Halladay draws Angels’ interest

Toronto General Manager J.P. Ricciardi has made public what the Angels have known for weeks, that the Blue Jays are fielding trade offers for Roy Halladay, a right-hander who is among the best pitchers in the game.

“Tony has talked to a lot of clubs, and he’s talked to Toronto,” Manager Mike Scioscia said Tuesday, referring to Angels General Manager Tony Reagins. “Obviously, [Halladay] is a name that piques the interest of everyone in baseball.”

Especially the Angels, who in June were reportedly rebuffed in their efforts to engage Arizona in trade talks for Dan Haren.


The Angels are looking for late-inning relief help, and among the pitchers they have targeted are Toronto’s Scott Downs and Brandon League, Arizona’s Chad Qualls and Cleveland’s Rafael Betancourt.

But they would also love a front-of-the-rotation starter who would greatly enhance their playoff opportunities and provide insurance if they lose ace John Lackey to free agency during the off-season.

The hard-throwing Halladay, 32, has a full no-trade clause and is under contract through 2010. He is earning $14.25 million this year and will make $15.75 million next season.

The 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner is 10-2 with a 2.79 earned-run average and 98 strikeouts in 116 innings.

“If they’re shopping Roy Halladay, everybody and their momma is going to be after him,” Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said. “He’s the guy I’d build a rotation around.

“He’s smart. He hits his spots. He goes deep into games. He’s a bulldog. When the pressure is on, he’s at his best. He’s everything you’d want in a starting pitcher.”

He would also cost a fortune in talent, a price the Angels probably can’t afford.

A deal for Halladay would probably cost the Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, a top pitching prospect such as Trevor Reckling or Jordan Walden, top hitting prospect Brandon Wood and a young big leaguer such as Erick Aybar or Howie Kendrick.

“It’s tough to make a deal for pitching because it’s such a valuable commodity,” Scioscia said. “If you’re trying to acquire it, then you better have a king’s ransom to get it because good pitching is as tight as it’s ever been right now.”

Cutting in

Kevin Jepsen was playing catch in the outfield before a game last week when he noticed he was getting some cutting action on his fastball while using his normal four-seam grip.

Pitching coach Mike Butcher showed Jepsen a true cut-fastball grip and encouraged the reliever to start throwing the pitch, which has a later, sharper break than a slider, in games.

Three hitless innings later, including Monday night’s dominant ninth inning, in which 12 of his 16 pitches were strikes, Jepsen is firmly committed to a new pitch he hopes will help turn his season around.

“Each time, I’ve gotten more comfortable with it, and I was getting a lot of swings and misses [Monday] night,” Jepsen said. “It gives me something besides my fastball and curve.”

Jepsen hits 96 mph with his fastball, but the right-hander has been hit hard this season -- he had a 9.39 ERA in 17 games through Monday, though he was hampered in April by lower-back spasms.

But with the cut fastball, which he throws in the 91-mph range, and the slower curve, Jepsen has “three legitimate out pitches,” Scioscia said.

“His last couple of appearances, we’re starting to see some progress,” Scioscia said. “That’s a big arm that plays very well in the back of a championship-caliber bullpen. That’s what Kevin’s potential is, and hopefully he’ll start to realize it. If [Monday] night is any indication, his stuff looked electric.”