Angels reliever Hisanori Takahashi keeps an eye on homeland
Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — Hisanori Takahashi says he is experiencing a severe case of survivor’s guilt.
While his countrymen in Japan are reeling from the effects of the devastating earthquake and tsunami, which killed thousands, wiped out towns and has thrown the nation into a nuclear crisis, the veteran left-hander is in camp with the Angels, enjoying the relative tranquility of Arizona.
“That’s what I’m feeling right now,” Takahashi said through a translator. “Fortunately, I am a survivor, but it hurts, of course. It has definitely been difficult to focus on baseball, but as a baseball player I have to play baseball.”
Takahashi, who signed a two-year, $8-million deal with the Angels in December, has been doing that extremely well so far, giving up no runs and three hits in his five innings this spring. He is scheduled to pitch Wednesday against Arizona.
But when he’s away from the park, the reliever’s focus is no longer on baseball.
Takahashi, whose family members and friends survived the earthquake and tsunami, has been watching television virtually all evening, every night, as the drama from Japan unfolds on various news networks.
“When I heard the news and saw the videos, I was shocked, surprised, I couldn’t believe it,” Takahashi said. “Seeing all the footage, you get a little numb, but it’s a real thing. I have to keep my eye on the tragedy, but I also have to play baseball here.”
Takahashi plans to organize some kind of fundraiser, perhaps involving his teammates, to aid victims of the disaster.
“I have to do something for them,” he said. “I send my condolences to all the people in Japan and hope things get better soon. We need some kind of good news from there.”
Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells hit their first home runs of the spring, consecutive solo shots, and Mark Trumbo capped a four-run, fourth-inning rally with a two-run homer in the Angels’ 9-6 exhibition victory over the San Diego Padres at the Peoria Sports Complex on Tuesday.
Trumbo, the team’s likely opening-day first baseman if Kendrys Morales (broken leg) is not ready to start the season, reached for a low-and-away 0-and-2 pitch from left-hander Wade LeBlanc and drove it over the left-center field wall for his major league-tying fifth homer of the spring.
The former Villa Park High standout made a nice defensive play in the fifth, fielding Brad Hawpe’s grounder and throwing to second to start a 3-6-3 double play.
Brandon Wood, who could be battling Trumbo for a roster spot, also hit a home run far over the left-field wall in the sixth inning, his second of the spring. Wood began the game with a .167 average (six for 36) in his first 11 games.
“We put some good swings on some balls — they were all hit well, and that’s a good sign,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Torii and Vernon squared some balls up. Trumbo didn’t get all of his — he was out front a bit — but that shows the strength he has.”
Right-hander Joel Pineiro was tagged for four runs and eight hits, including two-run homers by Eric Patterson and Ryan Ludwick, in four innings, striking out five and walking one.
Pineiro threw 72 pitches, several of them up in the zone, “and you saw the consequences of that,” he said. But the sinker-ball specialist also used far more sliders, changeups and curves in an effort to hone his off-speed pitches for the season.
“I haven’t thrown that many this spring, and you don’t want to practice those during the season,” Pineiro said. “There’s no secret to what I do. They know the sinker is coming. But sometimes you have to throw more sliders, changeups and curves.”
Pineiro still has not lost a spring-training game since 2006, a span of 27 appearances, 17 of them starts.
“I hope I get some roll-over minutes,” Pineiro said. “I want to take that streak into the season.”
With Monday’s day off behind them and the March 31 season opener against Kansas City 16 days away, it’s that time of spring when teams get a little more serious about results and performance.
“It’s time to kick it in gear,” Hunter said. “The most important thing is to start getting your timing down. Early in spring, you’re either out in front of pitches or letting the ball get too deep. We’re trying to get locked in.”
Running out of time
This is a crucial week for Morales, not so much for the first baseman to get his timing at the plate but for him to get his legs underneath him.
Morales, who is recovering from a broken lower-left leg, was supposed to begin running curves Tuesday, but the Angels limited him to running to first base, at less than 100%, the first time this spring Morales has run on the infield dirt.
For Morales to be ready for the season opener, Scioscia said he would have to begin playing exhibition games by this weekend.
But Morales, who has looked strong during batting-practice sessions and has been participating in defensive drills, still has to go through a base-running progression before he is cleared to play.
It appears more and more likely Morales won’t be ready for the opener, and if he is, he will probably be relegated to designated hitter.
“We’re going to know in a couple of days whether [Kendrys] is game-ready,” Scioscia said. “Everything is going to be contingent on how he comes out of these workouts. Hopefully, he’ll get to a level where he’s comfortable getting into games.
“He’s going to be ready when he’s ready. You can’t rush it. We’re seeing some good signs from him, but not enough to make a determination today of exactly when he’ll be in a game.”
Closer Fernando Rodney, who was out all weekend because of flu-like symptoms, was originally scheduled to pitch Tuesday, but the Angels pushed him back to give him more time to recover. Rodney returned to camp and played catch Tuesday morning. … Infielder Alberto Callaspo, limited to designated hitter because of a shoulder injury, is close to returning to the field, but a minor calf injury has set him back a few more days. … Outfielder Reggie Willits remains day to day because of a mild calf strain suffered Sunday. … Pitchers Ryan Brasier, Ysmael Carmona, Ryan Chaffee, Tyler Chatwood, Matt Meyer and Andrew Taylor, along with outfielder Tyson Auer were assigned to minor league camp.
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