Angels sign Juan Rincon to minor league contract

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From Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com comes word that the Angels have signed veteran reliever Juan Rincon to a minor league contract. The deal does not include an invitation to spring training, meaning Rincon will be in minor league camp with little-to-no shot of cracking the Opening Day roster.

The 33-year-old right-hander posted a 2.98 ERA and 51/19 K/BB ratio across 45 1/3 innings last season in independent ball. Once a steady setup man for the Twins, he owns a 4.03 career major-league ERA.

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times recalls that Angels manager Mike Scioscia was quite critical of Rincon after the reliever tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs back in 2005. At the time, the punishment for a first-time PED offender was a quick and easy 10-game suspension.

“When Juan Rincon pitches 11 days from now, are the effects from steroids deteriorated to the point where he’ll pitch at the level of his God-given talents? No,” Scioscia told reporters in the summer of ’05. “He’ll still have the benefits of whatever steroids he was taking. I guarantee in 11 days Juan Rincon will not become a mere mortal again.”

Rincon will act as organizational relief depth this season for Anaheim. He’s likely to open the year at AAA.

Mike Leake loses perfect game bid on leadoff single in the ninth

Mike Leake
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Just one week after Taylor Cole and Felix Peña tossed a combined no-hitter against Seattle, Mariners right-hander Mike Leake worked on his own perfect game through eight innings against the Angels.

It was an ambitious form of revenge, and one that Leake served up perfectly as he held the Angels scoreless in frame after frame. He sprinkled a handful of strikeouts throughout the first eight innings, catching Matt Thaiss on a called strike three in the third and getting two whiffs — called strikeouts against both Brian Goodwin and Shohei Ohtani — in the fourth.

The Mariners, meanwhile, put up a good fight against the Angels, backing Leake’s attempt with 10 runs — their first double-digit total since a 13-3 rout of the Orioles on June 23. Daniel Vogelbach led things off in the fourth with a three-run homer off of reliever Jaime Barria, then repeated the feat with another three-run shot off Barria in the fifth. Tom Murphy and J.P. Crawford helped pad the lead as well with a two-RBI single and two-RBI double, respectively.

In the ninth, with just three outs remaining, the Angels finally managed to break through. Luis Rengifo worked a 1-1 count against Leake, then returned an 85.3-m.p.h. changeup to right field for a base hit, dismantling the perfecto and the no-hitter in one fell swoop. Leake lost control of the ball following the hit, issuing four straight balls to Kevan Smith in the next at-bat and giving the Angels their first runner in scoring position. Still at a pitch count of just 90, however, he induced the next two outs in quick fashion and polished off the win with a triumphant eight-pitch strikeout against Mike Trout for the first one-hitter (and Maddux) of his career.

Had Leake successfully closed out the perfecto, it would’ve been the first of his decade-long career in the majors and the first the Mariners had seen since Félix Hernández’s perfect game against the Rays in August 2012. For their part, the Angels have yet to be on the losing end of a perfecto. The last time they were shut out in a no-hitter was 1999, at the hands of then-Twins pitcher Eric Milton.