Shields takes All-Star precautions

Despite a 1.87 ERA in nearly 40 outings this season, reliever Scot Shields would seem to be a long shot to make the AL All-Star team. That still has not prevented Shields from protecting his chances of earning his first All-Star nod. Shields refuses to talk about anything All-Star related out of fear it might jinx his chances.

The last two years, Shields looked like he was potentially All-Star worthy. And in both years, a reporter asked him about making his first All-Star squad. On that same day in both years, Shields had an incredibly brutal outing that led to a defeat. So now, Shields quickly deflects any All-Star talk. He figures it not only will help his chances of going to San Francisco on July 10, it also will help prevent another defeat for his team. Talk about the lengths some guys will go to.

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Gorneault recalled

Nick Gorneault was recalled today to take Shea Hillenbrand’s spot on the roster. Hillenbrand was designated for assignment Thursday and the Angels have eight more days to trade him or release him outrigh. Gorneault was batting just .220 at Triple-A Salt Lake but did have 10 home runs and 29 RBI in 78 games. He also had 11 steals.

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travel warriors

The Angels’ road trip from Baltimore to Texas to New York that begins Friday will log the team 8,385 air miles. Had the schedule required the Angels to go to Texas first then Baltimore and New York it would have been 2,598 miles less, or five hours less flying.
And to think, this isn’t manager Mike Scioscia’s biggest gripe with the schedule. Scioscia doesn’t like that the Angels will be playing out-of-division opponents as late as a week and a half before the season ends.

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Willits sets record straight

Knowing how legends can grow, Reggie Willits took some time to clear up one particular matter. It seems like the story about how he ended up as No. 77 is taking on a life of its own. In a recent sidebar in ESPN’s magazine, Willits was praised for his rookie success. But the story happened to mention how Willits wears No. 77 as a tribute to Mickey Mantle, who wore No. 7 with the Yankees. That would be incorrect. Willits actually wears his number because it is double the number Kenny Lofton wore when Lofton was setting himself apart as the ideal leadoff man years ago with the Cleveland Indians. Willits was growing up when Lofton was running wild with the Indians and Willits patterned his early game after Lofton.

Willits doesn’t blame the guy at ESPN. He probably got the Mantle story from another publication that made the leap on its own in a previous article. Willits said he knows how it must have happened. Mantle was a native of Oklahoma and was offered a football scholarship by the University of Oklahoma (he signed with the Yankees instead). Willits also was born and raised in Oklahoma and actually did become a Sooner where he played baseball.

As for the Mantle story, it never really did bother Willits. “He was a great player too,” Willits said. He just figured he would set the record straight.

For an entertaining read on what Willits’ success has meant to the Angels, see the feature story from the L.A. Newspaper Group’s Paul Oberjuerge titled “Big little Angel.”

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No good wood

Angels pitchers are 2-for-12 in interleague play with three more games this weekend against the Dodgers. Ervin Santana, Jered Weaver and Kelvim Escobar will each get in a couple of hacks, that is if they aren’t driven from the games early.

While pitchers’ hits are always hard to come by, Escobar has a conspiracy theory as to why it might be even harder. Scot Shields said pitchers are each sent three bats every year by the bat companies, but Escobar doesn’t use his.

“I don’t think they send good wood to the pitchers,” said Escobar, who has one of the two hits.

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Angels have an option Q

News of the Giants using infielder Pedro Feliz at catcher last week got the old brain waves to finally stir. Who would be the Angels third catcher in case of emergency? Manager Mike Scioscia has been asked that question more than a few times in the past few years and has failed to answer it directly. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it is basically Scioscia’s response. It should come as no surprise that Robb Quinlan is open to donning the gear and playing catcher for a short stretch if necessary.

“I caught in high school a little bit, middle school, junior high school,” said Quinlan, a native of Minnesota. “I’ve been out there a few times to warm up a pitcher when the catcher is putting his stuff on. I’m fine with it. Hopefully it doesn’t come to it.”

Note that current Angels catcher Mike Napoli was listening to Quinlan’s takes on being a catcher. So whose equipment would Quinlan borrow to get behind the plate?

“Probably Napoli’s stuff,” Quinlan said. “It will be a little big on me in the gut area but other than that …”

No way Quinlan was getting away with that one.

“You have a bigger gut on you than I do guy,” Napoli fired back.

Quinlan relented and gave his teammate a little credit.

“Obviously it’s the toughest position in the game to play so it won’t be easy,” Quinlan said.

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Are you ready for some home runs?

Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark is known as a launching pad and the table could be set for some long balls tonight when the Reds play host to the Angels in an interleague matchup. The Reds’ 1-0 victory in 12 innings on Sunday was just the 29th game without a home run in the 356-game history of the ballpark along the Ohio River. In addition to that, there has been just one occasion when there were two consecutive games without a home run (Aug 6-7, 2005, against the Florida Marlins). There have been 922 home runs hit at the Reds’ park in its four-year history. The only other park to allow more over that same time span is the White Sox’s U.S. Cellular Field which has seen 955 home runs.

So what team will go deep tonight? Reds starter Bronson Arroyo has given up just six home runs this season, but five have come in his last four starts, with two coming in his last outing. Angels starter Kelvim Escobar has given up just three home runs and just one in his last seven starts. Looks like a long ball night is approaching for the Angels.

UPDATE: Casey Kotchman and Gary Matthews Jr. both went deep while the Reds had no home runs Tuesday. In the end, the Reds got the last laugh with a 5-3 victory.

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Santana gets grief over double

Angels pitchers had plenty to say in the locker room after Ervin Santana’s start on Saturday. It wasn’t that Santana picked up his first road victory that had everybody so talkative. The fact that he had a two-run double had the room buzzing.

“You might be the DH when we get back home,” Scot Shields said across the room.

“Batting champion,” Jered Weaver said while walking past Santana as he was answering postgame questions.

Santana’s double was big news among the pitchers. The starters typically have a friendly wager on who will deliver with the bat in interleague play. As of now, Santana is in front by a comfortable margin. Weaver gets his chance to catch up on Sunday.

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Santana not talking

Ervin Santana’s road woes definitely are on his mind. How could they not be? Santana is winless on the road this year with an ERA nearly at 10.00. Asked Friday if he wanted to talk about his start today, Santana declined. Typically the young right-hander is approachable and friendly. Maybe he was putting on his game face a day early. We will find out how intense he is in a few hours when he takes on the St. Louis Cardinals.

“I don’t want to talk about any of that,” Santana said Friday. “Tomorrow.”

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Angels' role in Ducks' party

The Ducks are getting ready to celebrate their first Stanley Cup title and being neighbors, of course the Angels will play a role. Indications are that the Ducks’ championship parade will be a short one. It is likely that it will just travel the short course from the back parking lot of Angel Stadium, north on S. Douglass Rd., over Katella Ave. and into the Honda Center parking lot. The Ducks likely will use the Angel Stadium parking lot as a staging area of sorts. The Ducks’ championship rally will take place in the Honda Center parking lot. As of now, there are no plans for the Ducks to have a celebration on Disneyland’s Main St., like the Angels did in 2002. In no way are these plans official so keep checking www.nhl.com for more information.

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