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The Forgotten Arm

arredondo

Remember that kid who came up last year with that mid-90s fastball and that devastating split-finger fastball?

The kid who was originally drafted as a shortstop but was converted to a pitcher because of his remarkable arm strength despite being only 6’0″ and weighing 175 pounds?

The kid who appeared in 52 games last year, compiled a record of 10-2, and posted a microscopic ERA of 1.62?

The kid who struck out 55 hitters in 61 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a mere .190 average?

The kid who appeared in 3 games against the Red Sox in the 2008 ALDS, and closed the door on them without allowing a run each time?

Well, he’s 25-year-old Jose Arredondo, who electrified the Angels in ’08 with brilliant outing after brilliant outing.

This year has been a different story. In 24 1/3 innings this year, Arredondo has given up 4 more earned runs than he gave up in all of the 61 innings he pitched in last year (15 earned runs in ’09, 11 in ’08).

His ERA ballooned to 5.55. He had a record of 1-3.

“He just wasn’t in sync with his delivery,” Mike Scioscia put it.

All signs pointed to a demotion, and that’s exactly what happened.

Arredondo was sent down to AAA Salt Lake on June 9th while also dealing with an injury in his throwing arm which struck similarities to the injury that Ervin Santana suffered before the start of the ’09 season.

Some are calling it the proverbial “sophomore slump”.

Others are saying that the loss of a mentor may have triggered some old demons that held Arredondo back while in the minor leagues.

This mentor was Preston Gomez, a man who had been working in the Angels organization for 27 years.

When coming up through the minors, people just knew that Arredondo had a major league-caliber arm, but also had a big-time temper that at times, hindered his development.

In 2006 while in single-A ball, Arredondo and his catcher fought in the dugout after mixing up calls.

In 2007 in AA ball, Arredondo got into an altercation with a teammate who tried to cool down his rage in the clubhouse.

This prompted Mike Scioscia to call in Arredondo and have Gomez “drop the hammer on him” as pitching coach Mike Butcher put it.

The turnaround was remarkable, just look at his 2008 season statistics for proof.

But in March of 2008 before the regular season started, Gomez was hit by a truck at a gas station, and never fully recovered, eventually passing away at the age of 85 in January 0f 2009.

You may noticed the black diamond patch with the name “Preston” sewn in white that the Angels have on their jerseys, in memory of the man who spent nearly 3 decades with the organization.

“I love that guy. He taught my everything,” Arredondo said of Gomez. “He was all over me, trying to make me better.”

It’s tough to truly judge the effect that Gomez’s passing had on Arredondo, but clearly something has not been right.

But since his demotion to AAA, Arredondo has appeared in 11 games, while posting a 2.19 ERA for the Bees. And in a year where the Angels bullpen has been rocky, as well as feeling the absence of an 8th inning guy that can bridge the gap to get to Brian Fuentes in the 9th, Arredondo may do what he did last year… make lots of noise down the stretch after being called up to the Halos’ big league squad.

It isn’t too clear when he may be called up, but he’s been making a case to Mike Scioscia to call him up in the near future.

As of yesterday, in his previous 3 outings, Arredondo has gone 3 2/3 innings, giving up only 2 hits, while striking out 4 batters and walking none.

Only time will tell when Arredondo will be ready to pitch back in the big leagues, but when he comes back, let’s not forget the type of pitcher he can be. He will be an instant bullpen bolsterer, and hopefully he can work his way into being a Scot Shields-like reliever (as in bridging the gap from the 8th to 9th inning, not the recently erratic Scot Shields, of course… who wants that?) for the Angels, being a guy the Mike Scioscia can be comfortable giving the ball to in the 8th inning in close games.

But could he possibly crumble twice in two stints for the Angels this season after relatively no meltdowns on the mound last year?

In my honest opinion, no way, Jose.

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4/28-Angels Hold Off Orioles 7-5 in 1st of 2-Game Set

fuentes hunterJoe Saunders, a native of nearby Virginia, had around 20 family members in attendance at Camden Yards Tuesday to root him on, and he his squad was not about to disappoint the Saunders faithful.

Saunders came in to Tuesday’s game at a perfect 4-0 lifetime against the Baltimore Orioles, and remained perfect with today’s outcome. Saunders wouldn’t have his most brilliant outing of the year, going 6 innings, while allowing 4 runs (only 2 of them earned) on 10 hits, while punching out only 1 Oriole batter.

As I had mentioned in my article earlier today, the Angels needed to get good efforts from guys like Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales, Chone Figgins and Mike Napoli to name a few, in order to be successful.

KMo, Figgy and Nap would each have two hits on the game, and Kendrick would have a 2-run jack for the Halos en route to a 7-5 victory.

More importantly, the bullpen did a great job of closing the door on the O’s on their 1st game of an 8-game road trip.

Joe Saunders (3-1) would be the winning pitcher in Tuesday’s contest, while Adam Eaton (1-3) would be on the losing end after giving up 5 runs in 6 innings of work.

Brian Fuentes would notch his 4th save of the year in 5 opportunities after starting the inning with a leadoff home run to Adam Jones, his 4th of the year.

The Halos move to 8-11 on the year, and Baltimore drops to 9-12, losing 10 of their last 13 games.

Game Notes

The Angels became the last team in Major League Baseball to win back-to-back games. The Angels couldn’t quite seem to ring up consecutive wins until the 18th and 19th games of the season, but for the first time this year, the Angels have a quote-unquote “winning streak” going.

The Angels would knock 7 extra-base hits in this game (6 doubles, 1 home run), with 11 hits altogether. This marks the 6th time in the last 7 games that the Angels have collectively had 10 or more hits in a single contest.

Howie Kendrick had a big 2-run homer in the 4th inning off of Eaton to tie up the game at 4-4. Kendrick would only go 1-for-4 on the night, but his tater makes it back-to-back games with a home run. 8 of HK’s 16 RBI on the season have come in the past 3 games. He’s now the club’s RBI leader with his total of 16.

Kendry Morales would go 2-for-4 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI and 1 run scored. KMo hit a crucial 2-run double in the 7th inning to push the Angels’ lead to 7-4. Morales now has 8 RBI in his last 5 games, and pushed his average up to .275 for the year.

Lots of Angels with a multi-hit game today, 4 to be exact.

Chone Figgins went 2-for-3 with 2 walks, 2 runs scored and 2 stolen bags. Mighty Maicer would go 2-for-5, with 2 runs scored and 1 RBI. The aforementioned Kendry Morales would go 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and a run scored. And lastly, Mike Napoli would go 2-for-4 as well.

The bullpen would finally look 90% competent. Not all the way, but I’d say about 90%.

Jose Arredondo would pitch a scoreless 7th inning, surrendering only 1 hit and striking out 2 Oriole hitters.

Scot Shields (…gulp) oddly enough wouldn’t even give up a hit in the 8th, but would end up walking 1 batter. More importantly, Shieldsy didn’t give up a run… and that now pushes his ERA below 10.00! Yay! Now that’s some progress/change that he can believe in.

Brian Fuentes would allow a leadoff home run in the 9th inning to an emerging player in 23-year-old Adam Jones. Jones has been off to a scorching start this year, and I’m really thinking that this kid is going to have a special career. But on to the rest of the 9th inning, Fuentes would retire the 3-4-5 hitters in Nick Markakis, Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora, to end the game and give the Angels the 7-5 W.

The overall plate discipline from the leadoff spot to the 9-hole hitter is improving. The Angels drew 6 walks today, an overwhelming amount by Angels standards. This is a team that has had the free-swinging mentality ever since Mike Scioscia became the Halos’ skipper back in 2000. Bobby Abreu has been known throughout his career as being a guy who sees more pitches per at-bat on average than any other hitter in the league, and his eye at the plate is beginning to rub off on other guys. Chone Figgins drew only 62 walks as the leadoff hitter in 116 games last year, but this year he’s drawn 14 walks in a mere 18 contests, allowing Scioscia to let Figgy run free on the basepaths much more often.

Halo of the Game Review and Pick

4/28 Halo of the Game Pick: Chone Figgins

Stat Line: 2-3, 0 RBI, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 BB, 0 K, 0 LOB, 2 SB

Figgy got on base in 4 of his 5 plate appearances in Tuesday’s game (2 hits, 2 walks), and was able to swipe 2 bags, making him 9-for-10 in steal attempts on the year. He set the table today by getting on base, and was able to score twice, and it’s a documented fact that the Angels have a higher probability of winning if Figgins scores at least 1 run in a game compared to not scoring. Great game today on the part of Figgy.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 5 (season-high – 8 games)

Halo of the Game Season Batting Statistics

16 G – .356 avg. (21-59), 2 HR, 9 RBI, 12 R, 5 2B, 0 3B, 9 K, 10 BB, 5 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game Pick: Kendry Morales

Tomorrow’s Probables

Baltimore will send out 34-year-old Japanese right-hander Koji Uehara (4 starts: 2-1, 4.56 ERA). Uehara is labeled as a rookie despite being 34 years old, due to this being his 1st year in the MLB after spending the last 10 seasons as a member of the Yomiuri Giants. Uehara put together an impressive record of 112-62 with an ERA of 3.01 in those 10 seasons in the Japanese League.

The Halos tabbed Matt Palmer (1 start: 1-0, 6.00 ERA) as tomorrow’s starter. The 30-year-old journeyman Palmer went 6 innings in his first career start with the Angels against Detroit, giving up 4 earned runs in an eventual 10-5 Angel win last Thursday.

Tomorrow’s day game in Baltimore against the Orioles is scheduled for 9:35 a.m. Pacific time (12:35 p.m. Eastern). I’ll still be asleep, but I’m hoping I can wake up to Angel win!

Go Halos!

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4/21-Matthews Sparks Angels to 4-3 Win

matthews figginsMaybe it was a little home cooking that the Angels needed.

The Halos took down the visiting Detroit Tigers in the opener of a 3-game set by the score of 4-3. The Angels managed 10 hits altogether, with only 2 of those being for extra bases, but the last hit of the game for the Angels would be the biggest. It also would come off the bat of the man who has struggled mightily since he has come to the Angels… none other than Mr. Gary Matthews Jr.

Matthews, with 2 outs, the score tied and Torii Hunter on 2nd base, would lace a double to deep center, scoring Hunter and giving the Angels a 4-3 lead. The lead would be their first of the ballgame, and Brian Fuentes would come in to close it out in the 9th for his 3rd save of the season in 4 opportunities.

The Angels move to 5-8 on the year, while Detroit drops to 7-6 overall.

Thoughts on the Game

It all started with Jered Weaver, who put forth a quality start and managed his pitch count relatively well. Weav would go 7 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits, while striking out 6. More importantly, he did not walk a batter, and would need 99 pitches (72 for strikes) to finish his 7 innings of work, earning him a quality start. He’s been doing a better job this season compared to seasons past of keeping his pitch count per inning down, allowing him to go deeper into games. As well, he’s been throwing more strikes, but that hasn’t necessarily been a good thing. He’s striking out 7.71 batters per 9 innings, but also is allowing over 10 hits per 9 innings pitched. So although he’s finding the strike zone with relative ease, sometimes he’s found a little too much of it (4 HR in 3 starts). 2 of Weaver’s 4 homers of the year would come tonight off the bat of Curtis Granderson, including a leadoff home run to start the game. Weaver would get a no decision, after leaving the game when it was all knotted up at 3 apiece after 7 frames.

The bullpen didn’t implode, flop, collapse, fail, stink, whatever. Jose Arredondo was credited with the win (1-0) after throwing a scoreless 8th inning. The 8th started with an error on 3rd baseman Chone Figgins, allowing Placido Polanco to reach 1st base. Arredondo was unfazed, and forced a very capable hitter in Magglio Ordonez to ground into a double play. Miguel Cabrera, who was batting .489 with 4 homers and 12 RBI grounded out to end the 8th.

Brian Fuentes would come in in the 9th to close the door on Los Tigres and would do just that. After allowing a single to Carlos Guillen, he would pick off Guillen’s pinch-runner Josh Anderson for the 1st out of the inning. Adam Everett would strike out, making it 2 outs, the Angels still with a 4-3 lead. Then, Fuentes would get me nervous. With 2 strikes, he would hit catcher Gerald Laird. Catch your breath, people, it’s OK. Then, he would walk. Alright, now you can get nervous. But then, all would be just in Halo land as Fuentes would strike out Ramon Santiago to end the game.

Ahhhhh… you don’t even know how good it feels to be able to blog after a win. Especially when the one, the only, Gary Matthews Jr. is the MVP/hero of the game!

Gary Matthews Jr. would knock a 2-out RBI double in the 8th inning with the score tied at 3-3 to give the Angels their first lead of the game at 4-3. Matthews would also have a sacrifice fly in the game, giving him 2 RBI on the game (had 1 RBI entering the game). Matthews came in to the game batting 3-of-17 (.176), with no extra-base hits. His first extra-base hit of the season would be an ultimate game-decider, and that hit would push his average to an even (yet far from impressive) .200 as he would go 1-for-3 on the game.

Torii Hunter would hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the 5th inning, his 5th home run in 13 games played this year. Hunter seems to be the only Angel hitting for extra bases so far this year, and thankfully, they can count on someone other than Vlad Guerrero (DL for at least 1 month) for power numbers.

Bobby Abreu pushed his Angel-best average to .373 as he went 2-for-4 tonight with 1 run scored. Abreu has had a hit in 11 of the 13 games he’s played in this year, with 7 of the 11 games being multi-hit games.

Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis also stepped up tonight for Mike Scioscia (who got ejected midway through the game) in that 9-spot and the 3-spot in the lineup respectively. Aybar would go 2-for-4 with 1 RBI and Izturis would also go 2-for-4. Aybar was 5-for-26 coming in to the game and Izturis was 1-for-17, yikes. But they got it done tonight.

Halo of the Game Review and Pick:

4/21 Halo of the Game Pick: Torii Hunter

Stat Line: 1-3, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 HR, 0 K, 1 BB, 3 LOB

Torii’s solo homer would knot up the game at 3-3 in the 5th inning, and would score the game-winning run in the bottom half of the 8th inning on Gary Matthews Jr.’s 2-out RBI double off of Brandon Lyon. He did just enough tonight, and thankfully his power numbers continue early this season. He also moves the streak along to 2 straight.

Current Halo of the Game Hit Streak: 2

Halo of the Game Season Hitting Statistics

13 G – .314 avg. (16-51), 2 HR, 8 RBI, 8 R, 3 2B, 0 3B, 8 K, 5 BB, 3 SB

Tomorrow’s Halo of the Game Pick: Mike Napoli/Jeff Mathis (whoever it may be).

Tomorrow’s game against the Detroit Tigers is scheduled for 7:05 Pacific Time.

The Tigers will be throwing out right-handed fireballer Justin Verlander (3 starts- 0-2, 7.88 ERA). Verlander can rack up the K’s if he’s on, but if he’s off, he can give up runs in bunches. Verlander was the American League Rookie of the Year back in 2006, and threw a no-hitter on June 12, 2007 against the Milwaukee Brewers. He had as many losses in 33 starts in 2008 (17) as he did in the 64 starts accumulated in the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons combined.

The Angels will send out lefty Joe Saunders (3 starts- 2-1, 2.18 ERA). Saunders has held down the #1 role in the 4-man rotation and has looked composed and collected in all 3 starts. Saunders was an all-star last year after going 17-7 with a 3.41 ERA.

Go Halos!

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