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Victor Rojas To Join Angels Broadcast Booth

It may have gone all the way into the final 24 hours before the Angels’ first Spring Training game, but the Halos finally have their 2nd man to hold down their Fox Sports West television broadcasts as well as KCOP broadcasts.

The Angels announced today that the broadcast booth vacancy left by the late Rory Markas would be filled by Victor Rojas.

Here are a couple facts about Mr. Rojas so you can get to know the “new guy” who will accompany Mark Gubicza in the Angels’ booth:

  • The 42-year-old Rojas had worked with the MLB Network as a studio analyst since the network started in January of 2009
  • He worked as a member of both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers’ broadcast teams before joining the MLB Network, and even spent time as a minor league play-by-play man
  • He has ties to the organization as he played minor league ball for the Angels back in the early ’90s

From the Angel family to you, welcome aboard, Victor!

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Angels Acquire Scott Kazmir From Tampa Bay

scott kazmir

Seeing that the Angels had lost 6 of their last 8 games entering Friday night’s contest with the Oakland Athletics, GM Tony Reagins felt that the Halos needed to shake it up a bit.

Starting pitching has been the Angels’ weak link of late, and if the Halos couldn’t pull anybody up from within, then a deal had to be made.

Friday night, that deal was made.

The Angels looked to the American League East division for hurlers who had cleared waivers, and found that Tampa Bay Rays’ lefty Scott Kazmir had cleared waivers, which prompted the front office to pull the trigger on landing a quality arm.

The Halos were able to bring in Kazmir in exchange for minor league pitching prospect Alex Torres, infielder Matt Sweeney, and right-hander Jordan Walden.

The 25-year-old Kazmir, who was a 1st round draft pick (#15 overall) of the New York Mets back in 2004, was shipped to the Rays with Joselo Diaz (back when they were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays) in 2006 in exchange for pitchers Victor Zambrano and Bartolomé Fortunado.

In 2006, Kazmir was tabbed as the Opening Day starter for Tampa Bay, becoming the youngest Opening Day starter (22 years, 2 months, 10 days old) since Dwight Gooden was the starter for the New York Mets in the 1986 opener.

Kazmir led the American League in strikeouts in 2007 with 239 punchouts.

In his Tampa Bay career, Kazmir compiled a respectable 55-45 record to go along with a 3.92 ERA (prior to an injury-plagued 2009 season, he had an ERA of 3.50 or lower in each of the 3 previous seasons).

At one point during his high school career, Kazmir threw 4 consecutive no-hitters (yes, that’s right, 4 straight no-hitters). After allowing a hit in his bid for his 5th no-hitter, he’d finish the game, and then throw 2 more no-hitters in his next 2 starts (add it all up, and you get 6 no-hitters in a span of 7 outings… that’s pretty good if you ask me).

In his senior year of high school, Kazmir set a Texas high school record formerly set by current Red Sox ace Josh Beckett by striking out an incredible 175 batters in 75 innings… that’s over 2 batters per inning (about 2.33 per inning to be exact)! He verbally committed to the University of Texas, a college baseball powerhouse before opting to go to the pros.

Kazmir was elected to the American League All-Star in both 2006 and 2008 (helped lead Rays to World Series in ’08).

He is in the 1st year of a 3-year deal, so this is no Mark Teixeira 1 1/2 month rental that we came to see last year, folks.

As long as he can be a dependable middle-of-the-rotation guy, I don’t think there’s anything else that we as Angel fans can ask of him. He was not brought in to be any “savior” of sorts, but to be a quality arm to compliment the rest of the Angels’ struggling yet promising rotation (he’s even been rumored to have been brought in as a bullpen arm, but I’d confidently put my money on him having a spot in the starting rotation).

Not only do I welcome the addition of Kazmir as a fantastic short-term addition, but to have him inked for the 2 following years as well seems like a steal of a deal at the present time… I mean he’s only 25, he’s yet to even hit his prime!

For the Rays, it gives them salary cap relief for the upcoming few years, but for the Angels it guarantees them of a pitcher that they know will be under their control for the next couple of seasons (considering John Lackey will get plenty of money thrown at him this offseason due to his contract being up following the end of this season).

Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing what Mr. Kazmir can do for the Halos, so let’s all welcome in the newest member of the Los Angeles Angels… welcome aboard Scott!

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Comeback Kids Channeling ’02 Mojo

kendry napAs of late, the Halos have found themselves trailing early in ballgames, digging themselves into holes that we really haven’t seen a Halo squad dig themselves out of since that magical 2002 season.

Table-setter and offensive catalyst Chone Figgins, the only offensive player left from that World Championship team, and the rest of the Halos’ attack have been channeling that 2002 mindset and magic this year.

After Saturday’s come-from-behind 14-8 win over the visiting New York Yankees, the Halos had recorded the most comeback wins in all of the MLB with 26.

Normally, you’d like to be the team that jumps out in front and puts runs up early, right?

For the Angels, not exactly. They’re saying, hey, you score some now… we’ll score more later.

Entering Sunday’s finale with the Yankees’, the Angels’ last 5 wins have all been in come from behind fashion.

July 4th vs. Baltimore Orioles (down 3-0) — win 11-4

July 5th vs. Baltimore Orioles (down 4-0) — win 9-6

July 6th vs. Texas Rangers (down 2-0) — win 9-4

July 10th vs. New York Yankees (down 4-0) — win 10-6

July 11th vs. New York Yankees (down 4-0) — win 14-8

So, if you add it all up, after allotting opposing teams 17 runs to start in the past 5 games, the Angels have outscored their opposition 11-1, 9-2, 9-2, 10-2, and 14-4 (added all up that’s 53-11).

Keep in mind that Friday’s win in the Yankees series opener, the Halos didn’t have Torii Hunter and Vlad Guerrero, the regular #3 and #4 spot hitters in the lineup. Then on Saturday in game 2 of the series, they were also without their #5 hitter and arguably the hottest hitter of the MLB since the beginning of June in Juan Rivera.

They Angels are getting timely contributions from different players. And lots of them.

July 4th- 17 total hits. Vladdy has 4 RBI, Torii has 3 RBI. 3 more Halos with 1 RBI each.

July 5th- 8 total hits, 7 different Angels with 1 or more RBI.

July 6th- 10 total hits, 5 different Angels with 1 or more RBI. Mathis with 3 RBI, Torii and Juan each with 2 RBI.

July 10th- 13 total hits, 5 different Angels with 1 or more RBI. Morales and Aybar each with 3-run homers.

July 11th- 16 total hits, 7 different Angels with 1 or more RBI. Abreu, Napoli with 3 RBI each. Wood, Kendrick, Matthews each with 2 RBI.

The Angels put up their most runs in a single game this season on Saturday, without their regular 3, 4, and 5 hitters… go figure?

Here’s the key.

In his first game since being called up when Torii and Vlad went to the DL, Brandon Wood nailed a 2-run home run. Howie Kendrick and his anemic season-long hitting slump mustered up a 3-for-5 showing with 2 RBI. Gary Matthews Jr. even pitched in 2 RBI late in the game. It’s a good day when your 6, 7, 8, and 9 (both Quinlan and Willits) hitters are picking up the slack by going a combined 8-16 with 1 home run, 6 RBI, and 5 runs scored. Pretty good I’d say especially when the rest of your lineup gets you the other 8 hits and the remaining 9 runs.

It’s a long way away from telling if this is a team of destiny (or history repeating itself), but neither me nor anyone else can’t deny that this team is as resilient a ballclub as we’ve seen in recent memory, on and off the diamond.

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Hunter Withdraws From 2009 All-Star Game, Joins Vlad on DL

th injured

vlad injuredApparently an All-Star Game selection was Superman’s kryptonite this season.

The Halos’ Superman of the first half, Torii Hunter, withdrew himself from competing in the upcoming MLB All-Star Game today due to an injury he’s been playing with for almost 2 months. Nelson Cruz, a power-hitting outfielder for the Texas Rangers will replace Hunter in the Mid-Summer Classic.

As you may remember back in the first series with the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine in May, Torii slammed into the center field wall straight on while trying to make a grab on a long fly ball. Well, like Torii usually does, he made the catch… but he had to come out of the game for what would later be a nagging strained adductor muscle in his right side. He would re-aggravate it in a series with the San Francisco Giants in mid-June on an eerily similar play.

This injury not only forces Hunter out of what would have been his 3rd All-Star game, but also forces him to go on the Disabled List, where he’s eligible to come off and play on July 22nd.

If there’s any time to go on the DL, it’s now. With only 1 series left to play before the All-Star break, he’s only scheduled to miss 9 games, instead of being somewhere around 13 or 14 games if it had been any other time during the year.

Hunter also earlier declined an invitation to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby.

The Angels’ offensive leader is tops on the team in home runs with 17, and his 65 RBI ranks 3rd best in the American League.

As they say, misery loves company. It’s hard to call Torii misery, but his company will be Vladimir Guerrero.

The Big Daddy will join Mr. Hunter on the DL as well after planting his left leg awkwardly in right field during a game with the Rangers Tuesday night.

The current diagnosis consists of a strained muscle behind his left knee, as well as a hamstring strain.

Just as it seemed the Vladdy was getting his extra-base power back, he hits another setback in a year where he’s already missed 38 games while on the Disabled List. Vlad is scheduled to come off the DL at the same time as Hunter.

Coming up to replace the two men who combine for 11 All-Star appearances will be catcher Bobby Wilson, and “Mr. Get called up, play a few games, get sent back down” himself, 3rd baseman Brandon Wood.

This may now allow Jeff Mathis to be the regular catcher, while moving Mike Napoli back to the Designated Hitter role where he hit the ball exceptionally well earlier in the season with Vlad on the DL.

Wilson is hitting .261 with 6 home runs and 27 RBI for AAA Salt Lake.

As for Wood, he’s batting .313 with 17 homers and 52 RBI and has the 3rd best slugging percentage mark in the Pacific Coast League with a .592 mark for the Salt Lake Bees.

The Halos have a tough 3-game set with the Yankees before the All-Star break, and without their #3 and 4 hitters in the lineup, they’ll have their work cut out for them against quality starters in Joba Chamerlain, Andy Pettitte and C.C. Sabathia.

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Figgins Falls Short in Final Vote Results

jiggy

Well, Halo fans, we did our best.

We spread the word.

We voted like crazy.

We got Figgy wit’ it.

But in the end, it just wasn’t enough.

Our loveable little man Chone Figgins will again be on the outside looking in to the All-Star game picture, as Brandon Inge won the final AL All-Star spot today, as voted on by the fans.

Inge took first place, with Rangers’ 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler taking 2nd place, and Mr. Figgins finishing 3rd.

Philadelphia Phillies’ outfielder Shane Victorino aka “the flyin’ Hawaiian” nabbed the All-Star availability for the National League, making a shocking surge to get in over the San Francisco Giants’ talented and young 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval.

That does not take away one bit the value that Figgins brings to this Angels team, and as much as Torii Hunter has been the MVP of this team through the first half and more of this season, Figgy has been equally as important to the team.

Figgy has scored the most runs in all of the American League, and among all leadoff hitters in the MLB, Figgy’s on-base percentage mark of .395 is tops.

Despite his All-Star caliber statistics and rankings and feeling like he was deserving of an All-Star spot, Figgins took it in stride like a professional, just as he always does.

“I want to thank the organization and all the fans for voting for me, and I especially thank my teammates and their families for getting behind me. It really means a lot knowing it was so important to those people who are closest to you. In a way, that’s just as meaningful as winning and going to the All-Star Game,” Figgins said.

The possibility still remains that if a player must withdraw due to injury, that Figgy still has a shot of being named to the All-Star squad, as well as Jered Weaver if any pitcher pulls out of the Mid-Summer Classic.

“Maybe my time will come soon. It’s definitely a goal of mine, along with the biggest goal — winning a World championship again,” Figgy said.

One more series to go before the All-Star break, but again, congratulations to the two players who will represent the Halos in the 2009 All-Star Game: Torii Hunter and Brian Fuentes.

Both are incredibly deserving and will certainly represent the Angels well in St. Louis.

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Future Angels Stepping Up Big in College World Series

razorbackssparky

Do not be alarmed at the irony, but make no mistake about it; in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Angels fell in love with the Devils.

The Sun Devils, that is.

So much as a matter of fact, that they spent 3 draft picks on Arizona State players.

With the final pick of the 3rd round, the Angels picked Sun Devil left-hander Josh Spence, who had gone 9-1 before the start of the College World Series.

In the World Series, the Australia native has put forth valiant efforts in both of Arizona State’s victories, coming against a talented University of North Carolina team which features two top-15 picks, and plenty of bats that feature .300+ batting averages.

In his first outing against UNC, Spence matched Alex White, the 15th overall pick for UNC pitch-for-pitch, throwing 8 innings of 1-run ball. The Devils would need extra innings and some Tar Heel blunders to win the game, but had it not been for Spence’s magnificent effort, the Devils would have stood no chance.

And today, in an elimination game against that same North Carolina squad, Spence threw a total of 126 pitches in 7 innings of work, allowing 4 runs, 3 of them earned. He would allow 7 hits, while striking out 8 and walking only 2 Tar Heel batters. Against the Tar Heels’ 2 best offensive players in 2nd overall pick Dustin Ackley (.417 avg.) and 2nd round pick Kyle Seager (.393 avg.), Spence would allow them to go a combined 1-for-8 with a single, a strikeout, and one successfully turned double play.

Spence would earn his 10th win of the season, pushing his season record to 10-1, while upping his ERA to an incredibly respectable mark of 2.37. Spence picked up the slack after 8th overall pick and staff ace Mike Leake let the club down in a loss to Texas the game before. Spence has had great composure on the mound and has been able to prove to me and all who watched ASU play ball during his starts, that he can indeed be a very serviceable lefty in the future for the Halos.

With their 8th round pick, the Halos picked up Sun Devil catcher Carlos Ramirez. Ramirez may not have the prototypical body that scouts look for in a catching prospect, but he is no doubt an above-average athlete and a great hitter who manufactures runs and hits at a very high average. Ramirez had the go-ahead RBI single in the 10th inning of ASU’s first game of the College World Series against UNC, and today had his 75th RBI of the season. Ramirez reached base in 4 of 5 plate appearances in today’s elimination game against UNC, going 1-for-2 with 3 walks and 1 RBI. Ramirez is the type of catcher that I pray makes the big league squad as soon as possible (although it will be a matter of years most likely) since Mathis and Napoli have not been all that consistent at the bat over the past season and a half. He’s a serviceable catcher defensively and above average with the bat, and I love the scouting that the Angels did on Ramirez. I truly feel he could be one of the biggest impact players the Angels drafted in ’09 and I’m excited to see what the future has in store for this Devil/soon-to-be Angel.

It’s great to see these future Angels shining on the biggest stage of their college careers, and I just can’t wait for them to one day put on that Halo red and make positive contributions to the big league squad.

In the mean time, all you Angel fans out there have to be rooting on the Sun Devils of Arizona State, while keeping a look out for the aforementioned Josh Spence and Carlos Ramirez, as well as team co-captain Raoul Torrez, whom the Angels selected in the 32nd round.

In addition to ASU, you also have to root on the rallying Razorbacks of the University of Arkansas, as they also have a future Halo on their roster in senior catcher Ryan Cisterna, their 34th round selection.

After Wednesday’s epic comeback win against the University of Virginia, the Arkansas Razorbacks look to take down SEC foe LSU, the same team that issued Arkansas its only loss of NCAA play. And with a victory today, the Sun Devils are set for a rematch with the #1 overall seed University of Texas Longhorns.

Both games are set for Friday June 19th, with Arkansas/LSU scheduled for the early game at 11 a.m. Pacific time, and ASU/Texas scheduled for 4 p.m. Pacific.

Cross your fingers and keep an eye out for these future Angels as they aim to move on to the Championship Series in Omaha!

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