Purgatory Online

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Here's the story on Sele's demotion to the pen.
"More than anything, we just felt that what Ramon has done the last couple of years as far as winning games is going to continue in the future," Angels pitching coach Bud Black said.

"Sometimes Spring Training (numbers) can be misleading to a certain extent if you really break it down."

They'd better hope that Ramon Ortiz's numbers are Nixonian.

Word on the street is that Scioscia has named Ortiz as his...wait for it...fourth starter, with Lackey fifth and Sele taking the bullpen role. Okay, this fourth/fifth starter nonsense doesn't really mean anything, except that Lackey and Ortiz have been about equally unimpressive this spring. Don't be fooled - Lackey was never in serious danger of not making the rotation.

More to come when I confirm this.

Alex Rodriguez writes (albeit with the help of a - snicker - "co-author") in an upcoming issue of ESPN the Magazine:
Two of the biggest years I've had came with big pressure. My last year in Seattle, my contract year, I pushed back an envelope the Mariners gave me without even looking at it. There was probably a $150 million offer in there, but I doubled down. That's not pressure? When you remember what it was like to count your mother's $60 in waitressing tips on the bed, thinking it was all the money in the world?

It's a lot easier to play well when you're having fun, and winning is obviously a lot more fun than losing. Last season was the toughest of my career because of that. I was overcome with a sense of depression. There were days I didn't want to go to the ballpark. That had never happened to me before.

I guess it's a bad day to be a Mariners fan with a blood pressure problem. How does any right-thinking person read those two paragraphs and feel anything but loathing for a guy who complains about an environment he chose because he didn't think $150 million was enough?

Further on, we have this gem:
I know no one is going to feel sorry for me because of the contract, but I'd never really dealt with the frustration of the first two losing seasons, and that made last year even worse. I hit rock bottom in the middle of the season. I remember driving home with my wife, Cynthia, after a game and telling her, "I just don't see the light. Where is the light? What am I in this for?" I would have never gone to Texas if they had told me, "Alex, it's going to be you and 24 kids." Never. For no amount of money.

Rafael Palmeiro, Rodriguez's teammate for each of the three seasons in question, turned 39 last September, has never been to the World Series, and should put his orthopedic Dr. Scholl's in an uncomfortable part of Rodriguez's anatomy. I'd be similarly interested to hear the reactions from Juan Gonzalez, Ryan Christenson, Shane Spencer, and Einar Diaz, each of whom played regularly for the Rangers in 2003 and are even more advanced in years than Old Man A-Rod, who, at the Methuselean age of 28, is surely concerned that he'll have to start eating into the principal of his $252 million nest egg any day now.

Suh-weet: Pac Bell Park has set up wireless nodes that will allow people Internet access from their laptops during games. Okay, in practice, this is going to prove to be yet another in a long string of things for people to do other than watch the game; but for a few of us, WiFi access during games means access to splits and situational statistics that just ain't gonna be in the program, as well as instantly updated out of town scores (or even radio broadcasts of out of town games). Hopefully it'll spread to other parks soon, although I'm somewhat skeptical about the practical aspects of bringing a laptop to a game in the first place. Where do you put it?

Nothing's ever easy, is it? Ramon Ortiz fell apart in the first inning of yesterday's start against Texas, giving up five runs - all scoring as the result of the longball. And then he settled down and shut the Rangers out for the next 5 2/3 innings. So his numbers got even worse and he pitched well. Kinda.

The story linked to above indicates that Scioscia will set his rotation today, so we should know the outcome in the next few hours. For the record, though, here's how the two compare this spring:

Sele: 3.21 ERA; 14 IP, 5 ER, 14 H, 8 K, 1 BB, 0 HR

Ortiz: 7.23 ERA; 18.2 IP, 15 ER, 28 H, 11 K, 7 BB, 4 HR

Seems pretty obvious, doesn't it? Now, it's absolutely true that there's a huge sample size issue with these numbers - there's just no way to deny that one rough start from Sele would go a long way towards muddling the picture. But if, in fact, it's true that these two both entered spring training with no guaranteed spot, and were essentially both fighting for that number five spot, Sele has clearly done more to earn it.

The implications to naming Sele to the rotation are pretty big. If he pitches poorly, his trade value goes into the toilet, and the Angels may be forced to simply release him and eat his salary for 2004, a la Kevin Appier, and replace him with Ortiz (who may be just as bad). If he pitches well, the Angels have a logjam in the bullpen, especially after Brendan Donnelly returns (which may not be until June). Scot Shields is already a terrific longman out of the bullpen; the Angels just don't need another one - especially not one prone to giving up home runs.

Whatever Scioscia decides, it is to be hoped that he's not paying any attention to this foolishness at the Orange County Register:
As explosive as the Angels offense looks, the team might not need five starters capable of dominating.

Ortiz had a terrible first inning Tuesday, but the Angels bats battered the Texas Rangers in a 15-6 victory and Ortiz looked commanding in his final five innings.

Just two American League teams, the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners, have scored more runs than the Angels this spring.

"This year, oh my God," Ortiz said. "Every one of our hitters looks good. It's awesome."

Ye Gods. Look, it may be tempting to look at this lineup and think, "hey, we're gonna score seven runs a game - just get us a guy with an ERA under that" (which would make the Angels the Bizarro A's, I guess). But that's not what you do when you've got the other guy down; what you do is you step on his goddamn neck. The great teams don't win 7-6, or 9-7. They win 6-1, or 8-2.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Angels have signed 35-year-old Yoshitaka Mizuo, a left-handed reliever who's spent his entire career pitching in Japan, to a one-year contract. Mizuo is expected to start the season in Salt Lake City, but could move to Anaheim quickly depending on how badly they need someone to get lefties out late in the game.

The Angels have a prominent lack of lefties in the bullpen, and have since Scott Schoeneweis was traded to the White Sox in the middle of last season. This hasn't hampered them much; both Frankie Rodriguez and Brendan Donnelly retire lefties exceptionally well. With Donnelly out indefinitely after losing half his damn blood, however, they may require Mizuo's services. I have to say that I'm a bit leery of a 35-yeear-old who's never pitched in the majors, but as a left-handed specialist, he's probably worth a try.

In other news, Kelvim Escobar had his best outing of the spring yesterday in a game that was televised on ESPN2. Escobar held what was essentially the Cubs' starting lineup to three hits over seven innings of work, giving up no runs and striking out seven, maintaining a 94-95 mph velocity on his fastball the entire time. Paired with Washburn's equally praiseworthy start against the Giants on Sunday, this makes two straight days of excellent pitching news. Frankie Rodriguez had to leave the game after only a few pitches due to a blister on his throwing hand, but isn't expected to miss more than a couple of days, and Troy Percival finally had an effective relief outing, retiring three straight after putting the first hitter on board in the ninth. This was the first time I'd seen Percival pitch since he had corrective eye surgery, and the squinting madman look is just gone. It's a bit of a shame, actually.

Offensively, the Angels looked good at the beginning of the game, scoring three runs in the first four innings, but were shut down the rest of the way. The starters were pulled in the seventh, though, so that's not too much of a problem. More importantly, both Garret Anderson and Bengie Molina had multiple hits (GA went 2 for 3, Molina 3 for 3), so hopefully they're not going to be too hampered by their relatively short springs.

Meanwhile, the battle for the number five slot in the rotation continues. Sele more or less tread water in his last outing, a five-inning stint against Milwaukee's Triple-A club, in which he gave up two earned runs (though six runs total) on seven hits and three walks. Ramon Ortiz will have a shot to regain some ground today, when he starts against Texas. This should be a pivotal moment, as Texas his a fine offensive team with a lot of power, and one of Ortiz's weak spots has always been the longball. Scioscia said yesterday, during the ESPN broadcast, that this decision has been the hardest one he's had to make in the last five years of spring trainings, but I'd guess that if Ortiz has another meltdown it's over. Given that the Angels open a week from today, it seems that this will be the final chance either Ortiz or Sele has to show his stuff; Sele won't be scheduled to pitch again until Friday at the earliest, and I doubt Scoscia wants to leave it that long.

Friday, March 26, 2004

As part of his ongoing series to identify the best defensive plays ever, Alan Schwarz cites Jim Edmonds' diving catch in 1997 as the second-greatest defensive play by a center fielder of all time. If you've heard of it, you know which one I mean. If you haven't, it was truly amazing - easily the best play I ever saw that wasn't on videotape, and justifiably mentioned in the same breath as Willie Mays's catch/throw during the 1954 World Series.

Edmonds catches a lot of flak from Angels fans as having been the proverbial cancer in the clubhouse, and for making easy plays look hard. But there's no question that he's an extremely talented ballplayer, and that particular catch was simply incredible. The Angels have been very lucky to have Edmonds and Erstad patrolling center (and Chad Curtis, who was a fine defensive player as well); here's hoping Garret Anderson can continue that tradition.

Ramon Ortiz got blowed up real good by Kansas City last night, giving up four earned runs on six hits in four innings, while walking two and striking out three. The offense deftly removed Ortiz from the hook of his own devising by scoring eight runs in eight innings, only to have Derek Turnbow, who's having a spring to forget, give up three runs in the ninth. The result: an eleven-inning tie, and a deepening seriousness to the worry over who gets the number five slot in the rotation.

Certainly, one doesn't want to read too much into spring training games. But if there was any truth to the statements made going in to training that there would be competition for rotation slots, one has to wonder what's going to happen now that Ortiz is looking shaky. To update the statistics:

Sele: 14.0 IP, 14 H, 5 ER, 0 HR, 0 BB, 8 K
Ortiz: 12.0 IP, 19 H, 10 ER, 2 HR, 6 BB, 7 K

Today, the L.A. Times quotes Ortiz as follows on the possibility of opening the season in the bullpen: "Whatever Scioscia says, I go. He's the manager. I wouldn't have any problem with that."

Well, okay. Scioscia has already made it clear that he'll probably take three catchers when the Angels break camp, so here's what the 25-man roster would probably look like if Ortiz went to the pen:

C - B. Molina, J. Molina, Paul
1B - Erstad
2B - Kennedy
SS - Eckstein
3B - Glaus
RF - Guerrero
CF - Anderson
LF - Guillen
DH - Salmon
Bench/Utility - Halter, DaVanon, Figgins
SP - Colon, Washburn, Escobar, Lackey, Sele
RP - Ortiz, Shields, Weber, Donnelly, Rodriguez, Percival

If the Angels stick to a five-day schedule for the rest of the spring, which would require shunting someone off to pitch a Triple-A game a couple of times (as they did with Washburn on Tuesday), both Sele and Ortiz would get two more starts this spring - Ortiz's second being the last game of the Freeway Series against the Dodgers. It would surprise me a little, however, if a decision was delayed until the very end, and I'd imagine we'll know who's getting the slot within the next week. While I'm sure the Angels would have preferred to go with Ortiz, given the fact that he's younger and only a couple of years removed from a stellar season, he's making it pretty hard for them to do so and feel good about it.

Colon and Lackey should get some work today and tomorrow; Sele should continue his bid on Sunday.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Ramon Ortiz pitches tonight, in the Angels' first night game of the spring, against Kansas City. This is perhaps a taller order than Sele's start against Milwaukee, but Ortiz will have to at least put on a decent show or risk looking pretty bad in comparison.

Yesterday, the Angels spanked the crap out of the Cubs for a few innings, then coughed it all back up as Troy Percival and Kevin Gregg had horrible relief outings. This Percival thing is starting to bother me a little; last year he pitched eight innings and gave up six runs, though, so who knows what it all portends. Regardless, Escobar had an excellent start, allowing one run (on a ball that should have been caught, according to most accounts) and four hits, while whiffing six and walking three, in 4 2/3 innings. The Angels eventually won it in the ninth, 8-7.

The offense continues to look encouraging, as well. The lineup produced 16 hits, 11 by guys who are expected to be in the everyday lineup. David Eckstein, in particular, is looking terrific - he's hitting .371 in 35 at-bats, and 5 of his 10 hits have gone for extra bases. If Eck can produce at the top of the order, the Angels are going to score a lot of runs. The only worry here is Darin Erstad, hitting in the two slot, who has a pretty high ratio of grounders to fly balls. Even though Erstad runs well, I can see Eckstein being erased on double-plays pretty frequently in 2004. Last year, Erstad grounded into 8 double plays in 284 plate appearances; assuming he stays healthy and gets 700 this year, that translates to about 20 GIDPs for Erstad. That would have ranked tied for sixth in the AL in 2003.

Meanwhile, both the Times and the Register have articles today on how playing winter ball in Venezuela appears to have primed Frankie Rodriguez for spring training. Like I said on Monday, though, pitching in mid-season form in spring training is one thing; keeping that form through the dog days is quite another. Here's hoping his arm doesn't fall off down the stretch.

[UPDATE: In re-reading this post, I noticed that I made an unintentionally disgusting mixed metaphor - "spanked the crap out of the Cubs...then coughed it all back up." I'm disappointed in myself, as normally anything disgusting in my writing is painstakingly polished over the course of seconds, if not minutes, of introspection. I'm leaving it in - indeed, pointing it out - as a reminder to myself to always, always edit with a critical eye. You're welcome.]

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Apparently, the latest David Eckstein baseball card from Topps actually features a picture of Adam Kennedy. Oops. Eckstein is autographing them anyway.

Mike DiGiovanna at the L.A. Times reports that "The Angel rotation seems set, with Bartolo Colon, Jarrod Washburn, Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey and Ramon Ortiz, and it's possible Sele, who is guaranteed $8.5 million this season, will be traded or demoted to the bullpen." Mark Saxon has similar sentiments at the Orange County Register, reporting that Sele is expected to be traded by next week, possibly to St. Louis. While I'd guess that Ortiz is the most likely fifth starter, let's not count Sele out just yet. Given that they'll be paying him at least part of his $8 million salary whether they trade him or not, it makes no sense to do anything other than giving that rotation slot to the guy who will pitch best. If Sele finishes spring training with a couple more strong starts, and Ortiz blows up, Sele should be given a shot at it.

Kelvim Escobar is starting today's game against the Cubs. Escobar flew to Venezuela and back over the weekend to be with his mother, who was injured in a car accident, but should be rested enough to get a few innings in by now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Aaron Sele kept the Brewers off the board for five innings today, giving up four hits and a walk while striking out three. Now, keeping Milwaukee off the board ain't exactly like keeping Oprah from the dessert cart, but it still puts some pressure on Ortiz to respond in kind.

The offense also had a good day - Garret Anderson went 2 for 3, Guerrero 2 for 2 with a dinger, and Guillen 2 for 3 with his sixth home run of the spring.

Meanwhile, Jarrod Washburn pitched in a Triple-A game today, getting his work in and ensuring that Ortiz will start either tomorrow or Thursday.

The Angels had a day off yesterday, their last before the end of spring training. Beginning today, they play thirteen more spring training games, during which all those nagging questions about who's going to fit in where will - I hope - be answered.

Taking the mound for Anaheim today (against Milwaukee) is Aaron Sele. Taking Bud Black at his word that John Lackey will "most likely" be the fourth starter, this leaves Sele fighting Ortiz for that fifth starting slot, just as everyone figured would happen before spring training started. It's not impossible that Kevin Gregg might get that slot, of course, but it's extremely unlikely, because it would require a pretty big leap of faith on the Angels' part, as well as necessitating the trade of both Sele and Ortiz, neither of whom looks to be especially attractive on the free agent market at the moment.

Thus far this spring, here's what the two of them have done:

Sele - 9.0 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 0 HR, 0 BB, 5 K
Ortiz - 8.0 IP, 13 H, 6 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 4 K

Ortiz's last appearance was on Friday, when he was poleaxed by the A's, surrendering six of those hits (including the home run) , four of those earned runs, and two of those walks in three innings. He should be ready to pitch again tomorrow, but both Washburn and Escobar will be in need of work as well, so we may see Ortiz pushed back to Thursday or even Friday, depending on whether Scioscia uses more than one starter in a game. We should be able to expect to see three more appearances from each before the end of spring training, assuming that both pitchers remain in camp that long, and they appear to be close enough at this point that those games are going to matter.

Monday, March 22, 2004

The Pearly Gates beat me to the punch by doing an analysis of how the starting pitchers are faring this spring; go there and read that. And then come back, because that means I get the pleasure of talking about the bullpen, a significantly different beast.

To begin with, Brendan Donnelly remains out of action after having some blood vessels in his nose cauterized to stop constant nosebleeds that were a result of his having been hit in the face with a line drive. Donnelly may or may not be ready for opening day, so that's a bummer. Donnelly has pitched a total of one inning in spring training games, striking out three and giving up a run, so he may need a fair bit of work before he's ready to go.

Frankie Rodriguez, meanwhile, looks ready to go. Rodriguez pitched in a Venezuelan winter league against the wishes of Angels management, which may come back to haunt him in August or so, but at the moment he's reaping the benefits of keeping that arm employed. Frankie's given up a run in eight innings, allowing five hits, walking five, and striking out five. Given the ridiculousness of his slider, his K:BB ratio should improve once he's out of Arizona's very dry air.

Ben Weber is having a decent but unspectacular spring - a 4.26 ERA, 8 hits in 6.1 innings pitched, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts. If Donnelly misses any significant time, Weber and Rodriguez will have to bear the burden of setting up Troy Percival alone.

Scot Shields, the swingman/long reliever, has pitched eight innings, surrendered 13 hits and six earned runs, walked two, and struck out seven. I believe that his high hit/run totals are due to a one-game meltdown, rather than a series of bad appearances.

And Troy Percival...well, with Percy it's always been impossible to tell how he's going to do as a closer by judging from his non-closing appearances. Call it a quirk of statistics, or blame it on a closer mentality, but he's never pitched especially well when a save isn't on the line. This spring, his ERA is right at 6.00 - four earned runs in six innings, seven hits, two walks, four strikeouts. Percival is definitely reaching the point in his career where, statistically, he can be expected to decline, but with Rodriguez seemingly ready to step in, this doesn't worry me too much.

What will be interesting will be to see who the Angels decide to carry in addition to those five. Aaron Sele or Ramon Ortiz? Perhaps initially, but not in the long term. Bobby Jenks is having a terrific spring, but it's pretty much universally recognized that he needs at least another year in the minors before he's ready. Kevin Gregg, however, has been flat-out brilliant, enough to emerge as a dark horse for the fifth starting slot. Gregg's numbers include a 2.53 ERA in 10.2 innings, with two walks and 10 strikeouts. As with all the numbers so far this spring, the sample size is laughably small, but one would think that Gregg has turned heads to the point that the Angels will give him a test run during the regular season.

In other news, I see that, while I was away, Garret Anderson, Bengie Molina, and Jose Guillen returned to action, and Guillen parked another couple of home runs. Guillen's five is one shy of spring training leader David Ortiz, and ties him with such luminaries as J.D. Drew, Todd Helton, and, uh, Scott McClain. Guillen is also hitting .407, which leads the projected starters, and has a 1.000 slugging percentage in 27 at-bats.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I'm headed down to Austin for South by Southwest tomorrow, so updates will be nonexistent until Monday. Until then, a couple of items of interest:

- Garret Anderson is supposedly hitting off a tee now, a decent step forward in his rehabilitation. Again, we're told he could make his spring training debut by the end of the week.

- Chris Bootcheck, who's been in the organization since 2001, has been reassigned to minor league camp, where he can contemplate his 10.00 spring training ERA at his leisure. He will presumably be starting the year in Salt Lake, where he spent all of 2003 and part of 2002. This is his put up or shut up year.

- Remeber when, coming into spring training, one of the general topics of conversation was that David Eckstein might have to fight Alfredo Amezaga for playing time? I don't think we need to discuss it any more:

Eckstein - .444 (8 for 18), 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR
Amezaga - .238 (5 for 21), 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR

- Troy Glaus seems to be turning things around. Since Friday, his average has jumped from .222 to .316 (6 for 19). I actually feel kind of dirty, trying to make anything out of such a small sample, but that's spring training for you. Glaus still hasn't gone yard, though.

- Jose Guillen leads the team in home runs, with three - that's one every seven at-bats.

We're not quite halfway through spring training games at this point. On Monday, we'll look at how the starting pitching is shaping up.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Garret Anderson still hasn't played in a spring training game, despite some earlier indications he might take his first swings in anger on this past Monday. Now, his return date has been pushed back to "next weekend or early the next week." As much as I approve of the Angels and Anderson making sure he's completely healthy before he takes the field, this sure seems familiar...almost as if this team goes through it every single frickin' year...

Monday, March 15, 2004

Ramon Ortiz, Jarrod Washburn, and Aaron Sele are all mentioned in various places as prime trade-bait today. Ortiz is named by ESPN as more likely to go than Washburn, while The Orange County Register reports that Washburn and Sele seem to have been showcased lately. The logic for this latter proposition is odd - it seems to be that, because they've pitched on the same days as each other (in split squad games) for their last two starts, somehow they're on the block.

The word on Sele seems to be that he's healthy and pitching reasonably well. At this point, though, none of the potential starters have tossed more than a few innings, so it's probably still pretty difficult to evaluate who would be best kept, and who best trade. Complicating this is the fact that, at the moment, both Scot Shields and Kevin Gregg have posted better spring numbers than any of the six guys above them in line for a starter's spot.

The Angels are done with split-squad games for the spring, meaning the first round of assignments to minor-league camp. Eric Cyr, Tim Bittner, Ryan Budde, Jared Abruzzo, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar, Nick Gorneault, and Tommy Murphy were all sent to join the minor-leaguers.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Okay, so, it's been a week, huh? Time to dive right in and start making utterly random judgments about spring training performances. It's gotta start sometime, right?

Actually, let's just talk about the hitters for now. Given that some of the pitching staff have exactly one appearance under their belts, it seems premature to say anything other than it seems, from the limited evidence available, that the pitching has been performing pretty well. Bartolo Colon did indeed bounce back from his pasting at the hands of the A's, giving up no runs and only one hit in 3.2 innings of work against Arizona yesterday.

So let's see what jumps out at us from the offensive side. Ooh, here's a good one:

Guerrero, V.: .556 BA (5 for 9), 4 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR.

And let's pair that with:

Guillen, J.: .400 BA (6 for 15), 2 HR.

I think they might break into the lineup this year.

Hmmm...how about the guys looking for rebound years?

Eckstein, D.: .400 BA (4 for 10), 2 2B, 1 HR
Erstad, D.: .214 BA (3 for 14), 1 HR
Glaus, T.: .222 (2 for 9), 0 HR

Well, it's early yet. Right?

The Tim Salmon watch update:

Salmon, T.: .333 BA (5 for 15), 1 2B, 0 HR

And a pair of guys looking to get noticed:

Wesson, B.: .500 BA (5 for 10), 2 2B, 0 HR
Specht, B.: .429 BA (6 for 14), 1 3B, 0 HR

And the "You'd Better Hope It's Just the Sample Size" Award:

McPherson, D.: .059 BA (1 for 17), 1 2B, 0 HR

McPherson's 17 at-bats, incidentally, is the most of any Angel so far this spring.

The Angels have split-squad games today against the White Sox and the Royals; Sele and Washburn are the scheduled starters.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Today, both the Orange County Register and the L.A. Times mention the possibility that Jose Guillen will move into center field if Garret Anderson stays out much longer with his biceps tendinitis. Anderson would play left, a position that presumably would cause less strain, until he's ready to play center. This is silly on so many levels. Until Anderson is recovered, playing anywhere greatly increases his full recovery time. Yeah, it might be worse in center than it would be in left, but even playing left substantially increases the risk that it will become a chronic problem, causing him to miss more time down the road. And, more to the point, the Angels already have one of the best center fielders in the game, currently squinting in at the plate from 95 feet down the first-base line. Assuming we're talking about a matter of a couple of weeks rather than a couple of months, it makes more sense to plug Erstad back into center and move Guillen or DaVanon to first, rather than risk Anderson having to leave multiple times during the season.

Meanwhile, John Lackey got pounded yesterday by the Mariners, giving up four runs on six hits in three innings, while striking out three and walking one. The Angels managed to scratch out one run in three innings against Terry Mulholland, who is six years older than Moses, then were shut down the rest of the way by a couple of minor-leaguers and Julio Mateo. Guerrero, Salmon, Erstad, and Guillen all had base hits.

Fortunately, the Angels currently lead the Diamondbacks 5-0 in the top of the eighth, meaning that Bartolo Colon presumably pitched effectively.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Richard at The Pearly Gates links to this roundtable discussion of the A.L. West held at all-baseball.com. It's a good starting point for some issues that will be watched during the upcoming season, including Erstad's effectiveness (or lack thereof) as a first baseman, the A's questionable offense, and the stability of the Mariners' starting pitching. I raise a digital eyebrow in their direction, however, for failing to include an Angels or Rangers blogger while soliciting the opinions of Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, and Twins fans...

Yesterday's game featured Tim Salmon, Jose Guillen, Ramon Ortiz, and a whole lot of guys who will be playing minor-league baseball in 2004. A quick note on some relevant individual performances:

- Ortiz pitched well for two innings in his first outing of the spring, giving up no runs on one hit, no walks, and no strikeouts. Scioscia is quoted in the L.A. Times as saying that Ortiz is a little ahead of where he would expect him to be at this time of year, which is always nice; if Ortiz continues to pitch well in his next couple of outings I'd hope that Scioscia would keep him on a pretty tight leash until the season starts. It's pretty much universally accepted that spring training is about ten days too long, especially for pitchers.

- Tim Salmon went 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. Salmon will be an interesting case; for many years he was a notoriously slow starter who didn't really put up decent offensive numbers until June. Then, in 2003, he started strong, but was inconsistent throughout the year. At age 35, I don't expect him to suddenly put everything together and have a monster year, but a good spring training would definitely be a boost for him.

- Derek Turnbow made up for his godawful inning of work against the A's on Saturday (1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER) by chucking two innings of two-hit, scoreless ball yesterday.

So, with the first six games of spring training under their belt, we've had good appearances from Washburn, Lackey, Ortiz, Sele, and Escobar, and one craptacular game from Colon. Wash will likely get the start in today's game against Seattle, while Colon's chance to redeem himself comes tomorrow against Arizona.

One final note: why, on God's green earth, would ESPN arrange their scoreboard by National and American league, instead of by Grapefruit and Cactus League? Is there any sense in making me look through two sets of results for the game I want? I suppose their logic is that people don't know which teams play in Florida and which play in Arizona as much as they know which are in the National and American leagues, but their system means you have to know which is the home team to have any certainty about where to look on the page, which is much less likely than knowing which state they train in.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The Angels put up another spring training win yesterday, beating the Mariners 5-3. Thanks to ESPN and ReplayTV, I had a chance to watch the game last night, and came away mostly feeling pretty good.

Kelvim Escobar started and pitched fairly well for two innings. His fastball was between 92 and 94 miles an hour, with good location, and he featured some fairly nasty breaking stuff and a splitter. He wasn't mixing his pitches all that much, but, this early in spring training, I wouldn't necessarily expect him to. He gave up one hit, walked one, and struck out three.

In the field...well, it wasn't exactly Adam Kennedy's day. Two errors for AK, one sloppy catch on a flip toss from Eckstein and one tough chance on a grounder.

As for the lineup, the starting nine went like this: Eckstein, Erstad, Guerrero, Guillen, Glaus, DaVanon, Kennedy, Halter, Jose Molina. So Salmon, Anderson, and Bengie Molina sat out - Anderson with continued biceps tendinitis, Molina because "his entire body hurts," and Salmon, presumably, to give him a day off after a fairly adventurous day of playing left field. The starters stayed in for three spins around the batting order, and my overall impression was that they were really making good contact. Eckstein in particular, who started the game with a surprisingly powerful shot into left that was caught by a sprinting Raul Ibanez, seemed to be in good form. It actually seemed to me that he was a little calmer at the plate than he has been. In any even, he followed up that first-inning drive with a pair of base hits - a single and a double - to finish 2 for 3.

Vladimir Guerrero was also impressive. He demonstrated the basis for his reputation as a bad-ball hitter by golfing a pitch that was just under his knees way over the left-field fence during his third at-bat, and, during his first at-bat, he got a little under a pitch and popped it up into deep right. Guerrero's dinger was immediately followed by a home run by Jose Guillen, giving Angels fans a nice little one-two demonstration of how substantial the offensive upgrade might be this year.

As for the minor-leaguers, who had pretty much taken over the game by the sixth, Dallas McPherson and Nick Gorneault looked good at the plate, and Kevin Gregg, who has an infuriatingly casual delivery, went two scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out two. Chris Bootcheck, by contrast, looks exactly the way a pitcher is supposed to look...and threw in the high eighties, giving up two earned runs on six hits in the last two innings of the game. He also struck out three.

On Friday, we'll take our first look at what kind of spring the Angels are having, and what it might mean for the early weeks of the 2004 season. In the meantime, they take on Arizona today, presumably with Ramon Ortiz on the mound.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Baseball Prospectus takes a brief look at the Angels' five top prospects: Santana, Mathis, Jenks, Kotchman, and McPherson.

Today's game against the Mariners is being broadcast on ESPN, beginning at 2:00 Eastern. It's the first of two nationally televised spring training games for the Angels, the other being on Monday, March 29, versus the Cubs on ESPN2 (starting at 3:00 Eastern).

I have yet to see anything official about who will be playing in today's game, but Ramon Ortiz or Kelvim Escobar will probably start, since they're the only two Angels starters who haven't pitched yet. Frankie Rodriguez should also get in a little work. In the lineup, all of the projected starters except Jose Guillen and Garret Anderson played yesterday, and Anderson may or may not be recovered from the shoulder pains he was having, so it's useless to predict who will get the at-bats.

Friday, March 05, 2004

In the bottom of the eighth inning in the Angels' first spring training game, the Anaheims lead San Diego 8-7. Logically, I'm pretty sure that almost everyone who will be on the opening day roster is long since dressed and gone, but starting out the spring with a W would be pretty nice.

The Padres put one run on the board in the first two innings, so, assuming Lackey did, in fact, pitch the first two (damn ESPN and their inability to put up in-game box scores for meaningless exhibitions!), he seems to have done all right.

In a few hours, the Angels begin their spring training schedule against San Diego. John Lackey is scheduled to start, and will go "around two innings;" Ben Weber and Frankie Rodriguez are both expected to pitch in relief. So my next entry should have actual discussion of how the 2004 club is performing. Thank God.

Meanwhile, Garret Anderson decided to keep Ervin Santana company for a little while; GA is out for a few days with inflammation to his right biceps.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Ervin Santana's spring training has come to an end due to shoulder inflammation. I just knew it was past time we had someone injured.

In other news, the BALCO steroids investigation has finally started to name names, including Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Marvin Benard, Benito Santiago, and former Angel Randy Velarde. I have no idea if the allegations are true or not and don't care to speculate, but I'll admit to a quiet relief that none of the current crop of Angels is named.