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Angels May Wind up Having to Release Scott Kazmir

Angels pitcher Scott Kazmir didn’t last two innings in his season debut Sunday, casting serious doubt about his ability to make positive contributions to the team this season. Pitching against the Royals where winds were blowing out at up to 44 mph, Kazmir gave up five runs, five hits, two walks, and hit two batters in one and two-thirds innings. Luckily the Angels rallied to take the lead so he ended up without a decision, but he put the Angels in a serious hole to start the game.

Kazmir allowed two runs in the first and three in the second. He got two flyouts to start the second, but then he allowed a solo home run to Melky Cabrera, a double to Alex Gordon, hit Billy Butler, and a two-run double to Kila Ka’aihue before he was finally pulled. Anyone can get roughed up in their season debut — just ask Fausto Carmona — but the poor outing continues a trend that began last year and was evident throughout spring training.

Kazmir went 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA last year, his first full season with the Angels. He struggled during spring training, posting a 6.65 ERA and 1.80 WHIP. His velocity has been down in the 80s mostly whereas when he had success with Tampa, he used to be in the 90s routinely, making it much tougher to get batters out.

I’m not advocating for a player to be cut after one start, I’m simply pointing out that this is a pattern for Kazmir and he’s turning out to be a bust with the Angels. I supported the trade when Tony Reagins acquired him in a trade in 2009, and it appears as if Kazmir has just lost his fastball. The reality is that if the Angels plan to compete for the AL West title, they won’t be able to keep running out a pitcher with a six ERA every 5th day. Then again, after having the bullpen blow three straight games to the Royals, they may have many other problems that are of concern.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

Rally Monkey Chia Pet, Wrestling Masks? Angels Have Best Fan Giveaways Ever

Don’t be alarmed — the images above are not from The Wizard of Oz nor Nacho Libre. Those are actual promotional giveaways the Angels plan to hand out this season.

On January 6th, I read about the Angels’ plans to give away these unique products in Jimmy Traina’s SI Hot Clicks. Back when I first found out about the giveaways, we didn’t have pictures, but now we do. And aren’t you glad we know what the lucky fans in Anaheim will be taking home this season? I sure am. Heck, I’m about to buy tickets to snag one of those bow-tied Teddy Grahams as we speak. And if you thought the sweet giveaways ended there, you were wrong. Here are the three best and unique giveaways the Angels have this year, plus many more:

+ Wrestling Mask May 10th vs. White Sox (pictured)
+ Angels Rally Monkey Chia Pet Aug. 23rd vs. White Sox (pictured)
+ Angels Gumball Machine Sept. 24th vs. A’s

They also have a messenger bag giveaway, a kids troll, a Mothers Day sun hat giveaway, three bobblehead giveaways, and your standard blanket, hat, and calendar giveaways.

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Mark Trumbo Can be Capable Replacement for Kendrys Morales

The Angels haven’t had the best run leading up to the season. They lost out on Carl Crawford in free agency — a player many people thought they were a lock to land — and they also missed out on Rafael Soriano and Adrian Beltre who were other reported targets. Then they acquired Vernon Wells and the $88 million he had left on his current contract. Spring training has featured ups-and-downs — Scott Kazmir has been rocked while Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter have only been so-so. The good news is Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, and Bobby Abreu have all hit well and Ervin Santana has pitched well. But the biggest revelation of all this spring has been Mark Trumbo.

Trumbo is a 25-year-old rookie from Villa Park in Orange, CA who has been tearing things up. Through 23 spring games, Trumbo leads the Angels with six home runs and 20 RBIs, not to mention 17 runs scored. He’s slugged .706 and will likely open up the year as the team’s first baseman replacing Kendrys Morales who still is not recovered from his leg injury sustained in a freak celebration last season. The good news is the Angels will have a hot-hitting replacement at first who should be able to fill the hole for the first month or so.

Trumbo may not be a long-term solution at first as his 2:18 walk-to-strikeout ratio in spring training is a concern. However, Trumbo has displayed power at every level throughout his career, amassing 120 home runs in 2,793 minor league at-bats. He seems to be getting better with age after posting 36 home runs and a .945 OPS last season at Triple-A Salt Lake.

Expecting Trumbo to replace Kendrys Morales’ production is lofty, but the Angels may not be in much trouble with him in the middle of the lineup for the short run.

Mike Trout Pranked By Angels With Phone Number Bit

Mike Trout, a highly-touted outfield prospect from the Los Angeles Angels, recently broke an unwritten rule during team exercises. For that, his phone bill will pay accordingly.  According to Off Base Percentage, Trout spoke out of turn during one of Mike Scioscia’s team building exercises.  Pitcher Jered Weaver was reportedly offended and decided to play a prank on Trout to teach him a lesson.

Weaver — or some other teammate if the pitcher is being falsely accused — arranged for Trout’s cell phone number to be plastered on the scoreboard at Temple Diablo Stadium at various points throughout the game. Lucky for the 19-year-old, there were only 2,822 people on hand to watch the spring training game between the Angels and A’s.  Still, teammate Joel Pineiro said his phone was “blowing up” in his locker during the game.

We’ve seen plenty of baseball pranks before, but this one seems like more of a nuisance than a practical joke.  Rather than thinking to himself, “haha you got me,” Trout has to be thinking, “great, now I have to get a new cell phone number and let everyone know about it.” That being said, I doubt he’ll ever speak out of turn again during one of his manager’s team building exercises.

Angels Acquire Vernon Wells From Blue Jays for Mike Napoli, Possibly Juan Rivera

On Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. EST, I was making my blog rounds when I came across a headline that stated the Blue Jays had acquired catcher Mike Napoli in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels.  Big deal, right?  Actually, it is.  What started out as a seemingly minor transaction quickly morphed into one of the most surprising moves of the winter.

Roughly an hour later, Ken Rosenthal reported that one of the names included in the deal was the amazingly overpaid Vernon Wells.  It remains to be seen what type of financial shuffling needed to take place for Toronto to unload Wells, but he is now a member of the Angels.  The Jays will certainly have to eat a significant chunk of the $86 million Wells is owed over the next four seasons.

Napoli was seeking over $6 million in arbitration — a number the Angels were unwilling to play — while Wells waived his no-trade clause to allow the deal to go through.  The center fielder had his best offensive season since 2006 last year when he hit .273 with 31 homers and 88 RBI.  According to Rosenthal, the Angels will likely leave Wells at his natural position and keep Torii Hunter in right.  Juan Rivera may be included in this deal, but if not the Angels will look to trade him elsewhere to free up space.

For this trade to make any sense at all, Toronto will have to eat almost half of Wells’ contract.  Angels fans were holding out hope that the team would sign either Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee, or Adrian Beltre this offseason and the prize they ended up with is arguably the most overpaid player in baseball.  Maybe a change of scenery will be just what the doctor ordered for Wells.  After all, you don’t ink a $20 million per year contract for absolutely no reason.

Inflated Contracts for Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford Have Left Angels Behind

After saying in October that he would spend whatever it takes to get the Angels back into the playoffs, the best owner in sports has let his actions contradict his words. Angels fans including myself thought that Carl Crawford was coming to town, along with closer Rafael Soriano — two top players from Tampa Bay — and that the Angels were going to hand out big contracts to make it happen. Of course Boston jumped in and sealed a 7-year $142 million deal with Crawford so quickly the Angels never even made an official offer. That’s contrary to previous reports which said the Angels matched the offer for Crawford — something I never believed.

So has Arte Moreno let down Angels fans by not spending “whatever it takes” to improve the club? Or is he just running things realistically, balancing payroll with fan interests?

“Fans want a competitive team, a winning team, and I’m committed to doing that … but there comes a point where you just say, the number doesn’t fit,” Moreno said. “I have two choices. I either take a huge [financial] loss or start raising ticket prices.

“You look at the economic risk and the franchise risk. The reality is, can I write a check for the player? Yes. But is it smart business in the long term? I don’t think so.”

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Arte Moreno Will Spend to Get Angels Back to Playoffs

Arte Moreno is quietly one of the best owners in sports. It’s comments like the ones he made to the LA Times that affirm this point. After missing the playoffs for just the second time since he took over the Angels for the 2004 season, Moreno vowed to get the team back to the postseason. The Angels’ owner said to Bill Plaschke “You’re not in the playoffs, you’re not a happy person. I just don’t like losing, and we’re going to make adjustments. It’s going to cost money, but our fans need to know what we’re committed to winning.”

Yankee fans probably understand the feeling, but it’s great to know that your team’s owner cares as much about winning as you do as a fan. I try to catch every single Angels game on TV but the reality is I tuned out the entire last month of the season — there was just no point in watching by then. It was the most disinterested I’ve been in a season of Angels baseball since Moreno took over the team.

Think about it: since he became owner of the Angels, the team has won the AL West five of seven years, won 95 or more games three times, and made the ALCS twice. Even when the team missed the playoffs in 2006, they still won 89 games and finished in second. The 2010 season was the worst of the Arte Moreno era — an 80-82 3rd place finish.

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