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Category: Torii Hunter

Angels may have baseball's best football team

Bobby_300 Should NFL owners lock out their regular players and try to field replacement teams instead, the Angels spring training camp might prove fertile ground for recruiting quarterbacks since a half-dozen of the organization's best players were also standout quarterbacks in high school.

The best might have been pitcher Bobby Cassevah, who committed to play football at Louisiana State University despite having his senior season at Florida's Pace High School wiped out by Tommy John surgery.

"I loved football the best in high school," said Cassevah, who turned his back on LSU despite the fact the Angels, spooked by the elbow operation, waited until the 34th round of the 2004 draft to take him.  "[But] I think I made the right choice. Where I'm at now, I'm happy. I play fantasy football.”

Cassevah, who hurt his arm throwing a football, not a baseball, made his major league debut last season and joined a teamthat includes former quarterback Scott Kazmir, who played at Houston's Cypress Falls High. Other Angels who were top-flight signal-callers in high school include outfielders Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Mike Trout and catcher Jeff Mathis. Hunter lettered in four sports -- football, baseball, basketball and track -- at Arkansas' Pine Bluff High while Wells, whose father, Vernon Sr., played in the Canadian Football League, was an all-state football player in Texas. Although Trout had the athletic tools to be a quarterback prospect, he stopped playing early in high school in New Jersey. And Mathis led his school to the Florida state championship game in football.

In an era of specialization in which many top high school athletes tend to concentrate on one sport, Cassevah said he doesn't know how the Angels wound up so many two-sport standouts.

“I have no idea," he said. "I think everybody here was the best player on their high school team, no matter what it was. The guy with the best arm out there, I guess that’s the best athlete."

That's how hard-throwing reliever Jordan Walden wound up throwing passes in Texas, although he stopped in the eighth grade.

"I had the best arm," he said.

Then again, maybe football acumen is something the organization looks for since General Manager Tony Reagins didn't play baseball at Indio High -- but he was a standout tailback good enough to be recruited by Oregon State.

-- Kevin Baxter in Mesa, Ariz.

Photo: Bobby Cassevah. Credit: Charlie Riedel / Associated Press

Angels pound Diamondbacks in 7-2 rout

Angels1_275 Erick Aybar and Torii Hunter each had two hits and scored a run Sunday, leading the Angels to a 7-2 Cactus League victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks before a spring-best crowd of 7,228 at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Aybar also drove in a run while Bobby Abreu, Alexi Amarista and Vernon Wells drove in two runs apiece in the Angels' most one-sided win of the exhibition season. The Angels were especially tough on former teammate Joe Saunders, pounding him for four runs and six hits in two-plus innings.

Jered Weaver had little trouble in his three-inning stint, giving up a run on three hits while striking out three. He was helped by Wells, who made a splendid sliding catch on Melvin Mora's line drive to left in the second.

"I told him coming into the dugout that we don't need to be doing it that early," Weaver said. "But he was like, 'Just natural extincts.' It was obviously a pretty nice catch. Covered a lot of ground to get over there."

As a pitcher who gives up a lot of fly balls, Weaver figures to benefit most from the dramatic defensive improvement in the Angels outfield.

"With those guys out, I don't have to worry about being too fine," Weaver said. "We strive on defense to win."

-- Kevin Baxter in Tempe, Ariz.

Photo: Bobby Abreu follows through on a two-run double against the Diamondbacks in the third inning Sunday. Credit: Chris Carlson / Associated Press

Efren Navarro joins crowd at first base for Angels

Navarro_175 It's unlikely any organization is deeper at first base than the Angels. Kendry Morales, an MVP candidate in his first full season, will be the clean-up hitter at the major league level once his broken ankle heals. Mark Trumbo, who tied for the minor-league lead with 36 home runs at Salt Lake last summer, is fighting for a spot on the big-league roster. And just behind him is Gabe Jacobo, who batted .296 with 22 homers and 107 RBIs at Class A Rancho Cucamonga.

Which means Efren Navarro (pictured at left) sometimes gets overlooked -- as he was in the 2007 draft when he was drafted in the 50th and final round. But in his first full minor league season he was a Midwest League All-Star and, after doubling in the Angels' only run in Saturday's loss to Milwaukee, Navarro is 4 for 7 in five Cactus League games.

And that's forced the team to take notice.

"Although he doesn’t have as much power as Trumbo or Jacobo. he has the ability to be a very effective hitter, much as Mark Grace was or hitters along those lines," said Manager Mike Scoiscia, referring to the three-time All-Star who hit .303 in 16 big-league seasons with the Cubs and Diamondbacks. "He has to find that talent."

Scioscia said Navarro was challenged to do just that last summer after struggling to a .230 batting average in the first half at double-A Arkansas. Abe Flores, the Angels' director of player personnel, and Todd Takayoshi, the team's minor league hitting instructor, met with Navarro and they "put it to him and said: Look, you have more ability," Scioscia said.

Navarro responded by hitting .310 after the break, earning an invitation to spring training as a nonroster player. His fielding ability, however, has never been in question.

"This guy can easily be Gold Glove-caliber," Scioscia said. "This is as good a defender as you’re going to see at first base."

Other notes from camp:

--Minor league pitcher Loek Van Mil, the tallest man in professional baseball at 7-foot-1, has been a favorite of visiting journalists. Imagine what might happen if he ever throws a pitch in a game.

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Ron Roenicke sees Angels bouncing back in 2011

Ron Roenicke spent the past 11 years as a coach working with the Angels' outfielders before leaving over the winter to take the vacant managerial job in Milwaukee. And while he's excited about that challenge, he can't help but look back at his old job with some longing. That's because with the addition of three-time Gold Glove winner Vernon Wells to play alongside Peter Bourjos and nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter, the Angels may have one of the best defensive outfields of all time.

"It would be hard to get better than that," he said. "Defensively, fabulous."

As for the Angels' offensive struggles in 2010, Roenicke dismissed it as "a weird year" and said there are players in the clubhouse with too much pride to let that happen again.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "They've got Vernon Wells. Vernon is a quality guy. And Bobby [Abreu] too. Bobby was disappointed in the year he had last year. And I'm sure he's going to do something about that this year."

-- Kevin Baxter in Phoenix

Angels' Kendry Morales back -- sort of

Ken_240 Kendry Morales was smiling and laughing at his locker in the Angels' clubhouse Wednesday -- which marked a big step forward for the slugging first baseman, who has had a difficult spring so far.

Morales missed two days of workouts earlier this week with flu-like symptoms, including a fever of 103 degrees. But he pronounced himself healed Wednesday.

"I feel good. Everything's good," Morales said in Spanish. "I'm going to be able to do everything today."

Everything, however, remains a relative term for Morales. The Angels still aren't ready to let him run freely on the ankle he broke last May, limiting his cardio workouts to a treadmill. As he runs in the gym, Morales wears a harness, which supports about 20% of his body weight -- a process Angels' Manager Mike Scioscia called "deweighting."

Morales was cleared to hit and do some light fielding work as well but it remains uncertain when he'll be able to play in a Cactus League exhibition.

"We want to get him totally free on body weight and then he’s going to start to get out there and do some more running," Scioscia said. "And they’re also experimenting with his wrap on his ankle. A lot of the restriction is because they have him wrapped heavily. They want to release that restriction as they move on."

The Angels need a healthy Morales to make their offense go. The switch-hitter batted .306, slugged 34 home runs and drove in 108 runs in his only full big-league season in 2009. He was on pace to match those power numbers last year before sustaining the season-ending injury after just 51 games.

And the longer he remains sidelined this spring, the greater the possibility the Angels will open the season with Morales on the disabled list.

Morales wasn't the only Angel who stayed back in Tempe when the team traveled an hour up the freeway to Surprise, Ariz., Wednesday to play the Texas Rangers. Starting middle infielders Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick and starting outfielders Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter also remained behind to work on cutoff plays.

"This is all trying to get this integrated," Scioscia said. "So this is an important drill for them."

-- Kevin Baxter in Surprise, Ariz.

 Photo: Kendry Morales. Credit: Charlie Riedel /Associated Press.

Angel veterans get the afternoon off [Updated]

It's common for veterans to get the afternoon off when their teams make long road trips early in spring training. And the Angels are no different, which is why six regulars were not in the lineup Wednesday for the team's Cactus League game with the defending American League champion Texas Rangers in Surprise, Ariz.

The trip to Surprise is just more than an hour from the Angels' training base in Tempe, but it's the longest the team will make this spring. So among those staying back were all three starting outfielders -- Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter, who have played together the last two days -- as well as infielders Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, and designated hitter Bobby Abreu. The two regulars who are traveling, infielder Maicer Izturis and catcher Jeff Mathis, are batting at the top of the order, giving the impression that each will hit two or three times, then be excused for the rest of the day.

Early in the day there was no sign of rehabbing first baseman Kendry Morales, who missed the last two days of training with flu-like symptoms.

[Updated at 7:30 a.m.: Morales has arrived.]

On the mound, right-hander Dan Haren, acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the middle of last summer, will make his first spring start as an Angel. The Rangers, meanwhile, are expected to play former Angel Mike Napoli.

The lineup:

3B -- Maicer Izturis

C -- Jeff Mathis

DH -- Alberto Callaspo

1B -- Mark Trumbo

CF -- Mike Trout

2B -- Alexi Amarista

SS -- Andrew Romine

RF -- Jeremy Moore

LF -- Chris Pettit

P -- Dan Haren

-- Kevin Baxter in Tempe, Ariz.

Angels draw a crowd in center field

Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter have spent nearly their entire careers in center field, combining to win 12 Gold Glove awards. So it wasn't really a surprise that when the two ran onto the field together for the first time Monday, they wound up in center field again, flanking Peter Bourjos.

"I turned around and I was like, 'Hey, what's going on?' " said Bourjos, who was listed on the lineup card as the center fielder.

The two veterans told him they weren't ready to give up their position, so Bourjos volunteered to move to right before his teammates told him they were only joking.  That outfield alignment probably won't be funny to Angels opponents this season.

 '"For us, as a group, our job is make our pitchers happy," Wells said. "Any ball goes in the air, any ball that goes in the gap, it’s  a matter of not letting balls get to the wall. Cutting balls off as much as we can. Just keeping baserunners from taking extra bases.

"If we can do that –- which we’re very capable of doing –- we’re going to take a lot of pressure off our pitching staff."

Said Joel Pineiro, Monday's starting pitcher: "Having that speed out there, it's like having three center fielders."

But for Wells, who spent his entire 12-year big-league career in Toronto before being traded to the Angels this winter, there is still one more hurdle to clear.

"Once the season comes, I hope I don’t run to the wrong dugout," he said. "I probably will."

-- Kevin Baxter in Tempe, Ariz.

Hunter, Abreu, Wells make winning debut for Angels

Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu made their spring training debut as teammates a successful one Monday, combining for three hits, two walks, a run scored and another driven in to spark the Angels to an 8-7 win over the Oakland Athletics.

Hunter walked twice and scored a run, Abreu doubled twice and had an RBI while Wells singled and knocked in a run when Oakland outfielder Chris Carter misplayed  his first-inning fly ball.

Maicer Izturis also had a single and a run scored, Peter Bourjos had a double, a bunt single and scored twice, and Howie Kendrick had a single and an RBI. The Angels had 12 hits all told and also took advantage of four Oakland errors.

There was a scary moment for the Angels in the bottom of the sixth inning when highly rated infield prospect Jean Segura collided with former Dodger Andy La Roche, who was reaching for a high throw at first for Oakland. Segura lay on the ground for several minutes before leaving the game for a pinch-runner, walking on his own to the clubhouse.

Starter Joel Pineiro tossed a pair of scoreless innings, giving up two hits. Left-hander Scott Downs made his first appearance in an Angels uniform, giving up a hit in one scoreless inning of relief. However, Matt Palmer struggled in his five-out appearance, allowing three hits and a walk. Two of those runners scored when left-hander Matt Meyer walked consecutive batters with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.

-- Kevin Baxter in Tempe, Ariz.

 

 

Testing the Angels in the outfield

One of the biggest concerns the Angels had heading into spring training was how their outfield trio of Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter would mesh on defense.They'll get a bit of an answer Monday when the three play together for the first time in an exhibition game with the Oakland Athletics.

Hunter and Wells are Gold Glove centerfielders; the talented Bourjos has yet to play a full season in the majors. Hunter moved to right field when Bourjos was called up from the minor leagues in August, but Wells, acquired in a winter trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, has played left field just once as a big-leaguer -- during last year's All-Star game in Anaheim.

"The biggest component is going to be the relationship between Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos," Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Torii's fine in right with Peter. They got the wraps off a little bit last year. At the very best, this outfield is going to do all the things that are important to teams winning games. Not just making the diving catch or robbing home runs or making spectacular plays. Just making more plays routine.

"You want these guys to get out there a lot because it's going to show up a lot the more they're out there on the defensive side. Trying to get them together playing as one unit is going to take some time but it's something we should be able to accomplish this spring."

With Wells, Hunter and designated hitter Bobby Abreu making their spring debuts, Monday's starting lineup was close to the one the Angels are projected to use most of the season. The only regular missing was first baseman Kendry Morales, who is still rehabbing the ankle he broke in May.

Monday's starting lineup:

3B -- Maicer Izturis

DH -- Bobby Abreu

RF -- Torii Hunter

LF -- Vernon Wells

2B -- Howie Kendrick

SS -- Erick Aybar

1B -- Mark Trumbo

C -- Jeff Mathis

CF -- Peter Bourjos

P -- Joel Pineiro

 

-- Kevin Baxter in Tempe, Ariz.

 

Gift of gab lands Torii Hunter role as television analyst for playoffs

Torii_500 

The Angels missed the playoffs this season for the first time since 2006, but at least one of their players will have a postseason role.

Right fielder Torii Hunter, among the most quotable and opinionated players in the game, will serve as an analyst during the MLB Network's coverage of the playoffs.

The network announced that Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez and pitcher Dallas Braden and Arizona outfielder Chris Young would also serve as playoff analysts.

Hunter will be in the studio on Oct. 11 and 12 for the end of the first-round division series.

-- Mike DiGiovanna in Arlington, Texas

Photo: Torii Hunter. Credit: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters.

Angels' Torii Hunter reverses course on appealing suspension

Torii Hunter already had advised his agent, Larry Reynolds, to start preparing his appeal following the Angels right fielder's eighth-inning tantrum Friday night at Comerica Park in which his batting helmet came into contact with umpire Ron Kulpa's face and Hunter flung a bag of balls onto the field.

"I'm going to fight it," Hunter told reporters in the clubhouse following his ejection.

There wasn't much fight in Hunter a day later. He decided to accept the four-game suspension and undisclosed fine handed down by Major League Baseball after conferring with his agent, Angels General Manager Tony Reagins and Manager Mike Scioscia. Hunter will begin serving his suspension when the Angels play Detroit on Saturday and won't return until the Angels conclude a three-game series against Kansas City on Wednesday at Angel Stadium.

"The more you think about it, the more you watch it," Hunter said, "that's not me and I really let that guy push my buttons, and I shouldn't have let it come to that. I apologize to the fans and to the kids out there and to my kids.

"I was terrible yesterday. I threw balls on the field, I said some things I wish I wouldn't have said and you have to pay the price for it. That's what I'm going to do."

-- Ben Bolch in Detroit

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