Angels push to acquire Scott Kazmir from Tampa Bay

In a couple of weeks the Angels will gather as many as a dozen minor league prospects and send them to their academy in the Dominican Republic, part of a baseball and cultural exchange the team has been practicing for several years.

"It is good for our guys to see how players from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela live before they come over here," said Eddie Bane, the Angels' director of scouting. "Plus they get to play more baseball in a country that loves baseball. And that is always a good thing."

Howie Kendrick was one of the first Angels to participate in the program, going to the Dominican four months after signing with the team in 2002.

"It was different. But at the same time it was fun," said Kendrick, who slept in a bunk bed in a giant dorm room above the clubhouse at the Angels' facility, which is next to an orphanage just outside San Pedro de Macoris.

"The culture, the life over there is different from the way we live here. But at the same time you look at those things and it makes you appreciate what you have here. It definitely helped me appreciate the things that I have."

The New York Mets and other major league organizations have similar programs, which they say not only helps build relationships between the Latin and U.S.-born players but also gives players from the U.S. a deeper understanding of what many Latin Americans must go through to play professional baseball.

"Whether it is good or bad is up to the individual young man as they just have to see a different lifestyle than probably where they grew up," Bane said.

Setting things up

Right-hander Kevin Jepsen has helped solidify a once-shaky bullpen by seizing the setup role in front of closer Brian Fuentes, posting a 2.02 earned-run average with 10 holds in as many chances since July 1.

"The bottom line is performance," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've always felt very strongly that . . . Kevin had the ability to just make pitches in any situation. That's always why he obviously has the potential to be a future closer. And we're very comfortable in him in any situation to go out there and make his pitches."

Staying cool

After being shut out Thursday for only the second time in three months, the Angels skipped batting practice on the field Friday. But Scioscia said that had more to do with how hot it was in Orange County, where afternoon temperatures topped 100 degrees, than it did with how cold the Angels' bats have been.

"It was a combination of the heat and, I think, some guys are trying to catch their breath from what's been really a grind now in these dog days," Scioscia said. "Hopefully we'll get past it and we'll start to produce."

Short hops

Reliever Rafael Rodriguez, who hasn't pitched since being struck on the right hand by a line drive Monday against Detroit, remains day-to-day, but Scioscia said he doesn't expect the right-hander to be put on the disabled list. . . . Pitcher Shane Loux, designated for assignment on Sunday, has accepted an invitation to pitch for the Angels' triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake. . . . First baseman Kendry Morales, who has played regularly in the Dominican winter league since defecting from Cuba in 2004, will spend this off-season trying to gain U.S. citizenship. Not that Morales needs the practice. He hit two home runs Friday, his 28th and 29th of the season, breaking the franchise record for a switch-hitter.


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