Results tagged ‘ Jered Weaver ’

Turning it around

For me, personally, this has probably been the worst first half of my career. It’s a combination of things. Every time I’ve started to feel good, something has happened, little setbacks. As a team, we struggled the first couple of months, but our pitching kept us alive.

I can’t give enough credit to our pitching staff, especially Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. Both those guys deserve to be in the All-Star Game – and Jered deserves to start. When you’ve got two guys like that, they keep you out of losing streaks and add on to winning streaks. There aren’t many teams that have starting pitching like ours, and it all starts with those two guys. Ervin Santana, Joel Pineiro and the young guy, Tyler Chatwood, all have pitched well, too. And the bullpen has done the job with the new lefties, Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi, giving us balance.

Once we got the breaking news that Kendrys Morales was not returning this season, as a team we kind of folded for about 10 games. That was a very frustrating time for the team, the coaching staff and the front office. It took us about two weeks to realize he’s not going to come back and be with us. We had to come together. We did that, and you can see now that we’re back to playing Angels baseball.

This is the team Mike Scioscia pulled out of Spring Training, the team we thought we were going to be. Vernon Wells is hot, and I’m starting to swing pretty well. We know how much this team needs us to be productive, and we’re determined to do our part. Bobby Abreu is Bobby Abreu. He plays the game right every day. Our infield has been playing great, from All-Star Howard Kendrick to Maicer Izturis, Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo and the kid at first, Mark Trumbo.

The key for us now is staying healthy. If we can do that, I really believe this team is capable of going to the World Series.

With all that we went through in the first half – the Morales news, injuries to a lot of guys, including Vernon and myself – it’s amazing to think we’re tied for first place in the American League West right now. That tells me how strong we are and how good we can be.

I have a saying: Don’t let a setback hold you back. Prepare for a comeback. That’s what all the guys have done. While we were struggling, we were preparing for a comeback. We’ve got a lot of strong individuals on this team, and that’s what it takes to get through hard times. We made adjustments and made progress. We don’t give up. We never give up.

I can’t say enough about what all our young guys have done. They’ve been thrown out there with a lot of pressure on them, and they’ve performed.

Look at Hank Conger, our young catcher. That’s a tough position, with a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. You’ve got to command everything, calm pitchers down, call the right pitches, block the plate, block pitches. There’s so much to that job, and Hank has come a long way for a guy in his first full year. We’re in good shape behind the plate with Hank, Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson. That’s great depth at an important position.

Then you look at Mark Trumbo at first base. He’s holding it down. He knew he was under pressure because of Kendrys not being here, and he has come through for us in a big way. Around the league first base is known for power, and he’s been holding his own. It’s not easy when you don’t know the pitchers or the league. The guy has tremendous power and he wants to be good. He works at it. For a first year guy, he’s doing a great job defensively, I think.

Peter Bourjos in center field, what can you say? The guy has been unbelievable. He’s playing Gold Glove defense and growing in confidence at the plate and on the bases. I love to work with a guy with that kind of speed, and the great thing about Pete is, he doesn’t think he knows everything. He really wants to learn. He’s very humble, but he’s also tough when he steps between the lines. He was a football player in high school, catching touchdowns and running back kicks for touchdowns. That sport toughens you up. Only the strong survive. I played football. So did Vernon and Jeff Mathis. You need that kind of intensity and toughness on a team.

Jordan Walden is another kid who’s been put in an important role, closing games, and what he’s done is very impressive. He’s got great stuff and a good attitude. He’s not afraid, either. None of our young guys are. That’s why I think their upside is so great. It’s kind of scary when you think what all these kids are capable of doing when they settle in.

As a team, we’ve struggled, and we’ve fought back. I really like where the Angels are right now. I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead of us.

A great start to a new season

Ah, Opening Day. All’s well that ends well. Things got a little hectic out there today, but we came through and got it done, and that’s all that matters. Jered Weaver was great, and we made the plays we needed to get the W.

I’ve always loved playing in Kansas City. I didn’t realize I’ve played 155 games here, a full season, really. I have a lot of family that’s come up from Pine Bluff in Arkansas to see me here, since it’s only a six-hour drive. It’s always good to put on a nice show for everybody.
 
There’s nothing quite like Opening Day. Even though this was my 13th one, there’s still a little anxiety involved. I remember my first one, in 1999. You’re out there on the line, next to home plate, and standing there it kind of hits you. This is really happening. You’re in the big leagues getting to start on Opening Day.

It’s really all about the young guys, getting their first taste of it. Peter Bourjos, Jordan Walden, Mark Trumbo, Michael Kohn, Hank Conger . . . this first one is something you’ll never forget. It was great to see Kohn and Walden come in and get big outs for us. Peter, we all know what he can do with his speed and his desire. The sky’s the limit for Peter. I love our outfield, with Vernon Wells and myself on the corners and Peter running balls down. 

Opening Day for the young guys is like the first day of the rest of their career, even though they’ve been here later in the season for some games. You’ve got the stands full, all the excitement. You know a plane’s going to fly overhead. In 10 years you’ll remember what it felt like standing on that line, all the anxiety you felt.

It’s good to have a nice blend of older guys and young guys, and that’s what we have here. Bobby Abreu, Vernon, myself, some of the pitchers, we can kind of guide and lead all these younger guys. I really like our team, the chemistry we have here. These guys want to get this thing going and show what we can do.

Getting that first game out of the way reminds me of playing football in high school, when I’d come to the line of scrimmage for the first time – the cadence, taking the snap, taking off on an option, getting drilled by a linebacker. Then, after that, it was on. That first hit took away all the butterflies and it was time to compete.

That’s how it is with this first game. You want ideally to get a hit that first at-bat, so you can settle in and just play. You don’t want to be fighting for that first hit one too long. As you get older, you know everything eventually takes care of itself. But when you’re a young guy, everything is heightened, all of your senses. You want to succeed so much.

Luke Hochevar was bringing it, pitching really well, when I got into a two-seamer and got it over the wall in center field to give us the lead. That felt good. I’m 35, still playing hard, running hard. My age doesn’t matter. It’s how you feel and what you do. I feel great. I’ve always wanted to be the guy who sets the tone, makes everything go. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way here, but that’s how it is.

We’ve got a goal, a mission. This was the first of 162. It’s on. Like I said before, I love our chances this year. I think we can do some great things, I really do. This was just the start. A win on Opening Day, that’s what you need. Now we have to just keep pushing on, finding ways and getting it done.

All about catching Rangers

NEW YORK – It’s been a long, bumpy ride through the first half for our Angels, and the All-Star Game was an awesome experience in every way. But now it’s strictly baseball. It’s about catching the Rangers, and they’re hotter than a firecracker.

They’ve got the best offensive numbers in Major League Baseball, and they added Cliff Lee to a strong pitching staff. They’ve also got Tommy Hunter, who’s 7-0 after getting sent down. There’s something about T-Hunters. That’s a little joke, you know.

Going to Texas, home for me, after we finish up with the Yankees, we know what we have to do. We have to play well, play consistent baseball. Everybody has to step up, play smart and tough baseball. We’ve got to bunt guys over, hit-and-run. We’ve got to come out of the bullpen throwing strikes, make all the plays.

In the past, we were the team everyone was chasing. Now we’re the ones trying to catch up, so we can’t afford to be making mistakes. Sometimes teams with a lead can get comfortable, but they know they can’t get too comfortable. They know what we’ve done before, and what we’re capable of doing. We’re the team that’s been winning for a long time, that has history. We’re playing well, but they’ve been playing better. We have to change that.

The first half, to sum it up, you have to say it was a bumpy road. In April, we didn’t play the way we were capable of playing. The offense, defense and pitching were all subpar. Then we got to May and June and started playing our style of baseball – great defense, hitting the ball pretty hard, pitching well. It seemed like we didn’t have any flaws.

Then the last week before the All-Star Game, we ran into the hottest team in the game, the White Sox, and they swept us four straight in Chicago. We had those rain delays and then the long flight to Oakland, getting in at 5 a.m. That kind of carried over to Oakland, and we didn’t play well there.

The All-Star break was good for the guys, I think. They were able to go to the beach, relax, not even think about the game. It refreshed the guys. For myself and Jered Weaver, it was a little different. We were involved in all the All-Star Game and all the activities. It was awesome, don’t get me wrong. But it was also a little exhausting.

I had 25 to 30 family members come in, and I was entertaining them, Angel fans, MLB fans and some of the players, too. From 7 a.m. all the way through the way, I was on the move, attending the Fanfest, events, talking to people. It was an amazing experience. The color fed was everywhere I went. It gave me a real sense of how big the Angels are now, how loyal the fan base is. It was a great experience. It was for the fans, and they had a great time. So it was well worth it in every respect.

Now it’s all baseball. It’s time to go to work. I’m excited to get Maicer Izturis back, because he’s one of the best clutch hitters around, .326 in his career with runners in scoring position, and a tremendous all-around player. He’s going to help a lot – he already has, driving in those big runs in our win last night over the Yankees.

With Izzy getting back in it, with Mike Napoli tearing it up and playing good first base, and with Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui, Juan Rivera and all the other veterans firing on all cylinders, we know we’re capable of playing great baseball. It’s time to go. Let’s do it.

 

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.

 

Feeling good and staying hungry

We’re going to Boston feeling good about being up 2-0, but we’re staying hungry. We won’t be satisfied until this is over. We’re going to enjoy these two wins, but we know how dangerous the Red Sox are, and we’ve got a job to finish now.

So many guys came through in this second game, but you have to start with Jered Weaver. Man, he was dealing. I’ve got a great view out in center field, and he was on his game, just like John Lackey in Game 1. Weaver’s been doing it all season, and he really brought it out on the big stage. And that was great to see, after the way he’s performed all year long for us.

We’re having fun, playing our game. It’s something we’re talking about. Let’s have fun and let our God-given ability take place.

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Josh Beckett is a big-game pitcher, one of the best. It’s not easy to beat a guy like Beckett. His ball was moving, like usual, but we had some great at-bats and scored some runs.

How about Vladimir Guerrero, going the other way for a big hit and then drawing that walk to get our seventh inning started. We were having a lot of fun with Vladdy over that. The big man really came through. He’s a Hall of Famer.

Then Howard Kendrick comes in to run for Vladdy and steals a big bag. Beckett’s quick over to first, so it’s not easy to run on him. Howie got a nice jump and beat it cleanly. Then Maicer Izturis, who hadn’t even played for about a week, walks up and does what he does – he slammed that huge base-hit to center field for the lead.

Maicer is one of those quiet guys people don’t pay much attention to, but he can play the game. He does it all, and he’s a guy you want up there in a big situation, because he’s so cool.

Big Mike Napoli goes old school and takes a pitch in the back, and that keeps it going. And then Erick Aybar — what a season he’s had — he goes up and crushes that ball to center field, and he’s flying to third base. That’s the way we play the game, hard, aggressively. Aybar’s not scared. He loves to compete.

We know all about the Red Sox. Those guys are not going to let up. They’ve been down before and come back. We can enjoy this now, but starting Sunday, forget that and go out and play the game.

The next one is at noon on Sunday, East Coast time, and we’ve got a day to get adjusted and be ready. I might have a cup of coffee before that one. Hopefully, we’ll all get some good sleep and be ready to go.

 

 

Pumped for Escobar’s return

Saturday is a special day for the Angels. Kelvim Escobar will be on the mound in a big-league game for the first time since October of 2007 when he was one of the best in the game.

I’m excited he’s coming back, probably almost as excited as he is. One of the reasons I came to the Angels was Kelvim, along with John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver. That’s five good starters right there, as good as any group you’ll find when they’re all healthy and dealing.

This will be my first time playing behind Escobar in a real game, and I’m pumped. His first start in a year and a half, that’s big – for us and for him.

You want him to come out and dominate, but that’s a big-time lineup he’ll be facing. The Tigers can rake. Plus, you’ve got to give him a little space, make sure he doesn’t try to do too much too soon. He’s a fierce competitor, but he’s still working on it, trying to get it back. It takes time in this game. Nothing happens overnight.

Nobody has to convince me how good Kelvim is. I have first-hand knowledge of that. He used to have his way with me when he was with the Blue Jays and I was with the Twins. He was like a Torii Hunter specialist. Seems like I had to face him all the time, and he always had that little smile on his face. No wonder.

I’m a .130 lifetime hitter against the guy. Three hits in 23 at-bats, with one home run and three RBIs. He struck me out seven times and I walked twice.

You can see why I’m happy to be on his side now.

What makes Escobar so good is his stuff and his attitude. He’s tough, and he has a deep bag to go into for any situation. I don’t think there’s any pitcher in the game with more variety than Kelvim. He has the four-seamer he gets up in the mid-90s, the two-seamer that moves, curveball, slider, split, changeup. The whole package. He’ll throw you anything, and you never know what’s coming.

I might as well have gone up blindfolded when he was with the Blue Jays. I didn’t know what was coming. I’m just glad I don’t have to hit against him anymore. That’s one less nightmare.

One thing I’ve learned about Kelvim, being his teammate, is that he works as hard as anybody, including those of us who play every day. He’s fit and strong, and that’s why I think he’s been able to come back after a serious shoulder surgery.

He’s smart, too. Kelvim’s always drinking water, staying hydrated. He knows what he has to do to get back on the field – and stay on the field.

Angels fans should be really excited about this. I know I am. I’ll be like a kid tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what Kelvim does. But it’s important to keep in mind that this is just the first step back in the journey.
 

Pumped for Escobars return

Saturday is a special day for the Angels. Kelvim Escobar will be on the mound in a big-league game for the first time since October of 2007 when he was one of the best in the game.

I’m excited he’s coming back, probably almost as excited as he is. One of the reasons I came to the Angels was Kelvim, along with John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver. That’s five good starters right there, as good as any group you’ll find when they’re all healthy and dealing.

This will be my first time playing behind Escobar in a real game, and I’m pumped. His first start in a year and a half, that’s big – for us and for him.

You want him to come out and dominate, but that’s a big-time lineup he’ll be facing. The Tigers can rake. Plus, you’ve got to give him a little space, make sure he doesn’t try to do too much too soon. He’s a fierce competitor, but he’s still working on it, trying to get it back. It takes time in this game. Nothing happens overnight.

Nobody has to convince me how good Kelvim is. I have first-hand knowledge of that. He used to have his way with me when he was with the Blue Jays and I was with the Twins. He was like a Torii Hunter specialist. Seems like I had to face him all the time, and he always had that little smile on his face. No wonder.

I’m a .130 lifetime hitter against the guy. Three hits in 23 at-bats, with one home run and three RBIs. He struck me out seven times and I walked twice.

You can see why I’m happy to be on his side now.

What makes Escobar so good is his stuff and his attitude. He’s tough, and he has a deep bag to go into for any situation. I don’t think there’s any pitcher in the game with more variety than Kelvim. He has the four-seamer he gets up in the mid-90s, the two-seamer that moves, curveball, slider, split, changeup. The whole package. He’ll throw you anything, and you never know what’s coming.

I might as well have gone up blindfolded when he was with the Blue Jays. I didn’t know what was coming. I’m just glad I don’t have to hit against him anymore. That’s one less nightmare.

One thing I’ve learned about Kelvim, being his teammate, is that he works as hard as anybody, including those of us who play every day. He’s fit and strong, and that’s why I think he’s been able to come back after a serious shoulder surgery.

He’s smart, too. Kelvim’s always drinking water, staying hydrated. He knows what he has to do to get back on the field – and stay on the field.

Angels fans should be really excited about this. I know I am. I’ll be like a kid tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what Kelvim does. But it’s important to keep in mind that this is just the first step back in the journey.
 

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