to get the ball from Dan Haren with two on and two out in the seventh inning. Yes, Daric Barton had homered off Haren earlier in the game, but Haren had only thrown 85 pitches and Scioscia normally gives his best starters some leeway. Haren wasn't dominant (two strikeouts), but he was plenty good running at less than 100 percent against the worst lineup in the American League. Haren came right at them, throwing strikes with 74 percent of his pitches.

Peter picker. It's almost like a bonus if Peter Bourjos gets any hits. That's how much value he brings with his legs and glove. He swung the game in the middle innings by, first, leaping at the wall to take a home run away from Josh Donaldson and, second, dribbling a grounder to the shortstop to drive in the tying run a half-inning later. He's off to a slow start at the plate, but who cares when he erases everything hit to the middle of the outfield?

Turnaround time. Man, has Kendrys Morales been streaky. He tore up the Cactus League before hitting a lull at the end of spring training and he's doing the same thing in the first two weeks of the season. Morales had one hit and seven strikeouts in his previous 23 at-bats before going 5 for his last 8. He scored the go-ahead run from second on Torii Hunter's single to left though it didn't stand up.

The Bad:

Relief foibles. So far, Angels relievers have had three save opportunities and blown all three. Again, poor relief is threatening to send this team into an early funk. Kevin Jepsen was part of that mess last year and he's part of it again this year. He got a quick strikeout, but then walked two straight batters before giving up a pair of sharp hits to Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick. The whole thing was set in motion by Scioscia's early hook of Haren, which brought Scott Downs into the game in the seventh instead of the eighth.

The funk. It might be time to slip Erick Aybar out of the leadoff spot for a bit, perhaps even give him a day off. The shortstop is even jumpier than usual at the plate. He has four hits in his last 28 at-bats and he struck out twice, hearing a few boos in the process. Aybar's not exactly setting a bounteous table these days, batting .171 and with two walks all season. Maybe a lineout to the shortstop in his final at-bat will get him going.

The Funk. This Albert Pujols homerless streak is starting to feel like a real thing. He has never gone this long in a season without hitting a long ball. He averages one home run every 14.3 at-bats in his career and, this season, he has gone 45 at-bats without one. Then again, the former is probably more remarkable than the latter. No reason to panic, but if he hasn't hit one by the end of the week, panic. He had a 3-and-1 count in the ninth inning and hit a towering infield pop-up.

Why is Mark Trumbo sitting again?

April, 17, 2012
4/17/12
5:26
PM PT
He leads the Angels in on-base percentage (.474), slugging (.750) and is tied for the lead in home runs (two) in fewer than half the at-bats of other players on the roster. Yet Mark Trumbo was not in the lineup either of the past two nights.

There must be some explanation why a power hitter batting .375 and gradually mastering the art of plate discipline can't get everyday at-bats, right? It appears the Angels just aren't as comfortable with using him at third base as they hoped to be.

Since Trumbo made his third error at the new position eight days ago, he has made just one start at third (and two at designated hitter). Trumbo took extra infield practice Tuesday in front of manager Mike Scioscia and infield instructor Alfredo Griffin.

Alberto Callaspo, batting .105 in 19 at-bats, started at third Tuesday vs. the Oakland A's. Trumbo said a plan for how often he'll be playing hasn't been laid out to him by Scioscia or the coaches.

"You might know more than I do on that one," Trumbo said.

"Going into things, I knew I probably wouldn’t be playing every day and that’s exactly what’s panned out. I don’t have any resentment or anything," Trumbo said. "It’s just the way things are working."

Scioscia said he hasn't given up on the Trumbo-to-third project.

"We want to get Trumbo in there as much as possible. Nothing's changed from spring training," Scioscia said. "Right now, there are some guys that look like they're about to break out that we want to keep playing in the lineup."

Here are the rest of the lineups:

Oakland

Jemile Weeks 2B

Coco Crisp LF

Josh Reddick RF

Yoenis Cespedes CF

Seth Smith DH

Kurt Suzuki C

Daric Barton 1B

Josh Donaldson 3B

Cliff Pennington SS

Angels

Erick Aybar SS

Howie Kendrick 2B

Albert Pujols 1B

Kendrys Morales DH

Torii Hunter RF

Vernon Wells LF

Callaspo 3B

Chris Iannetta C

Peter Bourjos CF

Albert Pujols starts taking notes

March, 5, 2012
3/05/12
4:33
PM PT


PHOENIX -- A little more than four months ago, Albert Pujols was playing in Game 7 of the World Series. Monday afternoon, he was playing in a little ballpark surrounded by desert buttes and cacti, with fewer than 4,000 fans in the house.

He still had butterflies as he stretched in the outfield grass before the Angels’ 9-1 win over the Oakland A’s, Pujols’ Cactus League debut.

“This is my 13th spring training and I still feel it,” Pujols said. “If you feel like that, it means you’re getting yourself ready for the game. That’s something my dad always told me.”

And, besides, everything is new for Pujols this spring. He signed a 10-year, $250 million contract in December to change teams, leagues, time zones and media markets. After 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, who play their spring training games in Florida, Pujols is now an Angel, with 60-plus new teammates (for now), new surroundings and a whole new league full of pitchers.

The tiniest first step came Monday, when he went 2-for-3 with a couple of line-drive hits and an RBI, batted in each of the first three innings and played the field for four, two of them behind another Angel making his debut, pitcher C.J. Wilson.

“It was great,” Pujols said. “In spring training, you want to have good success and feel good about yourself for the season, but the most important thing is to prepare.”

Pujols didn’t win three MVP awards strictly on talent. The Angels already have gotten a sense of his drive, because he has been among the first players to arrive at their spring training clubhouse since the week before position players were required to arrive. They’ve seen his fierce, almost intimidating, concentration in the batting cage.

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Projecting Angels pitching

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
9:01
AM PT
The Angels had the second-best starting pitching in the American League behind Tampa Bay last season, before they added C.J. Wilson, the most-coveted pitcher on the open market.

In Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, the Angels had three starters who pitched at least 225 innings, won at least 11 games and had a sub-3.00 ERA. Weaver finished second in Cy Young balloting, Haren finished seventh and Santana threw a no-hitter.

Wilson (16-7, 2.94 ERA) satisfied two of those criteria, but fell a couple innings shy of the 225 mark. As the only left-hander in the rotation, he adds a little balance and should benefit by facing different lineups than the other Angels starters.

At the back of the rotation, the Angels figure to give Jerome Williams first shot to continue his mid-career resurrection, with hard-throwing youngster Garrett Richards standing by if Williams struggles.

Add it all together and what was a strength last year figures to be the team’s salvation in 2012, right? With Albert Pujols energizing the Angels’ listless offense and reliever LaTroy Hawkins helping hold leads, getting wins might actually be a little easier for Angels starters.

Every starter on this staff is in his statistical prime. Having turned 31 in October, Haren is the oldest member of the Angels’ rotation. There’s a reasonable expectation that the team’s pitching could actually improve in 2012. Santana and Weaver haven’t turned 30 yet.

But one respected projection system, Bill James’, has the Angels starters struggling to repeat what they accomplished last season, with a combined record of 60-50 and an ERA approaching 4.00. Here are James’ 2012 projections, via Fangraphs.com, for Angels starters:

Weaver: 15-10, 3.17 ERA

Haren: 16-10, 3.27

Wilson: 15-9, 3.31

Santana: 11-13, 3.95

Williams: 3-6, 5.11

Richards: 0-2, 5.79


Do the Angels have the best starting pitching in the American League? They’re certainly in the running, though it’s hard to argue with Tampa Bay, which had last year’s Rookie of the Year in Jeremy Hellickson and whose staff veteran, James Shields, just turned 30.

Do they have the best rotation in their division? They’d be the safest bet, with Oakland beginning to auction off its talent, All-Star Trevor Cahill traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Seattle a little thin behind Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda. Texas has to rebound from losing Wilson, its No. 1 starter, but still has plenty of young talent with Neftali Feliz joining the rotation and Derek Holland seemingly on the verge of breaking out.

As usual, there are no sure things in December, but the Angels’ foundation seems as solid as any in baseball.

A's 6, Angels 5: Three Up, Three Down

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
3:44
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- The Angels blew their chance to nudge closer to the playoff picture with a spectacular ninth-inning meltdown.

Rookie closer Jordan Walden, in his second inning of work, made a throwing error on what would have been an inning-ending double play and allowed four Oakland A's runs to score in a 6-5 loss Sunday.

The loss probably cost the Angels their shot at the wild card. They trail the Boston Red Sox by 2 1/2 games pending Boston's night game in New York and they lost ground to second-place Tampa Bay, which trails Boston by just a half-game. The Angels have three games remaining, scant time to make up so much ground on two teams.

The Good:

Stealthy stuff. Joel Pineiro was 0-3 with a 10.26 ERA against Oakland in 2011 entering this game. Six of the nine batters in Oakland's lineup were hitting at least .318 in their careers against Pineiro. So, where did this come from? Pineiro breezed through six innings and had thrown just 77 pitches when Mike Scioscia pulled him after two straight singles in the seventh. Pineiro worked aggressively and fast, getting nine groundball outs and allowing just three hits.

Bobby's blast. Bobby Abreu was batting .214 since the All-Star break and had settled into a part-time role, but he's still a professional hitter. He had an RBI single in the first and a solo home run in the third. If the Angels are going to make some noise in this pennant race, you get the impression Abreu could be involved.

Scrappy offense. The Angels still haven't found a way to get their offense in gear, but they showed a little more patience than in recent games and parlayed a couple of eighth-inning walks by Fautino De Los Santos into two big insurance runs on Peter Bourjos' bloop single. It seemed like they would be important until the ninth-inning implosion.

The Bad:

Relief worries. Scott Downs hadn't allowed a run at Angel Stadium all year before Sunday. That charmed streak came to an end with a shaky eighth inning. Downs allowed two hits and walked Oakland's No. 9 hitter to allow the A's to tighten this one up considerably. Scioscia pulled him in favor of Walden with two outs and two on.

Walden's work. Speaking of which ... these apparently are desperate times, because Scioscia resorted to a desperate measure. He brought his closer into the eighth inning, a move typically reserved for late pennant races and the playoffs. The rookie was about as wobbly as could be -- giving up a home run, three hits, a walk and throwing wildly to second base on what would have been a double play. Walden hadn't blown a save since Aug. 20, nailing down six in a row.

Trumbo's ankle. For the second straight game, the Angels' most productive power hitter had to leave the game with discomfort in his right ankle. Mark Trumbo looked awful striking out three times before that. With the Rangers coming to town, the Angels figure to need some offense in the next three days and losing Trumbo -- or an effective Trumbo -- would be a blow.

Angels turn, desperately, to Joel Pineiro

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
10:47
AM PT
Today is hold-your-breath time if you still believe the Angels have a chance to reach the playoffs.

They're relying on Joel Pineiro, who is 0-3 with a 10.26 ERA vs. the Oakland A's this season and recently referred to those struggles as the "curse of the elephant." With the Angels 2 1/2 games out in the wild card with just four games left, look for Mike Scioscia to get a reliever up at the first sign of major trouble.

Mark Trumbo, who left Friday's game with discomfort in his right ankle, declared himself fit to play.

Here is Scioscia's lineup for the Sunday afternoon game:

Oakland

1. Jemile Weeks 2B

2. Coco Crisp CF

3. Hideki Matsui DH

4. Josh Willingham LF

5. David DeJesus RF

6. Scott Sizemore 3B

7. Brandon Allen 1B

8. Erik Sogard SS

9. Landon Powell

Angels

1. Erick Aybar SS

2. Howie Kendrick 2B

3. Bobby Abreu DH

4. Torii Hunter RF

5. Mark Trumbo 1B

6. Alberto Callaspo 3B

7. Vernon Wells LF

8. Peter Bourjos CF

9. Jeff Mathis C

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jered Weaver
WINS ERA SO IP
17 3.50 157 200
OTHER LEADERS
BAH. Kendrick .290
HRM. Trout 34
RBIM. Trout 107
RM. Trout 109
OPSM. Trout .935
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOG. Richards 164