ANAHEIM -- Pretty lackluster game, really -- except for one ground ball in the seventh inning.
From the Angels' perspective, that grounder was about the only memorable thing in a 2-0 loss to Oakland that saw the Angels limited to three hits by Trevor Cahill (seven innings) and two relievers.
It came off the bat of Kurt Suzuki, nearly dehorned pitcher Matt Palmer -- and improbably was turned into an out by second baseman Maicer Izturis, who made a diving stop nearly behind second base, then flipped the ball with his glove to Erick Aybar, who threw to first for the out.
"When those guys are messing around, they practice that a little bit," said manager Mike Scioscia. "Both those guys are talented, they're very athletic. You're just not going to see a better play than that one, and Erick was definitely expecting it."
Indeed he was, said Izturis, because the two of them talk about the possibility of such a play when there's a man on first: "Ball the hole, like a double play, I flip to you," Izturis said. "He was ready. Play in the middle, we was talking."
Izturis, smiling, thought it was one of the best plays of his young career. No one who saw it would disagree.
"Man, that was probably one of the best plays I've seen with my eyes," said outfielder Torii Hunter. "It was shocking, because I didn't expect him to flip it to Aybar. That was a good, heads-up play. It seemed like he was thinking about it when he was running after the ball. ... That was a pretty impressive play."
Otherwise, about the most impressive thing on the night was the work of Cahill, who struck out three, walked two and threw 98 pitches, 52 for strikes.
"He was on his game," said Hunter. "His ball was moving everywhere. The first inning, it seemed like he was all over the place" -- Cahill walked the first two batters, but the Angels failed to capitalize -- "but he settled down.
"The scouting report said to work him because he doesn't throw a lot of strikes, but today he did, and the ball was moving. That's one of the best sinkers in the game. ... Every time you swing, it's under your bat or you're on the top of the ball. It's pretty tough. Us righties today were sacrificial lambs."
Said Scioscia, "He had good action, a good sinker, and we didn't square up too many balls off him."
Cahill's work negated a good outing from Ervin Santana (7-7) -- not quite as good as a couple of the starts preceding it, but still, over the last five starts, he's lowered his ERA from 7.31 to 5.94.
"His last three starts," said Scioscia, "everything's been consistent -- his velocity, his arm speed, the break on his slider. ... Definitely a ballgame that most times we're going to win. We just couldn't do anything offensively."
August 2009 Archives
ANAHEIM -- Pretty lackluster game, really -- except for one ground ball in the seventh inning.
ANAHEIM -- Back on April 9, the Angels scheduled ceremonies to honor Brian Downing and Chuck Finley as the newest members of the Angels' Hall of Fame, and the first since 1995, when coach Jimmy Reese was honored.
But in the early morning hours of that day, pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed in an auto accident, and the ceremonies and game were postponed.
Both were made up Thursday night, with the pregame ceremonies marking the start of what the Angels want to make an annual event.
"We all feel it's important to keep the Angel tradition moving forward," said manager Mike Scioscia. "We've had some great ballplayers that have played on this field, some hall of fame ballplayers that have played on this field. ... It's special for all of us."
Downing played 20 years in the majors, 13 of them with the Angels (after five seasons with the White Sox and a final two in Texas). Overall, he batted .267 with 275 homers and 1,073 RBIs; as an Angel, he batted .271 with 222 homers and 846 RBIs. An outfielder, catcher and DH, he was for several years an unconventional leadoff hitter -- without the usual speed (he stole 27 bases in those 13 seasons) but with a solid .372 on-base percentage.
"It drove me nuts," Downing said, recalling that role, "but it was best for the team."
Texas came to Anaheim to conclude the 1992 season, and Downing, knowing he was going to retire, asked Rangers manager Toby Harrah to let him lead off for a single at-bat in the final game. He singled, and the fans and members of both teams stood to salute him.
"The absolute highlight of my life," he said. "It didn't come in an Angels uniform, but you can't have everything."
Finley, a first-round draft pick of the Angels in 1985, played the first 14 of his 17 major-league seasons with the club. Overall, the lefthander finished with exactly 200 major-league wins (against 173 losses); as an Angel, he was 165-140 with a 3.72 ERA. His best years were back-to-back 18-9 seasons in 1990 and 1991.
"It has been a wonderful ride to live out a childhood dream and play in such a wonderful place as this," Finley said.
Finley wrapped up his career with two-plus seasons in Cleveland and part of a year in St. Louis, going to the Cardinals in a trade for outfielder Coco Crisp.
"You know your career is going downhill when you get traded for a cereal," Finley told Orange County Register writer Randy Youngman.
Thursday's ceremonies included taped messages from team hall-of-fame members Don Baylor and Nolan Ryan. The other living members of the Angels Hall of Fame -- Jim Fregosi, Rod Carew and Bobby Grich -- were on hand for the 40-minute event, which pushed the start of Thursday's game back to 7:41 p.m.
Call-up time: With the Sept. 1 date for roster expansion just days away -- teams can carry as many as 40 players -- Scioscia said plans to bring up minor-leaguers have been discussed, but he was not prepared to be specific.
"If there's a role for a guy up here we're going to bring him up, and there's some guys that are going to add some depth. ... We'll bring some guys up the first and another group after their (minor-league) season's over."
Adding a third catcher would seem likely, because of the added flexibility it would give the team.
"I don't want to get into speculating," Scioscia said. "But there's some things that we want to add depth right away, when we can on the first. We can speculate that's one of the areas, but we're not going to put any names up there."
The task, said Scioscia, is to bring up enough players to help, but not too many.
"We've been up as high as, I think, 36, 37," he said, "and if there's roles for those guys -- sometimes when you make that transition on the first, you've got three guys on the disabled list, and you need depth until they come back. And then once the players are here, you want to keep them fired up in case you need them again. So you have to expand it a little bit more.
"I don't know if we're going to quite get back to those numbers this year."
Diamond rust: Closer Brian Fuentes had a shaky outing Wednesday against Detroit -- hitting two batters and throwing a wild pitch before nailing down his 36th save as the Angels won 4-2. Since it was his appearance in eight days, Scioscia was asked if rust had been an issue.
"Brian's really a pitcher that does need some feel," he said. "He has a lot of deception in his delivery, needs to be rested at times to have his velocity be at a certainly level that he can get into zones, but he does need a feel for his breaking ball and his changeup.
"He threw a couple of good changeups yesterday, a couple of good breaking balls and then a couple, obviously -- he yanked a fastball for a wild pitch, hit a guy with the breaking ball. Two guys. And that could be part of not being out there for a while.
LOS ANGELES -- The struggles continue for the Dodgers' starters, and so does the team's slide back toward the rest of the NL West field.
With Wednesday's 3-2 loss to St. Louis, the Dodgers are now just 3 1/2 games ahead of Colorado (three in the loss column), and the inability of the starters to provide innings remains a constant.
Clayton Kershaw went just 3 2/3 innings Wednesday night -- laboring through 97 pitches in the process -- marking the fourth time in the last seven games a Dodger starter has gone five innings or less. The Dodgers are 0-4 in those games, 2-5 in that seven-game stretch.
Kershaw, who showed flu-like symptoms on Tuesday and was an uncertain starter Wednesday, didn't blame illness for his issues against the Cardinals: "I don't think my health had anything to do with tonight."
But he did blame himself for the eventual outcome, even though he didn't get a decision. Jonathan Broxton ended up taking the loss with an unearned run in the ninth.
"I've got to figure out how to go deeper in games," he said, "and give this team a chance to win. It's disappointing. I know I let the team down tonight. I let everybody down. The bullpen had to bail me out. It just doesn't do anything for your team when you don't last very long."
Kershaw did give the Cardinals more than a little credit for the way his night went.
"That team, golly, they fouled off pitch after pitch," he said. "There just wasn't an easy out, and I wasn't throwing enough strikes. ... It was just a bad night."
The Dodgers are now 4-8 in the last 12. Starters have averaged seven innings in the four wins, and a fraction over five innings in the eight losses. (Kershaw, in an extra-inning loss at Atlanta, and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who lost on Monday, are the only starters to get past the sixth inning in those losses. They each went seven.)
The rotation issues -- struggles by Kershaw and Billingsley, the concussion to Hiroki Kuroda, and the long-term inability to identify a fifth starter -- led the Dodgers to sign Vicente Padilla, bad reputation and all, on Wednesday. He's slated to pitch in Albuquerque on Saturday and make his first Dodger start next Thursday in Colorado.
The way things are going right now, who knows? First place might be on the line in that game.
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' latest effort to plug the holes in their starting rotation clearly has some risks, but manager Joe Torre isn't too worked up about them.
Vicente Padilla was picked up by the Dodgers on Wednesday, the day he became a free agent following his release by the Texas Rangers. He'll pitch Saturday in Albuquerque, then make his Dodger debut Thursday in Colorado, Torre said.
Padilla, 31, was 8-6 with a 4.92 ERA this year for Texas, and 94-85 in an 11-year career with Arizona, Philadelphia and the Rangers. More problematic than the numbers, though, is Padilla's reputation. His release by Texas led to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram story headlined "Rangers bid farewell to malcontent Padilla."
In that story, outfielder Marlon Byrd was quoted as saying, "About time. It's absolutely a positive for this team. We have to get rid of the negatives to make a positive, and I believe this is a huge positive for this team." And general manager Jon Daniels said the move was "a culmination of things. It's about being a good teammate, acting like a professional and representing the team the right way."
Angels fans will also recall that Padilla was a key figure in a September 2007 incident in which the Angels and Rangers engaged in a two-day exchange of beanballs, a sequence which led to a five-game suspension for Padilla, another Rangers pitcher, three Angels and the managers of both teams. This season, he was involved in incidents with Oakland and the Yankees.
Torre made it clear he isn't interested in the reputation Padilla brings with him, only in what he does as a Dodger.
"Through my experience ... I've had players that have been questioned for one thing or another," said Torre, "and I've always felt it would be fair to judge them on the time you spend with them.
"I guess what had me think that was getting traded from Atlanta to St. Louis, and I was in St. Louis for a year or two before somebody came up to me and said, 'You're not a troublemaker.' I said, 'I didn't know I was.' Evidently, that's what everyone was prepared for.
"So I just decided that it's probably the safest thing. Because you can't do anything about your past. ... He's going to have a clean slate here and play baseball."
That being the case, Torre also said he's not concerned Padilla could disrupt the chemistry of what is considered to be a particularly harmonious clubhouse.
"I don't think it's a risk," he said. "I think we're, as a team, far enough along that if someone is a bad influence, I don't think that's going to affect other people. ... If there's an issue, we'll deal with it. And I have not had an issue with this man."
Padilla's signing follows the decision Wednesday to place Hiroki Kuroda on the disabled list as he recovers from his concussion, but Torre said one did not necessarily lead to the other: "I still think we'd probably look to be better. I'm just thinking about starters we have right now. ... We were talking about him before he got hit in the head."
Torre also said the Dodgers had been talking about John Smoltz, just released by Boston, but Smoltz signed with St. Louis on Wednesday and will join the Cardinals on Thursday in San Diego.
Padilla fits into a piecemeal and ever-shifting Dodgers rotation that had Clayton Kershaw start Wednesday, though that was in doubt Tuesday after Kershaw showed flu-like symptoms.
"We had Jeff Weaver at the ready," said Torre. "We sent him home (Tuesday) night saying, 'You're pitching Thursday, but you may pitch tomorrow.' So we had a backup plan where we would have flip-flopped them, if we felt he needed another day. But he feels pretty good."
Weaver, then, will pitch the opener of the series with Chicago. Randy Wolf goes Friday, knuckleballer Charlie Haeger gets his second start on Saturday and Chad Billingsley goes Sunday.
LOS ANGELES -- The news on Hiroki Kuroda remains positive -- amazingly so, really, given the frightening moment on Saturday when the Dodger pitcher was struck in the head by a line drive while pitching at Arizona.
Stan Conte, the team's trainer and director of medical services, said tests conducted before Monday's Dodgers-Cardinals game confirmed that Kuroda had a mild concussion, and nothing more, and while the pitcher is experiencing intermittent headaches, they are mild, and at times he has no symptoms at all.
"Today was better than I expected," said Conte.
That was also true when Kuroda spent time on an exercise bike -- testing to see if an increased heart rate would bring on increased symptoms, another indicator of the degree of the concussion -- and had no adverse effects.
Still, Conte sent the pitcher home once the tests were complete, well before Monday's game, not wanting him to be part of game-time activity, even as a spectator.
"The brain has to heal," said Conte. "All the sensory stimulation that's out here, which is amazing -- the clubhouse, the background sounds, the crowd, all that kind of stuff -- overstimulates the brain.
"So we sent him away to just have him rest. But we'll bring him back, and if he's doing well, I'm going to want him to see how he responds to a lot of the sensory input, and whether that increases or decreases the symptoms.
"I'm not sure that will be tomorrow (Tuesday). It will depend how he's doing."
Kuroda is also scheduled to see a Los Angeles neurologist Tuesday for further examination.
While the pitcher is doing well, Conte said it's impossible to know when he'll be ready to return to action. Brain function must be at 100 percent before he's cleared to play -- to return at less would increase susceptibility to another concussion -- and recovery time is unpredictable.
"Some of these mild concussions clear up in a couple days," said Conte. "Others remain for several weeks. So it's a little bit of an unknown at this point."
Manager Joe Torre was encouraged enough by Kuroda's condition to make a small joke.
"I asked some questions today in English for Kenji (Nimura, Kuroda's translator), and he seemed to know the question before Kenji translated. So I'm not sure what was triggered over there. I mean, I'm not accusing him of anything," he added, to laughter.
"But the greatest gift for me right now is that smile on his face. And he feels a lot better than we all thought he would when it first happened."
Torre said, not surprisingly, that Kuroda will definitely miss his Thursday turn in the rotation -- no decision has been made about a replacement -- and that there's no way to know how the pitcher will react when he gets back on the mound.
"I think each one's an individual case," he said, "whether it's a hitter (or pitcher) -- and I've been that hitter. Frank Robinson was that hitter.
"It takes a little bit of a meeting with yourself, because there you are back out there, and it's got to be a déjà vu involved in there somewhere. But I think with each individual, it's a hurdle you've got to deal with. And you can't practice it.
"It'll be when you go out there, and then see how you are."
He has covered the last four Olympics, as well as the World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, NCAA Final Four and a wide variety of other events.