Posted on: September 9, 2011 11:17 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2011 12:05 am
Fact: The Angels are 19-4 when rookie outfielder Mike Trout starts.
Fact: The Angels started their series with the Yankees on Friday trailing Texas by 2 1/2 games ... and with Trout on the bench.
So ... is Mike Scioscia working on throwing the AL West race?
The quick answer, obviously, is no. He's playing the angles he thinks are best for the Angels. Trout, who recently turned 20, starts against left-handers. Scioscia says Trout will be in Saturday's lineup when CC Sabathia starts for the Yankees.
Still, even with righty Bartolo Colon on the mound, it's difficult to believe Trout would be a worse option than Vernon Wells (.252 on-base percentage, starting in left field) or even Bobby Abreu (.253 batting average, designated hitter).
Scioscia says Trout took some "good swings" in the Seattle series. He also says the Mariners pitched him differently than they did a month ago.
"Now Mike understands what the pitchers are trying to do and is making some adjustments," Scioscia said.
Trout, named as Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year this week, is hitting .230 with a .299 on-base percentage and a .448 slugging percentage in 29 games with the Angels. He has five homers in 97 plate appearances.
Asked about Maicer Izturis sitting in favor of Alberto Callaspo at third base Friday night, Scioscia said, in a statement that extends to Trout as well: "We're looking for production right now. We're not thinking a month or two down the road. Guys are going to play where they match up."
In Trout's case, he understands that.
"You learn [with] every pitch every inning," Trout said. "If I need anything, I go to Torii Hunter or Vernon. They've played my position. Petey Bourjos, as well. He knows how I'm feeling. He's been through it."
Trout's highlight so far was smashing his first big league homer, a three-run job, in front of 15-20 family members and dozens of friends in Baltimore on July 24. The most difficult thing, he said, is "calming yourself down. The first couple of games, I was jittery."
The Angels are happy with the way he's handling himself. But they're still not going to play him every day.
In 63 plate appearances against right-handers, Trout is hitting .214/.302/.357.
In 34 plate appearances against lefties, Trout is hitting ..258/.294/.613.
"He's still our secret weapon on the sidelines," hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. "It's great to have a combination [Trout and Bourjos] to give the veterans a rest, and having a guy you know is going to bring something to the team ... I think all of our young kids have brought something."
Referring to their speed, Hatcher said: "Sometimes you don't even care if they hit it hard. They still might get a double."
"There's no doubt we have more speed on our club than we've had in the last 12 years," Scioscia said. "But we haven't had the on-base percentage to where we take advantage of it."
Meantime, Trout waits.
Likes: Ivan Nova, the Yankees' rookie starter. Good stuff, good kid. ... Atlanta's bullpen is unbelievable. It will be fascinating to see if Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel and Eric O'Flaherty have enough gas in the tank to go all the way through October like this. ... Michigan-Notre Dame on Saturday with my wife ready to make pizza for kickoff. ... Still little better in life than a good ballgame at home with pizza. ... Speaking of which, the trendy Pizzeria Mozza (celebrity chefs Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich) just opened in Newport Beach, Calif., and is highly recommended by Scioscia.
Dislikes: What a blackout in the west on Thursday night. The entire city of San Diego lost power, as did parts of Orange County, Arizona and northern Mexico. They blamed it on one guy doing maintenance at an important switching station in Arizona. I don't know much about electricity, but how can there be no checks and balances in place? One guy can wipe out power for five million people? Mama mia. ... Aw, Grosse Ile 20, Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High 14 in Friday night football. The good guys lost.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Spirits above and behind me
"Faces gone, black eyes burnin' bright
"May their precious blood forever bind me
"Lord as I stand before your fiery light
"Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li
"I see you Mary in the garden
"In the garden of a thousand sighs
"There's holy pictures of our children
"Dancin' in a sky filled with light
"May I feel your arms around me
"May I feel your blood mix with mine
"A dream of life comes to me
"Like a catfish dancin' on the end of the line"
-- Bruce Springsteen, The Rising
Posted on: September 10, 2008 8:39 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Baseball's first clincher of the summer was an unusual one: The Los Angeles Angels finished their part of it by polishing off the New York Yankees 4-2 Wednesday. Then they retired to their clubhouse to watch the Texas-Seattle game.
For a team clinching so early, the Los Angeles Angels sure had to wait around awhile.
After closer Francisco Rodriguez, appropriately, fanned Hideki Matsui for the game's final out, some 72 minutes later, Seattle outlasted Texas 8-7 and the Angels popped the corks on their fourth AL West title in the past five seasons.
It's the earliest clinch ever in the AL West, and the delayed reaction didn't seem to deflate the instant gratification.
Several hundred eager fans had stayed to watch the Texas-Seattle conclusion on the scoreboard, and moments after it ended, the Angels immediately sprinted out of their clubhouse and onto the field to begin the celebration.
The highlight? Reliever Jose Arredondo somehow commandeering the grounds crew's infield garden hose and drenching teammates before spraying it into the stands to toast the fans. The Anaheim Fire Dept. would have been proud.
"Did you see the water hose, spraying everybody?" outfielder Torii Hunter exclaimed. "That's impressive!"
"It was perfect, man," hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said, agreeing Arredondo gets an 'A' for creativity. "He got some of the fans, too. They loved it!"
Owner Arte Moreno spoke of wanting a "big finish" to gain October home-field advantage -- the Angels currently own baseball's best record and, as such, would have home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs -- and spoke of needing 11 wins in October to earn World Series rings.
He, like many around the club, thinks this might be the Angels' deepest playoff team.
"Last year we were banged up," he said. "The last few years, we ... didn't have the depth. This year, everybody was saying we have too many outfielders, too many pitchers. But it's such a long season.
"It's a team deal. I'd like to think we're getting close."
While the waiting around for official clinching word was unusual, what wasn't was this: The Angels were steered to the dock Wednesday by Rodriguez, who continued zeroing in on Bobby Thigpen's all-time saves record by scooping up his 56th of the season.
K-Rod, who will become one of the hottest free agents on the market this winter, will tie Thigpen's record 57 with his next save and should easily break the record by season's end. He's currently on pace for 62.
An Angels' official said that Thigpen isn't expected to be on hand when his record falls, but the club has been in contact with him through the Chicago White Sox and some sort of gesture is expected.
"It's almost magical the way things have fallen into place," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's as consistent as anybody I've seen. He turns the page better than anybody I've been around."
While it finally was a relief to the Angels to have wrapped up the division despite the large lead, it will be a similar feeling for Rodriguez when he finally passes Thigpen.
"I feel like I have 10,000 pounds on my shoulders," he said in Chicago last weekend. "I would like to get it over. ... That would be awesome. To break the record and clinch, take those 10,000 pounds off my shoulder on the same day -- that would be nice."
The Angels beat him to one of those finish lines.
Now, the team that leads the majors in both number of games decided by two runs or fewer (81) and number of victories in those games (54), can enjoy the regular-season conclusion of K-Rod's ride.
"It's a huge accomplishment," says starter John Lackey, who broke in with Rodriguez in the minors and says he once taught the Venezuelan some English words ("not good ones, either.") "It says a great deal about his ability.
"The guy has been fearless since he's been in the league. Whether the leadoff guy gets on or he goes 1-2-3, he gets it done. Maybe he's lost a little velocity over the years, but he still gets it done."
And if the Angels have their way, they'll again provide the World Series stage where Rodriguez first rocketed to national prominence, in 2002 against San Francisco.
"He means a lot to us," Scioscia says. "And, hopefully, he will mean even more."