On-the-job training continues for Featherston
Utility infielder delivers game-winning hit in 13th inning vs. Astros
ANAHEIM -- It has often been said, by outsiders and even his own manager, that Taylor Featherston's situation is not ideal.
Last year was his first season in Double-A, but it also gave him enough service time to be Rule 5 eligible. And the Angels really like him. And the only way they can keep him in their organization is by letting him take his lumps in the Major Leagues, in a utility infield role typically occupied by veterans.
So Featherston comes in early and works, absorbing an excessive amount of information on a daily basis and patiently waiting for every opportunity to contribute.
It came Wednesday afternoon, in the 13th inning of a tie game against an Astros team the Angels have spent the entire year chasing. Featherston came up with runners on second and third and two outs, stayed back on a 1-1 slider from Chad Qualls and got just enough of his bat on it to muscle a flare into shallow right field, sending the Angels to a 2-1 victory and a series win.
It was Featherston's fifth hit in 44 Major League at-bats in this educational 2015 season, and his first at Angel Stadium.
"Out of all the guys that you want to experience a walk-off win, Taylor is at the top of the list," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after taking two of three from Houston to put his team 4 1/2 games back in the American League West. "He's not getting a lot of playing time, but he's a guy out here working every day to try to stay sharp. He got one to fall in, and I couldn't be happier for him."
Featherston was born and raised in Houston and grew up an Astros fan, while attending high school a half-hour away from the old Astrodome.
Featherston is 25, but he has only completed three full seasons in pro ball since the Rockies made him a fifth-round pick in 2011. The Angels got Featherston last December, in a pre-arranged deal with the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft. The Angels, in search for a backup infielder who was controllable for multiple years, loved his glove, arm and speed, and they felt his bat would eventually come around.
Rule 5 picks must be offered back to their original club if at any point they're off the active roster (barring a stint on the disabled list, of course). After the 2015 season, Featherston will have all three option years and can get some seasoning in the Minor Leagues, if needed.
This year is all about on-the-job training.
"It's almost a blessing in disguise," Featherston said. "I get to go through the big leagues for a while, just watching, talking and learning, and getting a little taste here and there, which is fun. But my time will come, for sure."
Featherston, who replaced pinch-hitter David Freese for defense at third base after the eighth inning, has started only nine of the Angels' 73 games. That's hard enough for anyone, let alone a developing rookie. So he turns the velocity up on the pitching machine, attacks every drill with intensity and treats every practice situation as if it were a game, because it's his only chance to stay sharp whenever Scioscia feels the need to call on him.
It helped prepare him for the bottom of the 13th.
"I've learned a lot," Featherston said. "It's a new role, and here we are, 70 games in and I feel like every single day, every time I go out there, I'm more and more comfortable and getting better at my job."