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Angels Acquire Scott Kazmir From Tampa Bay

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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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Future Angels Stepping Up Big in College World Series

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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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