Wednesday, June 01, 2005

K-Rod Back Tonight.....Thank God

And not a damn minute too soon it would seem as the Angels bullpen has coughed up two losses in as many nights. Just when the hitting starts to click a little bit the bullpen craps out. To make room for Rodriguez Chris Bootcheck was sent back to Salt Lake. Bootcheck pitched four innings in relief on May 28th, giving up just two hits and no runs to earn his first big league save.

While the bullpen gave away the game for the second night in a row do not overlook what was a horrendous fielding error by Chone Figgins (though generously scored a double by the White Sox scorer) that put the bullpen in the position to lose in the first place. In the fourth inning Carl Everett hit a towering fly ball to right into the swirling Chicago wind. Figgins drifted around like a drunk before finally missing the ball, allowing it to bounce over the fence for a ground-rule double. Everett eventually scored on a sac fly and that proved to be a decisive run. Figgins is a defensive disaster anywhere except centerfield or middle infield but for some reason the Angels continue to think he is a 'jack-of-all-trades'. I fully expect to see him pitch and catch before the season's out just so the Angels can say he did it. Jeff DeVanon is a much better right fielder and would have caught the Everett fly.

But last night's bigger goat was one Brendan Donnelly who pitched a hitless eighth (mowing down the #3, 4 & 5 hitters) before surrendering a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the ninth to the first batter he faced - Jermaine Dye. Perhaps Richard is right and Donnelly is only a one-inning pitcher now. Why in a tie-game Scioscia does not turn it over to one of the youngsters who could, if necessary, go three or four innings is beyond me. Maybe he figured if Donnelly could have nursed his way through the ninth the Angels could have pushed a run across in the 10th and then Shields could have come in to give up two runs to lose the game. The Angels were deep into Chicago's bullpen with Ozzie Guillen having already used up three pitchers. The Angels only used Donnelly and it looked like Scioscia had the Sox right where he wanted them.

Of course, had Francisco Rodriguez been available then it would have been Shields in the ninth with Frankie ready to shut it down in the bottom half of the inning (if necessary). The problem with losing a guy like K-Rod is that everyone in the bullpen is out of place. Donnelly should be pitching in the sixth or seventh inning with Shields in the 8th and Frankie in the 9th. Instead you have Shields get shelled in the 9th on Tuesday and Donnelly being overextended in the 9th on Wednesday. Hopefully with K-Rod back in the fold tonight everyone can get their mojo back and pitch where they are comfortable.

Preview: Two reclamation projects clash in Chi-Town as Jose Contreras and the White Sox will try and sweep the Halos and Paul Byrd out of town. Contreras is coming off a 7 inning, 3 hit, 3 run loss to the Angels in Anaheim on May 26th. In Byrd's last outing he gave up 8 hits to the Royals while surrendering 3 runs and getting a no-decision. Byrd has six consecutive starts where he has not given up more than 3 runs and gone a minimum of 6 innings. Not exactly "quality" starts but generally good enough to win if the bats are working and the bullpen is functional. The Halos are 0 for 2 on those counts so far against the Chi Sox. The Angels could easily have won either of the past two games and will need someone to pick them up on their shoulders and carry them throught this mini-rough patch. That man would normally be Vlad Guerrero but with the big guy still on the DL the job falls to Garrett Anderson. Over his past four games GA is hitting at a .500 clip going 8 for 16 with 2 HR & 2 doubles. While he seems to be single-handedly keeping the Angels in games he is not getting them over the proverbial hump. The Halos need their table setters, Erstad & Figgins, to be in position to score when Anderson is up. Finley needs to quit being a blackhole in the #3 spot or Scioscia is going to have to bump him down to the #6 slot. Finley had three home-runs in May. THREE! His average improved to .291 but he is still not anywhere near where ne needs to be.

Guerrero Update: From KFFL"The Los Angeles Daily News reports Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim OF Vladimir Guerrero (shoulder) has resumed playing catch but will not likely pick up a bat until June 6 at the earliest." The Rotowire quote below KFFL also says Guerrero could be swinging a bat by next Monday and quotes Scioscia "if the inflammation stays out and the strength continues to where it needs to be, he should keep that progression, it could come quickly."

Look for Guerrero to be hitting BP within seven days but do not expect to see him activated until the Angels return home on the 6/13 to host the Nationals. With the Halos playing in NL parks from 6/6 to 6/12 it is unlikely Scioscia would want to risk further injury by forcing Guerrero to play right rather than DH for a few games.

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