Angels ready to turn page as spring arrives
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Last year the Angels grinded through one of their most intense Spring Training camps, separated themselves throughout the six-month regular season with a Major League-leading 98 wins, and then -- poof! -- it was over. They did everything they could to set themselves up for a deep October run, and all it got them was three postseason games -- all losses to the Royals in the American League Division Series.
Now the work starts all over again, and sometimes it's hard to focus on the process when the lingering result is so unpleasant.
"That took a while to get over, but that's long gone," manager Mike Scioscia said on Thursday, the day his pitchers and catchers reported for their physicals. "Our guys returning understand how good we can be because we proved it during our regular season. They'll be motivated and ready to go."
The offseason was defined by moves aimed toward widening the Angels' contending window without interrupting their immediate championship hopes. They dealt cornerstone second baseman Howie Kendrick for 23-year-old starter Andrew Heaney, acquired 24-year-old starter Nick Tropeano for homegrown catcher Hank Conger, swapped prospects to attain future third baseman Kyle Kubitza and committed about $15 million to 20-year-old Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin.
The AL West promises to be tougher, but the Angels are banking on a deeper rotation, a strong bullpen and a still-formidable lineup -- balanced with the addition of left-handed-hitting outfielder Matt Joyce -- in hopes of a repeat division title.
"It's going to be a little bit of a tougher chore" to make up for the loss of Kendrick, Scioscia admitted, but he believes the bullpen is "light years" ahead of where it was at this time last year.
"Obviously, the personnel has been shifted a little bit," he said. "In some areas we're younger with a lot of upside, and in some areas we're going to have to work hard to create depth."
• Scioscia has put "a lot of time" into where to bat Mike Trout this season, and it looks as though he's leaning toward keeping him in the No. 2 spot. "Right now there is no doubt, if you look at it, the two-spot is where he fits us best," Scioscia said. Joyce can also be a fit in the No. 2 spot, allowing Trout to bat third, but Scioscia sounded as though he is against stacking two lefties at the top (Kole Calhoun and Joyce).
• Josh Hamilton is in Houston rehabbing his right AC joint, which was surgically repaired in early February. Scioscia doesn't know when Hamilton will arrive at the Angels' Spring Training facility, and isn't really sure if he'll report with the rest of the position players on Tuesday. "I don't know what his schedule is going to be," Scioscia said. "It's obviously a lengthy rehab."
• Garrett Richards hasn't thrown off a mound since Monday, when he threw 20 fastballs from the stretch. "He's transitioning to full weight-bearing on the field this week," Scioscia said. "The last 5 percent is always the toughest to get back, so I think we're going to have to watch Garrett closely and just see where he is. But his rehab so far has been remarkable."
• Matt Shoemaker shed 30 pounds this offseason, going from 240 to 210. "I lose 30 pounds every year before spring, as crazy as it sounds," Shoemaker said. The 28-year-old right-hander does it purposely, because he typically gains all the weight back throughout the season.
• Chris Iannetta is heading into his final year before free agency, but he isn't worried about the uncertainty ahead, saying, "I can't do anything about it; I really can't. All I can do is go play, have fun, whatever happens, happens. That stuff takes care of itself." The Angels may approach Iannetta about an extension, but perhaps not until the season starts.
• Hector Santiago always throws a lot in the offseason, and this one was no different. He pitched in Japan and threw five innings of winter ball for Puerto Rico before the Angels found out and asked him to stop. Prior to arriving in Spring Training, the 27-year-old left-hander had already thrown 20 bullpen sessions, some of them at 90-plus pitches.
• Left-hander Jose Alvarez missed four months after having loose bodies removed from his pitching elbow in May, but he posted a 1.91 ERA in 56 2/3 innings while playing winter ball in Venezuela. "I showed them that I'm healthy," Alvarez said, "and I'm here to try to win a job."
• Matt Lindstrom's Minor League contract allows him to opt out if he doesn't crack the Opening Day roster. The 35-year-old right-hander said he's fully recovered from the right ankle injury that hindered his 2014 season.
• With Kevin Jepsen gone, the door is open for 23-year-old right-hander Mike Morin to pitch the seventh inning, and that has been his focus. "Absolutely," Morin said. "100 percent."
• C.J. Cron and David Freese had minor surgeries this offseason. Cron had a cyst removed from his right wrist, and Freese had his left ankle cleaned up. Scioscia said that neither will be limited in Spring Training.
• The Angels will maintain basically the same aggressive Spring Training approach they adopted last year, with position players doing more situational hitting and the starting pitchers getting stretched out early. Most pitchers, relievers included, threw at least a handful of bullpen sessions before arriving for Spring Training.