Jason Vargas was feeling well one day after throwing a three-inning simulated game at Angel Stadium. Manager Mike Scioscia said that the left-hander is “tentatively” scheduled to throw a 5-inning or 75-pitch rehabilitation assignment Thursday for a to-be-determined minor league affiliate.
All three of the Angels’ top minor-league affiliates — the Salt Lake Bees (AAA), Arkansas Travelers (AA) and Inland Empire 66ers (A) — are on the road that day. Inland Empire has a nearby road game against the High Desert Mavericks, where line drives routinely go for home runs. Injured Angels pitchers have rehabbed there in the past, so it’s a possibility.
Vargas has been on the disabled list since June 21, when he was diagnosed with a blood clot near his left armpit. Saturday’s sim game was his first since undergoing surgery in June.
In his first season with the Angels, Vargas is 6-4 with a 3.65 earned-run average in 14 starts.
In other injury news, Peter Bourjos (fractured wrist) took part in batting practice for the fourth straight day. Scioscia said that the center fielder is also on track for a rehabilitation assignment later in the week.
Mike Trout has said he enjoys hitting leadoff. It’s what he has done for most of his baseball life and what he did Monday and Tuesday against the Seattle Mariners. But he was batting second again for the Angels on Thursday night.
Peter Bourjos, the leadoff hitter Wednesday, wasn’t batting first either.
Erick Aybar was the first man up Thursday after a 13-game absence from the top of the order, and manager Mike Scioscia said that the top of the order could be a rotating affair beyond tonight. Continue reading →
That’s because players’ names must be submitted to the league before MLB’s deadline for printing the ballots, which varies from year to year but typically falls somewhere in late April. The general manager or the assistant GM of each team is responsible for submitting the names. Even Jerry Dipoto couldn’t have foreseen Trout leading the world in runs, stolen bases and WAR last season.
Trout played in the 2012 All-Star Game anyway. He was listed on the players’ ballot distributed in June and collected enough votes to make the American League squad as a reserve.
Howie Kendrick fell a triple short of the cycle Thursday, which would be less impressive if:
a) he hadn’t singled, doubled and homered off major-league starters Clayton Kershaw and Ted Lilly;
b) Kershaw hadn’t also struck out seven batters in three innings.
Kershaw said after the game that his location was erratic. That was never more true than when Kendrick was in the batter’s box against the two-time National League ERA champ. His fifth-inning home run against Lilly was his first of the spring and it was a bomb, landing on the top of a grassy knoll just left of center field in a deep ballpark — Camelback Ranch is 420 feet to straightaway center and Kendrick’s ball definitely traveled farther.
That was the only Angel home run of the game. Kendrick had three of the 12 hits, and nine other players had one each. Here are a few more notes:
For his first day playing a game in an Angels uniform, Josh Hamilton did not bring enough bats.
Hamilton had three bats when the day began Tuesday. He broke one in batting practice. The other two broke in the game. When he looked down to see a crack in his lumber after fouling a pitch off in the fifth inning, at least he had a contingency plan in place.
“I told (Mark Trumbo) before the game, If I break one I’m going to come and get yours,” Hamilton said.
Peter Bourjos made an out Tuesday. Twice. So he’s human after all.
Equally impressive to his 1.000 on-base percentage coming into the game, three of his five times on base came as a result of walks. Bourjos’ .301 OBP in his first three seasons leaves something to be desired for a player with his speed. The Angels want Bourjos on the bases as much as possible.
“I think walks are just a function of good plate discipline as a player develops,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “A pitcher has to cooperate when you’re drawing a walk. You can’t just go up there and take pitches where all of a sudden you’re drawing a walk. There’s a balance of having that aggressiveness, ready to hit with an understanding of the strike zone. If a walk’s there, you’re going to embrace it and take it. I think for young players who try to force a walk you see a lot of 0-2 counts transpire.”
Scioscia has been quick to offer up Bourjos’ limited playing time last season as a crutch for a slow offensive start. So far Bourjos hasn’t needed the crutch and that may be a testament to his off-season preparation. His speed certainly hasn’t suffered.
“Peter had kind of a lost year last year on the offensive side because he didn’t get the looks that he wanted or needed,” Scioscia said, “but he kept himself sharp and he’s worked very hard in the winter to try to bring that swing that he had a couple years ago where he had a good offensive year in this game and it looks lie he’s seeing the ball very well. He’s showing some patience, he’s getting some good hitting counts. I think it is a small sample obviously, but he looks comfortable in the box now. That will hopefully push him to contribute on the offensive side because we know what an incredible defender he is.”
Regardless, the starting three in Anaheim are rather enviable. The glaring issues: New center fielder Peter Bourjos batted just .220 in a platoon situation last year, fourth outfielder Vernon Wells has hit .222 since coming to Anaheim, and there isn’t much depth after that. The NRIs in this group don’t pose a serious threat to make the opening-day roster, but one or more could move up with an outstanding spring. Otherwise it’s a long dropoff from the starters to the bench.
It was nice to see the Angels’ defense get a little love today – OK, a lot of love – in MLB.com’s rankings of the majors’ 10 best defenses. The Angels led the pack, ahead of the Rays (2), Reds (3), Nationals (4), Giants (5), Rangers (6), Padres (7), Braves (8), Orioles (9) and A’s (10).
The outfield of Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton has already been mentioned as one of the best in recent memory. The Angels’ worst defensive infielder is second baseman Howie Kendrick, but he’s considered average by some metrics (notably range factor) and managed to lead the league in fielding percentage in 2011.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens now that the Angels have overhauled their pitching staff. Righty Joe Blanton and lefty Jason Vargas are contact pitchers, certainly more than Dan Haren and Zack Greinke. Will the Angels’ defense help their effectiveness? That was part of the thinking in both acquisitions – we’ll see if it matches up with reality.
If there’s a fly in the ointment, it’s that Hamilton had a major off-year in the field in 2012. His ultimate zone rating – designed to account for a fielder’s ability to prevent runs with his arm, range, double plays and “errorlessness” (for lack of a better word) – was a woeful -12.6. That was mostly a result of his play in center field, however, and moving to right field could be the cure to what ails him.