Speaking about the decision not to make a qualifying offer to free agent Torii Hunter on Friday, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said he intends to go young and cheap in the outfield next season.
That means it’ll likely be Mike Trout in left, Peter Bourjos in center and Mark Trumbo in right on Opening Day.
“It wasn’t that we couldn’t fit Torii’s salary in” Dipoto said. “We made the decision to allow Trout, Trumbo and Bourjos to play on an every-day basis.”
That’s quite a change from last season, when Bourjos turned into nothing more than a defensive replacement after losing his job to Trout. He started just two games during the final two months, one of those coming in the final series after the Angels were eliminated. He had a total of two plate appearances in a seven-week span between Aug. 10 and Sept. 30.
Bourjos, though, is perhaps the game’s best defensive center fielder and one of the few people on the planet who could push Trout into a corner. Many believed Trout should have won a Gold Glove for his play in center last season.
Trumbo, a natural first baseman, got a brief look at third to begin last season, but that didn’t go to well. He went on to hit his way into the outfield picture and make 97 starts between left and right. However, his offense performance cratered after he made his first All-Star team in July; he hit just .227/.271/.359 with 10 homers and an 88/14 K/BB ratio in 256 at-bats after the break.
Besides leaving no room for Hunter, Dipoto’s decision also means Vernon Wells will be a $21 million fourth outfielder unless the Angels can trade him. He’s set to make about 10 times as much as the three starters ahead of him combined.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.