Monday, March 14, 2005

Cubs vs. Angels 03-13-05


 Posted by Hello

On Sunday the Halos played host to the Chicago Cubs at Tempe Diablo Stadium. As usual with the Cubs, the game was a sell-out and split fairly evenly between the fans of the 'Lovable Losers' and the Angels. In today's East Valley Tribune they ran an article on the appeal of the Cubbies in the Cactus League which seems to grow each spring. To give you an idea of Cub fan devotion, I was able to secure two seats behind home plate for three different Angel spring training games on the day they were first available via pre-sale. I also tried to secure tickets to the Angels -Cubs and the best I could do was past third base about half-way up the stands. Rather than sit there we optioned to sit on the lawn because with four kids under 12 in-tow it was unlikely we would ever see the fourth inning anyway (due in large part to having the kids show-up two hours early to watch practice and secure autographs).


 Posted by HelloDuring the pre-game autograph-hunt/practice-observation I had the opportunity to ask Bengie Molina if Kendry Morales had made it to camp. "Not yet" Molina answered. Then with a hint of a smile the Angels starting catcher added "He is swimming" -- a double entendre on the former Cuban star who defected last December (and signed a $6 million big-league contract with the Halos) but now finds himself trapped in the Dominican as he awaits delays in the issuance of the visa needed to play ball in the US. Today's Press-Telegram reports that Morales' is expected to receive his visa tomorrow and make his way to Tempe on Wednesday or Thursday.

It was good to see Bengie in full catcher's regalia (with his mitt balanced atop his head to allow for a better autographing technique -- see picture above) and apparently healthy given his limited action so far this spring (just five AB's thus far). Molina has been slowed since camp opened due to tightness in his right calf. Today's LA Times reports that the "perplexing injury" which was suppose to sideline Molina for a few days will actually turn out to be at least two weeks since the Angels primary receiver will not play for a few more days. Hopefully the newly svelte Molina can be 100% for Opening Day and reach that next level of elite player. I would wager the Angels patience with Bengie's injuries will be directly proportional to the development of one Jeff Mathis. The young catcher is considered one of the "crown jewels" in the Halo minor league system and so far this spring Mathis is batting .444 with a HR, triple and double in just 9 at-bats. That type of power will be hard for the Angels to ignore, especially if Molina continues to be hobbled with leg injuries.

 Posted by HelloWhen the game started it was John Lackey on the mound for the Angels. Curse my luck, I saw Lackey the last time I was out (when he got shelled by the Giants in the first inning) and I was hoping to see another starter. But Lackey was much more impressive this outing, holding the Cubs to one hit (from Jerry Hairston)over three innings. This was just Lackey's second appearance due to a blister that appeared on the index finger of his pitching hand after his first start. Lackey is a notorious slow-starter so it was good to see he was effective but there is a big difference in going three inning in March as opposed to six or seven in April. Take this for what it is, an encouraging sign, nothing more.

Frankie Rodriguez was impressive in his inning of relief, mowing down the side with a strikeout. Ervin Santana, the promising starter who has had his climb to the majors derailed by injuries, gave-up two runs over two innings but was the eventual winner with Kevin Gregg picking up the save by holding the Cubs scoreless over the final two frames despite giving up two walks.

There were a number of Angel starters getting a rest on Sunday including Darin Erstad, Garrett Anderson and Bengie Molina. Vlad Guerrero was one of the normal starters playing Sunday along with Steve Finley and Orlando Cabrera. OC had not started in the game I attended ten days earlier so it was good to finally get to see him play. Even more interesting was the clowning comaraderie between him and Guerrero. When Vlad came out on the field he received a pretty raucous welcome from the fans lining the third base line hoping for a picture or an autograph. Guerrero did not come over to greet them however, likely due to the fact that he was concentrating on starting the game in thirty minutes. But Cabrera had noticed the minor uproar and was pushing Vlad towards the fans. The two laughed but to my (and likely Mike Scioscia's) horror he pushed Guerrero off balance and the MVP right fielder stumbled towards the Angels dugout. With unpleasant visions of Mo Vaughn I almost choked on my hot dog before Guerrero righted himself and went back to warming up. It was clear though that these two are good friends and underlines one of the big non-baseball related reasons Cabrera was signed: keep the big guy happy. The more the Angels are able to make Guerrero feel at home the better in terms of re-signing him in the next 2 or 3 years. It is also clear that this has become Vlad's team and he is easily the most popular Angel in Spring Training.

Vlad Fan Posted by Hello

Casey Kotchman had two more hits Sunday and now is hitting .355 while continuing to lead all players with 27 at-bats. With Darin Erstad held to just 8 spring at-bats (and hitless in those) and admitting to needing a brace to secure his ailing right hamstring, one has to wonder about his health and effectiveness early in the '05 campaign. This underscores the importance of Kotchman who is looking like a stone-lock to make the club out of camp.

OF Jeff Devanon is second on the team with 25 AB's while hitting a sparkling .320. Those who are 'slow starters' this spring include Chone Figgins (.200 in 20 AB's), Orlando Cabrera (.200 in 15 AB's), Vladimir Guerrero (.211 in 19 AB's), Garrett Anderson (.214 in 14 AB's), Juan Rivera (.250 in 20 AB's) and Robb Quinlan (.250 in 20 AB's). All of these players will make the club and likely are simply taking it easy early in camp and/or working on mechanics. Look for these players to start zeroing in in the next week or so.


Angels vs. Cubs 3-13-05 Posted by Hello

Non-starter on Sunday, Robb Quinlan gets a lift past the gauntlet of fans on his way to the practice fields at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

3 Comments:

Blogger Josh said...

The thing about keeping the big guy happy, I think may have been part of the reason they suspended Guillen last year. I had heard that Guillen is very competitive as far as individual stats go and always would gloat to Vlad when he hit a home run (saying things like "Where's yours?"). The more I think about picking up OC, the better I like it, as it was obvious the shift from Nomah to OC in Boston changed the team's chemistry significantly...they went from acting like they were dead in the water to having fun. Hopefully OC does that for the Angels, too.

4:22 PM  
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