May 2008

Conger, Mount Activated at Rancho Cucamonga

Just got back from the Quakes game … Hank Conger and Ryan Mount were activated tonight and were in the starting lineup.  Conger DH’d and Mount played 2B.  Nothing official on when Conger might catch; scuttlebutt around the park seemed to be he might be given the medical okay to catch in the next month or so.

Speed Kills

Cedar Rapids Gazette sportswriter Jeff Johnson, who covers the Kernels, had an excellent lengthy article published May 28 on the Baseball America web site. Click Here to read the article, but a BA subscription is required.

Titled “Walden Expecting to Light Up Radar Guns Again,” the article is largely about Jordan Walden’s occasionally touching 100 MPH in velocity. So far in 2008, “his heater has regularly sat around 93 mph and has gotten as high as 96,” Jeff wrote.

“No, he’s not a finished product. There’s work to be done on his slider and changeup, and he needs to be more consistent with the command of his fastball,” Jeff notes.

All this obsession with velocity is fine, but if you talk to professional pitching coaches they’ll tell you that velocity is pretty far down on the priority list.

This shocks the average fan, who has radar gun readings flashed at him on stadium scoreboards after every pitch.

The late Howie Gershberg, an Angels’ minor league pitching coach who passed away from cancer in 2003, was revered by his pupils. Howie and I recorded a series of interviews between 1999 and 2002. Click Here to locate the interviews in the Audio Gallery.

Howie said the four elements of a pitch in order of priority are: (1) location, (2) movement, (3) velocity and (4) deception.

Peter Gammons’ column in the latest BA quotes Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson as saying that pitching “is about (in order of importance) location, change of speeds, movement and, finally, velocity.”

What good is a 100 MPH fastball if you can’t throw it for a strike? And even if you can, major league batters can hit a 100 MPH fastball if it has no movement.

I did some quick calculations today to figure out how fast it takes in a fraction of a second for a pitch to travel from the mound to home plate — 60 feet, six inches. The calculations ranged from 75 MPH (my velocity) to 100 MPH (Jordan Walden’s velocity).

Of course, that’s an average MPH. The ball leaves the pitcher’s hand at a faster speed than what it’s travelling when it arrives at home. Air resistance affects the ball as does the tug of gravity.

Here are the results:

100 0.413
99 0.417
98 0.421
97 0.425
96 0.430
95 0.434
94 0.439
93 0.444
92 0.448
91 0.453
90 0.458
89 0.463
88 0.469
87 0.474
86 0.480
85 0.485
84 0.491
83 0.497
82 0.503
81 0.509
80 0.516
79 0.522
78 0.529
77 0.536
76 0.543
75 0.550

These are rather astonishing numbers.

The difference between me and Jordan is a little over a tenth of a second.

The difference between a 90 MPH fastball and a 100 MPH fastball is about 1/25 of a second.

The difference between a 95 MPH fastball and a 100 MPH fastball is about 1/50 of a second.

So what’s the big whoop about 100 MPH?

As I’ve written many times, the keys to hitting are fast hands and excellent hand-eye coordination. I’ve heard the average velocity on a major league fastball is about 90 MPH, which means that a major league hitter has .458 of a second to see the ball exit the pitcher’s hand, adjust to its location, movement and speed, and hit the ball squarely (or let it go by).

When you realize that the difference between a 90 MPH fastball and a 100 MPH fastball is only 1/25 of a second, you start to see why it’s not that big a deal for a major league batter to adjust his timing to hit a 100 MPH fastball that doesn’t move.

This is why location, movement and changing speeds is more important.

Location means throwing the ball to a target set by the catcher that’s unlikely for the batter to hit the ball squarely. Movement means the ball isn’t straight — it curves, it slides, it knuckles, it cuts. Many pitches don’t break until they near home. To make the math easy, let’s assume the break occurs in the last third of that distance. For a 90 MPH fastball, that’s the last 15/100 of a second before it arrives.

Batters compensate by studying the rotation of the pitch so they can try to recognize what the ball will do as it approaches the plate. But very few batters have such excellent eyesight. Ted Williams used to claim that when he was in a hot streak, he could see the seams on the ball. When he was a pilot in the Air Force, his eyesight was so good he could spot enemy aircraft before his colleagues.

When Bill Stoneman became GM, the Angels instituted a program in fall instructional league that required the young pitchers to throw only fastballs and changeups. It saved wear on their arms, but more importantly it taught them to change speeds. Howie Gershberg had a word for this — the batter would “mis-hit” the ball because the changeup threw off his timing, so critical in adjusting to the ball’s movement, location and velocity.

In Jeff Johnson’s article, he wrote that Jordan Walden has more work to do on his slider and changeup. Pitches that involve movement and change of speeds.

People will get all excited if Jordan hits 100 MPH again. But he’ll win a lot more games if he learns to locate his pitches and masters his secondary pitches.

Where Are They Now?

Having run for ten years, a lot of players have crossed my path. Once they leave the Angels’ organization, we tend to lose track of them, but every once in a while I’ll see their names in a box score and think, “He’s still out there playing?!”

So I thought I’d give you some names you might remember and take a look at where they’re at now.

Let’s lead off with Dallas McPherson, once projected as the Angels’ third baseman — the Angels let Troy Glaus depart as a free agent to make room for Dallas — but a chronic back injury led to increasing severe surgeries and longer recovery times. Dallas was let go last winter to find his fortune elsewhere.

Dallas is currently in the Florida Marlins’ system, playing for their Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque. The city is one of those high-elevation ballparks I’m always warning you about when you look at PCL stats, so Isotopes’ numbers have to be viewed with a bit of suspicion.

Playing every day at third base, Dallas is showing signs of recovering his career. His AVG/OBP/SLG are .289/.383/.625 with 15 HR. His home/road OPS split is 1.069/.951. His main vulnerability right now is exposure to left-handed pitchers; he’s batting just .194 against southpaws.

Outfielder Nick Gorneault was claimed on waivers last October by the Rangers, only to be given his minor-league free agency in December. Nick signed with the Astros and has been playing for Triple-A Round Rock. Deprived of Salt Lake’s friendly confines, Nick’s AVG/OBP/SLG are only .226/.324/.371. He’s the regular left fielder for the Express.

Tommy Murphy was granted free agency last October and signed with the Washington Nationals, who assigned him this year to Triple-A Columbus. His numbers are .261/.356/.359. Murph has played all three outfield positions and second base, recalling his early days as a shortstop in the Angels system.

Pitcher Steven Shell was a third-round pick in the June 2001 draft. Once projected as a major league starter, he didn’t progress quickly enough to hold onto his status, eventually wound up in the Salt Lake bullpen last year and was given his minor-league free agency. Shell is also assigned with the Nationals and is Murphy’s teammate at Columbus. Steven started the season in the bullpen but has returned to the rotation and made four starts. Overall, he has a 3.29 ERA in 41.0 IP with a 37:12 SO:BB ratio and a 1.22 WHIP. I always felt Steven just required a little patience; not everyone evolves at the same rate.

Shawn Wooten was a fan favorite during the 2002 World Series run. He’s been knocking around the minors the last few years. In 2007, he caught for the Padres’ Double-A team, got released, played a little independent ball, then was signed by the Mets and played 15 games for Triple-A New Orleans. New York released Woot on May 3 this year and he re-signed with the Padres. He’s currently with the Portland team in Salt Lake to play the Bees.

Reliever Steve Andrade had a funky delivery that actually had his head turned at a 90-degree angle towards first base when he released the ball. The Blue Jays claimed him on waivers in December 2004, sending him on a bizarre odyssey that became a running joke in e-mail between his mom and me. Tampa Bay selected him in the December 2005 Rule 5 draft, then traded him the same day to San Diego. The Royals claimed him on waivers the next spring, brought him up to Kansas City for four games, then released him in June. The Padres signed him for the balance of 2006, then he took his minor league free agency and re-signed with Tampa Bay. Steve is currently with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits and is posting typical numbers — 3.00 ERA in 13 relief appearances, five saves, a 30:9 SO:BB ratio in 18.0 IP.

If you’re curious about anyone else, post a question and I’ll see what I can find out.

UPDATE 5:00 PM PDT — Shawn Wooten homered and doubled today for Portland in their 9-8 11-inning win over the Bees. As they used to say in Anaheim, Woooooot …

This ‘N That

As I’ve previously noted, I’m busy this year on a political project that eats up a lot of my free time. That’s the main reason you haven’t seen more posts on this blog in recent weeks.

Given the skyrocketing cost of gas, the political diversion is probably a good thing because I’d be travelling a lot more. At this point, I think it would cost me about $16 or so just to make one round trip to Rancho Cucamonga.

The cost of flying is going up too, while service continues to decline. My wife got stranded on a short hop today returning from Colorado because of a problem with the plane. (U.S. Airways, in case you’re interested …) So although I miss my friends in Cedar Rapids and North Little Rock, I’m kinda glad I’m not making those trips this year because of all the aforementioned reasons.

I did finalize plans to visit Orem June 27-30. Unlike their brethren up the I-15 in Salt Lake, I’m assured that I will be welcome to shoot photos and video in the ballpark.

It should be an interesting trip. Friday night June 27 is a road game at Ogden, on the north side of Salt Lake City. The Raptors fans are a fun, rowdy bunch. A Friday night crowd in particular should be quite entertaining once they get a couple beers down …

The June 28-30 games are against the Casper Ghosts, formerly known as the Casper Rockies. Their caps supposedly glow in the dark under certain conditions. Casper owner Kevin Haughian was once the GM of the Lake Elsinore Storm when they were the Angels’ California League affiliate in the 1990s. Whenever Orem plays Casper, I always shoot photos of the Casper players to help out Kevin. Salt Lake aside, that’s what the minor leagues are all about — everyone helps out everyone else.

It’s reasonable to assume that at least half of the Orem squad right now is in high school or college. Unlike the other affiliates, where you have a good educational guess who will be there come Opening Night, it’s kinda hard to hype the team when you have no idea who will be on your roster.

I’m hoping Korean prospect Young-Il Jung might rejoin the Owlz after missing most of 2007 with an elbow injury. If not, maybe I’ll see him pitch at Tempe sometime in July or August.

The crummy economy struck my wife’s employer on Friday while she was out of town. Massive layoffs were announced; she was offered an early retirement buyout. If she declines, she could walk the plank too.

As you’ve heard probably one too many times, we’re heading for Florida in less than four years. We were hoping to survive our employers, but she might not make it. Should she lose her income, that will definitely impact my travel schedule since we’ll have to watch our pennies.

Speaking of Florida … my future home team, the Brevard County Manatees, set a first-pitch record today. They should be up to almost 7,000 by now. Minor league teams always look for wacky promotions; this is one I haven’t heard of before, but it’s a good idea.

The Arkansas Travelers have certainly turned it around. They won their seventh straight tonight, 6-0 over rival Northwest Arkansas, to move within two games of the first place Naturals. Ben Johnson hit his 9th homer tonight, which should put him on a pace to hit about 30 HR or so this year. Fernie Rodriguez, who came in with a 6.85 ERA, threw a complete-game shutout, striking out eight while scattering five hits and walking just one.

One big factor in the turnaround was importing independent league players, some of whom are experienced minor leaguers released by other organizations. Travs COO Bill Valentine has been quite vocal expressing his opinion that the Angels should help him put a competitive product on the field by signing veteran players from the independent leagues, instead of using younger players from down the ladder who’ve been promoted ahead of their talent curve. Adam Morrissey, Corey Smith, Jordan Czarniecki, Adam Greenberg, and Dan Denham all came from outside the organization to make significant contributions.

At the other end of the scale, the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes so far have been a big disappointment. Sure, they’ve been crippled by the loss of critical position players — Hank Conger, Matt Sweeney, and Ryan Mount — but it’s a mystery why the pitching staff hasn’t lived up to expectations. They’re better than a 4.94 team ERA. Their team AVG/OBP/SLG of .257/.315/.390 are all subpar numbers for their talent.

One bright exception is center fielder Peter Bourjos, who in my opinion is the early leader for the Angels’ minor league player of the year award. Pete’s line is .340/.373/.480 with 24 SB in 26 attempts. He fits into the Angels’ Contactball philosophy, with only 26 strikeouts in 150 AB. The only tool yet to manifest itself is significant power, but that usually seems to come last with many players.

Anyway, time to get back to muckraking …

Ervin Santana’s Revenge

So, you’re telling me that after one terrific start in Fenway Park that Santana is back? Uh-uh. No way.

There were several Angels followers (I will save names to protect the ignorant) with blogs and filling up message boards that they believed in Santana and the guy everyone saw in Boston two starts ago was the real deal.

Sorry, folks. What happened Tuesday is what this kid is all about.

This is the Santana everyone knows. This is the Santana nobody loves. This is the real Ervin Santana. Whose fault is this? Not mine, nor my fellow beat writers.

Thus wrote Riverside Press-Enterprise beat writer Matt Hurst on August 28, 2007, insulting people like me who had written that Ervin Santana’s problems were mechanical and eventually he’d figure it out.

Ervin, of course, has shown this year he’s one of the best pitchers in the American League. And those of us who were called “ignorant” were proven more knowledgeable about the game than a sports writer with a chip on his shoulder because Ervin gave an interview to a Hispanic Los Angeles Times reporter instead of the beat writers.

Here’s what I wrote last August in response to Hurst’s blog:

Let’s keep in mind he’s only 24 years old. Nearly all young pitchers go through growing pains. John Lackey was inconsistent his first two full seasons — he had a 4.63 ERA in 2003 and a 4.67 ERA in 2004. Certain fans on the Angels board called him “Lacknuts” and demanded the Angels dump him. Thank goodness Stoneman ignored them. Lackey was 26 years old a month after the end of that 2004 season, about two years older than Santana is now.

It would be pretty foolish to give up on a 24-year old kid with Ervin’s stuff just because he’s behind the maturity curve due to his upbringing in third-world squalor.

Read through the replies posted to Hurst’s blog and you see the same clueless instant-gratification garbage that shows up on some fan boards. It’s so easy to be a fan when a player is doing well. But some of these self-proclaimed “fans” will stab a player in the back at the first sign he’s human. Garret Anderson has more holes in him than a voodoo doll, a favorite target of those who are more interested in attaching themselves to a winner than offering support when it’s needed most. GA started out slow, but in his last ten games is batting .444 and has hit three homers. Quick, everybody, back on the bandwagon!

Ervin so far is 6-0 with a 2.63 ERA. In eight starts, he’s thrown 54.2 IP, struck out 45, walked ten, and has a 0.97 WHIP (Walks + Hits)/(Innings Pitched). He has a complete game shutout. He’s 7th in the A.L. in strikeouts, and one of only three 6-0 pitchers in the league. His AVG/OBP/SLG are .214/.251/.303.

Everyone is entitled to post an opinion, but that doesn’t grant you an exemption from criticism when your “opinion” turned out to be flat wrong. People who call themselves “fans” but jump ship at the first hint of trouble have no cause for complaint when held accountable for their words.

Meanwhile, whipping boys like Ervin Santana and Garret Anderson go about their business, successful major leaguers, while their critics remain seated in the stands, hoping their ill-informed rants are lost in the anonymity of the crowd.

Angels Players of the Month for April

From a Cedar Rapids Kernels press release …

Tobin, former Kernels, sweep Angels’ monthly awards

May 8, 2008 – RHP Mason Tobin was selected today as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Organizational Pitcher of the Month for April. Tobin was 2-0 with no earned runs in 15 IP and pitched a complete game shutout in three starts. His next scheduled start is May 10th at Wisconsin.

Former Kernels Matt Brown and Brad Coon were named the Angels Player of the Month and Defensive Player of the Month, respectively.

Brown (CR 2003-04) batted .426 (43-101) with six home runs, 22 RBI, 10 doubles, three triples and 25 runs scored in 23 games at triple-A Salt Lake.

Coon (CR 2006) committed no errors in 57 total chances (55 PO/2 A) in 21 games at triple-A Salt Lake.

Lackey, Kendrick at Rancho Cucamonga

John Lackey pitched four innings Sunday.

Howie Kendrick had two singles in three at-bats Sunday.

Video of John Lackey and Howie Kendrick at Rancho Cucamonga yesterday is now online. Click Here to watch the video. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch. The video has a couple extras, including the players in a “flip” game before the contest, not unusual during pre-game warmups especially among the bullpen pitchers.

Lackey pitched four innings and threw about 70 pitches. Although his overall line looked good, he often fell behind in pitch counts. I kinda got the impression he’s chomping at the bit, wanting to get back to the parent club. His main job is to increase his pitch count, not pitch “lights out” so to speak.

Kendrick had two singles in three at-bats. He left after the fifth inning because the Angels wanted him on the team flight to Kansas City.

This ‘N That

The Bees suffered a rare loss last night in Memphis. They’re now 24-3.

Center fielder Brad Coon has played in 25 games, and reached base in all of them. He did not have hits in five of those games. How did he reach base? He walked in three of them. The other two, he was hit by a pitch. The tough way to keep a streak going.

Coon was someone considered a sleeper when he was selected in the 15th round of the June 2005 draft. His speed and ability to reach base projected him as a prospect. At age 22+, he was quite old for Rookie-A Orem. He continued behind the age curve until this year. In 2007, he split the season between Rancho Cucamonga (.258/.344/.311 in 74 games) and Arkansas (.301/.372/.385 in 58 games). He figured to return to North Little Rock for 2008, but made the Salt Lake roster out of spring training. He’s now 25 (DOB 12/11/82), so he’s at a level more typical of his contemporaries.

Brad’s AVG/OBP/SLG so far are .340/.438/.388. I’m usually not much of a fan of guys whose on-base percentage is higher than their slugging percentage, because singles hitters went out of vogue with the 1960s. But if the player is a base stealer, he effectively turns those singles and walks into doubles. Coon had a SB/CS ratio of 55/21 with Cedar Rapids in 2006, and a combined 56/21 ratio in 2007. In 2008 to date, he’s at only 6:5, probably because he’s seeing not only experienced catchers but he’s also trying to swipe bags off pitchers who know how to hold a runner on base.

Of his 35 hits so far, only three are for extra bases — two doubles and a homer. But he’s also making contact — he has a SO:BB ratio of 17:16 in 103 AB.

With four veteran outfielders, Reggie Willits and Juan Rivera ahead of him in Anaheim, I don’t know how Brad projects into a future Anaheim roster. But you never know.

Quakes CF Peter Bourjos leads the Angels system in stolen bases this year with 17, with Kernels LF Jeremy Moore is right behind him at 15. Next is Kernels SS Andrew Romine at 13 and then Quakes LF Anthony Norman at 7.

John Lackey is still scheduled to make a rehab start Sunday at Rancho Cucamonga. Howie Kendrick’s rehab was pushed back a few days after he felt some soreness working out in Anaheim. The latest media reports have him at Rancho sometime next week. The Quakes have Monday off, then host Inland Empire for three May 6-8 at The Epicenter.

Unless fate intervenes, I’ll be at Rancho tomorrow to videotape Lackey’s start. Look for highlights on sometime Sunday night or Monday.

The Milwaukee Brewers have designated Derrick Turnbow for assignment. He’d have to pass through waivers and then accept a minor league assignment, or he could take his free agency. Personally, I’d like to see the Angels claim him if they get the chance. The bullpen has been a bit thin so far and Turnbow grew up in the system after being claimed from Philadelphia during the December 1999 Rule 5 Draft. But I suspect someone else will claim him before the Angels get a shot, as waivers go in reverse order of winning percentage.

If you’ve been reading this blog over the last year, you know my wife and I have long-range plans to move to the Space Coast of Florida in about four years. Our next real estate scouting trip is tentatively planned for late August. I want her to experience the worst of the weather to be sure she can handle the heat, humidity and hurricanes.

I checked the Florida State League schedule to see if the Brevard County Manatees or Daytona Cubs might be home, and noticed their regular season schedules end with the month of August. Almost all the other full-season leagues traditionally end Labor Day weekend. Maybe it’s because hurricane season starts around then. When Hurricane Frances blew through on September 5, 2004, it destroyed half the scoreboard at Space Coast Stadium and damaged the roof. Up the coast in Daytona, Frances and Hurricane Jeanne tore off the batting cage roof and most of the outfield wall signage, and collapsed the light towers.

Sure beats boring Southern California weather, doesn’t it?

Whenever I tell a Californian about our Florida plans, inevitably the first thing they ask is, “What about the hurricanes?” But when I travel back east and tell people where I live now, inevitably the first thing they ask is, “What about the earthquakes?”

In closing … As mentioned in earlier blogs, I’m busy this year with a political project so I don’t have as much free time as usual. I’m still working on spring training photos, which you’ll find in the digital photo gallery. Anyone can shoot an action shot; I prefer to capture images that have some sort of interesting subject.

Below are some images you’ll find in the gallery. You can order reprints of any image on the site.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia visited the minor league complex on March 17. He watched the bullpen thrown by pitcher Tommy Mendoza and caught by Hank Conger.


Ben Johnson catches a warmup pitch from Shane Loux before the Double-A spring training game on March 17.


Pitchers participate in a fielding drill.


Catcher Brian Walker shows some hustle chasing after a loose ball.


The main entrance to the minor league complex office.


My guilty pleasure is photographing baseball gear in its natural habitat. Nothing is posed. This shot has everything — bat, glove, shoe, jacket with team logo.


April in Review

How many teams could absorb losing two pitchers the caliber of John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, and lose a future batting champion in Howie Kendrick, yet end the month with the best winning percentage in the American League?

That’s what the Angels accomplished in April.

Once again the Angels showed the wisdom of keeping their prospect depth instead of flushing the farm for some “name” veteran. The Angels survived injuries quite nicely, thank you very much, because they didn’t dump their future for the “big bat” quick-fix demanded by certain fans and sportswriters last winter.

Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana, two young arms certain fan forum posters wanted shown the door, finished April 5-0. Saunders had a 2.08 ERA in 43.1 IP, while Santana had a 2.48 ERA in 40.0 IP.

Casey Kotchman, the “injury-prone singles hitter” some people wanted gone and the sooner the better, finished the month among the league leaders in home runs with six. Casey’s AVG/OBP/SLG were .344/.406/.594. He found himself batting cleanup for a couple games at month’s end.

Jeff Mathis, another target of fan tirades, showed outstanding defense and his bat finally came around enough to bat .298/.320/.553 in April. Jeff split time behind the plate with Mike Napoli, who was never projected as a top prospect but worked hard to make himself a big-league starting catcher.

Erick Aybar asserted himself to take the full-time starting shortstop job. Erick finished April at .318/.330/.375 and, as I’m writing this, just hit his first homer of the year.

Lackey finished April simulating spring training in a series of minor league rehab starts. He was lights out — literally — for Rancho Cucamonga at Lancaster Tuesday night, as the right-field light standards failed after his third inning of work. Lackey went to the bullpen and threw another 20 pitches to get up to his desired pitch count for the night. His next start is Sunday afternoon at Rancho Cucamonga; if circumstances permit, I’ll be there to film video for the web site.

Howie Kendrick suffered a hamstring pull early in the month, but the Angels survived with both Aybar and Maicer Izturis for infield depth. When Izturis was hurt with a lower back strain, they called up Sean Rodriguez for his major league debut, then brought up Brandon Wood and Matt Brown to give them some exposure at 3B with Chone Figgins moving over to 2B. Kendrick was scheduled to make a minor league rehab appearance tonight with Rancho Cucamonga and may be activated Friday.

And when first Jeff Mathis and then Mike Napoli were felled by the flu, up came Bobby Wilson as a backup catcher. Bobby got one at-bat and singled for his first major league hit.

All that promoted talent came from Salt Lake. What happened to them? Funny you should ask …

The Triple-A Salt Lake Bees finished April at 23-2, believed to be a minor league baseball record for best start ever. Salt Lake won their first eight on the road, lost their home opener, then won another thirteen in a row before losing on the road at Memphis.

I wrote about the Bees on Sunday, so I won’t repeat that column other than to note that starters Shane Loux and Giancarlo Alvarado, two pitchers whose careers were rescued from the scrap pile, finished April with respective ERAs of 2.05 and 2.60.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Double-A Arkansas Travelers got off to a miserable start at 9-17. The Travs lost their first seven in a row, then went 8-3, then went on a new skid losing six in a row. Arkansas finished April with a .230 team batting average (7th in the Texas League) and 15 HR (8th in the Texas League). The pitching was a bit better; their 4.18 team ERA was fourth in the eight-team league. The Angels shook up the roster early in the month, releasing outfielder Jordan Renz and pitcher Von Stertzbach, while signing former Travs infielder Adam Morrissey from independent ball, and minor league free agents Dan Denham and Jordan Czarniecki.

Quakes fans rightfully expected a post-season contender with all the prospects headed for Rancho Cucamonga, but injuries derailed that train. Catcher Hank Conger suffered a slight labrum tear in his right shoulder and remained in spring training, along with second baseman Ryan Mount and third baseman Matt Sweeney who were also injured. That sapped much of the offense, but there’s no explaining what happened to what I expected would be the league’s top starting rotation.

2007 Angels Minor League Pitcher of the Year Sean O’Sullivan finished April with a 5.60 ERA, Trevor Bell was at 6.14, David Herndon at 7.29, and Amalio Diaz at 5.79. Only Tommy Mendoza had a respectable ERA at 2.89. Overall, the Quakes finished April at 8-18, losing 13 of their last 15.

The Quakes did have a few bright spots. Peter Bourjos stole 17 bases in 18 attempts; if he stays healthy and spends the entire season at Rancho, he could reach 75 SBs at that pace. Anthony Norman was promoted to Rancho after one game at Cedar Rapids, and finished the month at .294/.429/.500 with 7 SBs.

The Kernels finished April at a respectable 14-11. Their .232 team AVG was 11th in the 14-team Midwest League, but their 3.41 team ERA was sixth in the league. 1B Efren Navarro had the best offensive numbers at .320/.416/.453. Top pitching prospect Jordan Walden had a 2.83 ERA in five starts with a 25:9 SO:BB ratio in 28.2 IP. Mike Anton’s ERA was 2.84, Mason Tobin was 1.23, Robert Fish was 3.47, and Trevor Reckling was 4.01. Closer Ryan Brasier had a 1.20 ERA with a 13:7 SO:BB ratio in 15.0 IP.

May began with Nick Adenhart getting an unexpected callup to fill an Angels’ rotation slot until John Lackey returns mid-month. Nick didn’t look like his usual confident self, and left in the top of the 3rd after he was roughed up for five runs. It may have been a bit early to call up the talented 21-year old, who according to the Angels broadcasters is now the youngest starting pitcher currently in the majors.