Results tagged ‘ Opening Day ’

New Closer, Move Down + Angels Win!

It will be fun going to the Big A on Friday for the Angels Home Opening Day for all of the obvious reasons, but now I have an additional one. I can’t wait to talk closers with Barbara, whom I doubt I am alone in calling my favorite usher. A diehard Angels fan, Barbara is kind of our den mother in the Right Field Pavilion, smiling, chatting baseball and shaming drunken idiots into behaving themselves as needed to ensure a good game for all. We hashed out all the problems of the bullpen and our closing situation many times over the course of the season and, of course, like armchair managers everywhere, we had all of the answers. And both of us wanted the Angels to just bring Jordan Walden in to close already. I imagine she is as thrilled with today’s news as I am.

That’s right, it’s official. Mike Scioscia told reporters today that Jordan Walden is the Angels closer while Fernando Rodney works out his issues. This is an open ended decision. If Rodney recovers, he might join the regular bullpen or he might resume his closer role. If Walden seizes this opening and runs with it like I believe he can, he may be the Angels closer for the rest of the season. Quite possibly because the 23 year old Walden does not look old enough to convincingly order champagne ;) – even with the beard – he instead celebrated his new role this evening by retiring the side in the 9th inning to cement the Angels 5 – 3 victory over the Rays. Good show, Jordan. I raise my glass to you.

I am a realist. I know this is a lot of responsibility to put on a 23 year old arm and psyche and I am sure there will be rough outings here and there. But, so far, the kid does extremely well under pressure and between last season, spring training and this week, Rodney was getting to the point where he walked batters every appearance, increasingly with disastrous results. As long as the quality outings are in the majority, we’re significantly ahead of where we were this weekend. If Rodney recovers, the Angels can find any one of a number of uses for him. If he doesn’t, better to eat his check then deal with the blown saves. Seriously.

As for the rest of this evening’s game? (Okay, it was an evening game for us. If we want to actually watch the east coast games, we have to DVR them and watch them when we get home from work.) The bullpen still needs some calming down. Mr. Kohn, please settle down. You are often amazing but enough with giving up the homeruns already. It is anxiety inducing, not to mention letting my geek show just a little too much, to be shouting “Khaaaaaaaaaan!” loudly enough for my neighbors to hear so many days in a week. Other than that, it was a great game. Jered Weaver pitched a good one – 6 strikeouts over seven innings. Three walks though, which is unusual but didn’t cost us too badly in the end. There’s a reason we have phrases like mid-season form. He’s getting there.

Young catcher Hank Conger got the start and his first major league homerun. Howie Kendrick continued his hot bat streak and we’re scoring runs early, something we failed to do most of last season. Four stolen bases, a couple of great fielding plays, oh, and the season is now official – we had one truly terrible umpire call. Maicer Izturis made a diving catch and clearly caught the ball but the second base ump ruled that the ball hit the ground first. It was annoying, but ultimately didn’t cost us anything. In those situations (where it doesn’t cost anything), it’s actually funny to watch Scioscia’s usually impassive face become extremely animated and expressive. My husband and I frequently make humorous suggestions as to what Scioscia and the umpire might be saying to one another. Although, in this case, you could read Scioscia’s lips loud and clear several times.

We need less excitement from the bullpen. We need to start scoring runs in the middle of the game too. We have improved but still need to do better with runners in scoring position. We need to do something about Scott Kazmir. But, hey, we won. We have a fix in place for the closer situation. We have Scott Downs coming off the DL any day now. We’re hitting and we’re working on those other issues. Optimism, returning. What a difference a win makes but, more importantly, what a difference a closer going one, two, three makes.

Opening Day Excites, my Baseball Snow Days Rock & an Epic Fiddle Player Surprises

Friday, literally before dawn, we rolled out of Los Angeles for Yosemite National Park to clean out my in-laws cabin for renovations – with great vacation options come great responsibility. Four hours later, we hit Fresno and my in-laws called to say no go, the cabin is snowed in. And I don’t mean, wimpy California snowed in, I mean my husband and I and his cousins digging all afternoon just to get to the shed to turn the power on and then starting on the cabin door, snowed in. So we grabbed shakes at In-N-Out and headed home. Breaking down the weekend so far: failed plans, I need to work a few hours later today to salvage the vacation day for a return trip to Yosemite, an eight hour drive for milkshakes, and unexpectedly getting to watch the game on Friday and Saturday. Hmmm…what does it say about me that I still think this adds up to a win? Sitting here luxuriating over coffee, brunch and an actual, live, for really real it counts, Angels game? I believe it says I have my priorities straight.

My thoughts on the season so far? Opening Day absolutely rocked. Jered Weaver pitched a Gem. Torii Hunter’s bat loves those K stadium fountains. I love, love, love our outfield…as I may have mentioned a time or two in the past. Jordan Walden continues to have my vote for closer of the future. Twelve hits! The bullpen got roughed up but didn’t actually blow the lead. It was a great game, a little too exciting there at the end, but a scary win is absolutely better than a sedate loss.

Mind you, the season is so young it isn’t even in diapers yet, it’s still in those pampers infant swaddling things, but I feel like I am finally watching Angels baseball after a poor imitation last season. The bats. The manufactured runs. The sacrifice bunts turned base hits. Both guys you would (Torii!) and would not (Happy Birthday, Jeff Mathis) expect going yard. Nailing the 6-4-3 and 4-6-3 double plays. Flying outfielders – Fleet Pete! Diving catches. Robbed homeruns. Great plays at the wall – heeelloooo Vernon Wells, and I bid you a hearty welcome to the team, good sir. A bullpen with a flair for the dramatic, especially the “closers.” Yes, unfortunately, that’s a hallmark of Angels baseball too, and one the team really needs to work on if we want to defy all of the predictions this season. I wish we’d pulled off the win on Friday but that one was close and, all in all, this is not a bad start to the season. More please, and by that I mean more like Thursday’s game please!

Edit: I said more like Thursday’s game. Thursday’s game! Grrrrrr…the bullpen…and the stranded runners…and the gorram BULLPEN! *Breathes deeply* Excuse me while I swear loudly and pound the coffee table a few more times.

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Imagine my pleasant surprise this weekend when a friend of mine confirmed that I was not mistaken in thinking I saw a familiar face in the new Brian Wilson’s epic beard MLB commercial (below)…other than the obvious one, of course. The fiddle player on the right? An old, old friend of ours I am really glad to see getting some commercial work. It amuses me to no end that he is in this particular commercial given that he knows nothing about baseball. He thinks this is one of the strangest ad campaigns he has ever seen. I told him there’s nothing odd about it. It’s just your standard, every day, run of the mill commercial featuring a closer who says his beard is magic and that he’s a certified ninja assassin with a gimp superhero housemate he refers to as the Machine. What could possibly be odd about that?

Happy Opening Day!

baseball card - web small.jpg

Okay, so nobody actually exchanges cheesy greeting cards for Opening Day, but we really should. Hear me out. Opening Day should absolutely be a national holiday, complete with paid time off from work and the whole nine yards. National pastime, national holiday.

…Yeah my boss, awesome though he is, wasn’t buying it either.

But here’s the thing, what do many national holidays have in common? That’s right, cheesy greeting cards. Hallmark is clearly the power lobby in the holiday business. They have even created holidays just for the purpose of selling more cheesy greeting cards. All we need to do is supply Hallmark with another cheesy greeting card money maker and *poof* I’m telling you, national pastime, national holiday. Seriously. You’re reading this on the internet. So it has to be true, right? ;)

Oh well, cheesy greeting card filled national holiday or not, it’s Opening Day. Very, very early on Opening Day as I post this to be sure, but still. Opening Day! Even if your team doesn’t start playing until tomorrow, if that thought alone doesn’t make you giddy to the point where your smiles and good cheer just come bubbling out at random moments, then I don’t know what would.

Happy Opening Day! Play ball.

Spring Training Is Over. The 25-Man Roster Is Set-ish. Play Ball!

The Angels announced their initial 25-man roster late this evening, following a 5 – 1 win over the Dodgers in their final preseason game. I say initial because, of course, there will be considerable roster shifting in April and possibly into early May as Scott Downs, Kendrys Morales, Joel Pineiro and Reggie Willits come off of the 15-day DL. So, for now, the 2011 Angels are:

Starting Rotation:
Jered Weaver (RHP)
Dan Haren (RHP)
Ervin Santana (RHP)
Scott Kazmir (LHP)

Bullpen Pitchers:
Jason Bulger (RHP)
Kevin Jepsen (RHP)
Michael Kohn (RHP)
Fernando Rodney (RHP)
Hisanori Takahashi (LHP)
Rich Thompson (RHP)
Jordan Walden (RHP)

Catchers:
Hank Conger
Jeff Mathis
Bobby Wilson

Infield:
Erick Aybar
Alberto Callaspo
Maicer Izturis
Howard Kendrick
Mark Trumbo
Brandon Wood

Outfield:
Bobby Abreu
Peter Bourjos
Torii Hunter
Chris Pettit
Vernon Wells

Trevor Bell (RHP), Matt Palmer (RHP), Francisco Rodriguez (RHP), and infielder Andrew Romine were optioned back to AAA Salt Lake.

Not a whole lot of surprises there. Okay, I was a little surprised to see Hank Conger stay on the roster. I figured he would stay in AAA so he could get work in every day. But I don’t know who I would have kept up instead, this may change when they need roster space for guys coming off the DL and, besides, carrying three catchers is becoming a Mike Scioscia tradition. Given his hot streak since the surgery, I wish they found a way to keep Palmer up. I know Bulger is out of options, but he didn’t have a very good spring, or late summer for that matter… I’m pleased to see Chris Pettit getting another shot after missing all of 2010 due to shoulder surgery. I don’t know how long that experiment will last once guys start coming off the DL but we’ll see.

I’m excited! Yes, I pretty much knew who would make the cut, especially given the limiting injuries. Even so, just seeing the official roster really drives home the fact that Opening Day is Thursday! And I’m hopeful. We may have platoons at both of our infield corners indefinitely, but today it doesn’t bother me. So far it seems to be working, better than I expected. And if Trumbo’s bat holds up during the regular season, I think the first base platoon will be resolved quickly, even if Kendrys isn’t able to come back full time any time soon.

I’m so ready for Thursday. We have Weaver on the mound, the triple centerfield patrolling the outfield and a couple of guys whose bats really, really love Kauffman Stadium. Bring on the Royals. Play ball!!

Hits, Misses, News, Announcements and General Goofiness

My plan for this evening was to post a lot of photos and fun stories from today’s Angels Fanfest and exhibition game against the Padres. Unfortunately, I missed them both. My husband and I have been burning the candle at both ends and at a couple of points in the middle just for good measure for a few weeks now and this morning it finally caught up with him – he woke up too sick and headachey to do anything. I am a diehard baseball fan but I am a diehard wife first…okay, that makes me sound like a car battery or like I should be saying yippee ki-yay mother etc., but you get the general idea. Suffice to say, we stayed home, I took care of him and I wound up watching the game on the living room sofa, whooping and cheering between a snoozing husband and two snoring cats – yes, they snore. Louder than most people. It’s a little disturbing. As disappointing as this was, it really only means 12 extra days until I get to hear my first actual crack o’ the bat since September. That’s not so bad at all.

The game itself was as fun as a blowout beating up on a mix of the other team’s A, B and C squads can be – which is to say fun, it being baseball and all, but not outrageously so. Still, Dan Haren pitched a great five innings. It was great to see that he is definitely in April and May shape. Hisanori Takahashi, Kevin Jepsen and the other relievers looked more than ready for prime time themselves. Mark Trumbo is still hitting like a beast, even inside regular season height walls. He had a three run homer and an additional hit today. Peter Bourjos, Jeff Mathis and Alberto Callaspo also collected two hits each, including a nice triple from Bourjos. Hopeful signs for a great season, all. Mike Trout looked good but it was an uneventful game for him so I didn’t see much of him from my living room vantage point, another small disappointment.

There was, however, one definite consolation to watching the game at home – Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells were not playing today and joined Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza in the announcer’s booth for two innings. Whether it was Wells giving Torii grief about his age – he is clean shaven this year because there was apparently a lot more silver in his beard than he liked – or Torii suggesting that Wells can’t bunt because he would hurt himself running hard to first, those two guys crack me up. They were also serious at times and it’s great to see them locked in and so psyched for the season. If I had to make the rough decision and pick a favorite current Angel, it’s Torii and I can tell Vernon Wells is going to become a favorite of mine as well. I know that clubhouse chemistry alone does create a winning season. But I think it is the important x-factor that makes a team’s strength greater than just the sum of its parts. I am thrilled that Wells seemed to fit so effortlessly into the work hard, act goofy Angels clubhouse that I love so much. Wells mentioned that Mike Scioscia’s group dinner tab Spring Training assignments definitely helped him make friends quickly, he he.

After the game, Mike Scioscia officially announced the Angels Opening Day pitcher. It’s Scott Kaz…I’m totally kidding. Of course it’s Jered Weaver. I would say, as predicted here on this blog, but this decision was pretty close to a given. In the same press conference Scioscia also announced that Joel Pineiro will definitely start the season on the DL. The Angels will go with a four man rotation – Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir – using the extra days off in early April as the 5th starter’s spot, until Pineiro is scheduled to come back and pitch in the April 8th home opener. I think this is a great short term solution and I am now certain Pineiro will be healthy enough to start on April 8th. I have tickets for that game, as I’ve mentioned, and I have uncanny luck for being at games where it’s either a pitcher’s first start off the DL or first start with the Angels.

Enough! Time for the Regular Season!

Last week the Major League Giants beat up on the baby Angels, but this week the Major League Angels beat up on the Major League Giants – make that, the Major League, World Champion Giants – and shut them out 8 to 0. It was pretty exciting, almost exciting enough to get me excited about Spring Training again…almost. I was thrilled to see that Santana had both his nasty stuff and control. That Mark Trumbo hit a nice solid double off a tough major league pitcher – Matt Cain no less. That Bobby homered, Torii successfully stole a base (just not third Torii, no more trying for third please) and that last season’s weaker bats are continuing to swing strong through March. But, I want to see all of this for real!

Yeah, I know. I was so excited when Spring Training started – It’s live baseball! and all that. What happened? Well…and, yes, I already made this analogy on Jane Heller’s blog, but I like it…Spring Training was fantastic when it was our first taste of baseball after the winter, rather like how delicious a plain chicken soup might taste after you’ve been sick for a long time. But eventually you’re feeling even better, tire of the chicken soup and start craving something more substantial. Bring on the meat and potatoes of the regular season!!

Enough match-ups that don’t count and often aren’t real major league match-ups. Enough of the regular players departing after the 4th inning. Enough of having a new pitcher every inning or three. The whole 100 pitch count, no more than 7 innings thing annoys me as it is. Spring Training pitch counts drive me absolutely batty. And enough with the day games already! I agree that day game baseball is baseball as it’s meant to b watched, but it’s also baseball at it most unwatchable if you have a job with traditional-ish hours. I want to be able to watch a game live on more than just the weekends again. Spring Training was a great tide me over until the season started, but enough…yeah, okay, enough whining already. Opening Day is only a week away. Now that’s something to get excited about.

Other exciting things? It sounds like Joel Piniero won’t miss any regular season starts over the back pain that took him out of a game on Sunday. This is great news and I hope it continues to be true. That DL was getting more than a little crowded. Oh, and there is rain pounding my roof right now! Why is this a good thing – other than for strategic water table purposes, of course? The rain was supposed to hit us in three separate storms every other day from today through Sunday, Fanfest day. Now it looks like the three separate storms are bunching in to one longer rainy period ending Friday evening. This is good because, while I was going to Fanfest no matter what, few things smell worse than wet Rally Monkey. This also means that I will see live baseball before my very own eyes on Sunday as well. Yes, it’s another Spring Training-ish game, the exhibition game against the Padres, but I think I can muster up some excitement for this one. Being at the ballpark never fails to do that to me.

Angels Spring Training News is a Mixed Bag…of Surgeon’s Tools?

Spring Training is but a few days old and the MLB reporters, probably just as bored and jonesing for real baseball news during the winter as the lot of us, are eagerly taking in every detail and flooding the newspapers and websites with articles, much to my delight. The only downside to this? All of the dire Kendry Morales speculation. It was pretty much a given it would start as soon as he reported to Spring Training. According to reports throughout the winter, he resumed light baseball activities in December and began light jogging about a month ago. This is excellent, hopeful progress but it never sounded like Kendry would show up in perfect, healed condition ready to go full bore on day one of Spring Training. Depending on how quickly the doctors clear him to start running at full speed again, it sounds to me like he could make the Opening Day roster but this isn’t a definite.

Suffice to say, I was prepared to have this news confirmed, and it has been in several articles now, but even when expected, it’s still disappointing. The about face in the reporters’ tone from a cheerful one midway through the post season to extremely cautious now just tells me that on some level they’re big baseball fans too. They were hopeful and rooting for the guy over the winter and are little disheartened now and all of that comes through in the tone of the prose, even when they don’t intend it to. In the articles, Kendry himself sounds a little down about it but reading between the lines, I think things still sound hopeful. He’s hitting very well and feeling no pain (yay!) but says it still feels tight and unflexible and he can’t run with more than 1/2 speed right now. I actually know that one, to a much lesser extent. I have spent the last year finally properly rehabbing a knee I damaged repeatedly in my youth and again as an adult (the last time racing up hills on my bike with clips on my shoes – it was great…until it wasn’t) and I remember the stiffness and inflexibility seeming insurmountable until all of the sudden, and quicker than I would have thought, things improved by leaps and bounds. I hope the experience is comparable because, if so, Kendry could be in playing shape by Opening Day or soon after.

If not, well, I don’t really want to think about that right now, with our best first base substitute reporting for Spring Training in Surprise, AZ, this week instead of Tempe. Howie Kendrick was not my favorite substitute first baseman last season by a long shot, but I think he’s the best temporary option, unless Mark Trumbo has improved a lot over the winter and this I doubt. Then Callaspo could play third and Maicer could play second, as long as he stays healthy. It could work, but I hate to start out the season with a duct taped infield, even if it’s only for the first month.

Reading the rest of the news, several other Angels apparently spent the winter in various forms of surgery and rehabilitation. I was aware Erick Aybar had surgery to repair the knee damaged when Casey McGee busted up the double play back in June. He sounds excited by his progress and I hope that between fixing the knee and no longer dealing with the pressure of batting leadoff, he is able to return to his 2009 form. But Matt Palmer was a surprise. While continuing conditioning workouts this winter after the surgery on his clavicle last season, he discovered he would need knee surgery as well. Apparently they rebuilt him. Better. Stronger. Faster. And Palmer feels the end result has improved his range and delivery considerably. Yay! That’s the kind of news I like to hear! Pitching Coach Mike Butcher was another surprise but, again, with a positive ending. He had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his thyroid gland over the winter. All reports say the surgery was successful and Butcher is on the mend, though not attending the first few days of Spring Training. I wish him a full and speedy recovery.

So, do all of the winter improvements and repairs mean a stronger Angels team or another season of duct tape solutions and cobbled together Franken-infields? Time will tell but I actually believe it’s the former. One thing is for certain, one way or the other I’m in for a lot of news about it in the coming days and that is already a huge improvement over the offseason.

Of course, if the baseball PTB happen to be listening and in a favorable mood, it is my birthday tomorrow (Wednesday), so when I return from an evening of pints and pub trivia, I would really like some good Kendry news from Wednesday’s workouts…and, you know, a long stream of Kendry improvement news through the rest of Spring Training leading to a strong Opening Day start? Okay. I’m asking a lot. But you have to admit, as wishes go, it’s pretty unselfish for being just a tiny bit selfish. That should count for something…right? ;)

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