Bad news for the Halos: catcher Chris Iannetta needs wrist surgery and will miss 6-8 weeks, Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times reports.
Iannetta was injured while catching Jered Weaver in the no-hitter against the Twins on May 2 and didn’t start for three days afterwards. Since returning to the lineup, he’d gone 0-for-7 with a couple of walks, dropping his average from .220 to .197 and his OPS from .764 to .706.
The injury is really poorly timed for the Angels. Hank Conger, who would be the obvious choice to be called up to the majors and start in Iannetta’s place, is on the DL at Triple-A Salt Lake due to a sprained elbow. He was hitting .357/.390/.554 in 56 at-bats before getting hurt.
Until Conger is ready, the Angels will have to get by with Bobby Wilson and either Robinzon Diaz or John Hester behind the plate. Wilson has hit .222/.300/.222 in 27 at-bats as Iannetta’s backup this season. Diaz and Hester are minor league veterans without much in the way of offensive ability.
Meanwhile, Jeff Mathis, maybe the game’s worst hitter in his last couple of years as the Angels’ part-time catcher, has somehow managed to post a 1.050 OPS in his 20 at-bats with the Blue Jays thus far. Mike Scioscia is probably wishing he was still around right now.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.