It looked like spring training in August.
The Angels gathered on the Angel Stadium infield for a short team meeting around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday. When that was done, players broke off to their separate positions and proceeded to perform a Cactus League staple: Pitchers’ fielding practice (PFP) drills. For the next half-hour, each pitcher peeled off from the pack standing along the third-base line, jogged to the mound, and practiced pickoff throws to each base, fielded bunts, and covered first base on ground balls to the right side.
Kevin Jepsen said it was the first time he’d done PFP drills in August in five full seasons with the Angels.
Manager Mike Scioscia was merely staying true to his word. Less than 24 hours after the Angels were burned for six stolen bases by the Texas Rangers in an 8-3 loss Tuesday, Scioscia had the team on the field ironing out the defensive kinks that have plagued them all season long.
Holding runners on base and throwing out base stealers were the obvious problems Tuesday, but there are others. As a team, the Angels lead the American League in errors (84). Scioscia hinted that he had PFP drills in mind even before he vowed to address the team’s defensive problems last night.
“We probably would’ve tightened some things up,” he said. “One of the reasons is we have a lot of new guys out there that aren’t comfortable with our systems. Chris Nelson was up and down, spent a little more time, but you look at Tommy Field, he’s at a new position trying to get comfortable. Look at (Grant) Green, obviously he hasn’t been with us long. Kole Calhoun at first base hasn’t played a lot of first base.
“There’s a lot of things that we have to work through. We did it internally, with trying to get guys to understand the system, but you have to get on the field and work through some things to be able to acclimate. We’ll do it again at some point. I’m sure we’ll revisit on the road. It’s just where our club is right now. There’s a lot of youth out there, a lot of young guys with not a lot of experience — not only in baseball but in our system, understanding what we do. We’ve got to get them on the same page.”
Pitcher Jerome Williams has spent time in seven organizations, four at the major-league level. The last time he did PFP drills during a season was 2004, when Felipe Alou was managing the San Francisco Giants and the drills were a monthly occurrence.
“It helped out a lot,” Williams said. “It got everybody on the same page, made the pitchers’ craft better, knowing how to field your position, and what plays we need to do.”
Still, Williams believes the nuances aren’t hard to grasp.
“It’s almost the same thing in every organization — a couple things here or there but basics are basics,” he said.