Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’
ANAHEIM – Albert Pujols has said that his first Opening Day at-bat is one of very few times he’ll ever feel nervous on a baseball field – along with his first at-bat of Spring Training and his first at-bat of the playoffs.
But Friday night didn’t feel like just any Opening Day for the premier slugger. It was his first under the weight of a $240 million contract, his first without a Cardinals jersey on, and his first in front of a West-coast fan base eager to see great things.
Afterwards, Pujols maintained, it was no different.
“It was the same nerves I’ve been going through my first 11 years in the big leagues,” he said after going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and an intentional walk. “It’s just something that my dad told me – if you don’t go through that, whether it’s when you walk in early to the park and get ready, excited for the game, he always told me you ain’t ready. I knew I was ready because I was going through that, and I wanted to do something special. But that’s the way it goes. We got a win. I think that’s the most important thing.”
The Angels drew a sold-out crowd, as expected, on Opening Night against the Royals – an eventual 5-0 win sparked by a Jered Weaver gem and an eighth-inning surge.
Three hours before game time, the parking lot was almost full. When gates opened at 5 p.m. PT, a sea of red flooded in. And when players were introduced, the noise was almost deafening.
In many ways, it was a typical Opening Day for the Angels.
In many ways – because of the expectations and buzz surrounding the Pujols and C.J. Wilson signings – it wasn’t.
“For sure, this is the most exciting it’s been in the area for the Angels,” said Jared Pfeifer, a long-time Angels fan who resides in Yorba Linda, Calif. “I have never seen more people wearing Angels gear in one area my entire life.”
The opening ceremonies included a David Cook National Anthem, ceremonial first pitches thrown out by three members of the 2002 World Series team – Tim Salmon, David Eckstein and Troy Percival – and a C17 flyover.
Before that, an announced crowd of 44,106 provided a loud ovation for Pujols, who doffed his cap from the third-base line in appreciation.
“They were excited,” Pujols said. “They couldn’t wait until this day. Neither could we. We were looking forward to it, and it was great to come up with the win today.”
Angels fans have been jubilant about their club before.
There was that inspiring run to the 2002 World Series. There was the signings of Vladimir Guerrero and Don Baylor. The trades for Rod Carew and Nolan Ryan.
But this, perhaps, is different.
“This is definitely the most excited I’ve ever been going into a season,” added Adam Rank of Huntington Beach, Calif. “There’s just a lot of really high expectations.”
– Alden Gonzalez
Free-agent closer Francisco Cordero expects to pick a team by the end of this week, and the Angels are one of four finalists for his services, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told MLB.com.
The identity of the other three clubs is not known at this point, but one of the four, the source said, is a championship-contending team looking to slot him in the eighth inning. That may be the Phillies, which could use a setup man for the recently signed Jonathan Papelbon. The Orioles have also reportedly been in touch. The Rays, which have a need in the ninth inning, are not one of those other three clubs, however.
At this point in the offseason, with the closer’s market dried up and a return to the Reds seemingly not possible, Cordero is open to signing a one-year deal, which would be huge for an Angels club that has already inked Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to long-term deals this offseason and doesn’t have much money to spend.
In Anaheim, Cordero would supplant 24-year-old Jordan Walden, who finished last year with a 2.98 ERA and 32 saves but fell off in September. Cordero, 36, is a three-time All-Star with a career 3.17 ERA and 327 saves. Last year with the Reds, he posted a 2.45 ERA and a 1.019 WHIP, and converted 37 of his 43 save chances.
The market for Cordero has taken a while to develop, mostly because teams figured a return to Cincinnati was a foregone conclusion. Once Ryan Madson signed a bargain-rate one-year, $8.5 million deal to be the Reds’ closer, though, interest around the league intensified.
The Angels were one of the first teams to reach out to Cordero’s representative, Bean Stringfellow, and have been in touch throughout the offseason, according to a source. They’ve also been in touch with right-handed reliever Luis Ayala.
– Alden Gonzalez
A lot has been made about the logjam at first base and designated hitter the Angels’ signing of Albert Pujols created. General manager Jerry Dipoto, however, doesn’t see it that way.
With previous first basemen Mark Trumbo (stress fracture in his right foot) and Kendrys Morales (broken left ankle) still slowly recovering from injuries, Dipoto appears to prefer to go into Spring Training with the comfort of having Trumbo, Morales, Bobby Abreu and Alberto Callaspo — each of whom was at one point perceived as trade bait now that Pujols is the Angels’ first baseman — all on the roster.
Here’s what Dipoto said when asked about it on Tuesday, during an informal luncheon to announce Howie Kendrick’s four-year extension …
“A lot of times, the perception from outside is a little different than the perception from within. There’s different elements to each player. Albert Pujols right now is our everyday first baseman, and we have, if you view the position as first base in a combination with DH, and a combination with what you would consider the bat that fills the void in extra outfield, corner infield, utility-type role, you can conceivably turn what appears to the naked eye to be two positions into closer to four. As we sit here right now, we’re very uncertain about where Kendrys is with regards to his time on the calendar, and we go into the season for potentially four spots worth of plate appearances with right now three players. And when you can be in a situation, or when you find yourself in a situation where the upside of Kendrys Morales’ return is just that to your roster, I think you’re in a very good position.”
More coming soon on Angels.com.
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels signed second baseman Howard Kendrick to a four-year contract extension on Saturday night, an industry source confirmed.
The deal, which USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported to be worth $33.5 million, will take care of Kendrick’s final season of arbitration and his first three free-agent years, but won’t be official until Kendrick undergoes a physical on Monday. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said recently that he had begun extension talks with Kendrick and shortstop Erick Aybar, his two arbitration-eligible players who are a season away from hitting the open market.
Kendrick is coming off arguably his best season in 2011, one that saw him bat .285 with 63 RBIs, 14 stolen bases and a career-high 18 homers. The 28-year-old right-handed hitter, who’s expected to bat in front of Albert Pujols this season, was a 10th-round Draft pick by the Angels in 2002 and has compiled a .292 batting average, .329 on-base percentage, 50 homers and 61 stolen bases in his first six seasons with them.
The Angels’ two other arbitration-eligible players are Kendrys Morales and Alberto Callaspo, both of whom are two years away from free agency.
– Alden Gonzalez
Contrary to swirling Internet rumors — and essentially a process of elimination — the Angels are “very, very unlikely” to sign free-agent closer Ryan Madson, general manager Jerry Dipoto told The Los Angeles Times on Thursday.
Dipoto’s statements are consistent with those he made from the Winter Meetings in early December, when he said he was looking for someone to “complement [current closer] Jordan Walden, not replace” him. But Madson’s market has dried up considerably as teams have used a deep talent pool of closers to fill their ninth-inning needs, and it took a major hit when the Red Sox traded with the Athletics for Andrew Bailey.
Madson’s present scenario, his Orange County, Calif., roots and the Angels’ bullpen struggles last season seemingly made the two a fit. But the Angels have already spent nearly $330 million on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson this offseason. And now, Dipoto has basically shot down his team’s chances of adding a proven closer like Madson.
“We’re trying to add depth, and in a perfect world, we’d like to find another guy to join Jordan Walden, Scott Downs and [offseason addition] LaTroy Hawkins to help with those last nine outs,” Dipoto told the LA Times. “But closer has never been the real priority.”
You probably shouldn’t completely rule it out just yet, though. Madson’s agent, Scott Boras, can be real creative and Dipoto has already displayed an element of surprise. If Madson is willing to take less money, and perhaps even sign a backloaded deal — like Pujols and Wilson did — maybe, just maybe there’s still a glimmer of hope.
As we’re experiencing with the Nationals and those links to Prince Fielder that don’t seem to go away, there are very few certainties in the free-agent market.
– Alden Gonzalez
That still remains to be seen. But on Wednesday afternoon — after the Red Sox acquired Andrew Bailey from the Athletics in exchange for three young players — it became more possible than ever.
With the Red Sox, a team with money to spend, filling a huge need in the back end of its bullpen by acquiring the young Bailey, the market for Madson has reached a new low. It’s now pretty clear that the 31-year-old right-hander won’t get anything close to what the Phillies reportedly offered him before turning their attention to Jonathan Papelbon (a four-year, $44 million contract).
But just how much of a pay cut he takes is the big question.
It’d have to be a pretty sizeable one for the Angels to be a fit, now that the team has committed more than $330 million to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. But it’s interesting to note that Wilson turned down a larger contract from the Marlins in order to sign with the Angels and return to Orange County, Calif. — where Madson was also born.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said during the Winter Meetings that his mission was to “complement [closer] Jordan Walden, not replace Jordan Walden.” In tune with that, he signed veteran right-hander LaTroy Hawkins to potentially help lefty Scott Downs in a setup role. But getting Madson would be a far bigger step towards improving a bullpen that was tied for first in the American League in blown saves last season.
So far, it appears the Rays and Reds are the two main teams that still need a closer. But the Reds and Francisco Cordero reportedly want a reunion, and the Rays don’t have the financial wherewithal to allocate a lot of money to the ninth inning.
Time for Scott Boras to get creative with Madson.
– Alden Gonzalez
New Cubs manager Dale Sveum has made it no secret about how much he likes Prince Fielder. Could the free agent slugger call Wrigley Field his home? Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com both think the Cubs are in the mix in the bidding for Fielder. However, Fielder, 27, and his agent, Scott Boras, are reportedly looking for a 10-year deal close to the $254 million that Albert Pujols received from the Angels. That kind of contract does not appear to fit what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said they want to do in Chicago. The Blue Jays and Mariners also are reportedly interested in Fielder, who is a career .282 hitter, and has averaged 38 homers over the last six years. Fielder has a .298 average at Wrigley Field with 11 home runs and 15 doubles.
The Cubs’ obligations payroll-wise beyond 2012 include $38 million for two more years to Alfonso Soriano and $9.8 million owed Carlos Marmol in 2013. If the Cubs could get Fielder to defer money the way in the first year of his deal the Brewers did with Aramis Ramirez’s contract, it would might be possible.
– Carrie Muskat
New Angels first baseman Albert Pujols was asked while meeting with reporters on Saturday what he would say to Cardinals fans, who rooted for him in his first 11 years, are heartbroken with his decision to leave town and may have a hard time accepting why a player would decide to play somewhere else.
Here was Pujols’ response: “You know what, it was hard for me, too. It’s been hard for almost a year. Obviously, you don’t want to blame anything because I’m a guy that I don’t look for blame, how my first two months of the season were. But, you know, it was hard, and it was emotional, and obviously you’re going to have some people and friends and family that are agreeing with you, and fans, and you’re going to have other people that don’t like it. And you know what, at the end, you know what, that you can’t control. But what I want the fans to know is, I love them, I respect how they treated my family, I respect the support that they have given me for 11 years, and I thank them for helping me be the man that I am today, because if it wouldn’t be for that city, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Pujols’ 10-year, $254 million deal includes an extra 10 years for after he’s done playing, which will have him serve as a consultant to owner Arte Moreno.
– Alden Gonzalez
The Angels will indeed tender Kendrys Morales a contract prior to Monday’s deadline, general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed during Saturday’s introductory press conference for Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
After finishing fifth in voting for the American League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2009, Morales missed nearly two full seasons with a broken lower left leg. A lot is still unknown about Morales’ status for 2012, regarding his health – he’ll still need to prove he can run at full speed in Spring Training – and whether or not he’ll remain with the team.
But the Angels will at least keep their options open.
And when asked about plans for a cleanup hitter behind Pujols, manager Mike Scioscia went directly to his switch-hitter, who’s entering his second year of arbitration after making $2.975 million in 2011.
“The one thing that sets us up really well is if Kendrys Morales is coming back; just his presence, being from the left side,” Scioscia said. “Right now, a player like Albert, there’s really only one way to protect him. One is get guys on base in front of him, and the other is have some depth behind him that will take advantage when they walk him, or he gets on base a lot, too. So I think we’re going to get guys in front that hopefully are not going to set the table, but be able to run and get in scoring position and do things that you want for the middle of your lineup.”
– Alden Gonzalez
Upon signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year deal that’s reportedly worth $254 million and will take the first baseman through his age-41 season, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto was asked about Pujols’ age, which is listed as 31 but has come under scrutiny because of a history of age fraud in the Dominican Republic.
“I will say that Albert Pujols’s age to me is not a concern,” Dipoto responded. “He’s an honorable man. I think he’s a very respectful man, and I’m not a scientist. I can’t tell you where he is. But I can tell you he hits like he’s 27.”
– Alden Gonzalez