Tagged: Hisanori Takahashi

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!!

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.

Slow News Week Headline Round-Up: Angels, etc.

This is what happens when I leave my book at home, assuming I have no time for a lunch break and then realize that I absolutely require a lunch break as a mental break from all of the writing…I spend the time reading the news and writing for my blog. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Actually, switching writing gears is sometimes relaxing. But I digress…Scary financial and global news eventually gave way to baseball headlines, with the following really catching my attention:

Angels May Call on Creative Approach to Closing
This MLB headline was the first that caught my eye and, unfortunately, my initial reaction was to laugh. My second was to snark on Facebook “By creative, do they mean effective? Because, after last season, an effective closer would be creative!” This led to an online “therapy session” with my Dodger fan cousins about our respective teams’ closing woes. (The Giants fan cousins were smart enough to realize that we didn’t want to hear a peep out of them and stayed away from this status update, thus positive family relations remain intact.) Of course, what the article actually meant was bullpen by committee with Fernando Rodney, Kevin Jepsen, Jordan Walden and possibly occasionally Hisanori Takahashi sharing closing duties as needed.

On the surface, this certainly is not creative used as an unusual synonym for effective. However, I hope that it is code for grooming Walden for the closer’s role without putting too much pressure on the kid too early. Walden showed poise, promise and blazing speed last season in several really difficult games and I am eager to see what he can do over the course of a whole season. Our closer woes were a big topic of conversation in the Right Field Pavilion last season, one of those ongoing debates where even the ushers and the vendors weigh in and I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of this development…okay, who am I kidding? I just can’t wait to go to a game!

MLB Overview 2011: Adrian Beltre and All 30 Teams’ Most Unpredictable Hitter
Another headline that caught my eye was this offering from the Bleacher Report. Some of their choices are spot on, others are apt to be controversial. I don’t know enough about every team’s lineup to say whether I think all of the Bleacher Report’s choices are good (especially when we get to the NL East – but that’s going to change after Interleague 2011, I’m sure). However, I think they hit the nail on the head with the Angels. No, the Bleacher Report did not use this as one more opportunity to pick on a certain recent acquisition, they selected Kendry Morales instead. Kendry was not selected for any prior issues at the plate but for the big question that’s certainly on every Angels fan’s mind: is he going to come back as strong and reliable as he was before the broken leg. Because an Angels lineup with a reliable, power hitting Kendry batting in the five spot is a thing of beauty and a lineup without his bat is…well…the sort of lineup that allows Jered Weaver to pitch a one-run game that the Angels still lose. Yeah, you all saw 2010.

While this was interesting, it really wasn’t news and it certainly wasn’t the news I went looking for:

How are long term contract negotiations going with Jered Weaver? Absolutely swimmingly, of course and the contract will be signed by the time pitchers and catchers report…right? Right? Yeah, it’s never really that easy, is it?

Are we really looking for a leadoff man or are we going to platoon with what we have? This is a topic of some discussion on Angels blogs. Given the options out there, I could really go either way on this one. I’m not overly thrilled with a leadoff platoon but, then again, I’m not overly thrilled with any of the options that have been bantered about.

Is Vlad going to get a job already? I know he’s talking to the Orioles right now but that contract doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I actually think this is a good fit for all concerned. With Vlad’s mighty bat protecting Markakis and company in the lineup, if the Orioles pick up where they left off at the end of the 2010 season, they could seriously be spoilers in the AL East (and other places) and who knows? But Vlad needs to accept the fact that’s he’s no longer an outfielder, at least no more than every once in a while, and negotiate accordingly.

“Nothing Is Remotely Imminent” eh?

I guess I’ll let Nolan Ryan off on a technicality. I mean there isn’t a whole lot that’s remote in the 48 hour distance between that statement and a signed contract now is there? No, that pretty much is just imminent. What was it I was saying a few weeks ago about the different front offices playing a little too much Diplomacy this off season? If I were actually sitting in on this particular game of Diplomacy I might say well played in addition to growling less sportsmanlike comments but, as it is, I’m just growling.

So Adrian Beltre is a Ranger and the Angels missed the boat again. I understand that the free agent market got outrageously expensive again this year. Under normal circumstances, I think sticking to one’s principals is laudable but, right now, claiming to stick to their principals just looks like the Angels front office is making a piss poor excuse for terrible performance. We didn’t strike out this off season, we barely even bothered to step up to the plate. And they better not start carting out Takahashi and Downs again like those signings make for a fine off season on their own and anything else would just have been gravy. Those signings were a great start, alas apparently on a road to nowhere. When nothing else followed, just admit that you messed up. That way you only look really stupid instead of abysmally stupid.

If I am being rational, I know this isn’t the absolute end of the world. If I am being rational, I know that there is no one player who is the answer for us in a vacuum without any other changes. If we had landed Beltre and, defying all reason, the rest of bats went missing for most of the season again, a season with only Beltre and Weaver consistently performing to expectations isn’t going to be any prettier than one where Weaver more or less consistently performed to expectations alone. If the bats actually show up, I think the team that hits the field in 2011, as it stands right now, is a better team than the one that hit the field in 2010. Rationally though, I really don’t know if that is enough.

Again, if I’m being rational, it’s a long season and we haven’t started Spring Training yet. Everybody has to play 162 games, blah, blah, blah and all of the other clichés. But, seriously, a lot can happen in that amount of time, especially in California baseball. My sister and I have always said that no one, but no can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat (or, sadly, defeat from the jaws of victory but let’s not go there right now) in the most unexpected of ways like California baseball teams. Angels, Dodgers, Giants, A’s and Padres fans, you all know what I’m talking about. And tomorrow…okay maybe by next week, I will probably truly believe all of this and the other hopeful posts I have made on this blog again.

But tonight I don’t feel like being rational. I am angry, enough so that I didn’t so much type this as I beat and pounded it into the keyboard. Whether or not Beltre was the answer, I just wanted something, anything to point at and say, look, the front office is really trying this off season instead of well, just being trying.

Angels Watched Pot Begins to Boil

The Angels first real move of the hot stove season was signing left handed pitcher Hisanori Takahashi, formerly of the Mets. After last year’s trades and free agency losses, we definitely needed a lefty. A quick skim of the roster yields one long string of Rs and Scott Kazmir and Kaz is more of a big question mark than an L we can count on. Which Kaz will take the mound?

I admit I know little to nothing about Takahashi. I know a lot more about American League players these days than National League players, for obvious reasons, and I have not been paying a lot of attention the Mets for the last several years. His stats look okay. Ten years as a successful pitcher on three championship teams with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, Matsui’s old team followed by a year with the Mets. It looks like he was great against lefties last year for the Mets – no homeruns, a .217 average and a .270 slugging average – with less impressive stats against righties. He was 10-6 last year with the better part of that record (6-2) coming as a reliever. Is this because he’s more effective as a reliever or more indicative of the fact that he was playing for the Mets, the Angels, of course, being in a unique position to understand what an unsuccessful team can do to a good pitcher’s record? I don’t know. Win record is an important but murky stat and I have never seen the guy pitch. But I am intrigued to find out.

He seemed like a much better deal at the $5.5 million for 2 years that was previously, unofficially, announced than the $8 million reported later on Friday. Terry Smith interviewed L.A. Times Sports reporter Mike Digiovanna during Friday’s Angels Tonight broadcast and DiGiovanna predicts that at that salary the Angels actually want Takahashi for the 5th starter position. That brings up all kinds of interesting possibilities, like moving Kaz to the bullpen where he might be able to rebuild his confidence and stamina – and hopefully regain his control in the process. Better for Kaz, better for the Angels. Of course, I did notice that in the press release, the front office kept hyping Takahashi’s stats against lefties over righties and, as previously mentioned, he has a much better record as a reliever. To me, this screams reliever. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Tony Reagins made it clear that he thinks this is good for the Angels first move this offseason. That “first move” line was one of the best parts actually. The fans all know that the Angels front office does not comment on potential trades and signings until they are official and we know they are trying to work some offseason magic for us, but it’s nice of them to throw us a bone and confirm this assumption from time to time.

It was funny to see the Angels name listed among the offers for Mariano Rivera. The front office had to know that was never going to happen. And would it have even worked out if it did happen? Rivera’s considerable prowess vs. the Angels curse with high priced closers – which one would prevail or would they cancel each other out? But I do understand making an offer. It’s like buying a lottery ticket when the jackpot is up to $100 million or so. You don’t actually expect to win but you’d feel awfully foolish if you didn’t at least try. Then again, when you shell out $5 bucks or so for a lottery ticket it doesn’t drive the price of lottery tickets up for everyone else prompting the lottery commission to retaliate. Oy, this could get expensive, more so than originally planned I think.

* * * * *

While I wait for more news on that front, it’s time for my favorite way to while away the offseason. No Saturday night baseball? No problem, time to have folks over for a game night of the board and build your own board variety. I will defend my Catan title with fierce trade negotiations. Bwa ha ha. All your brick and wood are belong to me.