Angel Stadium springs a leak

It’s less than two hours before game time and the grounds crew is working on a leaky water pipe near the third-base coaching box. A strip of sod was pulled back and least five grounds crew members have dug a 2-foot by 2-foot hole in the grass. The hole appears to be about 3-feet deep. It’s batting practice now so they are being protected by a temporary net. Buckets of mud and water are being pulled from the hole and somebody looks to have the blueprint of the irrigation design as they frantically try to repair the problem. The clock’s ticking boys. Good luck.

UPDATE: The leak is fixed, the hole is filled and the sod has been replaced. If you weren’t there to see it you would have never known there was a problem. The grounds crew even went as far as to get a broom and brush the grass against the grain so the sod patch matches the striped mowing pattern.

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Angels facts and figures

Here is some information to chew on after the completion of this week’s series against the Detroit Tigers. The Angels do not play today but open a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.

Joe Saunders lost at home for the first time this season. His five earned runs allowed matched what Angels starters had allowed in the previous four games combined.

The Angels remained two games in front in the AL West despite the defeat Wednesday. It was just their 12 home defeat this season. They didn’t lose their 12th game at home last season until June 26. Their 32 victories are tied for the major-league lead with Boston, Tampa Bay and the Chicago Cubs.

The Angels have been held to three runs or fewer in 12 of the last 15 games. They have been held to four runs or less in 20 of 26 games this month and are 10-10 in those 20 games.

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Kotchman has become a triple threat

By Doug Padilla
Staff Writer

ANAHEIM – The strongest link that holds the Angels’ chain together might just be one of the quietest players in the clubhouse.
Casey Kotchman might not say a whole lot, preferring to let his game do all the talking. And his game sure has been chatting it up lately.
“Kotch,” as he is known, not only has been the steadiest influence on the offense, but his stellar play on defense has helped the Angels through a slew of changes on the infield due to injuries. That defense, in turn, has been one reason the starting pitching has been so steady of late.
Call Kotchman a triple threat. He’s one of the few Angels players that can say he has a hand in offense, defense and pitching.
“When you have a guy over there at first base that plays at the level Kotch does, these guys are just going to catch the ball and release knowing that if they can get the ball over there, Kotch is going to make the play; he will dig it out,” manager Mike Scioscia said.
Not having to worry about making the perfect throw has been a godsend to youngsters like Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez, who have been called upon because of injuries to Chone Figgins and Howie Kendrick.
Kotchman’s presence gives Wood and Rodriguez one less thing to worry about as they try to adapt to the major-league level.
“I would like for those guys to be confident when they throw the ball over they that they have a good chance of it being caught,” Kotchman said. “When it doesn’t happen, I feel like I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain. If I don’t save them an error, I’m not doing my part.”
Wood hasn’t been around very long but he has no problem saying that Kotchman is one of the best in the game.
“It’s great to have a guy like Kotch over there who can pick it (out of the dirt),” said Wood, who did make an error Wednesday after Kotchman couldn’t handle his throw in the dirt. “It gives us a sense confidence over there to get rid of the ball quick and he’ll make the play. I think he takes just as much pride in picking it as he does in hitting it.”
Without Kotchman, Scioscia doesn’t think the Angels would be leading the American League in defense.
“Sometimes you have to get the ball over there in time because the guy has good speed and it could put pressure on you and affect your accuracy,” Scioscia said. “We don’t skip a beat over there with a guy like Kotch because he’s playing great defense and making great plays around the bag.”
Great plays mean that the pitchers aren’t having to get extra outs. One less batter means one less chance to get burned.
In the month of May, Angels pitchers have held opponents to two runs or less in 12 of the 25 games before Wednesday, including each of the previous eight. The starters had a combined 1.29 ERA over the previous five games, while the team ERA was 2.36 over the previous 14 games.
The Angels’ problem of late has been with offensive production, something that Kotchman can’t take the blame for. He entered Wednesday with a team-leading .310 batting average and is one of just two Angels regulars, along with Chone Figgins, who is batting over .300.
Kotchman also has six home runs, although he has not gone deep since April 23 at Boston. He still has managed to produce this month, even though not too many of his teammates are getting on base in front or behind him in the lineup.
Kotchman has driven in nine runs this month and scored eight. He is also batting .273 in May, even though the team’s combined batting average is under .230.
But Kotchman knows that even the hottest of offensive runs eventually goes cold. He refuses to let his glove take a day off, though.
“I think playing defense is something that can and should be there on a night-to-night basis,” he said. “If your bat comes and goes, you need to make some contribution to the other side of the game. You can help pitchers out by picking a ball or turning a double play, keep the game moving along and keep their pitch counts down.”

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Angels milestone tracker

Just a little something to watch for in upcoming games:

Garret Anderson is seven runs scored away from breaking Tim Salmon’s club record of 986.

Torii Hunter is two home runs away from 200 for his career.

Jon Garland is three victories away from 100 in his career.

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Cabrera's honeymoon over in Chicago

Just as Jon Garland is starting to shine with the Angels, the other half of the trade that brought him here doesn’t seem to be going well. Orlando Cabrera had four hits Monday, including the game winner for the White Sox, but the big story in Chicago was that Cabrera’s status of a team leader has come into question. It all apparently started with a couple of Cabrera calls to the press box to have scoring calls changed in his favor. Not afraid to speak on any subject, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he wasn’t too proud of his shortstop. Now comes news out of Cleveland, where the White Sox are playing Tuesday, that general manager Ken Williams has weighed in on the subject. Not good.

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Less is more: Angels decline BP

The Angels are not taking batting practice right now as they usually do in advance of tonight’s game against the Detroit Tigers. Manager Mike Scioscia not only told his players they did not need to hit today but they were allowed to arrive to the ballpark as late as 5 p.m. for the 7:05 p.m. start. Scioscia said that the team had been working extremely hard on its hitting of late and weren’t showing any progress. They won 1-0 in 12 innings Monday, scoring the winning run on a bases-loaded walk. So Scioscia hopes that by taking a step back it might help things. We will find out shortly.

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Escobar rejoins Angels

There were plenty of hugs and handshakes between Kelvim Escobar and his teammates Monday after the right-hander rejoined the Angels. Escobar has been on the disabled list all season with a torn right labrum. He has been doing shoulder exercises the past five months and might be closing in on a return after the All-Star break. The only question when he returns will be whether or not he helps out in the starting rotation or in relief.

Manager Mike Scioscia spoke about Escobar at length before Monday’s game.

“He’s going to throw a flat ground session in the middle of the week, probably Wednesday,” Scioscia said. :And then a week after he starts that progression, a week or 10 days later, it could lead to getting back on a mound and throwing off a mound. Once you cross that hurdle and you get out on a mound and get on a slope and are extending and don’t have any problems, you just build up stamina, pitch count, execution of pitches. That takes time though.

“It’s not you’re out on a mound and then, ‘OK, how are you?’ ‘Ready to go out and pitch.’ It’s going to take time. Now he’s into a spring training program routine where he’s off a mound throwing and throwing bullpens and progress to batting practice, into a rehab game. And if he’s a starter you stretch him out to 90-100 pitches. So there’s work ahead for Kelvim but he’s feeling real good right now.”

So he will be a starter when he returns then?

“We definitely want to get him stretched out and see where his stamina is and how he feels,” Scioscia said. “We’ll be open to anything as we move forward but with Kelvim it’s pretty premature to talk about what role he will come back in. There are some big steps that have to happen that he’s going to have to get his game together on the mound and that will take some time.”

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Figgins nears another DL stint

Looks like that one game Chone Figgins played last week before suffering another hamstring setback is all he will get before going on the DL again. Nothing is official but manager Mike Scioscia sounds like he is ready to put Figgins on the shelf. The update with Figgins’ latest injury is that it actually is in a different place than the original hamstring strain. This latest problem is more in the hamstring tendon where the previous injury was more in the muscle.

“We’re going to have to make a decision with Figgy in a couple of days,” Scioscia said. “He’s making progress but I think we’re into Day 5 now so we’ll have to make some significant progress in the next couple of days to project him getting out there to play. We’re going to give it as much time as we can but also make sure that his needs are met to get healthy.”

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Angels schedule All-Star announcement

The Angels will make it official Wednesday and announce that the 2010 All-Star Game will be played at Angel Stadium. Commissioner Bud Selig will be on hand for the 12:30 p.m. anouncement, along with owner Arte Moreno and Angels mayor Curt Pringle. It will be the third All-Star Game played in Anaheim and the first since 1989, which was made famous by Bo Jackson’s massive home-run blast to center field.

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ESPN taps Angels again

Not only do the Angels play in this weekend’s ESPN Sunday Night Game against the Chicago White Sox (at Chicago), they have also been scheduled to play on Sunday night June 15 against the Atlanta Braves. That game is at home, so all of you with tickets to that night’s game, consider yourself informed. The June 15 game (as well as this Sunday’s game) will start at 5:09 p.m. Pacific time.

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