Angels’ pitching plans fell through along the way
NEW YORK -- It was a day filled with more hope than promise. When pitchers Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett were introduced together at the ESPN Zone in Anaheim on Dec. 12, the numbers on their new Angels jerseys could have been replaced by question marks.
They all had issues, with injuries or declining performance, but if they could remain physically sound and deliver their typical seasons, they would add much-needed depth to the Angels’ rotation and bullpen.
Eight months later, General Manager Jerry Dipoto’s 0 for 4 on those acquisitions looks as unsightly as anything struggling outfielder Josh Hamilton has posted.
Madson, the former Philadelphia closer who signed for $3.5 million, did not throw a pitch for the Angels. After numerous setbacks in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, he was released Aug. 5.
Burnett, the former Washington setup man who signed for two years and $8 million, had an 0.93 earned-run average in 13 games but sat out three months because of elbow problems and had season-ending surgery Aug. 7 for a flexor tendon tear.
Hanson, acquired from Atlanta for reliever Jordan Walden and signed for $3.725 million, spent seven weeks of April and May on the bereavement and restricted lists and was 4-3 with a 5.59 ERA when he was demoted to triple A on Monday night.
And Blanton, a free agent signed for two years and $15 million, pitched so poorly — he’s 2-13 with a 5.86 ERA and 26 home runs given up — he was demoted to the bullpen in late July and is now one of baseball’s highest-paid mop-up men.
“It’s been a disappointing run in regards to our pitching,” Dipoto said before the Angels’ 11-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night, in which Alfonso Soriano hit two home runs for the second night in a row and had a career-high seven runs batted in.
“It obviously didn’t work out with Ryan. That was an upside risk we were willing to take. With Joe and Tommy, they haven’t had the types of years they’ve historically enjoyed. It’s on us as an organization to help them find that again.”
They might not have long. The Angels are confident Burnett, who had a 2.38 ERA in 70 appearances for the Nationals in 2012, will be fully recovered and contributing in 2014.
But Blanton could be released this off-season, with the Angels eating the $8.5 million on his contract, and there is a chance Hanson, who is eligible for arbitration, will not be tendered a contract.
With a thin group of free-agent starting pitchers this off-season, the Angels, as they did before the July 31 trade deadline, will pursue deals for young, cost-controlled pitchers, trades that will probably take Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, Erick Aybar or Howie Kendrick to consummate.
Ace Jered Weaver, who was pounded for a career-high-tying nine earned runs and nine hits in five innings Wednesday night, and C.J. Wilson are under contract through 2016, and the Angels are expected to try to re-sign left-hander Jason Vargas, who will be a free agent.
The emergence of right-hander Garrett Richards, 25, as a viable rotation option could also minimize the need for Hanson or Blanton. Richards has a 2.42 ERA in four starts since moving back to the rotation and is gaining confidence and poise.
“He sometimes gets stuck in a fastball-slider-cutter mode, but he’s using more of his pitches, his curve and changeup, and he’s throwing strikes and locating better,” Dipoto said.
“His problem hasn’t been throwing strikes, it’s the command of his strikes in the zone. He’s come a long way. It’s been a disappointing year, but to see a young player step forward and potentially solve a need for us in 2014 and beyond is very encouraging.”
Soriano, acquired from the Chicago Cubs in July, hit a two-out grand slam to center field in the first inning, a two-out, two-run double to left field to cap a four-run second inning and a home run to left in the fifth, giving him four home runs and 13 RBIs Tuesday and Wednesday.
“He’s had a good month these last two games,” Manager Mike Scioscia said after the Angels lost for the 14th time in 19 games and fell 13 games under .500 for the first time since 1999. “He’s definitely swinging the bat well.”
Weaver had been dominant since late June, with a 1.72 ERA in his previous nine starts, but he couldn’t close out the first two innings, the Yankees scoring all eight of their runs with two out, and he couldn’t solve Soriano, who hit two home runs against the Angels for the Cubs on July 9.
Asked what pitches he threw to Soriano, Weaver said, “They were home runs, over the fence, one was a grand slam.”
The Angels recalled infielder Andrew Romine from triple A and optioned reliever Nick Maronde to double A. Romine started at shortstop Wednesday night, but Erick Aybar, who is nursing a sore left calf, is expected to play Thursday.
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