Los Angeles Angels: opening day

Angels Moment No. 1: Opening Day, 1961

April, 7, 2011
Opening Day 50 years ago was more about curiosity than excitement.

Nobody really expected the expansion Angels to do much in 1961, considering they were assembled with a “bunch of castoffs and guys who’d never made it,” according to one of those players.

Center fielder Albie Pearson wasn’t so much a castoff as a latch-on. It wasn’t an accident that he ended up wearing a Los Angeles Angels uniform.

Most of those original Angels were plucked from other teams’ rosters either unwittingly or unwillingly, but Pearson had made it his aim to come home.

He grew up in El Monte, about 15 miles east of the Angels’ first ballpark, Wrigley Field. He used to show up there as a kid to watch the Hollywood Stars or the Angels of the Pacific Coast League.

After spending part of the 1960 season with the Baltimore Orioles’ Triple-A team in Miami, he wrote a letter imploring Angels general manager Fred Haney to pick him in the expansion draft. Pearson had ruptured a disc in his back the previous season. For some odd reason, few teams were interested in a 5-foot-5, 129-pound outfielder with dubious health.

“Dear Mr. Haney,” Pearson recalls writing, “My back is well and I’m ready to play. I think I can really help your ballclub and I’d like you to give me a shot. I want to go home and play in my hometown.”

Haney obliged and selected Pearson with the Angels’ 28th, and final, pick. For the rest of his career, which stretched nine seasons, Pearson wore No. 28 in honor of that moment. Not only did Pearson make the team, but on Opening Day, he was in the lineup and batting third in front of slugger Ted Kluszewski.

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Oh boy, rain

March, 30, 2011
Few things are more of a bummer than having Opening Day rained out.

You wonder sometimes why MLB doesn't just have every good-weather team open at home and skew the schedule toward the south and west in April.

But maybe that makes too much sense. The Angels are en route to Kansas City as we speak and the forecast for Thursday is dire. Accuweather.com calls for steady rain all day and into the evening, with 41-mph wind gusts. It's calling for a high of 56 degrees. Meanwhile, Anaheim will have "plenty of sunshine" and be 87 degrees.

Not sure what would happen in the event of a postponement. The teams could play a doubleheader on Saturday or Sunday -- which would royally annoy the Angels, who are trying to go with four starters until Joel Pineiro is healthy -- or make up the game when the Angels come back to Kansas City at the end of May.

Either way, a lot of kids in Southern California, Kansas and Missouri will be bummed.
Curt Schilling and Karl Ravech look at the Angels and their chances in 2011.

The Kendry Morales window is closing

March, 6, 2011
Mike Scioscia told reporters in Arizona recently that Kendry Morales needs to be on the field in a spring training game by March 19, 20 or 21 in order to make it by Opening Day.

Scioscia is rarely so specific, so you can bet he's been thinking about it a lot. And you can also bet Morales won't be back any sooner than that.

If everything works out and he is playing by then, is it really enough time? The season begins early this year, on March 31. We're talking about a severely fractured bone here, not a strained muscle. Odds are, he's going to feel some tightness and/or pain when he first starts running on it competitively. It's fair to assume he'll need a day or two off from the Cactus League schedule.

That means it's doubtful he'll get even 40 at-bats against major-league pitching going into season. Plus, by the time he returns, the pitchers will be stretched out and looking to get into regular-season form. It's not going to be easy for Morales to find his timing.

And 40 at-bats is on the low end of what Scioscia first said he'd need. In other words, Morales might be ready, but Las Vegas likely would handicap that as a sizeable long shot right now.

Some thoughts on Jered Weaver

March, 1, 2011
The Angels' presumptive No. 1 starter takes his first public step of 2011 by making his spring debut this afternoon (12:05 p.m., FSW) against the Cincinnati Reds.

I asked Jered Weaver the other day whether he would snap his fingers and repeat last year's performance, if such things were possible. He had to think about it for a little while. After all, he led the majors in strikeouts and finished in the top five of the American League in WHIP and ERA, two of the better measures of a pitcher's abilities.

Eventually, he settled on no.

If he can master a cut fastball, his pet project this spring, he thinks he can be more effective. And besides, all of last season's mastery didn't net Weaver much. His record was 13-12, and the Angels didn't go anywhere in October other than home.

"I think the whole season overall was frustrating," Weaver said. "It's not something we're used to seeing around here. A lot of fans got a little spoiled. It was a little off year, some guys were hurt and it didn't go our way. But there's always next year, and we're going to obviously improve on the things we weren't very good at last year."

I asked Weaver whether his spike in strikeouts had anything to do with the shoddy outfield defense behind him for the first four months. Before Peter Bourjos arrived to push Torii Hunter to right field, the Angels probably had the worst corner outfielders in baseball with Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu.

Weaver said it was just a coincidence.

"I just try to go out and get strike one, strike two," Weaver said. "If a strikeout happens, it happens. It didn't have any effect on what I was doing out there."

By the way, manager Mike Scioscia hasn't announced his Opening Day starter yet, but if Weaver got four days off the rest of this spring, he'd be on target to pitch that March 31 game in Kansas City.



Jered Weaver
18 3.59 169 213
BAH. Kendrick .293
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169