Friday, April 23, 2004
Posted 2:44 PM by Sean
Anybody want to chip in on getting Ben Weber a lifetime's supply of depilatories? Since shaving his head and beard on Tuesday, Weber's had two good appearances - a five-pitch inning on Tuesday night, and last night's 2+ innings of work in which he did give up an earned run. Weber pitched very well in the sixth, starting that inning in relief of Bartolo Colon, looked like he was struggling a bit in the seventh, and was out of gas in the eighth, when he was lifted in favor of Frankie Rodriguez. I was a little surprised to see Weber start the eighth, but the game wasn't in a save situation and doubless Scioscia didn't want to use Rodriguez for more than one inning to keep him available throughout this weekend's series with Oakland. Once Weber gave up the run, it became a question of getting the game to Percival, so Rodriguez came in, pitched like he does, and - for once - Percival got a relatively uneventful save. Sure, the tying run came to the plate, but only once. For Percival, that's downright sedate.
In any event, if Weber is truly returning to form, it's a big lift. The bullpen was thought to be the one area that didn't need changing in the off-season, but the fact remains that Weber and Donnelly both suddenly bloomed into effective relievers, and you have to keep an eye on guys like that. Weber's 34 now, and he certainly wouldn't be the first guy to have a couple of excellent years in his early thirties, only to fall of the face of the Earth. At 32, Donnelly's a slightly safer bet, but neither is automatic.
The Rangers did an excellent job of wearing Colon down, to the point where he threw 100 pitches in five innings of work and still only surrendered three runs. He pretty clearly didn't have his good stuff last night - I don't think I saw him throw that little tailing fastball he has at all (or maybe it just didn't tail), and only 60 of those 100 pitches were strikes. His velocity jumped around a lot on the fastball, from the low nineties to 99 mph, if the radar gun is to be believed. Still, that's what an ace does - even when he doesn't have his good stuff, he keeps his team in the game. Since the offense was able to put six up early, he was able to compensate by going after hitters, even when men were on base.
It was nice to see the offense get geared up again, even if it only lasted a few innings. Troy Glaus hit a no-doubter, and I'll say it again - he's going to have a monster season. He looks so much better at the plate than he did last year - I don't know if it's the eye surgery, the shoulder rehab, or a new brand of athletic supporter, but right now I'd be more afraid of him than of Guerrero if I was an AL pitcher. Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon both sat last night, GA because of back problems and Salmon due to a sore knee, but Chone Figgins and Jeff DaVanon stepped in nicely. DaVanon went 2 for 3 with a (probably fan-assisted) home run, while Figgins...
...well, Figgins poses something of a quandary. He does so many things that just seem dumb, like committing a two-base error by not getting in front of a ball, like last night, or executing a hit and run with his head down and getting caught off first on a line drive, like a few nights ago. But he's also clearly got some exceptional skills, most of which stem from his incredible speed. He tripled last night, and made it to third in what may have been the fastest time I've ever seen. He steals bases, obviously, but also uses his speed in the outfield; three batters after that two-base error he robbed Adrian Gonzalez of a double hit nearly to the wall (and took a somewhat, um, indirect route to the ball, I might add). He's 26, and likely entering the prime of his career. While the Angels have something of a logjam in the outfield, Figgins may have the inside track to replace Eckstein at short (and at the top of the batting order) next year, and could move back to center if the Angels let Jose Guillen walk after 2005 (with Anderson moving back to left). I suspect that Figgins's mistakes are at least partially due to lack of playing time, but he'll be an interesting one to watch as the season progresses.