Right-hander Matt Shoemaker said he had “no doubt” he’ll pitch in the American League division series after throwing another bullpen session Tuesday, and left fielder Josh Hamilton cleared what appeared to be a final hurdle in his return from rib-cage and chest injuries by facing live pitching.
Hamilton, who has played once since Sept. 5, threw, ran the bases and took batting practice before closing the workout by hitting against Angels right-hander Drew Rucinski.
“He was swinging freely,” hitting coach Don Baylor said. “It went pretty well. In the beginning, he was a little tentative facing live pitching, which can happen when you haven’t played in 24 days.”
Hamilton hit cleanup for most of an injury plagued season in which he batted .263 with 10 homers and 44 runs batted in, but he will likely bat seventh and play left field in Game 1 Thursday night.
“We’ll probably bat him down lower to where he’ll have a chance to swing the bat and contribute,” Manager Mike Scioscia said, “but not too much pressure to where if he’s not quite locked in it will make a big difference in our lineup.”
Hamilton is not looking at the postseason as a way to salvage a disappointing season in which played only 89 games.
“If I start thinking that way, that puts stress on me,” Hamilton said. “I’m going to approach it like spring training — see pitches, put the ball in play and don’t try to do too much, because I can’t make up for the time I lost.”
Shoemaker missed the final two weeks of the season because of a mild left rib-cage strain, but he threw more than 40 full-intensity pitches Tuesday, with a break in the middle to simulate a game, and appears in line to start Game 2 Friday night or Game 3 Sunday.
“I’d say it felt great, but it felt normal, which is great,” said Shoemaker, who went 16-4 with a 3.04 earned-run average this season. “A few days ago, it was a little tight. Today, I don’t feel it at all.”
It has been two weeks since Shoemaker suffered his injury, but he says he feels strong enough to throw 100 pitches.
“I haven’t thrown 100 pitches yet, but I definitely feel I’m capable, for sure,” Shoemaker said. “Just the way my arm and my body feels, it definitely feels doable.”
Scioscia would not say whether he will use a three- or four-man rotation in the first round, but he did say the Angels probably will carry 12 pitchers, leaving them with a four-man bench. Assuming catcher Hank Conger, outfielder Collin Cowgill and infielder Gordon Beckham are on the roster, the final spot will come down to Brennan Boesch or Efren Navarro, both left-handed hitters who could platoon at designated hitter with C.J. Cron.
Center fielder and New Jersey native Mike Trout, when asked where he was the past two Octobers: “I was in a tree stand back home hunting white-tail deer. I’m definitely more excited to be here, hunting a ring.”
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