Some Quick Angels Observations From Arizona
TEMPE, Ariz. — You obviously can’t see everything in just a few days, but here are just a few quick observations from my time watching the Angels in spring training this week:
— The offense is still lacking. No matter how Mike Scioscia mixes and matches, the lineup can’t be the same until Kendrys (yes, that’s how he wants his first name spelled now) Morales returns and fills the gaping hole between Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells. Even then, the bottom part of the order is shaky. “If (Peter) Bourjos and (Jeff) Mathis can both hit .240, we’re going to win a lot of games,” says Scioscia. And that says a lot about this offense. They’re actually rooting for two guys to hit .240. Good times, huh, Angels fans?
— The closer situation isn’t any more settled now than it was at the end of last season. Fernando Rodney has been less than impressive so far, and although kids like Jordan Walden and Kevin Jepsen throw hard, the sense you get is that neither is ready to take over in the ninth inning yet. Don’t be surprised if the closer eventually turns out to be Scott Downs, the proven and expensive lefty ($15 million over three years) who closed some before in Toronto. He has good stuff, but what is more important is his experience. My guess is he’s the first guy Scioscia goes to if Rodney falters.
— Mark Trumbo deserves to make this team. Sure, he’s blocked at first base by Morales and he can’t DH much with Bobby Abreu around, but the kid is doing everything right this spring. It is not only that he leads the Angels in every offensive category so far, it is the fact that his at-bats have been so impressive. He isn’t swinging at bad pitches and he’s been making solid two-strike contact. Trumbo displays the confidence Brandon Wood has been searching for the past couple of seasons. Will he keep hitting once the pitching gets better in a couple of weeks? That remains to be seen. But if Morales isn’t ready to play fulltime by opening day, it will interesting to see how the kid who grew up just a flyball away from Angel Stadium does once the real bullets start to fly.
— Scott Kazmir looks like the same, old Scott Kazmir. He didn’t give up an earned run on Wednesday, but he did allow five hits and coughed up four walks in a typical sloppy outing. Scioscia keeps saying he is making progress, but it sounds forced. If Kazmir continues to pitch like this, he shouldn’t be part of an otherwise excellent rotation. It’s really as simple as that.
— The most exciting player in camp is a 19-year-old kid who is probably two years away from Anaheim. Everything Mike Trout does looks and feels right. No wonder baseball people regard him as one of the two best prospects in the game. He has a quick bat and is disciplined beyond his years at the plate. His work ethic is off the charts and his greatest tool — his speed — is remarkable for someone 6-2 and 215 pounds. They say he was timed in 3.98 seconds going down the line to first base the other day. That would only make him the fastest player in baseball. What Scioscia and everyone in the organization really loves, though, is Trout’s attitude. “He has the character of a Don Mattingly and the talent of a Kirby Puckett,” says Scioscia. The Angels have had more than their share of “phenoms” who fizzled out through the years. Do not expect Mike Trout to be the next one. No, no, this kid is different. He is the real deal.
— STEVE BISHEFF