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  1. ANAHEIM — As Mickey Callaway saw it, one of Shohei Ohtani’s problems the first time he pitched in a game during the Angels summer camp was the opposition. “The biggest factor in his command right now has been facing his own hitters,” the Angels pitching coach said. “The day he had to face some of those guys he was a little erratic, not really wanting to throw the ball inside for fear of hitting them.” Ohtani walked seven of 10 hitters he faced in his first outing, but on Monday he pitched in another intrasquad game, this time facing mostly Angels players who don’t figure to be on the Opening Day roster. He was much better the second time. The difference highlighted one of the many adjustments teams have had to make in this coronavirus-altered year. They are now forced to rely on intrasquad games, instead of traditional exhibition games, to get ready for the season. Each team is allowed a maximum of three exhibitions against other teams, and the Angels will play all three next week, facing the Padres twice, sandwiched around a game against the Dodgers. In the meantime, their daily intrasquad games have been a mixed bag of pluses and minuses, when compared to traditional exhibition games. The biggest negative may be pitchers changing their approaches to make sure they don’t hit anyone. “When I’m throwing a cutter inside to a righty, I’m trying to hit the knob of the bat,” lefty Ryan Buchter said last week on MLB Network Radio. “Sometimes I’ll tell myself to make sure I get it inside to hit them in the chest. When there’s a coach or a player standing in, or let’s just say it’s (Albert) Pujols or (Mike) Trout or one of those guys, anybody on our team, doesn’t matter the name, you don’t have that same intensity. You don’t have that same mindset to make that pitch. And you need to learn how to make that pitch.” Callaway, a former big league pitcher, conceded that it’s an issue for the preparation of pitchers. “That’s probably the biggest downfall,” Callaway said. “You’re always worried about one slipping out and plunking one of your own guys.” Manager Joe Maddon said another issue is the intensity level is somewhat lower without another team on the field. “There’s definitely going to be a little more amperage involved when you’re playing against somebody wearing something different than you,” he said. All of that, however, is outweighed by other benefits, most significantly that situations can be manipulated to get everyone exactly the quantity and type of work you want. For pitchers, there are no long or short innings in intrasquad games. When a pitcher is set to pitch an inning, he’s going to throw 15 to 20 pitches, whether he gets one out or five. If a hitter needs more at-bats, he can bat whenever he wants. On Sunday, Ohtani hit for both “teams,” including multiple at-bats in one half inning. Saturday’s game, which was primarily to get work for a few relief pitchers, included just three or four hitters rotating through on each side. Several players played defense without hitting. Lately, the Angels have also been starting innings with a runner at second base, which simulates the new extra innings rule that will be used this year. Finally, the Angels have been mixing in fundamental drills during the intrasquad games. After a pitcher is done with his normal work, he’ll stay on the mound for a couple quick fielding drills. The Angels have also practiced cut offs and relays or bunt defenses in the middle of the intrasquad games. “When it’s game speed, guys are hot, arms are loose, you get a better look at it,” Maddon said. “You gain reps with hot bodies, where guys are ready to rock and roll.” Maddon has actually felt the intrasquad work has been beneficial enough that he’d like to try more of it during a traditional spring training. “This may open up the thought of doing more of these before you actually start playing spring training games,” he said, “because I am really enjoying the work and so are the coaches.” ALSO Brandon Marsh reported on Tuesday and was in the dugout during the intrasquad game. Marsh had been placed on the injured list, although the team did not specify a physical injury and had not commented on the reason for his absence. … Related Articles 11 Los Angeles pro sports franchises join forces in social justice fight Shohei Ohtani returns to mound in Angels intrasquad game Patrick Sandoval returns to Angels after bout with the coronavirus Angels relievers will be looking for strikeouts in extra innings with new rule Angels’ Albert Pujols feeling healthy after time off Callaway, who managed the New York Mets for the past two years, fully endorsed the Angels waiver claim of right-hander Jacob Rhame from the Mets. “This kid has a big arm, and he can really spin the ball,” Callaway said. “When we heard he was available, we really wanted to jump at the opportunity to be able to get this kid. Outstanding young man, works really, really hard has made some great adjustments over the years. I really feel like Jacob Rhame is going to be able to have a very, very productive career. And right now I feel like he just needs reps at the major league level to go out there and prove himself.” … The Angels still don’t know when Julio Teheran is going to join the team. Teheran is on the injured list, and he told ESPN Deportes last week he was awaiting results of a coronavirus test, but there’s been no update. Callaway said he’s not concerned about Teheran’s ability to help, at some point. “He’s such a professional and he’s been doing this for so long that he’s going to understand what it takes to step in at any given point in the season and he’ll be impactful,” Callaway said. View the full article
  2. The widespread street protests for change in the wake of George Floyd’s death have largely come to an end, but the push to drive investment in communities of color and to make an ongoing impact for social justice continued Tuesday. Eleven professional sports franchises in greater Los Angeles have joined forces to launch The ALLIANCE: Los Angeles, making a five-year commitment to “address racial injustice, develop educational opportunities and support other important issues” in communities of color. The teams also will support the Play Equity Fund’s social justice movement in Los Angeles and Orange counties as well as the work of Accelerate Change Together (ACT) Anaheim. The aim is also to inspire additional movements for change throughout the nation. The Angels, Chargers, Clippers, Dodgers, Ducks, Kings, Galaxy, Lakers, Los Angeles Football Club, Rams and Sparks have joined forces to form The ALLIANCE: Los Angeles and to continue their individual charitable efforts across the region. “The ALLIANCE: Los Angeles is an unprecedented collaboration by sports organizations recognizing the impact they can have by working together, and they should be commended for seeking to make significant changes in communities of color,” Renata Simril, president of the Play Equity Fund, said in a statement. “The Los Angeles region is one of the most competitive markets, and sports is one of the world’s most competitive industries. But these organizations are putting their competitive instincts aside to work collaboratively for social justice.” The ALLIANCE: Los Angeles will join with the Play Equity Fund to hold a Sports for Social Justice Symposium on July 22, with leaders from the franchises as well as social justice leaders and sports commentators. The webinar will coincide with National Youth Sports Week (July 20-24). Related Articles Galaxy unable to get on track, drops MLS is Back Tournament opener LAFC use a late rally to tie with Dynamo in MLS is Back tournament Shohei Ohtani returns to mound in Angels intrasquad game LAFC, Galaxy updates: MLS is Back tournament action Lakers could lean more on Dion Waiters while hoping Rondo returns for playoff run View the full article
  3. ANAHEIM >> Shohei Ohtani returned to the mound after missing a few days with a stiff back and got through 15 batters over four trips to the mound. Facing a Triple-A lineup, Ohtani struck out one, walked four, hit a batter and gave up two hits. One of the hits was a double by Jo Adell, the Angels top prospect. Adell also had a hard line out to center field. Although Ohtani pitched the day after he had hit in an intrasquad game, Maddon said it’s not in the Angels plans to use him that way during the regular season. Ohtani normally has gotten the day off before and after he pitches. Ohtani had walked seven of the 10 batters he faced in his first intrasquad outing last week. “I obviously felt much better than last time, performance-wise and command-wise,” Ohtani said through his interpreter, adding that physically he also felt “felt really good.” Manager Joe Maddon said he saw progress. Related Articles Patrick Sandoval returns to Angels after bout with the coronavirus Angels relievers will be looking for strikeouts in extra innings with new rule Angels’ Albert Pujols feeling healthy after time off Angels manager Joe Maddon says Shohei Ohtani’s stiff back is ‘nothing alarming’ Joe Maddon asks Angels ‘to be the best teammate of their life’ “He was a little better than the last time,” Maddon said. “A little better command. Obviously there is another level for him. I thought it was a step forward. Overall it was a better performance. I still think once we get a real game going on, with or without fans, you’ll see another level for him.” The Angels’ everyday players faced a series of big league relievers, starting each inning with a runner at second to simulate the new extra-innings rule. In one inning, David Fletcher tagged up and scored from second after Jordyn Adams caught a fly ball at the warning track and hit the fence. View the full article
  4. ANAHEIM >> The Angels now have at least one player in their clubhouse with first-hand experience of the coronavirus. Patrick Sandoval, who has been back in Angels camp for a few days after missing the start of workouts, said on Monday that he tested positive for the coronavirus back in June. The Angels have had nine players who have missed at least part of camp for undisclosed reasons. Sandoval, Jared Walsh and Matt Thaiss have now all returned. So far Sandoval is the only one to say that he had COVID-19. The team is prohibited from providing information about any player’s health unless it’s a baseball-related physical injury. Sandoval is now back to work and feeling “great,” he said, but not without enduring a few difficult days last month. A 23-year-old left-hander, Sandoval is a product of Mission Viejo High and still lives in Orange County. He was playing golf with a friend back in June and he believes that’s when he contracted the virus. “The first two or three days, I had really bad body aches in my back, unlike anything I’ve felt before,” he said. “It was pretty heavy for two days. Once that went away, it was me by myself in my house, sitting alone for however many days, not being able to do anything and missing life. That was rough too.” Sandoval said even though his symptoms passed quickly, it was still upsetting after he received the diagnosis on June 22. “It was a little scary at first,” he said. “Obviously the virus has killed many people. That’s sad and tragic, so that’s on your mind. I just took it day by day, and once symptoms started going away, I felt confident I would be able to get back to playing baseball.” Sandoval waited 15 days to get a negative test. And he couldn’t rejoin the team until he had two consecutive negative tests. He was able to arrive in camp on Thursday, a week after the first workout. He threw a bullpen session on Sunday. “It went really well,” Sandoval of the bullpen session. “My body feels great, honestly. I feel like I’m in pretty good shape right now. So that’s a good sign.” Sandoval would have been a candidate for the back end of the Angels rotation, but the missed time likely drops him back a notch, so he is likely to start the season working out with the squad in Long Beach until the Angels need him. He also now serves the role as an example to his teammates about the impact of the coronavirus. “I think that they’ll see that a guy that had been ill is able to come back relatively quickly and get on with it and get back to his normal patterns very quickly,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “I think psychologically, that’s that’s a good thing.” Sandoval said that he thinks the Angels so far have done a good job of following the health and safety protocols. “I feel like we’re on top of everything,” Sandoval said. “We have conversations all the time about staying away, being smart, wearing masks every time you go out. I’m pretty confident in what we’re doing. Can’t speak for other teams, but everyone here is taking seriously. Everyone wants to play. We don’t want to be the team that messes it up for the whole league.” WARNING SIGN There continue to be signs around the majors of logistical issues with the testing. On Monday a few members of the Cubs, including Manager David Ross, were held out of the workout because they didn’t get their results. Maddon conceded Monday that there could be issues during the season that would make players unavailable. “To think that there’s not going to be another glitch at some point, I think that it’s improper to think that way, because some things are going to happen,” Maddon said. “We have to be nimble and flexible and move through it.” Related Articles Angels relievers will be looking for strikeouts in extra innings with new rule Angels’ Albert Pujols feeling healthy after time off Angels manager Joe Maddon says Shohei Ohtani’s stiff back is ‘nothing alarming’ Joe Maddon asks Angels ‘to be the best teammate of their life’ Angels’ Anthony Rendon says he’s ready to go after coronavirus layoff ALSO Major League Baseball may have umpires fly on team charters to minimize their exposure to commercial travel. Maddon said he’s aware of the possibility and has no issue with it. “Who knows? It might even make for a better relationship between umpires and players and managers, etc.,” he said. “This is a time when you can’t worry about the way we had done things like that in the past. If it gets the umpires there more safely, in that kind of controlled environment, it makes all the sense in the world. I know that there’s potential for a bad moment. I agree with that, too. But under the circumstances, I understand why they’re considering it.”… Maddon said so far there have been no physical injuries that limited any players in camp. View the full article
  5. ANAHEIM — When the Angels sent their high-leverage relievers out to pitch in Saturday’s intrasquad game, they did so starting each inning with a runner at second base. It was part of their preparation for the new extra innings rule this year, which is intended to prevent games from going too long. Obviously, starting an inning with a runner at second will put an increased emphasis for pitchers on getting strikeouts, and Manager Joe Maddon feels that could be a strength for the Angels. “I think we do have some strikeout ability,” Maddon said Sunday. “Of course, that’s what you’re looking for, but I’ll take the ground ball to third or the popup on the infield, too.” Last year Hansel Robles (9.3 strikeouts per nine innings), Ty Buttrey (10.5), Noe Ramirez (10.5) and Cam Bedrosian all struck out more than a batter per inning. Keynan Middleton, who barely pitched last season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, has a career rate of 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings. “Getting that first out without permitting the runner to advance is pretty large if you can do that,” Maddon said. Obviously, even if the runner does get to third with one out, a strikeout for the second out would also prevent the run scoring. The new rule opens up a variety of situations for the offensive manager. On the road, the manager will have to decide whether to sacrifice to play for a single run or try for a bigger inning. At home, the manager’s decision will obviously be dictated by whether the visiting team scored. “Interesting,” Maddon said. “Absolutely. It’s new for all of us.” TROUT, OHTANI HOMER Mike Trout smoked a line drive over the fence down the left field line against Matt Andriese in his first at-bat of Sunday’s intrasquad game, which featured all of the position players expected to be on the Opening Day roster. Shohei Ohtani also hit a homer and singled. Ohtani had been out a few days with a stiff back, but he’s now hit in intrasquad games two days in a row and he is scheduled to pitch on Monday.Related Articles Angels’ Albert Pujols feeling healthy after time off Angels manager Joe Maddon says Shohei Ohtani’s stiff back is ‘nothing alarming’ Joe Maddon asks Angels ‘to be the best teammate of their life’ Angels’ Anthony Rendon says he’s ready to go after coronavirus layoff Alexander: Dodgers, Angels in good hands in weird circumstances “I thought he looked really good yesterday,” Maddon said before Sunday’s game. “I loved that he took some swings yesterday after he threw. I thought he felt really good about himself. He had a lot of baseball confidence out of yesterday’s event.” Andrew Heaney, who was named the Opening Day starter, faced 21 batters in five trips to the mound. He struck out five and walked one. He gave up eight hits, including the Ohtani homer. Andriese, who is vying for a spot in the rotation, also took five turns on the mound. He struck out two and walked one. ALSO Maddon still has no update on Julio Teheran, who told ESPN last week that he was at home in Atlanta awaiting results of a coronavirus test. “Honestly, crickets,” Maddon said of the lack of an update on Teheran. “I have not heard anything new from the beginning. I don’t anticipate bad, because I’m not hearing either right now. He’s still not here and we’re still eagerly awaiting his arrival.”… Tommy La Stella said he would not have a problem moving over to first base if Maddon asked him, even though he has barely worked out there at all this year. “I’ve been there before,” La Stella said. “I feel comfortable.” The Angels need someone to play first when Albert Pujols has the day off or is at DH, and Matt Thaiss is still not in camp. Jared Walsh just arrived after missing a few days… The Angels have been playing most of their regulars for two out of three days early in the intrasquad games. Most of them played on Sunday, and were expected to play again on Monday, before getting Tuesday off. View the full article
  6. If Hollywood hired a writer to write the perfect script for a baseball movie, it couldn’t have done better than what actually happened at Angel Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019. To set the stage, the Angels were struggling all season long through July 1st, barely holding onto a .500 record. While on the road in Texas, the Angels awoke to the tragic news that their friend, their teammate, their pitcher, Tyler Skaggs had died of an accidental drug overdose in his hotel room. The Angels and Rangers cancelled their game that night, while the team dealt with its grief. The whole team was visibly shaken. Mike Trout tweeted out ““Words cannot express the deep sadness we feel right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with Carli and their families. Remembering him as a great teammate, friend, and person who will forever remain in our hearts… we love you, 45.” Overnight, a memorial, built by fans with flowers, hats, letters, pictures, and posters appeared on the pitching mound in front of Angels Stadium. Everyday, the memorial grew while the Angels finished up their road trip leading up to the All-Star Break. At the All-Star Game, both Mike Trout and Tommy La Stella wore #45 jerseys to honor their teammate. On Friday, July 12th, the Angels opened a homestand with the Mariners. They honored Tyler by having his mother, Debbie throw out the opening pitch. Standing beside her stood Carli, Tyler’s wife, his brother Garret, and stepfather Dan. A visibly emotional Andrew Heaney and Mike Trout carried out a framed Skaggs #45 jersey while every Angels player wore a #45 Skaggs jersey to honor their friend. With the ceremonial 1st pitch, Debbie threw a perfect strike to Andrew Heaney to open the game. Afterwards, she wrote Tyler’s initials on the mound. And then, it was if a guardian angel came down to make this a truly memorial game. Taylor Cole opened the game with a 1-2-3 inning. And then, in the bottom of the first, the Angels offense exploded. They scored 7 runs on 7 hits in the first. Mike Trout drove in 4; two on a homerun and 2 more on a double. The blast travelled 454 feet which was Skaggs’ number forwards and backwards. After Cole pitched two hitless innings, Felix Peña came on in the third and pitched the rest of the way. The combination of these two, was hardly the predictable duo to pitch what happened that night. Cole, had bounced up and down from AAA all season, and Peña rarely had the stamina or control to pitch deep into games. Throughout the emotional crowd, no one wanted to say anything about the magic that was happening before them. In the 6th inning, rookie Matt Thaiss made a spectacular play at 3B, a position he was learning at the Major League level, to record the out. In the 9th, with the crowd on its feet, the Angels made two more spectacular plays to save the no-hitter. The first, against Dee Gordon, was a little nubber that Gordon nearly beat out at first. The second was a smash hit to Luis Rengifo at 2B that for a moment seemed to get away from him, but he recovered to record the out. After the game, the emotions just poured out on the field. The team came together around the mound and one by one took their jerseys off laid them down on the mound, with Skaggs’ name and #45 pointed up to the sky. The symbolism was not lost on the Angels. They knew that they had a guardian angel looking out for them that night, and it showed in many ways. The Angels scored 7 runs in the first, and 13 runs total. Tyler Skaggs was born on 7/13. The combined no hitter was the first combined no hitter in California since 7/13/91—the day that Tyler was born. The Angels collected 13 hits that night. The next day, July 13th, Tyler would have turned 28. The no-hitter that night was the Angels’ 11th no-hitter in franchise history. In high school, Skaggs wore #11. The Angels sent jerseys and balls from the no-hitter to the Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown. Someday they will be on display, and fans can see and learn of the magic of this game. Dee Gordon, the Mariners player best summed up this game when he said “If you don’t believe in God, you might want to start.” If you were there that night, you know he was right. You can watch highlights of this game below. View the full article
  7. ANAHEIM — The start to Albert Pujols’ 20th season in the majors will be delayed by nearly four months. One positive to that is that Pujols will have had more time to put his injury issues behind him. By the time the season starts, it will have been about 22 months since Pujols had the third of three surgeries he had at the end of the 2018 season. He has had two full offseasons, plus what was essentially a third mini-offseason, for his body to recover. “I think being healthy brought me more joy for the game,” Pujols said Saturday morning. “Talk to any athlete and you start going through injuries and tough parts of your career and you start doubting yourself. “There was a period where I couldn’t stay away from the surgery table. Every year it seemed like I had something. Elbow, knee, foot. It was tough. But I think when you stay healthy like I have… it’s like, ‘Wow, this how it felt when I was 25 and in my 30s.’” Pujols, who turned 40 in January, has one season left on his 10-year deal after this one. Although he’s nearing the end of his career, he still has the passion that keeps him going. “If I wake up one day and I don’t feel that desire, that hunger or that passion for the game, that would be last game,” Pujols said. “It could be tomorrow. It could be today. When you cannot compete anymore, that’s when you need to walk out. When you don’t have that hunger and that joy and that passion coming to the ballpark and hanging out with your teammates, that’s when you walk away.” For this 60-game season Pujols is still penciled in to be the Angels’ primary first baseman, although he’ll certainly get all the days off he needs. When Pujols is not playing first, Maddon is expected to use either Matt Thaiss or Jared Walsh. Although Thaiss has not yet been able to participate in camp, Maddon still included him in listing the first-base candidates. Maddon said he’s also talked to Tommy La Stella about first base “as a just-in-case.” Although it’s clear that Pujols at 40 is long past being the force he was during his heyday, Maddon said he’s still been impressed with what Pujols has shown him as far as work ethic and attitude. “He has one agenda,” Maddon said. “He is definitely a Level 5, all-I-want-do-is-win guy. He has been there, done that before. I’m watching his workout here right now and I’m watching him hustle, bust on and off the field, running to first base. To say he gets it is ridiculous. He’s gotten it for so many years.” Pujols further demonstrated his leadership during the pandemic, when he committed about $180,000 to support the Angels employees in the Dominican Republic who had been furloughed. “It’s something I felt was needed for these people,” said Pujols, who added he was unhappy the act leaked to the media. “It’s not like I’m going to help them with all their problems. They’re going to have problems in the future, but I think a little push for the next five months, I was able to do that. I just felt it in my heart to do that and I felt after I spoke with my wife that it was the right thing to do. I know there’s other guys on our ballclub too that have done all this stuff for different coaches in the organization.” Pujols, whose 22-year-old daughter Isabella is high-risk because of Down Syndrome, said he has taken the coronavirus seriously throughout. He believes that MLB’s protocols will work to allow the season to be played during the pandemic. Related Articles Angels manager Joe Maddon says Shohei Ohtani’s stiff back is ‘nothing alarming’ Joe Maddon asks Angels ‘to be the best teammate of their life’ Angels’ Anthony Rendon says he’s ready to go after coronavirus layoff Alexander: Dodgers, Angels in good hands in weird circumstances Angels set to open 2021 season at home After talking to former Angel Jefry Marte, who is playing Japan, Pujols even has some hope that major-league games can be played in front of fans later this season. “He said they’re going to allow like 5,000 fans, maybe, into the stadium, and like 10,000 fans probably within two weeks,” Pujols said. “So hopefully you know this thing goes fast and hopefully by the end of the season – our goal is hopefully everything goes well and they can allow fans like that getting into the stadium and in the playoffs.” View the full article
  8. ANAHEIM — Shohei Ohtani has been slowed over the past few days by some back stiffness, but Manager Joe Maddon said he wasn’t concerned. “He’s feeling good,” Maddon said Saturday. “Obviously we’re going to be cautious with him now. I’m optimistic he’ll be able to take his turn next turn next week. Nothing alarming. Just felt a little stiffness. Yesterday, he felt he was in a pretty good place.” Ohtani is set to resume his role as a two-way player for the first time since 2018. He pitched in an intrasquad game Tuesday and walked seven of the 10 batters he faced. As for at the plate, Maddon said Ohtani will be able to hit in an intrasquad game soon, once the stiffness is gone. View the full article
  9. ANAHEIM — The Angels are just a week into this effort to play a shortened season amid a pandemic and Joe Maddon’s newest signature phrase has become clear. “Everybody has got to be the best teammate of their life right now.” The Angels manager has repeated some version of his sentiment just about every day, only he’s not referring to any of the characteristics normally associated with baseball. “We don’t need you to get the big knock in the ninth inning to drive in the winning run,” Maddon said. “We don’t need you pitch seven scoreless. We don’t need you to grab a hold or pick up a save. We need you to follow the protocols. We need you to follow the protocols to be the best teammate ever.” The coronavirus, of course, has dramatically changed the world, and Major League Baseball has changed to accommodate it. There are more than 100 pages of regulations that dictate how the players and teams should conduct themselves in a manner that gives them the best chance to avoid infection. The document covers everything from a prohibition on spitting to instructions on how players should eat on team charters. Only one person at a time, per row, can have his mask off to eat. The manual, however, has very little detail about what players should do when they aren’t at the ballpark. It is just one paragraph. “MLB will not formally restrict the activities of Covered Individuals when they are away from Club facilities, but will expect the Covered Individuals on each Club to ensure that they all act responsibly,” the document reads. It goes on to suggest that the players and staff members “should agree on their own off-field code of conduct for themselves and their family members to minimize the risk to others.” Andrew Heaney, the Angels’ union player rep, said the message in Zoom meetings has been very clear. “If you’re not at the field, if you’re not in your car, if you’re not in your house, you need to wear a mask,” the left-hander said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re in a state that doesn’t enforce it. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to wear a mask. If you’re getting food, get it to-go. Get it delivered. Don’t go sit down and eat somewhere. Don’t go to bars. Don’t go to large gatherings. “Most of those are common sense, and that everyone should be doing that, but we just want to make sure everybody’s on the same page.” Anthony Rendon said he hasn’t personally been too worried about the coronavirus because no one in his family is at high risk, but now that he’s with his teammates, the third baseman understands the importance of doing things in a certain way, even away from the ballpark. “We have to wear our masks just to protect other people,” Rendon said. “At this time, we have to be selfless toward everyone around us because we don’t know what everyone’s situation is. And I think this is a good opportunity for, us as a world, to realize that selfishness doesn’t go a long way, so we have to look out for one another.” Heaney said the players and other staffers in the immediate bubble have all been made aware that one person’s actions can affect not just his teammates, but their families. “If you start getting a little crack, it can really expand and wreak havoc in the clubhouse,” Heaney said. “Everyone understands that risk is real, and we’re trying to do the best we can to cover all those bases.” Maddon conceded the younger, single, players may be challenged more to stick to the protocols away from the ballpark. The allure of bars, clubs and restaurants is certainly stronger for single players than for those who are going home to a wife and a family, Maddon said. “It’s just true,” Maddon said. “The young man that is mature enough to think beyond that is an impressive young man. You don’t know what sacrifice means until you have your own child.” Certainly, the important considerations are health related. But realistically there are also baseball reasons for preventing the spread of the virus. Even if a player has no symptoms, but tests positive, he must be away from the team until he’s had two negative tests. Key players missing a few games, or a starter missing a turn, can have a dramatic impact in a 60-game sprint of a season. “We all understand what needs to be done and have to take it upon ourselves to individually be responsible, knowing our teammates are relying on us,” pitcher Canning said. “It’s going to take some time getting used to, but it shouldn’t be too bad.” ALSO Although Julio Teheran told ESPN Deportes earlier in the week he was hoping to rejoin the Angels this weekend if his coronavirus test was negative, Maddon said on Friday he still had no update on Teheran’s status. … Related Articles Angels’ Anthony Rendon says he’s ready to go after coronavirus layoff Alexander: Dodgers, Angels in good hands in weird circumstances Angels set to open 2021 season at home Hoornstra: 4 players who emerged as role models despite no baseball to play Angels’ Andrew Heaney comfortable with MLB’s coronavirus protocols so far Jo Adell’s line-drive, opposite-field homer in Thursday’s intrasquad game impressed Maddon, but not just because of the way he hit the ball. “The part about it I liked the best was how he broke out of the batter’s box,” Maddon said. “He didn’t assume that was going to be a home run. That was refreshing. So, he did everything right.” Maddon said it’s still too early in camp to judge whether the Angels’ top prospect has improved since spring training. … The Angels continue to put an emphasis on bunting, just as they did in Arizona. They have a station set up in right field for bunting drills. The have also been bunting during their intrasquad games. View the full article
  10. ANAHEIM — A week after the end of three-month stretch in which he admittedly spent more time changing diapers than doing baseball work, Anthony Rendon said he’s nonetheless ready to go. “When we grow up, coaches say you can’t turn it on and off like it’s a light switch,” the Angels third baseman said Thursday. “You can’t just decide to show up whenever you want. But I think as we get older, we know what we need to do to prepare ourselves for a game. As men, as professionals, I think there is a little bit of a light switch where we know that we’ve got to go right now. We can kind of turn it on and say we need to get down to business and bear down because the real deal is about to happen. “If the season started today, I think a lot of guys, including myself, would be ready and can actually perform out there and be comfortable.” Seven months after signing a seven-year, $245-million deal with the Angels, Rendon is now two weeks away from finally making his debut, provided the coronavirus cooperates and allows the season to start. Rendon had a month with his new teammates before the shutdown, and since then he has been at home with his wife and their two daughters, ages 2 and four months. Because he was busy with family and trying to stay safe, Rendon said he didn’t venture out much for baseball. “A lot of mental hacks,” he said. “Mental ground balls. Mental throws. I’d throw a tennis ball against the wall, maybe…. It’s kind of a terrible situation that we’re in now. I didn’t really do too much but try to stay in shape as best I could.” KIDS’ GAME Most of the Angels major-leaguers worked out early and then were done for the day, with the minor-leaguers playing in a short intrasquad game. The highlight was a Jo Adell homer, a line drive over the fence in right-center. Jose Rodriguez and Chris Rodriguez each took two turns on the mound, marking a significant milestone for Chris Rodriguez. One of the Angels’ top pitching prospects, Chris Rodriguez has missed significant time throughout his short pro career with back problems. Manager Joe Maddon said he would watch the game as if he were a scout, looking for little hints at the players’ potential. “You just got to watch how the guy reacts to the moment,” Maddon said. “As a position player, you might see something in the batter’s box you like. You might see a first move you like on defense. The pitcher, you’re looking for delivery, looseness, free arm, carry out of the hand, and again, how he handles this situation. And if he’s able to be in control of his emotions.” The regulars are expected to be back in action for Friday afternoon’s intrasquad game. NOISE REPORT A day after the Angels played their intrasquad game with crowd noise piped in over the ballpark speakers, the experiment got mixed reviews from Rendon and Maddon. Rendon said he wasn’t buying it the noise without the fans. “It’s like you have two of your senses that aren’t coinciding with one another,” he said. “It’s like you’re looking at a pizza, but you’re smelling a hamburger. You hear noise, but you know nobody in the stands. You don’t see anybody. I think it was dumb. I’d rather listen to music.” Maddon, however, said it served its purpose of keeping his focus on the field. He had to raise his voice to communicate with GM Billy Eppler, who was sitting just behind the screen. “It felt somewhat normal,” Maddon said. “Because your emphasis is there and it’s not quiet and you’re just looking around. I think you can be distracted by the quiet. I think you have a better chance of locking in with noise. It’s different. It’s not playing golf.” The Angels used the crowd noise again Thursday. NEW FACES Jared Walsh and Patrick Sandoval, who had been two of the players absent from camp without explanation in the first week, arrived and participated in workouts Thursday, Maddon said. Related Articles Alexander: Dodgers, Angels in good hands in weird circumstances Angels set to open 2021 season at home Hoornstra: 4 players who emerged as role models despite no baseball to play Angels’ Andrew Heaney comfortable with MLB’s coronavirus protocols so far Shohei Ohtani pitches in Angels’ intrasquad game, looks rusty The Angels have also added right-hander Adrian De Horta to their player pool. De Horta had been in big-league camp in spring training. They are expected to add left-handed pitcher Adam Seminaris, who they just last month selected in the fifth round out of Long Beach State. View the full article
  11. Let’s face it: Pandemic Baseball is already a squirrel derby, to use the pet phrase of one of This Space’s favorites, the late Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton College football coach Gene Murphy. It is going to be different, it is occasionally (often?) going to be chaotic, and the normal boundaries aren’t always going to apply for players, fans, executives, whatever. Under those circumstances, if you are a Southern California baseball fan, you should be heartened. From a managerial standpoint, at least, the Dodgers and Angels are in good hands as they try to navigate whatever craziness is ahead. Dave Roberts has already created and nurtured a Dodgers clubhouse philosophy of flexibility, especially with a position player group where, with a couple of exceptions, nothing is guaranteed night to night. New Angels manager Joe Maddon believes in the comfort of being uncomfortable, acknowledging the hurdles and working through them, and keeping the lines of communication open to a greater degree than most managers. It would be easy to be thrown off by this new (temporary?) normal, right down to a list of protocols previously unimaginable in this most traditional and routine-oriented of sports. “You got to roll with it, man,” Maddon was saying the other day. “You just can’t be inflexible right now … I mean, I can’t say anything’s been difficult. “It’s really weird, though, when you really have to spit, how tough it is to spit. I mean, that’s probably the most difficult thing. Otherwise, it’s not been that bad.” In such moments are we again reminded of what the title of “manager” means. So much is made of lineups and in-game strategy and how much of a role front-office functionaries play in each, but the real heart of a manager’s work is in managing personalities and creating the right atmosphere. (And, these days, also reminding them to avoid high-fives and leave the sunflower seeds at home.) “You’re always trying to make sure the players are physically, mentally and emotionally prepared, and things are always kind of unknown and unpredictable,” Roberts said. “But obviously, like everyone else, (with) this kind of layer with the global pandemic, I never really thought I would have to try to educate myself so I could kind of help the players along and really keep their psyches positive and focused on baseball. “Everyone is in that same bucket, I guess … There’s a lot of logistic things that are still kind of coming towards us as you get closer to the season. So I’m just trying to be open-minded (and) nimble, and hopefully our players will follow suit.” The Dodgers have had a player opt out in pitcher David Price. Both teams, along with just about every other team, have had players who have reported late or haven’t yet arrived at Training Camp 2.0, for reasons the managers have said they couldn’t describe but very well might be coronavirus related. There are new additions to the language of baseball, satellite camps and taxi squads, and the hallowed routines of baseball – including the clubhouse as refuge/hangout/bonding space – are being revised out of necessity. There will be unforeseen twists and turns going forward, and everything is overlaid with the possibility that in the event of a major outbreak within the sport, the season doesn’t get completed at all. Amid all of that, players still have to perform. “I’m just trying to, no pun intended, take a daily temperature, like trying to figure out everybody’s comfort zone and how everybody’s processing all of this,” Maddon said. “… There’s so many different ways that our mood is influenced before we ever get here, and then you have to come here and be a major-league baseball player and try to park it all. I’m a feel guy, and as much as ever I’ve been attempting to keep the feelers out there and try to understand where everybody is at every day. This includes the coaching staff, too, and I got to be aware of that. It includes my family, my daughter, my granddaughter, my wife. “You can look at somebody’s face. There’s something, concern or preoccupation. We all know what that feels like when you’re preoccupied with different thoughts to take you away from this exact moment. You get out of the present tense. That’s very concerning, and it could take you away from your ability to play this game. … I really believe empathy and the ability to be aware of who’s next to you and how they’re feeling matters now more than ever.” The mind reels at the idea of a Billy Martin or Dick Williams or Leo Durocher – the crusty old-school type of manager who believed feelings were for wimps – trying to navigate these choppy waters. It would be ugly. There are other factors here. Maddon turned 66 in February. Roberts is 48 and a cancer survivor. Both could be considered part of the group that could be hardest hit by COVID-19, but neither has shown any hesitancy in pushing forward. Roberts had previously said he had consulted with Dodgers’ medical people who told him people with prior cancer history “haven’t been prone to be at higher risk.” “I thought about what was at stake, given my health history,” Roberts said this week. “I talked to my wife and family. I just wanted to make sure, you know. I had to make sure that I’m responsible. But I never really considered opting out or choosing not to manage.” For his team, that’s a very good thing. Pandemic Baseball is an environment that’s uncertain and in some ways scary. The steadier the hand at the helm, the better. jalexander@scng.com @Jim_Alexander on Twitter View the full article
  12. The Angels’ four-year streak of opening the season in Oakland is set to end in 2021. Major League Baseball released its 2021 schedule Thursday – still two weeks shy of the opening of the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season – and the Angels are set to open at home against the Chicago White Sox on April 1. The Angels opened the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons in Oakland, and they are scheduled to open this season in Oakland on July 24. They were originally scheduled to play their first game this year in Houston, but most of the season was lost to the pandemic. As a result of this year’s regional-based schedule, created to minimize travel, the Angels will play the National League West two years in a row in interleague play. The AL West had been scheduled all along to play the NL West in 2021, but this year’s schedule was changed from the NL East to NL West. The Angels will play the Dodgers in Anaheim from May 7-9 and at Dodger Stadium from Aug. 6-8, both weekends. The Angels will play at Arizona and host the Colorado Rockies, with home-and-home series against the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. The Angels finish the 2021 season in Seattle from Oct. 1-3. Related Articles Hoornstra: 4 players who emerged as role models despite no baseball to play Angels’ Andrew Heaney comfortable with MLB’s coronavirus protocols so far Shohei Ohtani pitches in Angels’ intrasquad game, looks rusty Angels schedule: Who the team will play in 2020 season MLB announces 60-game schedule; Dodgers and Angels will open on ESPN View the full article
  13. On a conference call with Max Muncy on Wednesday afternoon, I asked the Dodgers’ first baseman what he learned about himself during the vast downtime created by the coronavirus pandemic. “I learned I’m probably not very good company,” Muncy quipped, “without baseball.” The same might be said by any young man who’s never questioned how to occupy his free time between March and July until now. The absence of baseball did something else, something more public. It revealed a handful of major-leaguers as terrific role models beyond their skill and effort on the field. Some of us – most, hopefully – do not need reminding that being a good athlete isn’t enough to make a person a good role model. For everyone else, the last two months were a wake-up call. To be clear, baseball didn’t begin offering these moments once a global pandemic struck. In November, I visited the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center to report on Kenley Jansen’s generous toy donation to the children hospitalized there. At the time, the Astros’ cheating scandal was unfolding through a series of public revelations. Jansen’s reaction to those revelations, as someone who made six appearances in the 2017 World Series, was newsworthy. He suggested lifetime bans as an appropriate measure of punishment. That got him into the daily news cycle, but it did not make him a role model by itself. With no at-bats, no pitches, and no games, active players have been more free than ever to choose to be a public voice for good – or not. Ironically, it might have taken the absence of professional sports to reveal their character as everyday role models. So, what can a few thoughtful baseball players do with nothing but time and myriad social issues creating a national conversation? Here are a few examples: 1. Ian Desmond The Colorado Rockies’ utilityman penned a heartfelt essay on Instagram that suggested he has a future in journalism. (I’m doomed.) As of Wednesday, the post had more than 42,000 likes. Desmond ostensibly intended to explain why he was opting out of playing this season. “With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what’s going on in the world,” he wrote, “home is where I need to be right now.” Desmond kept going. He described a recent visit to the Little League fields of his youth in Sarasota, Florida. He recalled them as “a place where baseball could be played by any kid who wanted it.” He offered memories that ran the gamut from close-knit camaraderie to harsh racism (Desmond is a biracial man who identifies as Black). So what will Desmond continue to do with his down time? “I’ll be right here, at my old Little League, and I’m working with everyone involved to make sure we get Sarasota Youth Baseball back on track,” he said. “It’s what I can do, in the scheme of so much. So, I am.” 2. Sean Doolittle The Nationals’ closer has been a champion in his community for years, and one of a handful of prolific Twitter users who can never be called a “keyboard warrior.” It was no surprise, then, that Doolittle was the rare player to directly address the lousy timing of MLB’s labor dispute with its players without mincing words. “There’s social unrest in our country amid a global pandemic,” Doolittle wrote on his Twitter account on June 8. “Baseball won’t solve these problems, but maybe it could help. We’ve been staying ready & we proposed 114 games – to protect the integrity of the game, to give back to our fans & cities, and because we want to play. It’s frustrating to have a public labor dispute when there’s so much hardship. I hate it. But we have an obligation to future players to do right by them. We want to play. We also have to make sure that future players won’t be paying for any concessions we make.” The message exuded the best kind of honesty, one that resists pandering and voluntarily opens the speaker to criticism. It stood in direct contrast to the owner who claimed the baseball industry “isn’t very profitable.” 3. Joey Votto The Reds’ first baseman penned a guest column in the Cincinnati Enquirer on June 7 that took an honest, self-reflective look at white privilege. Votto described his reaction to a Black teammate sending him a video of George Floyd dying beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. “My instincts provoked an instantaneous defense of the officer,” Votto wrote. “Perhaps the man was resisting arrest? Maybe there is a story the video isn’t telling?” A day later, Votto said he watched the video, wept, and texted his teammate to apologize for his resistance. “Everything inside of me wants things to go back to normal,” Votto wrote. “I don’t want to protest, raise my voice, or challenge someone. I don’t want to have heated arguments, break up friendships, or challenge previous norms. But I hear you now, and so that desire for normalcy is a privilege by which I can no longer abide.” 4. David Price Price didn’t intend to publicize his pledge of $1,000 to every Dodgers minor-league player for the month of June. When word got out via social media, Price copped to the broad act of generosity. Major-league players have drawn criticism – at times justified – for not doing more to help their non-unionized minor-league brethren. Price put his money where his mouth is. He would go on to forfeit $11.85 million of his base salary by opting out of the 2020 season, but not before raising awareness of the minor-leaguers’ futile fight for living wages – and lifting the boat for an entire organization’s worth of players. View the full article
  14. ANAHEIM — Andrew Heaney, who has been a part of the process to figure out how all this is working, seems to be confident that it can. “I think everybody here feels pretty safe and comfortable with the way we’re handling things,” said Heaney, who is one of the Angels’ player reps to the union. Major League Baseball is about to have a season amid the coronavirus pandemic. While logistical issues have created more questions about whether it’s possible to go forward, Heaney endorsed the sport’s efforts. A few days after the Angels had to alter their workout plans because the officials administering the coronavirus tests didn’t show up, Heaney said Wednesday he is hoping that was “a one-off” related to the holiday. “I feel good,” Heaney said. “Every day I see our staff, our players, the way they handle their business, I see there is genuine understanding, care and concern with how everything is handled on a day-to-day basis. So I feel comfortable. I really do.” The Angels seem to be working into a routine after a few days of hiccups. They pushed the start of their workouts back to allow more time for testing results to come back. They have players spending their down time in individually assigned luxury suites at Angel Stadium, rather than congregating in the clubhouse. They have been working out on the field in smaller groups. “I’ve got to commend MLB,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “This is very complicated, as you can see. I’m really impressed with everything involved in this and how well thought out it is. Of course, you’re going to have some hiccups and, of course, things aren’t going to be perfect. To expect perfection right now is a bad assumption and an expectation. “So I think we’ve done a great job, but I commend them, the guys that put this together. I think it’s going to keep getting better.” TEHERAN COMING SOON? One of the awkward situations of playing amid the coronavirus is that teams can’t release any information about conditions that aren’t related to playing – including the coronavirus – without consent of the player. That means in many cases players are absent with no explanation. Julio Teheran, the most prominent Angels player to be absent so far, cleared up some of his situation in an interview on Wednesday with ESPN Deportes. Teheran said in Spanish that he and members of his family had started to feel symptoms suggesting the coronavirus right before he was to travel to Southern California. Teheran said he is still in Atlanta, awaiting test results, but he hopes to be in Anaheim in a few days. “It is sad to be here while my teammates have returned to work,” Teheran said in Spanish. “I hope to rejoin the team this weekend.” Teheran added that his “arm is fine.” After being told of Teheran’s comments Wednesday, Maddon wasn’t ready to say that the pitcher would be ready to start the season in the rotation, even if he arrives this weekend. “You wouldn’t want to push it,” Maddon said, adding that once Teheran arrives they will assess his condition. Heaney, who will start the July 24 opener, is in camp and healthy, as are Shohei Ohtani, Griffin Canning and Dylan Bundy. Those four will be in the rotation, with Matt Andriese and Felix Peña the leading candidates to fill out the rotation while waiting for Teheran. Related Articles Shohei Ohtani pitches in Angels’ intrasquad game, looks rusty Angels schedule: Who the team will play in 2020 season MLB announces 60-game schedule; Dodgers and Angels will open on ESPN Issues with MLB coronavirus testing process disrupt Angels workouts Angels’ Griffin Canning says his elbow feels ‘normal’ after injection Jaime Barria is also in camp, but Jose Suarez and Patrick Sandoval are not. The Angels have not provided a reason for Suarez and Sandoval’s absence. ALSO The Angels claimed right-hander Jacob Rhame on waivers from the New York Mets. Rhame will be able to join the team after testing negative for the coronavirus. Rhame, 24, has a 6.23 ERA in 44 major-league games over the past three seasons, all in relief. He has struck out 40 and walked 24 in 47 2/3 innings. Maddon said they haven’t decided which day of the week would be the best to have Ohtani make his once-a-week starts, but he confirmed that a key factor is the proximity to days off. The Angels don’t use Ohtani as the DH the day before or after he pitches. The Angels have three of their six off days on Mondays, making Sunday a logical choice for his starts. View the full article
  15. ANAHEIM – The old normal was the new normal at Angel Stadium for an afternoon. Shohei Ohtani threw three innings in the Angels’ first intrasquad game of summer camp. The stands were empty, save a section in left field full of printed-out fan headshots. The public-address system played music on a continuous loop. The home plate umpire was Tim Buss, the Angels’ quality assurance coach. Only the players and uniforms looked as they normally do, but such is baseball at the moment. For the Angels, seeing Ohtani pitch would have to suffice. Throwing exclusively from the stretch, Ohtani was predictably rusty. He faced 10 batters and walked seven of them. Ohtani agreed his command was off, but it’s hard to measure how much since some normal rules weren’t enforced. For example, Ohtani was allowed to continue pitching to Anthony Rendon after hitting him in the backside with a pitch in the third inning. A portable screen behind catcher Jason Castro prevented runners from advancing on what might normally be wild pitches. When Ohtani reached his pitch limit for the first inning in the middle of an Albert Pujols plate appearance, the inning simply ended. “I’m glad to get through my pitches that I was supposed to pitch without any physical problems,” he said through an interpreter. “I’m very satisfied.” Ohtani said he threw all his pitches, among approximately 50 in all. Now he’ll take “three or four more days to recover” before getting back on a mound.Related Articles Angels schedule: Who the team will play in 2020 season MLB announces 60-game schedule; Dodgers and Angels will open on ESPN Issues with MLB coronavirus testing process disrupt Angels workouts Angels’ Griffin Canning says his elbow feels ‘normal’ after injection Shohei Ohtani eager to return to two-way role with Angels Ohtani was limited to designated hitter duties in 2019 after he returned from Tommy John surgery in May. For Ohtani the pitcher, Tuesday’s atmosphere was his most game-like since the Sept. 2018 start that put half of his unparalleled two-way career on hold. Ohtani began facing live hitters in May. Angels manager Joe Maddon cautioned against expecting any pitcher to replicate his typical mid-season form in a practice environment. “There’s nothing to be concerned about, or alarmed” with Ohtani, Maddon said. “He just did not have good rhythm with his delivery.” Sign up for Home Turf and get exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here. TESTING CONCERNS Monday, the firm contracted to Major League Baseball for coronavirus testing didn’t arrive to collect the necessary samples from Angels employees, and a team-wide morning workout became an optional afternoon workout. Getting tested wasn’t an issue for the Angels on Tuesday. For at least one player, however, Monday’s no-show raised major concerns. “Someone has dropped the ball somewhere in Major League Baseball’s office and it’s putting our best players at risk,” pitcher Ryan Buchter told MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM. “It’s putting all of us at risk.” The Angels aren’t alone in grappling with testing issues. Tuesday, the San Francisco Giants announced they were canceling their workouts because they had not received the result of tests administered Saturday. The Nationals cancelled their workout Monday because they still had not received the results from Friday’s tests. “Our staff here with Anaheim is doing a tremendous job,” Buchter said. “Our trainers are, I’m sure, overworked and just getting the crap beat out of them. Our front office is putting out a good message and they’re trying to keep everybody upbeat. The coaches are taking every measure possible, you know, walking around with constant gloves on masks. Really covering themselves carrying sanitizer. Everybody seems to be doing their part. And then we come to where MLB has really dropped the ball in the testing process.” ABSENT ANGELS Add pitchers Jose Suarez and Patrick Sandoval, and two-way player Jared Walsh, to the list of Angels who are not participating in summer camp activities. Maddon could not say why they are absent. Teams are prohibited from giving information about coronavirus-related absences without the player’s consent. Players also could be missing simply because they haven’t yet received results. Maddon didn’t provide an update about pitcher Julio Teheran, who has been absent from the outset of camp. He was placed on the 10-day injured list Monday along with pitchers Jose Suarez and Dillon Peters, and second baseman Luis Rengifo. None of their injuries were disclosed. The same is true of Matt Thaiss, who wasn’t on the field again Tuesday but has not been placed on the injured list. “I have not heard anything,” Maddon said of Teheran, who was expected to begin the season in the Angels’ rotation. “I have not heard from him specifically and I have not heard from the medical group either. For me, there’s been no contact.” ALSO Left-hander Andrew Heaney, who is scheduled to start Opening Day in Oakland on July 24, pitched four intrasquad innings. Brian Goodwin hit a ball over the yellow right field stripe for a two-run home run, the only runs on Heaney’s ledger. … Jo Adell, the consensus top prospect in the Angels’ organization, saw time in center field and rapped out what would have been an infield single in his first plate appearance. … Dylan Bundy and Griffin Canning will be the opposing pitchers in a six-inning intrasquad game Wednesday. … Every player present for the Angels’ reserve camp at Long Beach State’s Blair Field was invited to the intrasquad game. … The Angels signed Werner Blakely, their fourth-round pick in the June amateur draft. The high school shortstop from Michigan received a $900,000 signing bonus, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis. All four of their draft picks are now under contract. View the full article