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Tag:Mike Scioscia
Posted on: July 1, 2011 2:31 pm
 

Short Hops: All-Star Soria back on track (& more)

This isn't about Mariano Rivera. It's about the Royals' Joakim Soria. But as with so many other things regarding closers, it makes Old Man Rivera look even more sensational than he already is.

OK, here goes: If I were to ask you coming into this season whose save conversion rate since July 31, 2007, is second in the game to Rivera's, whom would you say?

Yes, the answer is Soria, a two-time All-Star whose 92.4 rate since that date is second among all major-league closers to Rivera's 92.9.

Now, here's just one more piece of evidence that Rivera is superhuman: In late May, Soria suddenly fell into a hole and blew five of his first 12 save opportunities. It got so bad that after he blew consecutive save opportunities in late May, he admirably went to manager Ned Yost and essentially removed himself from the role. Something that in all of these years Rivera has never had to do.

Yost handled the situation superbly: He gave Soria a few days off to clear out his mind, eased him back into non-save situations in which he could pitch two innings at a time (to work on his fastball command) and then plugged Soria back into the ninth in early June.

The results, again, have been spectacular: Soria has worked 12 shutout innings in his past 10 games and is six-for-six in save opportunities, while holding opponents to an .098 batting average (4 for 41).

"It was not a big change at all," Soria says. "It was just a mind-set, getting my confidence back. Mechanics-wise, there was nothing to change. I looked at video, and I'm not doing anything different."

Soria isn't a closer with overpowering stuff, nor does he have one lethal weapon like Rivera's cutter. Instead, he throws all of his pitches -- fastball, curve, slider and change. Because he depends on location, problems can arise if he goes four or five days between outings.

"He's a command-guy closer," Yost says. "Command guys rebound so much better from that than stuff guys do.

"I've never had stuff guys who have gone through this rebound -- Derrick Turnbow, Danny Kolb, even Eric Gagne."

Soria, 27, right now is reinforcing Yost's history.

"Bad things make you stronger," Soria says. "If you've always been good, maybe you don't realize what it takes to be good until you go bad."

As for Rivera, who mostly has been immune to slumps throughout his Hall of Fame career, Soria, like everyone else, just marvels.

"He's the best," Soria says. "He's done everything in his career, and I don't think he's ever struggled."

-- Soria and Rivera have met once, at the All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium in 2008. But they did not exchange trade secrets. "We didn't talk about the game," Soria says. "We just talked about life."

-- Though they clearly could use reinforcements for a beat-up bullpen, and manager Charlie Manuel wants a right-handed bat (the Padres' Ryan Ludwick? The Twins' Michael Cuddyer?), the Phillies are telling teams that they they're tapped out financially. They're close to the luxury tax threshold and do not want to cross it. Of course, they were also telling rivals the same thing last winter before they shocked everyone by signing free agent pitcher Cliff Lee.

-- Emphasizing Philadelphia's need for a right-handed bat: The Phillies are hitting .196 in their past 13 games against lefty starters.

-- The Red Sox, too, say they do not want to push their luxury tax any higher than it already is, which suggests no pricey mid-season reinforcements. But recent history under general manager Theo Epstein also suggests the Red Sox get what they need and, right now, their internal discussions are centering on a hitter. They're not getting much out of right field, which led to the release of Mike Cameron this week.

-- Mariners officials are scheduled to talk via conference call next week to discuss final strategy leading into the July trade deadline. Though Seattle has done a nice job of staying competitive, the recent 3-7 tailspin could spur the M's to deal Erik Bedard. Though Bedard landed on the disabled list this week with a knee sprain, he could be a very good trade chip.

-- Thanks to Milwaukee's road woes, the Cardinals are back in a tie for first place in the NL Central entering the weekend. But one scout who has watched St. Louis recently remains unimpressed. "Colby Rasmus is so inconsistent," the scout says. "Sometimes it looks like he's not even there at the plate." Then there are the times when Rasmus looks like he is there, like when he homered Tuesday and Wednesday in Baltimore.

-- In St. Louis' defense, the Cards have been so beat up this year, but while Albert Pujols is out, at least third baseman David Freese has returned from the disabled list. "Daniel Descalso was playing third base when I saw St. Louis," the scout says. "And I'm thinking, 'These are the St. Louis Cardinals?'"

-- This is the Phillies' rotation we expected: Philadelphia starters compiled a 1.96 ERA in June. Which, according to STATS LLC makes the Phils the first team since July of 1992 to go a full month under 2.00. Both Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs did it back in July, '92.

-- Quietly, Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick is resurfacing and showing why he will be in demand on the July trade market. He's at 51 RBIs in 78 games after finishing April with a .198 batting average and a .294 on-base percentage. That followed his miserable debut in San Diego last summer when he hit .211 with six homers in 59 games after his acquisition from St. Louis. There have been differences between this year and last: A calf injury nagged at him last year, while this April he was hitting the ball hard, just right at people. "I played terrible last year," Ludwick says. "I wouldn't say I've been playing great this year, but I've been doing what I've been known to do and what they brought me over to do. Drive in runs. Last year, every time I came to the ballpark I was stressed out, wondering if I was going to be able to make contact."

-- Know what's funny? The cover of Florida's media guide is a collage of small photos of historical highlights in Marlins history. And right there front and center, albeit at the bottom, is a photo of Jack McKeon in uniform. No need for updating there. Well, except he's wearing No. 15, and this time around, he's No. 25.

-- Angels manger Mike Scioscia, by the way, is still marveling about McKeon's enthusiasm for managing at 80. Scioscia and the Angels saw McKeon in his 2011 debut a couple of weeks back.

Likes: All-Star voting results coming soon, with the game soon to follow. ... Derek Jeter nearly set to resume his chase for 3,000 hits. ... Kerry Wood off of the DL and back in the Cubs' bullpen. ... From rocky NFL labor talks to rocky NBA labor talks to ... baseball labor talks still quiet and positive. ... The smell of neighborhood grills over the Fourth of July weekend. ... Modern Family boxed set, season 1. I'm just catching up to a show I haven't watched. Very funny. ... My sister's frozen key lime pie. Delicious.

Dislikes: Missed Jason Isbell coming through my town last week because of work commitments. His latest disc with his band, the 400 Unit, Here We Rest, is outstanding.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Driving in to Darlington County
"Me and Wayne on the Fourth of July
"Driving in to Darlington County
"Looking for some work on the county line
"We drove down from New York City
"Where the girls are pretty but they just want to know your name
"Driving in to Darlington City
"Got a union connection with an uncle of Wayne's
"We drove eight hundred miles without seeing a cop
"We got rock and roll music blasting off the T-top singing. ..."

-- Bruce Springsteen, Darlington County

Posted on: June 28, 2011 1:33 am
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A handful of outtakes from Davey Johnson's first day back in the manager's chair since 2000:

-- The details: Johnson, who was working as a special assistant to general manager Mike Rizzo, is signed to a consulting contract through 2013 but has agreed to manage only through the end of this season. The thinking is, if things go well, he and Rizzo will assess things and Johnson could manage in 2012 and beyond. But right now, it's just for this year for two reasons: They will see how things go and, beyond that, the Nationals must comply with the Commissioner's directive for interviewing minority candidates. In other words, they can't hire somebody long term in-season (meaning: beyond this year) without also interviewing minorities.

-- Johnson is noticeably thinner than when he managed the Dodgers (1999-2000), the Orioles (1996-1997), the Reds (1993-1995) and even the Mets (1984-1990). He's overcome health issues (a ruptured appendix that nearly killed him in 2005, and he had a catheter inserted in a vein to the heart last February to correct an arrhythmic heartbeat. That, along with taking better care of himself.

"I've had a lot better eating habits," Johnson said. "I'm a lot lighter. We have a team nutritionist. I don't expect to balloon up to 200 pounds like I did in New York and other places."

-- With Johnson managing Monday, the Nationals now have had four managers in five days: Jim Riggleman last Thursday, John McLaren on Friday, hitting coach Trent Jewett on Friday after McLaren was ejected, and Johnson on Monday. Rizzo joked that he didn't even know who managed the team after McLaren's ejection. "I think there were about three coaches running things," the GM said.

-- Another odd stat: The Nationals have had two managers resign after victories over the past five days. The Nats won Thursday, after which Riggleman quit. Then McLaren left after Sunday's win out of loyalty to Riggleman.

-- Angels manager Mike Scioscia worked with Johnson during the spring of 1999 when Scioscia was on the Dodgers' staff as the Triple-A Albuquerque manager. "He has some incredible insight," Scioscia said. "He really studies the game. He understands what's important."

-- The fact that the Nationals have won 13 of 15, and two of three since Riggleman's resignation, is something the team is carrying with pride. "It shows the character of the team," Rizzo said. "Anybody can go through the smooth and easy times. But the test of character comes with the tough times, and this team has come through that with flying colors."

-- When McLaren came into the clubhouse after managing his final game Sunday, the Nationals gave him a standing ovation.

"He's a great baseball guy," Jerry Hairston Jr. said. "We have a lot of respect for him and what he endured. People don't realize that with the manager leaves, it doesn't just affect the players. It affects the coaches. Johnny Mac has his loyalty to Riggs, and that's why he decided he needed to leave. But Mac is a tremendous baseball man."

-- Following a 4-3 loss to the Angels in his Nationals' debut, Johnson said, "It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed every minute of it. There was a little bit of everything."

He may have enjoyed it even more had he two more relievers available. Closer Drew Storen was absent, attending his grandmother's funeral in Indiana (he's expected back for Tuesday night's game here). And Tyler Clippard was unavailable because of a "tired arm."

Likes: Wow, what a performance by Jim Leyland in getting the heave-ho Monday in Detroit. The Tigers manager got a standing ovation as he left the field. Make sure you check it out here. ... Joe Torre back in the Bronx for Old-Timers' Day. ... The Dodgers may be bankrupt, but not in the hits department. They got 24 in Monday's romp in Minnesota. ... Nothing says summer like the smell of a freshly mown lawn. ... Adele's latest disc, 21. Man, that voice is smoky and soulful. ... Hot Italian pizza in Sacramento. ... The breakfast burritos and the strong, excellent coffee (and everything else) at Pipes Café in Cardiff-By-The-Sea.

Dislikes: So, what, we're going to have a team in bankruptcy every summer? The Dodgers now, the Rangers last year.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Baby I have no story to be told
"But I’ve heard one of you and I’m gonna make your head burn"

-- Adele, Rolling in the Deep

 

Posted on: May 11, 2011 10:50 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2011 11:12 pm
 

Angels' Kendrys Morales done for the year

Angels manager Mike Scioscia talked as far back as the winter meetings in Florida last December of how important slugging first baseman Kendrys Morales would be in the middle of the 2011 lineup, but Morales on Wednesday went from a late-starter to non-starter.

In a devastating blow to the Angels, Morales will undergo a second surgery on his troubled left ankle and miss the entire season.

The Angels said early this spring that they thought Morales would be healed and ready to go by opening day after undergoing surgery early last June to repair a fractured left ankle suffered when he leaped onto home plate after hitting a game-ending grand slam last May 29.

However, Morales' ankle did not respond this spring when he tried to run on it and he never could get liftoff. He never could run at full speed this spring, and he never improved. As Scioscia said, he "plateaued."

That carried into the season -- he's been on the disabled list since opening day -- and Morales on Tuesday traveled to Colorado to see a specialist to get a second opinion.

That opinion led to his decision a day later to undergo another surgery -- still unscheduled -- that will clean out debris and scar tissue. Angels orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum said the doctors in Colorado will begin the surgery arthroscopically and hope to conclude it that way. There is the chance, however, that they would have to go into the ankle again. Morales is expected to schedule the surgery soon.

"Kendrys has worked as hard as any athlete I've ever worked with in coming back from a devastating injury, and he hasn't been able to do it," Yocum said.

The remaining options were to continue to treat the injury and healing process conservatively, or to undergo another surgery.

"Did I think I'd be at this point? No," Morales said through a translator as the Angels played the White Sox on Wednesday. "But, obviously, I think this is the best decision."

Morales slugged 34 home runs, collected 108 RBI and finished fifth in the AL MVP balloting in 2009. He was hitting .290 with 11 homers and 39 RBI through 51 games at the time of his injury last May.

The Angels were planning on his bat returning as a major weapon in 2011.

But they and Yocum said Morales will be out a "minimum of six months" following this second surgery.

"It's definitely a challenge for us, not having Kendrys," general manager Tony Reagins said. "He's a significant part of what we do. In the middle of our lineup, he's definitely a significant bat."

But the Angels learned to play without him last year, Reagins said, and they must do the same in 2011. Of course, the Angels also finished 80-82 without him last summer.

 

Posted on: May 6, 2011 10:45 pm
 

Angels' Morales consults with doctors

Kendrys Morales, the still-disabled Angels' first baseman, consulted with a couple of doctors Friday while trying to get his rehabilitation back on track.

But there is no change yet in the status of the hobbled slugger, so don't hold your breath on his return.

Morales met with Dr. Phil Kwong, the surgeon who operated on his fractured left foot last May, and Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Angels' team orthopedist, in an effort to figure out something that will get him back on the field. Running continues to be the chief problem: Morales has not been bothered by baseball activity, but he has hit multiple setbacks over the past several weeks when he has tried to run.

"He will start running again, but he will not do any baseball activity as of yet," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Morales was heavy when he reported to spring training, but Scioscia said he's since lost weight.

Scioscia said he's not surprised the injury has taken so long to heal, though he did admit to a level of frustration.

"Surprised? No," Scioscia said. "There's been some frustration because he's been with the club and, at times, you think he's good to be on the field, and then there's a plateau."

Posted on: April 25, 2011 9:22 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 9:24 pm
 

Kendrys Morales still struggling in rehab

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Mark Trumbo's .225 batting average, three homers and nine RBI are going to have to do for awhile longer. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before Monday's series opener against Oakland that Kendrys Morales' rehab is, well, about where it was the last time we heard.

"His progress has been slow," Scioscia said of Morales, whose rehabilitation moves to the Angels' extended spring training camp in Arizona when the team is on the road. "He's having problems getting full explosion when he runs."

There are two types of running Morales has been doing this spring while coming back from a fractured left leg, suffered in late May, and subsequent surgery: Straight-ahead running, and running in which he makes turns, or curves.

He's been all but unable to do the latter without feeling pain in the leg, which is a serious obstacle given that he is going to have to be able to go full tilt around the bases before being activated.

The Angels curbed Morales' rehabilitation in mid-March, after he began feeling pain in the ball of his left foot. He resumed his rehabilitation on April 12 but, nearly two weeks later, he appears no closer to returning than he did then.

The Angels have been scuffling badly offensively and enter Monday's series opener against Oakland having not scored in their past 19 innings. Morales in 2009 finished fifth in the AL MVP voting after slugging 34 homers with 108 RBIs and hitting .306.

Whenever he is cleared to play, he's expected to go on a minor-league injury rehabilitation assignment so he can see live pitching in game situations. That likely will run somewhere from 10 to 20 games -- 40 to 60 at-bats, Scioscia says.

Posted on: April 23, 2011 9:12 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 12:00 am
 

Hamilton, Feliz injuries open AL West door

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- First Josh Hamilton, now closer Neftali Feliz.

Guess life isn't going to be a tire swing all summer for the Texas Rangers, after all.

Not that the Rangers themselves ever expected to run away with the AL West, but when they were 9-1 and owned a four-game AL West lead on April 11, you sure heard some chatter in other quarters about the possibility.

Now, Hamilton is out for up to two months with a broken bone in his arm, and Saturday the Rangers disabled their closer with soreness in his shoulder before Saturday's game with Kansas City. Maybe Texas doesn't miss a beat, but if ever there was a time for an AL West rival to make an early-season move, this is it.

Question is, is anybody in a position to do so?

The Angels actually left Texas in first place on Wednesday night after taking two of three from the Rangers. But Boston devours Los Angeles like kids gobble Easter candy and, in winning the first three of a four-game weekend series -- the latest a 5-0 cakewalk on Saturday -- helped dump the Angels back into second place. The Red Sox have won 12 of their past 13 against the Angels, including nine of 10 in 2010.

Oakland ranks 13th in the AL in runs scored. Only Minnesota (57) had scored fewer than the Athletics (66), and Bob Geren's team needs to hit .500 (they were 9-11 before Saturday's game with Seattle) before worrying about passing the Angels and Texas.

The Angels had stabilized some after losing three of their first four, though Vernon Wells was still hitting just .183 with one homer and four RBI into Saturday night's game and the club's bullpen had walked an AL-high 41 batters -- five more than next-most Kansas City.

"Wells and Torii Hunter [.212, four homers, 12 RBI] have to start hitting," one veteran scout says. "Mark Trumbo and Hank Conger and their young kids aren't going to carry them all season."

This isn't exactly how Wells would prefer to introduce himself to Southern California fans, though the nine-year veteran isn't panicking.

"It's not my first time," Wells says of a slow start. "I've hit .180 for the month of April before."

Not quite, but close: .191 in April, 2005.

Meantime, the Angels still are not sure when slugger Kendrys Morales, out since surgery to repair a fractured leg last May, will return.

The All-Star combination of Jered Weaver and Dan Haren (9-1 combined with a 1.34 ERA) has kept the Angels moving forward even as the bullpen was so rough early that Mike Scioscia's club already has had to make some serious adjustments. The Angels have removed Fernando Rodney from the closer's spot in favor of Jordan Walden, and they dispatched Kevin Jepsen and Michael Kohn to Triple-A Salt Lake on April 10.

"Early, it was really hurting us, especially with Rodney, Kohn and Jepsen," Scioscia says. "Obviously, they've got to work on command issues to get where they need to be. It's not a good trend.

Angels pitchers have walked 17 batters in the first two of the four games against Boston, 10 by the bullpen.

"We have some power arms down there [in the bullpen], but power arms that should be able to command counts better than we've seen," Scioscia says. "It will work its way out as the season goes on."

The Rangers, no doubt, figure the same thing about their current spate of injuries. And the run-challenged Athletics, about crossing the plate. And Seattle ... well, let's not get carried away here.

Posted on: April 10, 2011 8:25 pm
 

Dominant Weaver fans 15 Blue Jays

ANAHEIM -- With just two left-handers in their lineup Sunday, the Toronto Blue Jays were helpless against Angels right-hander and serious Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver.

And they're not alone.

Now 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA, the Angels' ace is racking up impressive starts like he racked up a career-high 15 strikeouts against the Jays in Sunday's 3-1 win.

"I'm just trying to keep my team in the game," Weaver said. "And if it takes a couple of strikeouts every now and then, then that's what it's going to take."

It's usually more than just a couple. Weaver led the AL with 233 punchouts last season and is off to a roaring start in 2011. The Blue Jays were overmatched from the start Sunday, unable to even get a hit against Weaver until Travis Snider's infield single in the fifth.

Weaver fanned seven Toronto hitters in the first three innings, 11 in the first five and wound up striking out Jayson Nix three times and Jose Bautista, Rajai Davis, Aaron Hill twice each.

Most importantly, after manager Mike Scioscia stuck with Weaver into the eighth, he issued two one-out walks with the Angels leading 3-1 before striking out Bautista to finish his afternoon.

Bautista took two balls to start the at-bat, then took called strike one and then ball three before a foul tip ran the count to full.

"The one pitch I tipped with my bat, that would have been ball four," Bautista said. "I couldn't hold on."

Bautista quickly made sure to say he was making no excuses and taking nothing away from Weaver. He was just beaten in the at-bat.

"You look at his numbers the last couple of years, he ranks with anybody," Bautista said. "Righty on righty, he's as good as anybody. He's very deceptive with that weird delivery that comes across his body.

"He's on top of everything, and he can locate all of his pitches. That's a good recipe for success right there."

Weaver's effort was especially welcomed by the Angels because it came after a 14-inning win Saturday night in which Scioscia emptied his bullpen and wound up using starter Dan Haren to work the 14th. Furthermore, it was the second time in four games the Angels' skipper had used every single one of his relievers in a game.

"Part of what you do [Saturday night] is because you know you have a guy like Weav coming up," Scioscia said. "Same with Haren. You know the guy is routinely going to get you to a point in the game."

Weaver became the first Angels pitcher to record 15 or more strikeouts in 16 years, since Chuck Finley did it against the Yankees on May 23, 1995. He was the first right-hander to do it for the Angels since Mike Witt on July 23, 1984, against Seattle.

"My command of the fastball was good, and the slider was better than it's been in awhile," Weaver said. "And matching up with a bunch of right-handers is going to play good."

"He pretty much did what he's good at, throwing strikes and mixing it up," Nix, the Jays' third baseman, said. "There are a number of things about him. He's deceptive, he's able to throw four pitches for strikes to both sides of the plate ... that's what he's usually able to do."

Posted on: March 18, 2011 2:03 pm
 

Angels' "gold standard" Shields retires

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Scot Shields, one of the premier set-up men in the game for a five-year period as the Angels were racking up AL West titles from 2004 through 2008, will announce his retirement later today.

For a long period of time, Shields truly was, as former teammate Tim Salmon called him Friday morning, the "Rubberband Man." A 6-1 right-hander with a slight frame and a funky, deceptive delivery, Shields worked in 60 or more games every year between 2004 and 2008. He made more than 70 appearances in three of those seasons.

"He evolved into, really, the gold standard for what set-up men are," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "What impressed us about Scot was that he could have gone a lot of places and been the closer. But he committed to this organization, and this organization committed to him.

"He accepted the role when there was a lot of discussion about him being a starter. In the right situation, he could have been the closer. Except we had Troy (Percival) and Frankie (Rodriguez) here.

"He was about winning."

Shields made 43 appearances last season for the Angels, going 0-3 with a 5.28 ERA, before his season ended with arm problems.

Sunblock Day? Rumor has it that the temp in the desert is supposed to drop into the 60s Sunday or Monday. Today, though, it's great. Going to be back in the 80s.

Likes: Maxine Nightingale's Right Back Where We Started From pumping through Tempe Diablo Stadium as Angels ran through Friday morning workout. Great thing about it is, two nights ago I was flipping the TV in the hotel and came upon Slapshot -- and had forgotten how they keep playing that song throughout. Strange how stuff like that happens so often, isn't it? Hadn't heard that song in years, then I see Slapshot and now here it is again a couple of days later. ... Slapshot, by the way: One of the great moments in cinema. ... Thai Elephant in Tempe. ... Dallas Braden wearing that awesome Tam o'Shanter hat for St. Patrick's Day in the video interview we did with him on St. Patrick's Day. I was ready to go out and buy one for myself but, sadly, he didn't pick it up in Phoenix. His grandmother sent it to him.

Dislikes: Days like this, I want to stay back and watch wall-to-wall NCAA tournament games. I know we've got that "Boss Button" that you can click in case he walks up behind you in the office. Problem is, I do that and my bosses still know I'm screwing around because the baseball columns don't get turned in!

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Dealin' card games with the old men in the club car
"Penny a point ain't no one keepin' score
"Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
"Feel the wheels rumblin' 'neath the floor
"And the sons of pullman porters
"And the sons of engineers
"Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel
"Mothers with their babes asleep
"Are rockin' to the gentle beat
"And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel"

-- Steve Goodman, City of New Orleans

 
 
 
 
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