The first curveball of the day was thrown nearly four hours before the game, by a catcher, one who hasn’t appeared in the big leagues in more than a quarter-century.
If Mike Scioscia is indeed approaching retirement, he’s headed there wearing a smile.
Or maybe Monday that was a smirk.
Asked to comment on reports that he will step aside as Angels manager after the season, Scioscia stared back at a young reporter and said, unblinking, “What question’s that? I haven’t heard anything.”
When the impressionable inquirer persisted, so did Scioscia, claiming, “Who said that? I’m serious. You’re hitting me blindsided here.”
After a brief pause for effect, Scioscia finally allowed the squirming kid to exhale by explaining, “Same answer I talked about yesterday goes for today.”
The exchange was entertaining and good natured. The fact that the questions were coming from an intern at a local television station made the whole thing all the more humorous.
In his 19th season, Scioscia simply dominated an overmatched student trying to find his way.
Similarly, Scioscia’s teetering status overshadowed most of what happened later in the Angels’ 6-2 victory over the fading Detroit Tigers.
Nick Tropeano smothered the Tigers over five innings, giving up only a solo homer before abruptly exiting because of what the Angels later described as shoulder tightness.
The right-hander has battled issues with his shoulder most of the season and twice has been put on the disabled list, most recently because of bursitis.
“I’m pushing for a no-DL thing,” said Tropeano, who acknowledged he felt stiffness as early as warmups.
He called the decision to leave the game “precautionary” and said he hoped to be able to make his next scheduled start Sunday.
The Angels returned to Anaheim after losing six of their previous seven games, recently traded away two starters and had little hope that their final 49 games would grow in significance.
The situation with Scioscia blew up over the weekend with the first of two reports that he is in his last weeks in a job he was hired to fill in November 1999.
On Sunday, as the Angels were wrapping up a trip in Cleveland, Scioscia used the words “poppycock” and “insanity” to dismiss the accounts, neither of which was surprising given that his contract is about to run out.
Scioscia went on to explain that no decision has been made, adding that uncertainty about his future won’t be an issue for the Angels over the balance of this season.
Meanwhile, his players are still charged with trying to win games, regardless of the relevance.
The Angels were definitely moving in that direction Monday after an RBI double by Kaleb Cowart and homers by Andrelton Simmons and Eric Young Jr. gave them a 4-1 lead.
The runs were more than sufficient support for Tropeano, who allowed only one other baserunner after giving up a home run to Nick Castellanos in the first inning.
In the sixth, however, reliever Noe Ramirez faced four batters and retired none as the Tigers closed to within two runs.
Cam Bedrosian then entered to strike out Castellanos and get Jeimer Candelario to ground into a double play to keep the score 4-2, a stellar escape that required only 10 pitches.
After that, Hansel Robles and Justin Anderson secured the final nine outs as the Angels added two insurance runs, capping the victory almost as fittingly as Scioscia did his pregame exchange.