Results tagged ‘ Spring Training ’

Spring Session Mid-Terms at LAAU at Tempe, AZ

My latest big project at work is updating and rewriting our entire course catalog and student handbook…in a little over a week. In the words of the late great Douglas Adams, I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by! Seriously though, I am a professional. I have everything planned and moving along on schedule, from the legal requirements review, to all of the rewriting, to the occasional panic attack over the deadline. And they said all of that late night paper writing in college wouldn’t be useful in the real world. Ha! (All joking aside though, I love my job and this is a pretty cool assignment, if a little intense.)

Needless to say, I am just a wee bit catalog and course description focused at the moment and Spring Training is all about learning and practicing, so you can see how they might start to jumble together a little in my brain. Watching the games and reading the articles coming out of Arizona, I think I can make a pretty good guess about a few of the spring session catalog’s course offerings at Mike Scioscia’s LAAU:

365. Advanced Astronomy: Okay, so only Mark Trumbo is actually putting the ball into orbit this spring (and Maicer Izturis and Brandon Wood once each) which is a little worrying but many key players are getting high marks with Trumbo, Bobby Wilson, Howie Kendrick, Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo and Jeff Mathis (Really? Cool!) are all hitting over .300…still, after last season, I won’t consider this course successful until more of the starting lineup names are on this list.

342. Physics of Linear and Non Linear Trajectories: The starting rotation is…coming along. They started slow. They’re easing into it. I’ve seen great stuff and silly mistakes. The last appearances were better than the first. For the most part, their 2011 ST stats are comparable to or better than their ST stats in ’10 and ’09. Eh, it’s not great, but I’m just not worried here (except about the 5 spot). To my eye it looks like the rust is coming off on schedule.

450. Fahrenheit 451 and the Art of Closing the Game: Bullpen pitchers are often referred to as firemen. But what happens when your firemen occasionally accelerate or actually start the fires themselves? A lot of offseason dollars were spent wrestling with this “philosophical” delimma and at ST midterms the grades are all over the place. Many of the pitchers the Angels will look toward for relief are making good grades, including Scott Downs, Jordan Walden, Rich Thompson, Hisanori Takashi and Michael Kohn. As for the actual closer? Love Ray Bradbury though I do, Fernando Rodney needs to find some different reading material, stat…as does everyone who has been playing in the 8th and 9th innings for the last few games, ouch.

405. Field Biology: Quite the bell curve going on here. The starting outfield is A’s across the board. Howie and Erick Aybar are looking good at 2nd and short. A nice fight to set the curve at catcher looks promising. The corner infield positions, however, are cause for concern. Trumbo is working admirably hard to overcome a needs improvement at first, which is good because we may need him in April. But third? We’ll see how the final exams play out. As to the kids? The 8th and 9th innings lately are making me think the kids are not alright…at least, not yet.

201. Basic Anatomy (prerequisite for all students intending to declare pre-med): It is often said that the true indicator of a successful spring training is having all of your players make it to the regular season in good condition. So far, the Angels are passing with a B+, which we will elevate to an A as soon as Kendry Morales makes up last semister’s incomplete.

And what of Mike Scioscia’s special core seminars and colloquia, the ice-breaking, team-building and often hilarious “research assignments” he doles out to rookies and veterans alike for morning meeting presentation? Well, sadly Ostrich Wrangling 101 does not appear to be among the course offerings for 2011. However, the following classes are moving right along towards ST midterms:

204. Social Networking: When young Mike Trout ostensibly broke the rookies should not speak until spoken to rule, Jared Weaver took it upon himself to encourage the lad to share his gift for socializing with the fans instead…by posting his phone number on the scoreboard during a spring training game with an invitation to fans to “call Mike Trout with all of your baseball questions.”

305. Trickle Down Economic Theory: So, apparently, Vernon Wells has a rather large contract. Were any of you aware of this? I’m not sure the news has covered this particular detail. At any rate, Wells has been nominated to take the rookies out to dinner and Scioscia has stuck him with the tab after several team meals. Clearly this is a popular course. Sign up early.

515. Artisan Leather Craftsmanship: (this is my favorite by the way) minor league pitchers Matt Meyer and Ryan Chaffee have been assigned a special project, designing a catcher’s glove and fielder’s mitt from scratch and then using them during batting practice. Reporters and players tell us the gloves are still in the prototype stage.

The Angels appear to be excelling at some of these classes and in need of a few visits to the campus learning center for others. As we all know, the specific marks you get in school don’t have much of an impact on your overall performance once you enter the “real world” so we’ll have to wait until May or so before we really know the results of all of that schooling. It will be interesting to see who has learned their lessons…and how jealously Mike Trout guards his new cell phone number.

Smart Phones, Baseball & the Happiest Place on Earth

Sunday was such a gorgeous day out here in Southern California that it just begged to be enjoyed outside. So, Blithescribe, it’s clear and unseasonably warm. It’s been rainy and cold for the last few weekends. What are you going to do now? I’m going to Disneyland! Seriously, that’s what we do a fair bit. If you’re local and you love the mouse, you maintain an annual pass. It’s sadly only a little more expensive than a normal ticket anyway and gives you a truly locals’ indulgence, the ability to go grab a bite to eat and run around the park for a few hours say Friday after work, or on a Sunday afternoon. Any time you want and, for seven months a year with a smaller mostly locals crowd, at that. Not this Sunday. As we found out when we arrived, Disneyland was hosting the Junior Nationals Cheerleading Competition but we decided to tough it out anyway.

Waiting in longer than anticipated lines is the perfect opportunity for the baseball addict to check up on the game. Go go Gadget, smart phone. I hear a lot of baseball fans say that MLBN changed their life for the better but for me, even more so than MLBN, it’s web access from smart phones. Seth and I “watched” the Angels/D-Backs game, just the MLB.com play by play because the Gameday function shreds batteries, in between chatting and goofing around, of course. This is nothing special. We’ve all resorted to watching the game on the phone any number of times. What was new, to me at least, was the sheer number of other people doing the same thing. Now, my test group was a little skewed. The Lakers were playing a big game that afternoon but, even so, everywhere we looked as the lines twisted and folded over themselves, someone, often a couple or group of someones was checking out basketball or baseball on their phone. When we chatted with other people in line, we ran into a significant number of folks doing the same thing we were, though the teams of choice were all over the map.

What do you know? Technology helps the baseball addict leave the house – at least, that’s what one lady in line said of her husband. Seriously though, there are 162 games, after all. We have to work. We have social commitments. Things need to done around the house. We’re going to leave the house and often quite happily. It’s nice that technology has found ways to let the game come with us sometimes. Of course, as far as technology for the baseball fan has come, there has yet to be an invention that can replace fortunate timing 100% of the time. For example, the baby shower for my husband’s cousin on the Saturday of the Angels home opening weekend? I did my own little home plate celebration – without injury! – when I realized it will be over in plenty of time to catch first pitch. Because you can’t ditch one time only family events for baseball – yeah, um, I’ll be there for the next kid’s shower? – and you can only check a cell phone discretely so many times during a party.

As for the game? Well, it was a lot better than today’s strange Keystone Cops on both sides at times 14-13 loss to the Cubs, I can tell you that – I used the phone for highlit…er…updates for this one too. Work and all that. Jered Weaver pitched a decent three innings. Rich Thompson and Jason Bulger, both competing for bullpen spots did very well. And Francisco Rodriguez came in to close in the 9th and finished the game by delivering three outs in five pitches. Niiiice! Almost everyone was hitting. The Angels stole bases, made a couple of great plays in the outfield and more double plays in the infield. It was Angels baseball again. Like I said, better than today’s game of which the best I can say is at least Dan Haren pitched three solid, scoreless innings and everyone was hitting, including bombs for Mark Trumbo and Brandon Wood. Yes, Brandon Wood. Keep it up, kid!

More Musings on Spring Training and an Angels’ Great Retires

With a few more, significantly less than stellar, spring training games under our belt, Angels fans have learned several new things. For example, ouch, those Rangers guys sure can hit! Oh. Wait. We knew that already. I’d blame the loss on the kids – the Angels were playing with a mostly minor league squad that day – but it was really the homeruns that killed us and the first two – of four! – were off of regular pitchers and enough on their own to ensure a loss. At least Dan Haren was mad at himself about the homerun hit off him. A little anger can be motivating and spring training is the time to get motivated and shake off the rust.

But, Mark Trumbo can also hit! A line drive Wednesday and another bomb Thursday. It’s great to see he’s getting used to Major League pitching! Especially because Kendry Morales’ progress sounds steady but very slow. Kendry’s unlikely to be ready to play any time soon. Based on the fact that Trumbo has seen the most playing time of any Angel so far and all of it at first, I think it’s safe to assume that he’s Scioscia’s primary first base back-up plan. Trumbo’s still mixing a lot of clumsy plays in with the good ones, but with his bat coming around I’m softening up on this idea lot. Keep practicing hard and taking notes, kid, and this might just work out!

Torii Hunter found his bat today. Jeff Mathis and Howie Kendrick continue to find theirs while Brandon Wood temporarily misplaced his on the bus or something. And if any real conclusions could be drawn from this small sample size, I’d be dangerous. ;)

Ervin Santana may be the most unfortunately die hard Star Trek fan ever – convinced that in odd numbered years he’s supposed to suck. Yes, melodrama for humor’s sake is a perfectly reasonable coping mechanism. Why do you ask? I’m not actually panicking. I know it’s his first outing. I know he’s working on a new pitch. I know it’s just one spring training game. I know I still would have liked it a lot better if he’d nailed it.

Mike Napoli is a pretty classy guy and is handling the inevitable interview questions about the trade as well as anyone could ask. He’s being truthful – he appreciates the trade because it means he’s likely to get more playing time – while speaking well of both his former team and his new one. I still don’t like seeing him in another uniform but I wish him well and this takes a little bit of the sting out of the “just business” side of baseball.

Spring training doesn’t count for anything more than a means of everyone getting their work in and preparing for the regular season. Spring training records do not necessarily give any indication of how the team will look in the coming season. But boy do we scrutinize every pitch, swing and play anyway. It’s kind of like the initial stages of a new relationship. You know it’s going to take a while to get to know the person, so you try to keep your attitude light and casual. But every interaction still takes on exaggerated meaning as you try to figure out, does this have the potential for just an okay couple of dates, a really fun fling or something longer and more meaningful? Something that might even keep you cheering all the way through October?

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Angels great Garret Anderson announced his retirement on Tuesday after 17 years in the majors, 15 of them with the Halos. A key member of the 2002 World Series winning team, Anderson still holds numerous Angels franchise hitting records including those for hits, extra base hits, runs and RBIs. I will always remember him for his clutch performances both at the plate and in the field and for that gorgeous, graceful swing, one of the most beautiful swings in the game.

Watching him struggle on the Dodgers last year was hard. Seeing him fumble two hard hit balls against the left field fence at the Big A during the Freeway series was harder. I’m sure retirement was a difficult decision but I think it was time. I understand and applaud the drive to try and push out one more year and then another and another, but I really like to see the players retire while their peak years are still a lot fresher in the fans’ minds than the rough years at the end. My hat’s off to you Garret Anderson. Congratulations on your retirement. (For a great Garret Anderson tribute with wonderful personal stories, please visit fellow Angels’ blogger Mo’s Angels.)

Spring Has Sprung, the Pitches Are Zinging and the Bats are in Bloom

Silly as it sounds, after Sunday’s game I felt somewhat deflated. But two better spring training outings for the Angels was all it took to return the buoyancy to my mood. First and foremost, the regular pitchers and most of the core bullpen candidates both days looked good – a little rust here and there, a couple of instances where the pitch placement could still use a little work, but on the whole very good.

I got to see the debut of our most likely new outfield configuration – all centerfielders, all the time with Vernon Wells in left, speedy Peter Bourjos in center and Torii Hunter in right. I loved it! Between the three of them they cover a lot of ground and seem to work well together. Bourjos seemed to have a little trouble calling off Wells at first, but he came around much like he did last season with Torii and Bobby Abreu.

I think I have now seen the real Mike Trout and I too am impressed. That was a heck of a catch at the end of this afternoon’s game and he made it look absolutely effortless. And when he does get the bat on the ball, you can see the power there. I like this all centerfielder outfield idea and think Trout will fit in just fine when the time comes to replace one of the centers currently in the corners.

We’re nailing the double plays!! One of the first indications I had that things were amiss in 2010 was how few and far between the jaw dropping double plays, once an Angels hallmark, had become. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see the guys nailing that 6-4-3 or 4-6-3 again! Also, the fielding so far has been error free, which is especially nice to see so early in spring training.

We have bats! Everyone who should be hitting has had at least one good solid hit in the last three games (remember, each player in question has only played about one full game worth of innings in those three games) except Torii, and Torii’s bat usually doesn’t really heat up until late April. I would jump for joy if it happened earlier, of course, but I’m not going to panic when it doesn’t. Yes, this does mean that Jeff Mathis, Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar and even Brandon Wood all had hits – Wood’s a hard hit double in his spring training debut today. I don’t know if this will last in all cases but it sure was good to see.

Certain old bad habits were still evident. Eighth and ninth inning excitement: Monday’s game against the A’s was 8 to 2 Angels going into the eighth inning and the final score was 8 to 7. Stranding runners on the bases: seven runners were left in scoring position in today’s game against the Reds. Failing to strike again: today’s game was another score in the first inning and never again outing. Aybar’s base running: he’s like the little girl with the little curl and today’s game was one of the horrid outings. But I’m not really concerned about this, this early on. These observations, good and bad, are all based on one two-game snapshot and I think early spring training games, where the pitchers change every one to two innings and all of the regular position players are out of the game by the 6th inning, are not the best representation of how the regular season will progress. I’m just grounding myself by taking note of the worrisome things along with the hopeful ones.

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The baseball fever is so thick in my house that my husband actually convinced me to go play catch with him in the park the other day. Seth never played baseball growing up, not beyond the usual neighborhood pick-up games. I played softball in the local park and rec ponytail league from t-ball up through the beginning of high school but I haven’t touched a glove with any intent beyond catching a ball at batting practice in more than 15 years. So it was odd that he would ask and odder still that I would accept. I think that maybe seeing all of the young minor leaguers play a day game in such a small setting brings more nostalgia for the games you played in your own youth than a regular baseball game.

Playing catch? It’s not like riding a bicycle. Not after more than 15 years anyway. My arm is so much spaghetti, it’s embarrassing and, after this much time, it actually stings to catch the ball bare handed. But I’m still reasonably reliable with the glove and was even able to jump and stretch high to catch a few like back in the old days. And the unmistakable thunk of a perfect throw landing solidly in his glove the few times I managed a good one is absolutely addicting – childhood, laughter and fun all bottled up in a single sound. Yes, I will do this again. It was a lot of fun and I am way too stubborn not to give it another try. Besides, I’m not talking trash here but, um, I’m not the one with the sore shoulder today…he he he.

This isn’t just a spring game. It’s live baseball! It’s been like four months, man!

The quote I used for my headline? It was easily the best comment of the night at Taps Fish House and Brewery where Seth and I decided to go for a late dinner in the bar Saturday. We were giddy from the live baseball treat of the afternoon – and scoring opening day tickets that morning! – wanted more and figured it wouldn’t take much effort to sweet talk the Taps bar staff into putting the Rockies/D-Backs game on one of the TVs. It didn’t. Our favorite bartender, the Angels fan who pumps us for details every time we hit Taps after a ballgame’s, eyes got huge when we asked for a channel change. “There’s still a game on! I thought I missed them all today.”

Well thank goodness for the MLB network’s delayed airing because I think all of the baseball fans in the bar were in the same boat. No one apparently thought to put the game on before we arrived, but the minute it was on the TV half of the eyes in the bar were glued to it…and it’s not like there were any Rockies or D-Backs fans in the bar, just a bunch of baseball starved locals. The headline comment came shortly after that from a guy sitting at one of the tables behind us. One of his friends chided him for paying so much attention to the game and this was his response, delivered loudly, with a great deal of passion and a sweeping gesture at the screen. We at the bar, several bartenders included, responded with approving hollers.

It was a great evening. Out with my husband, an honest to goodness game at the bar, good food, tasty beverages and a lot of baseball fans to talk to – from the friendly, talkative Red Sox fan beside me, to the Angels fans on both sides of the bar who echoed our boo when he used the term “rebuilding year” in reference to the Halos. In many ways, Taps is my ideal game day bar. I would spend more games there if I didn’t also spend so much money there every time I go.

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So imagine my excitement about the Angels/Dodgers game today! Meh. As it turned out, I would have been a lot happier if they had aired yesterday’s game instead. Today the Angels gave the starters and most of the second string the day off and let the kids have a work out. Alas, against the Dodgers first string, the kids were not alright. I’m aware that this is the nature of spring training. It’s more about giving everyone a workout, giving the kids some experience and a tryout and working through any issues before the season starts than it is about winning. But still, 5-0 ouch.

With the spirit of spring training in mind, I think there were a few important take aways. First, Kaz was throwing hard and throwing strikes! Even in the first inning and Scott Kazmir is prone to rough first innings. Granted, the Dodgers hit him – five hits and three earned runs in the two innings he pitched. But I think this was inconclusive, and I am not inclined to make excuses for Kaz. I think if he had the Angels starters behind him, that stat would have been better, more like two or three hits and one run. But you never know. I want to see more before the season starts but the fact that I do want to see more at all is positive. Maybe…maybe…well, we’ll see.

Here are some other thoughts I had watching the game. Bobby Wilson is taking spring training very seriously and looked strong both behind the plate and at bat. His increased speed and agility was a bright spot in the game for me. Hank Conger on the other hand looked rusty. I’m not really worried. I’ve seen him do a lot better than that, but if he wants a shot a starting catcher he needs to pick up the speed on his throw down to second a lot. I don’t know what to think of Mike Trout. He hit a nice solid single in the first inning and made one catch in center that his speed made look a lot easier than it was. Other than that, however, he looked like he kind of phoned it in, which I don’t like. But it is just one game. Mark Trumbo needs a lot of work at first. He made some good plays and some really clumsy ones. He’s wearing Mike Napoli’s Angels’s jersey number 44 this season and between the homerun yesterday and, alas, the lack of performance with runners in scoring position today, this seems appropriate. Fernando Rodney’s rustiness looks suspiciously like right where he left off last season.

Watching this game, it was obvious that, like most teams, the Angels have a lot of minor league players who will never be major league players. Andrew Romine, on the other hand? I liked his instincts when he came up this September, sliding across third with the ball to get the seemingly impossible force out. He had a good solid hit today and made one nice diving play at short, his throw just missing getting the speedy runner out at first. I look at him and think, interesting, maybe in a few years? Suffice to say, I need to see a lot more of spring training and the kids – and some of the veterans – need to play a lot more before I form stronger opinions. Fortunately, this was only game two and tomorrow the regular starters are supposed to play. And it’s all still exciting. In the words of random Taps bar guy, these aren’t just spring games. It’s live baseball! It’s been like four months, man!

We’re All Still Just In Training for Spring

Calling it “spring” training isn’t really accurate. Sitting here listening to the hard steady beat of the rain against the roof, I realize that the name is optimistic at best. It’s a wonderful sound, the rain, filled with hints of cozy evenings in and coffee or tea enjoyed over a good book by the fire. But there is no mistaking the sounds of this storm for spring rain, they are most decidedly winter – of course, watching a documentary on the little ice age while I write this might be increasing this effect. ;)

True spring usually materializes closer to the start of the regular baseball season so I have come to think of the spring in spring training as a kind of teaser trailer for spring. Soon after pitchers and catchers report, we begin to see stronger, surer signs that spring is getting even close, lengthier trailers as it were. Sure, sure. The days get longer, the temperatures get warmer, the trees sprout green leaves again and flowers bloom. Blah. Blah. Blah. But I’m talking about the really exciting signs that spring is on its way.

We’ve already experienced a few of them. Position players report and full practices begin. Live player interviews debut on television and on the radio. Basketball talk is briefly suspended for spring training updates! More strong signs occur tomorrow when the first games start up and air on TV. Mike Scioscia announced that Trevor Bell will be the Angels starting pitcher tomorrow, assuming that there is a game – the rain apparently being of the opinion that it isn’t spring in Arizona yet either. I’m excited. The 24-year old right hander showed a lot of promise last season and I want to see how he’s coming along.

Individual game tickets going on sale in another strong sign of spring’s approach. For Angels fans, this also happens tomorrow – and I already bought my first set off of StubHub, tickets to the exhibition game in the Big A against the Padres. Of course, receiving the tickets and holding them in your hot little hands is an even stronger sign. Soon! Soon! As the march toward spring progresses more and more kids start playing catch around the neighborhood and the batting cages come alive. There is one particularly cool batting cage that I see when we’re up in Paso Robles. Homemade and built alongside the grapevines on someone’s private property, it was just starting to show its annual signs of preparation for use when we were up there last weekend. When we visit again in late March, I expect I will see line drives flying into the repurposed barrel room mat – or at least that’s what it appears to be – that marks the end of the cage.

Soon the billboards appear announcing the coming baseball season! Granted, along my commute they will all say This Is My Town and have that blue interlocked L and A but, then again, most of the car stickers on my commute are halo capped A’s, so apparently the billboard campaign isn’t working. In other parts of the country, one of your signs is probably baseball commercials on TV. Oddly enough, here in the land of Hollywood and cameras, we don’t really make baseball television commercials. I envy the Mariners, Giants and many of the others their clever, funny TV ads. But, more universally, the frequency of player interviews speeds up. Starting rotation and line-up speculation and announcements reach a fever pitch. The teams return from Arizona and Florida for exhibition games and, before you know it, spring has well and truly arrived followed shortly by opening day!

Personally, I can hardly wait to enjoy this weekend’s signs of the approaching spring. Phillies vs. Yankees. D-Backs vs. Rockies. Angels vs. Dodgers! Who says we can’t appreciate the changing of the seasons in California? ;)

Angels Starting Rotation Yields One Question and Four Strong Answers

Two more days until Spring Training games begin and I can’t wait. I am loving the news coming out of Tempe so far, especially about the starting rotation. Jered Weaver, getting down to business, ready to pick up where he left off and joking around with the new and younger guys before throwing batting practice. Dan Haren, excited to begin his first full season as an Angel and confident we can contend. Ervin Santana, scoffing at the idea that he always follows up a good year with a bad year. Okay Ervin, I like the sound of that, so make this year a good year too! Joel Pinero, fully recovered from his injury and ready to prove himself again this season. And not a whole lot of news about Scott Kazmir. Don’t think I haven’t noticed that. I am anxious to see him pitch during the Spring Training games just to get a clue where things stand.

Kazmir question aside, no this isn’t the Phillies four aces (and Blanton) but it is a very strong starting rotation, potentially one of the strongest of the coming season. Remembering the number of games the Angels lost last season by just one or two runs, I think that if these guys can just get some run support this season, the Angels are back in business. Oh, and everyone has to stay healthy. No more random injuries, please. I think we over filled our random injury and unexpected calamity quotas so thoroughly last season that we’ve already met them for several seasons to come.

As to which pitcher is going to start on Opening Day (Jered Weaver)? Of course, Mike Scioscia has not announced it yet (Jered Weaver). Notorious for waiting until the last possible minute to announce each season’s starter (Jered Weaver), I doubt we’ll hear anything official from Scioscia until the last week before the season starts (Jered Weaver). I laugh but only because I find this quirky Scioscia trait oddly endearing. So, do we at least know who the starting pitcher will be in this weekend’s Spring Training opener against the Dodgers? Apparently Scioscia wants to look at one more workout and gauge everyone’s recovery before he makes that decision. Ladies and gentlemen, and I say this with complete affection, we are all shocked. ;)

It’s Almost Time: Baseball Coming Back to a TV Near You!

Note to self: Car dancing with no music looks very undignified and is apt to make one’s husband look at her funny…that is until I explained that I was car dancing because a couple of nice bloggers commented to tell me this blog (and four other great Angels blogs!) is a featured blog on MLBlogs this week. Seriously, thank you Mark and MLBlogs! This is a fantastic blogging community and you do so much to support and draw attention to all of us that it’s easy to feel at home right away. There are a lot of great blogs and nice people here and I just can’t tell you how much fun it is to be a small part of it all.

But, even more giddy making than this news? The Angels Press Release arrived listing the Spring Training games Fox Sports West will televise in February and March – the perfect reminder that starting this Saturday weekend there will be live baseball on television once again! That’s only four more days without. Short of the official season Play Balls we’ll start hearing on March 31st, it doesn’t get much better than that. Almost all of the games are day games, of course, so I know what I will be doing with my lunch break for the next couple of weeks.

It has been wonderful reading all of the articles from Spring Training but it will be even better to see some of the action and judge it for myself. First glimpses of the Angels new bullpen. Jeff Mathis, Hank Conger and Bobby Wilson competing for starting catcher. Kendry hitting bombs and maybe working back into first base when he’s ready. A sneak preview of our new Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter outfield as well as all of the guys waiting in the wings to spell the main three or come up through the ranks in the next few years. Top prospect Mike Trout playing with the big leaguers, say no more. Watching to see how Andrew Romine, Mark Trumbo and the rest of the minor leaguers have improved over the winter. Watching to see if Kaz and Brandon Wood have improved over the winter. And this is just what I hope to see watching my team!

This schedule arrived at the perfect time. My husband and I had just officially decided that we are not going to Spring Training this year. I’m disappointed, of course, but the television schedule helps ease the blow and, anyway, who can argue with the law:

Law of Conservation of Vices: Vices cannot be created or destroyed, they merely change forms. However, judicious budget and vacation day management are required to ensure continual shifting of vices from their potential form (ie: that enjoyed by everyone but you) to their kinetic form (ie: that enjoyed by you).

We really only have two vices to which this law applies – baseball and wine. This year, a trip to the Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival will allow for greater enjoyment of wine and more baseball games attended during the season than a Spring Training trip. So, as much as I really want to go to spend a long March weekend in Arizona, oh well, next season. At least Paso Robles has a great sense of humor and embraces the coming baseball season. This year’s ad cracked me up:

No Spring Training Fast Pass but Position Players Report and Bam Bam Is Back

After a long winter without baseball, the start of Spring Training is so exciting that for a couple of days it almost feels like baseball season is just about to begin…and then we remember that Spring Training is a lot like going to Disneyland as a kid – you’re excited for weeks before the trip. You can barely sleep the night beforehand imagining all of the rides you’re going to go on and the fun you will have. You are bouncy and giddy the whole drive to the park and, then, you’re finally there! You run into the park barely able to contain your glee and race to your first ride…where you have to wait in line for two more hours before you can board the roller coaster. Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

But once you get on that first ride, oh boy! And getting to the park is the first exciting step, of course. So it goes with Spring Training. I am thrilled it’s here! But I’m at that point where the fact that Opening Day is still six weeks away has sunk back in. I’m still, that excited little kid. But I’ve settled back down into waiting mode. Oh well, at least while we’re waiting, there are actual player interviews on MLB again, interviews taped earlier in the day, not back in September. And there is news! Lots of news, as far as the eye can read. It’s a bit of a wait still, but it’s now a more pleasant one.

Today’s news as the position players enjoyed their first workout was 90% fantastic! Kendry took an official batting practice on the main field and reminded everyone why we call him Bam Bam, knocking pitches into the scoreboards and stands from both sides of the plate. Whooo hooo, this is the kind of news I wanted to hear! Bobby Abreu reported to the field as his usual cheerful self and sounds like he is ready to assume the DH role, which had been a point of concern. Maicer Izturis is healthy and excited to make a play for full time third base and leadoff slots. If he can stay healthy all season it would be a first, so we’ll see how that goes, but healthy and eager is a good sign. When Maicer is in the lineup, good things happen.

The only bad news this weekend is that Brandon Wood is injured and resting from a back strain. He is the last player who can afford to be starting off Spring Training slow. Honestly though, after last season, I don’t have it in me to worry about this one. I like the kid. He has a good attitude and is willing to work hard and I would love it if he somehow turned things around this season and became strong hitter and a reliable third base, but I don’t know if this is possible. If somehow he proves himself in ST and gets another shot at third this season, I want a hard cutoff date in place. If Wood doesn’t perform by that date then the experiment has to be over. Folks can take a little fabric paint and turn all of those “Free Brandon Wood” t-shirts into “Free to a good home: Brandon Wood” t-shirts.

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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