Angels' faith in Scot Shields misplaced

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With Brian Fuentes on the DL, the Angels are definitely short-handed in the bullpen. I’d argue that they’re down to two above average relievers, one of whom, Fernando Rodney, happens to be struggling, having given up four runs in four appearances after finishing with an 8.53 ERA this spring.
The other, Kevin Jepsen, is the most important piece in the bullpen right now. He bailed the Angels out in the eighth inning Wednesday against the Yankees after Scot Shields got the team into a big jam in what had been a 5-1 game.
It’s Shields who looks like the biggest problem in the Angels pen right now. It’s not that he’s necessarily worse than Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Stokes. But the problem is that Mike Scioscia is treating him as a valuable setup man when he barely rates as a fringe middle reliever.
Shields was scored upon for the third time in four appearances before being replaced by Jepsen on Wednesday. With his velocity down after last year’s knee surgery, he’s allowed six runs (three earned), five hits and four walks in just 2 2/3 innings. His WHIP stands at 3.38.
The fact is that Angels GM Tony Reagins blew it over the winter. It’s typical that the Halos have avoided minor league free agents, particularly on the pitching side of the equation, as they usually prefer their internal replacements. But it was obvious that the team was terribly lacking in the depth department going into the spring. The Angels should have been all over guys like Kiko Calero, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Nelson, Ron Mahay and others who slipped through the cracks over the winter, but they didn’t have a single veteran non-roster pitcher compete for a bullpen job this spring.
They’re going to pay for it now. They should consider themselves awfully lucky if someone from the group of Francisco Rodriguez, Fernando Rodriguez, Bobby Cassevah and Michael Kohn steps up to become a useful reliever. Actually, the best hope may be their former No. 1 starting pitching prospect, Jordan Walden, who was shifted to the bullpen this spring and is currently a co-closer in Double-A.
In the meantime, expect Shields and company to struggle. I’m certainly not giving up on these Angels, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they’re still in last place in the AL West into mid-May.

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.