April 2010

It’s how you finish that matters

It’s not how you start – it’s how you finish. A slow start by a team can happen for a lot of reasons, but it’s never anything to panic about. That’s especially true when you have a team of veterans, like we do, who know how to play the game. This is a confident team, and with good reason.

You look at the talent we have, up and down the lineup and on our pitching staff, and you know it’s just a matter of time before it comes together. A lot of times early in the season you’re not in your rhythm, you’re not feeling like yourself. You might get some hits, but even then you know you’re not right. Or you might be hitting line drives at guys and getting nothing to show for it. Early-season numbers can be very deceiving.

There are some guys who come out hitting .450 early in April and May, and everyone’s saying it’s their breakout year. And you know eventually they’ll finish about where they normally do. You find at the end of the season he’s hitting .260, or whatever he usually hits. Another guy might be hitting .150 in April, and everyone’s saying he’s done. And you know he’ll end up hitting .315 with 30 homers.

It’s a long season, and the cream rises to the top eventually.

In this game, you are what you are. You see guys like A-Rod or Mark Teixeira, for example, or David Ortiz, and they might not be driving the ball early. But you know they’ll come around. They’re hitters; that’s who they are. They’ll end up with their numbers, unless they get hurt.

Fans sometimes overreact early in the season, because they’re fans. They want to win every game and get upset when their team loses. We don’t ever want to lose as players, but we understand how this works. It’s a long season, with highs and lows, good times and bad times. You work through the rough times and stay confident that the good times are on the way.

The truth is, you don’t want to be peaking too early. I mean, you’ll take it if it’s there, but you want to be strong at the finish, when it really matters. You don’t want to peak in June and July and fall off in August, September. That’s what I mean when I say it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish. That’s what counts.

Personally, it’s taken me a little longer than usual to get where I need to be physically this season. I had the sports hernia surgery after the season, and I wasn’t able to do my usual offseason workouts. I couldn’t really do anything in January. All I could do was hit.

When we got to Spring Training, I was skeptical about how the groin would react. If I made a really hard turn, was it going to hold up? I never went through anything like this before, and Mike Scioscia was telling me to take it easy. He’s a great manager; he always sees the big picture. He wanted me to slow-roll everything. Once I broke the scar tissue sliding, it was a big relief. It wasn’t until the last two weeks of the spring I really started playing.

I feel good about where I am right now, all things considered. I’m hitting the ball hard, and even though I have only one home run, they come in bunches for me. The big thing is, I’m having no pain with the groin. I’m confident I’ll be where I want to be in the summer, when it heats up.

I really like our team. I liked it last year, and I like it this year. We’re a little different, with some new guys trying to establish themselves, but we’re basically the same team with the same chemistry.

Remember how it was last season? We were a .500 team in June. The Rays killed us in Florida to end a road trip, and we were 29-29. Mike Scioscia had a talk with us after that game, and we came home and went off on a tear. We ended up with 97 wins, which means from June 12 to the finish, we were 68-36.

Hopefully, our fans are patient enough to know where the Angels are going to be in August, September. We’re fine where we are. This team knows how to win. I know the sun’s going to shine sooner or later – on and off the field, in baseball and in life.

Its how you finish that matters

It’s not how you start – it’s how you finish. A slow start by a team can happen for a lot of reasons, but it’s never anything to panic about. That’s especially true when you have a team of veterans, like we do, who know how to play the game. This is a confident team, and with good reason.

You look at the talent we have, up and down the lineup and on our pitching staff, and you know it’s just a matter of time before it comes together. A lot of times early in the season you’re not in your rhythm, you’re not feeling like yourself. You might get some hits, but even then you know you’re not right. Or you might be hitting line drives at guys and getting nothing to show for it. Early-season numbers can be very deceiving.

There are some guys who come out hitting .450 early in April and May, and everyone’s saying it’s their breakout year. And you know eventually they’ll finish about where they normally do. You find at the end of the season he’s hitting .260, or whatever he usually hits. Another guy might be hitting .150 in April, and everyone’s saying he’s done. And you know he’ll end up hitting .315 with 30 homers.

It’s a long season, and the cream rises to the top eventually.

In this game, you are what you are. You see guys like A-Rod or Mark Teixeira, for example, or David Ortiz, and they might not be driving the ball early. But you know they’ll come around. They’re hitters; that’s who they are. They’ll end up with their numbers, unless they get hurt.

Fans sometimes overreact early in the season, because they’re fans. They want to win every game and get upset when their team loses. We don’t ever want to lose as players, but we understand how this works. It’s a long season, with highs and lows, good times and bad times. You work through the rough times and stay confident that the good times are on the way.

The truth is, you don’t want to be peaking too early. I mean, you’ll take it if it’s there, but you want to be strong at the finish, when it really matters. You don’t want to peak in June and July and fall off in August, September. That’s what I mean when I say it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish. That’s what counts.

Personally, it’s taken me a little longer than usual to get where I need to be physically this season. I had the sports hernia surgery after the season, and I wasn’t able to do my usual offseason workouts. I couldn’t really do anything in January. All I could do was hit.

When we got to Spring Training, I was skeptical about how the groin would react. If I made a really hard turn, was it going to hold up? I never went through anything like this before, and Mike Scioscia was telling me to take it easy. He’s a great manager; he always sees the big picture. He wanted me to slow-roll everything. Once I broke the scar tissue sliding, it was a big relief. It wasn’t until the last two weeks of the spring I really started playing.

I feel good about where I am right now, all things considered. I’m hitting the ball hard, and even though I have only one home run, they come in bunches for me. The big thing is, I’m having no pain with the groin. I’m confident I’ll be where I want to be in the summer, when it heats up.

I really like our team. I liked it last year, and I like it this year. We’re a little different, with some new guys trying to establish themselves, but we’re basically the same team with the same chemistry.

Remember how it was last season? We were a .500 team in June. The Rays killed us in Florida to end a road trip, and we were 29-29. Mike Scioscia had a talk with us after that game, and we came home and went off on a tear. We ended up with 97 wins, which means from June 12 to the finish, we were 68-36.

Hopefully, our fans are patient enough to know where the Angels are going to be in August, September. We’re fine where we are. This team knows how to win. I know the sun’s going to shine sooner or later – on and off the field, in baseball and in life.

Opening Day: new season, old friends

The big day is here, and it’s always something special. I can’t even describe what the adrenaline rush is like on Opening Day. It’s my 12th Opening Day, and the butterflies will be there as always. Once the game starts, though, it’s back to doing what we do. It’s a thrill to take the field and get another season going.

We’re meeting my old team, the Twins, to get it started for the second time in my three years with the Angels. Everyone knows how it all started for me in Minnesota, so this is special.

The truth is, I’m looking forward to this one a lot more than the opener at the Metrodome in 2008. That series went four games and was hard on me emotionally, mentally and even physically, being on artificial turf.

Opening Day at the Metrdome, my first game in an Angels uniform, that was really rough on me. I was kind of in a daze, running around trying to see so many people who meant so much to me for such a big part of my life. I knew everybody there, from the janitors to the vendors.

My nerves were shot before the game even started. I didn’t play very well and we lost, but it was just one game. As the series went on, I started feeling better and playing better. I hit a home run, got a few hits and we came out of it all right. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad it was over.

This time it’s all different. The Twins are coming to our house, to my place. It’ll be good to see all those guys again, from Ron Gardenhire and Joe Mauer through the ranks. That’s always been a great organization, and I was proud to be a Twin from June 3, 1993 to the end of 2007.

It’s a new era with the Twins. They showed that when they stepped up and did what it took to keep Joe. They showed they didn’t want to be a small-market team anymore. They’ve got their new ballpark, and a whole new era. It’s great to see.

Guys like myself and Johan Santana, we were there at the wrong time. They couldn’t keep us, but I know it means the world to those great fans that they signed Joe, their hometown guy, to that eight-year deal. I was really happy to see that.

It’s going to be exciting for those guys to come to our turf. It’ll be cool to see Gardy, Jerry White, all those guys who taught me so much.

I’ll also get to see some guys I helped raise as players. Denard Span, who’s taking my old spot, is my protégé. He came to stay with me in Texas, in my house. I talked to him about everything, from finances to family to the game.

Gardy was one of the first guys I met when I signed with the Twins out of high school in Pine Bluff, Ark. I was 17 when I signed. We met in Spring Training in 1994. He was the third-base coach then, and he was so cool to me. I’ll always remember that.

Gardenhire reminds me of Mike Scioscia in some ways. Both those guys are really into the game, always studying the game. I don’t know if Gardy has changed any – I seriously doubt it — but when I was there, he was a players’ manager. He was always joking with the players, staying close to us. Guys loved playing for him.

I’ve been lucky to spend almost my whole career playing for two of the best managers in the game. We’re going to do everything we can to take Mike back to the World Series this season. It’s a long process, but everything starts with that first step, that first game. Let’s get it going.

 

 

Angels: Built to win

ANAHEIM – It’s great to be back in our park, back home. We got everything accomplished we needed to do in Arizona, and now it’s time to get ready for the real thing. We’re looking forward to seeing the Twins on Monday, so we can get this show started.

I know there’s been a lot of attention focused on the guys we lost this winter – Chone Figgins, John Lackey, Vladimir Guerrero, Darren Oliver, Gary Matthews Jr. But that’s the way the game is. Guys move on, and you adapt. We’ve made some great additions, and I’m really excited with the team we’ve put together here.

Of course, it hurts losing teammates who were friends. A guy like Figgy, he was a respected man in the clubhouse, a leadoff guy who scored more than 100 runs and saved a lot of runs with his glove. He played the game right. But he got a great deal in Seattle, just like I got a great deal here. I’m happy for Figgy, but he’s on the other side now, and we’ll compete against each other with everything we’ve got.

I’ve got a ton of confidence in Erick Aybar taking over as the leadoff man. He’s a young guy with tremendous talent coming off a big year. And he can fly. He’s going to be fun to watch on the bases. With another year of experience with his mentor, Bobby Abreu, Aybar should be even better.

Bobby’s one of the best leaders in the game, and I’m so happy he’s back. You could see his influence last year in how much Aybar and Kendry Morales and so many other guys improved during the season. Bobby even helped out veterans like Figgy and me in a big way by showing us how to be more disciplined and selective at the plate. Everyone learned from watching Bobby and listening to him.

Lackey was a bulldog, one of the reasons I wanted to come here, but he got a great deal in Boston. We signed Joel Pineiro to replace Lackey in the rotation, and I’m impressed with Pineiro. You’ve got to like a guy who throws strikes and keeps the ball down. He should get real deep in games with our defense behind him.

With Pineiro, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir, we’ve got five solid starters, five guys who will give us a chance to win every night. We’re built to win with that rotation and with a deep bullpen. We’ve got some big arms out there, and this is Brian Fuentes’ second year in the American League. That always helps, getting that first year to figure things out.
 
Hideki Matsui is the guy I call the Quiet Assassin. He’s as clutch as they come, in a quiet way. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Hideki does in our lineup. He’s a pro, like Bobby, and you can never have enough of those guys.

Morales was born to hit. I call him Captain Caveman and Bam-Bam. He’s solid, strong and he always wants to use that stick and hit. And he’s good down at first with the glove.

Hitting behind Aybar and Bobby, and in front of Hideki, Morales, Juan Rivera, Howard Kendrick, Brandon Wood, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, Maicer Izturis. That’s a lot of talent, a load of weapons.

Brandon Wood, his thing is to play defense and do his part. Let us have the pressure. That’s why they’re paying us. We just want him to relax and play. He’s got it in him to hit at least 20 homers, with 70-plus RBIs. If he does that, he helps the team tremendously. The way he’s played third base, he’s been impressive.

Everybody knows what Izturis can do – pretty much whatever you need. He’s versatile and clutch, the kind of guy every winning team needs. Kendrick is going to do some really big damage this year. He’s my pick to click. I definitely feel he’s one day going to win that batting title, if he can just stay healthy.

With the kind of talent we have in front of me and behind me, I should be in a good position to drive in runs and score a lot of runs. All I have to do is stay on the field.

I was on my way to my best season ever when I messed up my groin crashing into walls last year. I really feel good now – once I broke the scar tissue sliding this spring, I was good to go. I don’t even think about the sports hernia surgery I had last winter anymore. I’m ready to get after it.

I think we’re built to win the division. There’s a reason why the Angels have won the AL West three years in a row and five of the past six. These guys know how to compete, how to win. I thought we had a great year last season, considering everything we went through losing Nick Adenhart. We’ll never forget Nick, what he meant to us.

This team has a lot of heart. Our mission this season is to take it all the way. We can’t wait to get started.

 

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