ARLINGTON, Texas — As the Angels concluded their fourth straight season without reaching the playoffs on Sunday, Mike Scioscia said he has received no assurances he will be back as manager in 2014 or any indication he will be fired.
“I’m sure at some point they’re going to let us know,” said Scioscia, who has five years and $27 million left on his contract and seems a bit less vulnerable than General Manager Jerry Dipoto.
“It’s not an issue at all," Scioscia said. "We’ve been playing well, playing hard. What happens in the off-season, I’m sure it will be addressed at some point.”
Scioscia has already begun formulating plans for 2014 with a keen eye toward spring-training adjustments he hopes will help avoid the sluggish April starts that have torpedoed the team’s playoff hopes the past two seasons.
Among the changes: Fewer “free swings” for hitters in the first 10 days of camp and more focus on a “situational look,” and a more aggressive throwing program to ensure pitchers are more game-ready to start the season.
“We’ve looked at every cross-section you can,” Scioscia said. “There were some years we couldn’t play any better in spring training — guys were swinging the bats well, pitchers were where they needed to be — and at the start of the season, you started to see the bumps in the road. This year we had a terrible spring training, and it carried over into a very, very difficult start.”
A brutal April by Albert Pujols in 2012 and Josh Hamilton’s four-month slump to start 2013 were big factors in the early holes the Angels dug both seasons.
But Scioscia is confident Pujols will be 100% physically in 2014 after suffering a season-ending left-heel injury in late July, and that Hamilton’s late-season surge — he entered Sunday with a .331 average over his last 44 games, raising his average from .217 to .250 — will carry over into 2014.
“There’s no doubt in our minds that you’re going to see a better Albert Pujols and a better Josh Hamilton next year,” Scioscia said. “Albert will be rejuvenated because he’ll be able to do a lot of the things we haven’t seen him do in a couple years, both at the plate and in the field.
“And Josh has a found a comfort level that has grown through the year. I think he’s turned the corner, and I think he’ll be what we expect next year.”
Improved pitching, however, in the rotation and bullpen, will be bigger keys to the Angels contending in 2014 than Pujols and Hamilton.
“From an organizational perspective, you have to pitch at a certain level, and you can’t out-hit pitching that’s not performing,” Scioscia said. “Those two guys will take pressure off the other guys in lineup, but the pressure on the pitching staff to perform is always there. You can have a lot of guys doing well in your lineup and very easily be losing games 7-6.”
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