March 2007

Troy Percival to Sign Angels Minor League Contract — and Then Retire


Troy Percival pitches for Lake Elsinore on a rehab assignment in August 2000.

MLB.com reports that Troy Percival will sign a minor league contract Monday with the Angels — and then retire, so he can end his career as an Angel.

Percival is currently a special assignment pitching instructor for the Angels. A resident of nearby Riverside, California, expect to see Troy at Rancho Cucamonga quite often this year.

This ‘N That

Various notes of interest … or lack thereof …

Just finalized reservations to cover the Salt Lake series at Las Vegas April 13-15. It’ll be the opening homestand for the 51s, who are a Dodgers affiliate.

Still working on the next episode of FutureAngels.com Radio. It should be on-line this weekend. The episode after that will be sometime after returning from Las Vegas.

I must be the only person who goes to Las Vegas and doesn’t gamble …


Dustin Moseley will fill in for Jered Weaver in the Angels’ starting rotation.

According to this morning’s Salt Lake Tribune, both Brandon Wood and Matt Brown will be on the Triple-A Salt Lake roster. Hmmm … If Wood plays third base, where will Matt Brown play?! Unless the Angels are planning to move Wood back to shortstop?! Or Brown?! Some have suggested Brownie play first base, but if Kendry Morales goes back to Salt Lake first base will belong to Kendry.

If Wood or Brown play shortstop, does that mean Erick Aybar has made the parent club roster?! Or he’s moving to center field?! Guess we’ll have to wait and see … Aybar sprained his left foot yesterday but Mike Scioscia was quoted as saying it wasn’t serious. Reggie Willits took a knee to the head sliding into third but is just a “little woozy.”

The Angels announced that Dustin Moseley will be in the rotation until Jered Weaver returns to the rotation … Various media reports have Weaver and Bartolo Colon making rehab starts in early April for Rancho Cucamonga … or Salt Lake … or a combination thereof. Best to wait and see.

The parent club will play the Dodgers the next three days, with all three games televised on various stations in L.A.

Gary Matthews Jr. Update

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Albany NY D.A. will release today or tomorrow the list of customers who allegedly bought steroids or HGH from the pharmacies under investigation.

Just when you thought it was safe to talk about baseball again …

Brandon Wood Homers

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It’s time for another poll.

How many home runs will Brandon Wood hit for Salt Lake in 2007?

The options are to the right … And if he hits more than 50 homers, stop the presses.

The results of the last poll … Who should be the Angels’ first baseman in 2007?

  • Casey Kotchman 87%
  • Kendry Morales 6%
  • Robb Quinlan 5%
  • Shea Hillenbrand 3%

There were 198 votes cast.

Spring Training Checkpoint — Part 2

On March 11, I posted an article reviewing spring training and how it might affect the prospects.

Now that we’re further down the road, it’s time to take another look and see how things stand.

FIRST BASE — Casey Kotchman has locked down the first base job. He’s batting .341 with three homers and two doubles. More importantly, he’s healthy. Give him a full season of good health and all the naysayers will be proven wrong.


Howie Kendrick is lighting up the Cactus League.

SECOND BASE — Howie Kendrick is batting .400 with three doubles, two triples and two homers. Neither Kotchman or Kendrick are eligible for the Rookie of the Year award, but by September many Angels fans will wish they were.

SHORTSTOP — Orlando Cabrera will be the shortstop barring injury, with Maicer Izturis the backup. The Angels are giving Erick Aybar every opportunity to make the roster as a utility player, viewing him as the possible eventual successor to Cabrera.

THIRD BASE — Chone Figgins broke a finger and it’s estimated that he’ll be out five to six weeks. Maicer Izturis and Robb Quinlan will hold the fort, with an outside possibility you’ll see Shea Hillenbrand there once or twice. Brandon Wood and Matt Brown are not an option; they still have work to do in the minors.

LEFT FIELD — Garret Anderson is batting .458. Those who’ve been trashing him because his numbers dropped due to injury are going to look pretty foolish if he stays healthy all year. Erick Aybar played LF in a game earlier this week, giving him another opportunity to make the roster as a utility player.


The Angels are giving Erick Aybar every opportunity to make the Opening Night roster.

CENTER FIELD — Gary Matthews Jr. is 11 for 40 with three extra-base hits (all homers). Now that he’s issued the "statement" demanded by Arte Moreno regarding the report he once ordered human growth hormone, the media seems to have lost interest and Matthews is free to concentrate on baseball. Aybar, Reggie Willits and Tommy Murphy have been competing for what were thought to be only two available slots, but with Figgins’ injury all three might make the Opening Night roster.

RIGHT FIELD — Vlad Guerrero is only 9 for 36 with one homer but all he has to do is get ready for the season. Murphy and Willits have a little RF experience, with veteran Curtis Pride in the mix if he’s needed.

CATCHER — A news story surfaced suggesting the Angels might be shopping Jose Molina, but I doubt it. That would leave Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis as the big-league catchers, and neither has proven he can handle the job over the long haul. I still think it’ll be Jose Molina and either Napoli or Mathis; at this point, it looks like Napoli’s bat will trump Mathis’ superior defense, so look for Jeff to return to Triple-A Salt Lake where he’ll play full-time. Mathis needs to step it up at the plate; with Molina slated for free agency after the season, the Angels will need him in 2008.

STARTING ROTATION — John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, and Ervin Santana remain healthy. Jered Weaver has been building up his pitch count, but it looks like he’ll miss one or two starts before he’ll join the parent club in April. Bartolo Colon seems to be ahead of schedule, but Joe Saunders will be in the rotation until both Weaver and Colon return. News reports have either Dustin Moseley or Hector Carrasco the leading candidates to fill the fifth slot until Weaver and Colon are ready.

BULLPEN — Many candidates remain for the one available bullpen slot. Moseley and Chris Bootcheck would seem to be the leading candidates, although others such as Chris Resop and Marcus Gwyn remain in the mix. This one should go down to the wire.

Hopefully this weekend I’ll start posting photos from my minor league camp trip. When you include hotel, gas, and other expenses, it probably cost me somewhere around $700. If you enjoy all the content on FutureAngels.com, please consider a donation or voluntary subscription. So far I’ve received $150 in donations for 2007, which is exceptionally generous. The donations not only help with the travel costs but also the addition of new features such as this blog, the bulletin board and the polls. Sales of the photos help a little but it’s never enough. So if you want to see more, please consider helping out.

This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.

Minor League Spring Training, Day Three


Nick Green started for the Arkansas squad on March 20.

The final day of my photos from minor league camp are now on-line at:

www.futureangels.com/tempe/springphotos.aspx

With the parent club playing a night game tonight cross-town at Peoria against the Padres, the Angels assigned some of their major league camp players to the Salt Lake roster for today’s game against the Giants’ Triple-A squad.

Jose Molina caught the first half of the game. Kendry Morales played most of the game at first base. Also in the lineup were Nathan Haynes in center field, Terry Evans in right field, Nick Gorneault in left field, Sean Rodriguez at shortstop and Brandon Wood at third base.

Phil Seibel, acquired over the winter from the Red Sox for Brendan Donnelly, pitched the first two innings for Salt Lake. He was followed by Kevin Jepsen, Felipe Arredondo, Vladimir Veras and Matt Reilly. None of those guys will be with Salt Lake this year. They were just filling out the roster for the day.

On the Arkansas side, Nick Green got the start. He’s a real sleeper, starting with his "plus" changeup. He could see Triple-A Salt Lake by the end of the year.

In the lineup for the Arkansas roster were many 2006 Quakes — Freddy Sandoval, Michael Collins, Ben Johnson, Pat Reilly, Nate SUtton, and the Fuller brothers, Cody and Clay.

With the Angels playing tonight, several parent club coaches came by. Mike Scioscia (who’s lost weight, boys and girls), Mike Butcher, and Dino Ebel were there.

In the morning, I recorded an interview with farm director Tony Reagins. The interview should be on FutureAngels.com in the next couple days. I also collected materials for the next FutureAngels.com Radio podcast at the end of the month.

We drive home to Orange County in the morning, so I’ll be off-line most of the day.

This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.

Minor League Spring Training, Day Two


Jered Weaver threw a simulated game session today.

Another day of photos from minor league camp are now on-line at:

www.futureangels.com/tempe/springphotos.aspx

Among other things, you’ll see a photo of Jered Weaver throwing his simulated game.  Most of the Angels brass was in attendance, including Bill Stoneman, Mike Scioscia, Mike Butcher and more.  Bobby Wilson caught the session, with right-handed batter Michael Collins and left-handed batter Brad Coon alternating in the box.  Four or five minor leaguers were scattered in the outfield to shag balls.

This was strictly for exercise, not to pitch in actual game conditions, so Weaver wasn’t trying to blow away anyone.  But on his final pitch, he took his time and painted the inside corner at the knees.

Stoneman and Scioscia spent quite some time watching the various minor league workouts in the morning.  You’ll see a photo of Scioscia talking with minor league field coordinator Bruce Hines.  Unlike many organizations, the Angels are very disciplined about the entire organization being on the same page when it cames to the way they play the game.  I’ve heard the minor league managers and coaches many times tell players to do something the way Scioscia wants it.  So it’s not the least bit surprising that he’d be there on an off-day.  Pitching coach Mike Butcher and third base coach Dino Ebel also put in an appearance.

It seemed like rehab day on the mound.  Mitch Arnold and Bobby Cassevah, both coming back from Tommy John surgery, threw in games.  I also got to see Warner Madrigal pitch the 9th for the Rancho Cucamonga team.  Madrigal was originally a power-hitting outfielder in the lower minors, but after a couple broken hand injuries and a lot of unfulfilled promise at the plate the Angels decided to convert him last year into a reliever.  He’s throwing in the mid-90s and already has a slider and changeup.  He was effective against the Oakland roster he faced, 1-2-3 in the 9th.

There’s an outfielder on the Rancho roster right now named Anthony Norman, who used to play for UCLA.  He was signed in February.  I don’t know his background, so if anyone is familiar with him please chip in.  You’ll see a photo of him making a head-first dive to score in the 1st inning.

All the guys cut yesterday were in camp today.  Got to say hi to Brandon Wood and Nick Adenhart.  Erick Aybar was hanging out later in the day.

As for Korean pitcher Young-Il Jung, I’ve seen an interpreter assigned to him but he seems to spend a lot of time without the interpreter conversing with his teammates.  How much he knows, much less understands, is debatable.

We face the Giants teams tomorrow, then I head home on Wednesday.

This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.

Minor League Spring Training, Day One


Hank Conger was the Angels’ first-round draft pick in June 2006.

I’m in Tempe for three days to shoot photos and video at minor league camp. I’ll post a few photos each day at this link:

www.futureangels.com/tempe/springphotos.aspx

The video will have to wait until I return to Orange County.

You’ll see Hank Conger and Young-Il Jung in the photos. Jung was the starting pitcher today, and Conger was his catcher. Jung was very wild, and appeared to be on a limited pitch count as he was removed in the second inning. In minor league spring training, a manager can call "roll over" or "switch sides" to end an inning before three outs if his pitcher is exceeding his anticipated pitch count. That’s what happened to Jung in the 2nd, and he didn’t start the 3rd. I doubt he was hurt, as he came out later and joined his teammates in the bleachers to watch the rest of the game. (Something in Korean was handwritten under the bill of his cap.)

WIth a runner on 3rd in the top of the 1st, Conger sailed a pickoff throw down the 3rd base line.

Because the parent club had a split-squad day, and the Triple-A and Double-A teams were on the road, there were very few "name" players at the minor league camp for this afternoon’s games.

Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is managing the Cubs’ Low-A Peoria team this year. He coached third base today in the game Jung and Conger played in for the "Cedar Rapids" squad.

This was my first visit to the new minor league complex. As many people know, the Angels’ had a separate minor league complex in Mesa from 1984 through 2005. It was like going from a Mini-Cooper to an Escalade. I miss the intimacy of Gene Autry Park, but it was pretty obvious how handy this is for the parent club. Announcements were made over the P.A. for players to report to Tempe Diablo Stadium across the parking lot when they were needed for the split-squad game.

Tomorrow is an off-day for the parent club but the minor league complex is in full swing, so I’m curious to see whether Moreno, Stoneman, Scioscia and crew spend the day at minor league camp or take the day to go smell the roses … By the way, the temperature has approached 100 degrees yesterday and today. Oh, and regular gas is about $2.65 – $2.70 a gallon. Their price isn’t as high because they don’t pay extra for all the additional refining to keep the air clean and the gas tax is lower. If you’re driving out, it’s always a handy tip to try to gas up after you cross the border into Arizona, and on the way back to do so just before re-entering California.

This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.

Matthews, Memos and Memories

We leave in the morning for Tempe, Arizona, where I’ll be covering the Angels minor league camp March 18-20.

Before I go, some housekeeping items.

  • I wrote on Wednesday about a fanciful theory suggesting that a political connection between Angels owner Arte Moreno and the White House might have something to do with Moreno pressuring Gary Matthews Jr. to make a public statement regarding a news report that Matthews ordered human growth hormone in August 2004.

    The column generated more than the normal correspondence. In particular, I exchanged a series of e-mails with an attorney familiar with federal laws and prosecution practices.

    In the Wednesday column, I wrote about a January 2003 Justice Department policy called the Thompson Memorandum which according to articles I researched was designed to help circumvent the Fifth Amendment by having corporations pressure their employees to testify without due process and the possibility of self-incrimination.

    The attorney wanted me to know that the Thompson Memorandum was rescinded in December 2006, replaced by a new policy called the McNulty Memorandum.

    Searching Google, you can find any number of opinions about this new memo, and quite frankly I have better things to do. I’ll suggest you try this analysis at the Association of Corporate Counsel web site.

    My main concern was that the Thompson Memo might provide a means for Major League Baseball to avoid further government scrutiny regarding its many drug scandals if it could somehow force Matthews into making a public statement which would not be protected from self-incrimination or due process under the Fifth Amendment.

    It’s unclear to me whether the McNulty Memo makes a difference along these lines. My attorney correspondent said we should draw an important distinction between individuals who have Fifth Amendment rights, and corporations which do not. My concern remains — that a corporation could somehow cut a deal with the government by forcing an employee to make an incriminating statement either in public under duress to a corporate witness who might record such a statement as evidence.

    If someone with more time than me, and more legal expertise, wants to take a stab at it, please feel free to post a reply to this thread.

  • My Wednesday column also referred to the growing scandal regarding the alleged sacking of politically appointed United States Attorneys (USAs) who were insufficiently "loyal" to the Bush Administration.

    Although the current investigation by the Albany District Attorney has received most of the headlines, keep in mind that any charges brought there are violations of New York state law. A separate federal investigation is reportedly under way in Mobile of the Applied Pharmacy lab where Matthews allegedly ordered the HGH.

    If you read Matthews’ statement released on Wednesday, he said, "I have never taken HGH — during the 2004 season or any other time." He did not, however, deny ordering it from the Mobile lab.

    Unless someone was rolling film at the time, it’s highly unlikely anyone could prove that Matthews took HGH in August 2004. If he lied, and it could be proven, theoretically obstruction of justice charges might be brought.

    More importantly, though, is that the federal investigation has largely flown under the radar. But that might be about to change, and I have to wonder if that’s what motivated Moreno’s sense of urgency.

    The Mobile Press-Register reported on March 9 that a federal investigation in Mobile has been underway at least since last August, when the Drug Enforcement Administration raided Applied Pharmacy. According to the article, the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department were also involved.

    According to the article, "Other court records reflect that Mobile-based federal prosecutors have been looking at Applied Pharmacy since at least September 2005."

    The assistant USA in Mobile told the reporter that their investigation remains ongoing, although she can’t comment.

    According to ESPN.com investigative reporter Mike Fish, a federal grand jury will convene later this month regarding the case, although that will be held in closed session.

    One can imagine the publicity a USA would get from grilling a famous athlete under oath on the witness stand. It turns out that Alabama’s current U.S. Senator, Jeff Sessions, was once a USA himself.

    So I looked up the current USA in Mobile.

    Her name is Deborah Rhodes. Bush loyalist or not, she has an impressive resume. She has a long successful background in narcotics enforcement.

    She was nominated in September 2005 to replace one David York. Why Mr. York resigned, and whether he was forced out for being insufficiently "loyal", I’ve no idea. But one can presume that Ms. Rhodes passed the political litmus test.

    So if you want to dig out of the garbage that tinfoil hat I asked you to wear on Wednesday, let’s hypothesize … Ms. Rhodes and her staff are along for the ride when the DEA raids Applied last August. They seize the company records. They see who are the customers.

    The story breaks about Matthews not because of a Justice Department leak, but because the Albany D.A. took along two Sports Illustrated reporters for his raids. Somehow the reporters learn about Matthews’ alleged involvement with Applied in Mobile.

    At that point, might Arte Moreno have called the White House and asked for "insider information" regarding the Applied investigation? Keep in mind that Moreno is a major fundraiser for Bush and the Republican Party. If he calls Karl Rove, and Rove calls Alberto Gonzales, who is the USA’s boss … well, you can put the pieces together.

    As I’ve said, this is all fanciful speculation, but if there’s more to the Matthews story than what’s been told, Moreno might have been tipped to it, hence his panicked response in the press.

  • Anyway, back to baseball … I’ve posted on FutureAngels.com the recording of the final game ever played at historic Ray Winder Field. The Arkansas Travelers begin play next month in a new stadium, Dickey-Stephens Park. This seems like a fitting way to end our "Minor League Game of the Week" series that runs every winter on FutureAngels.com.

  • I leave in the morning for Tempe. My wife and I are driving from Orange County. We’ll be there for the minor league camp games on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. We’ll be driving back on Wednesday. So my presence on line will be somewhat minimal. I’ll be shooting plenty of photos as always, and will have the camcorder for video highlights. If time permits, some of it may show up later in the day.

This article is copyright © 2007 Wordsmith Resources and FutureAngels.com. It may not be used elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author.

Who Should Be the Angels’ First Baseman?

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It’s time for another poll.

Who should be the Angels’ first baseman in 2007?

Choose from Shea Hillenbrand, Casey Kotchman, Kendry Morales or Robb Quinlan.

The results of the last poll … Who should be the Angels’ center fielder in 2007?

  • Gary Matthews Jr. 31%
  • Reggie Willitts 28%
  • Tommy Murphy 22%
  • Erick Aybar 18%

There were 183 votes cast.

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