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Thursday Halolinks: Louis, this is the beginning of a beautiful season

With their recent success, the Angels have me thinking this could become a fun summer.

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

With their win yesterday in Philadelphia, the Angels moved 3 games over .500.  The feeling I have is one of excitement rather than the pessimistic feeling earlier in the season.  Had it been a month or so earlier, I would be waiting for the other shoe to drop in the form of news someone else was injured or the beginning of a 5-game losing streak.  Yet, now it seems the club is just now starting to hit its stride.  Even without three of the players who started the season in the lineup out with injuries, the starting pitching has stepped up to carry more of the load.  Imagine what this team will be able to accomplish if this tread continues and Hamilton, Calhoun, and Freese are back in the lineup.

  • Isn't fun to watch a player's career sort of take-off right before your eyes?  I'll admit, I wasn't too impressed with Richards' performance last season, but am very pleasantly surprised by his vast improvement this season: Richards dominant in 3-0 Angels win - The Orange County Register.  "Richards improved to 4-0 and dropped his ERA to 2.42. One of the few stains on his season had been an unusually high walk rate, but on Wednesday he pitched his first walk-free game of the season. He struck out eight."  Even Jeff Sullivan over at FanGraphs has noticed: Garrett Richards, Who’s Making Sense - FanGraphs Baseball.  "Right now it doesn’t look like Richards is going to be a disappointment. It looks like Richards is going to fulfill that sleeper potential people have long figured he had. Wednesday, Richards was dominant against the Phillies, whiffing eight over seven shutout innings."
  • As I mentioned above, what was once thought of as a potential weakness has developed into a major strength: Los Angeles Angels at Philadelphia Phillies - May 14, 2014 -  "Starting pitching was perceivably the club's biggest question heading into the year, and so far it's the area in which the Halos have made the biggest strides. They finished 2013 with a 4.30 ERA that ranked 22nd in the Majors and have a 3.62 ERA in '14. On the trip, the starters posted a 2.75 ERA, allowing 12 runs in 39 1/3 innings, and completed at least seven innings on three separate occasions."
  • As I was watching yesterday's game, I noticed Phillies reliever Mike Adams do something weird to the baseball in the seventh inning.  I quickly grabbed the video and made a GIF (below): MLB Recap - Los Angeles Angels at Philadelphia Phillies - May 14, 2014 -  "Trout led off the seventh with a triple off reliever Mike Adams. He dove headfirst into third base and got up to cheers. Adams left him there, though. He fanned Pujols and Ibanez, walked Aybar and retired Hank Conger on a pop-up. Trout thought about stealing home. ''It was in the back of my mind,'' he said. ''I was looking in the dugout. It'd be dangerous, though, if the hitter didn't know.''Adams
    At first I thought he was doctoring the ball by rubbing something on it, but then realized all he was doing was getting a better grip on the ball.  Still looks kinda weird though.
  • Fortunately for the the Phillies the Halo hitters weren't at the top of their game: Angels keep calm and carry on, despite injuries and slumps - Los Angeles Times.  "Smith threw a clean ninth to put the finishing touches on the kind of pitching effort that has allowed the Angels to absorb the struggles of Trout, who is hitting .154 (eight for 52) in 14 games, and Pujols, who is batting .100 (three for 30) in seven games. It also allowed the Angels to win despite going three for 15 with runners in scoring position and failing to score after putting two on with no outs in the fifth and a runner on third with no outs in the seventh."
  • Some observations from the OC Register's Jeff Fletcher: Angels' Trout tweaks stance mid-game - The Orange County Register.  Trout's slump: "After Trout’s slump continued with another strikeout in the first inning Wednesday, he consulted some of the veterans on the team, including Albert Pujols, and they suggested a tweak to his stance. Trout said he squatted slightly in his stance, to use his legs more, and he felt a difference in his next four trips, which including a double and a walk.
    Who's the closer?  "The difference, Scioscia said, was that the Angels had a one-run lead Tuesday night, so he wanted to make sure Smith pitched against the most dangerous hitters. On Wednesday, the Angels had a three-run lead in the eighth, so even if Frieri made a mistake to one of the Phillies’ thumpers, he had a cushion."
    Where's in the world is Dane De La Rosa?:  "Reliever Dane De La Rosa left the Salt Lake City team to be re-evaluated in California, Scioscia said. "He hasn’t quite moved forward at the pace that he can," Scioscia said. "Maybe it’s just a matter of catching his breath. He will be evaluated. We’ll see what the next step is."
  • This is a fantastic.  No really, go take a look: ANGELS 3 - PHILLIES 0: Garrett Richards impressive in Angels win - Statlas Box Score
  • More Dane news, and it ain't good:  De La Rosa's rehab halted -  "Scioscia said he didn't know if De La Rosa was getting an MRI and wouldn't specify where the 31-year-old right-hander was ailing. De La Rosa, coming off a breakout season in which he posted a 2.86 ERA in a team-high 75 appearances, was delayed in Spring Training because of a right forearm strain, averaged 88.3 mph on his fastball when he made his debut on April 12 -- it was 94.6 mph last year -- then went on the disabled list again with irritation in his right s/c joint."
  • Hey look!  Here's his replacement: Kyle Farnsworth released by the Mets - HardballTalk.  "Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Mets have released reliever Kyle Farnsworth. The news is a bit shocking considering the Mets’ bullpen woes and that he had thus far compiled good results, sitting with a 3.18 ERA over 17 innings."  This move by the Mets, while completely legal, is pretty shady: Kyle Farnsworth 'very bitter' after being outrighted to minors by Mets | Big League Stew - Yahoo Sports.  "Farnsworth was released in spring training to avoid a $100,000 payout on his minor-league deal. The Mets then re-signed him to another minor-league deal, which included the 45-day team option that came up on Wednesday night. It's the same type of deal Randy Wolf originally turned down with the Seattle Mariners in spring training, but ironically signed with the Miami Marlins earlier on Wednesday. Long story short, they signed Farnsworth to team-friendly deal to plug a hole in their bullpen, and then sacrificed a usable and productive arm because they didn't want to guarantee his salary for the entire season."
  • Or maybe this guy could help out in the pen: Todd Coffey impresses teams in showcase, likely to sign soon - MLB Daily Dish.  "At least ten teams, including the Tigers, Mariners, Astros, Braves, Diamondbacks, Athletics and Orioles were in attendance to see Coffey, who expects to sign soon. Coffey, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery after missing the last season and a half, hit 92 mph with his fastball and showed a good slider in the 83-84 mph range. He threw for scouts for the first time since surgery back in January, and appears to be moving towards signing a deal to join a team's bullpen."  Oh wait, it looks like the Angels weren't even watching...unless they're one of the 3 teams not mentioned.
  • Uh-oh: Rays-Angels Preview - Yahoo Sports.  "Bedard has had good stuff the last few times he's faced the Angels (21-18). He held them to one run over seven innings of a 2-1 win at Anaheim on June 3 while pitching for Houston, improving to 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA in his last four matchups. The Angels, though, have lost 15 of 19 against the Rays in Anaheim."
  • Big deal out of nothing, or OMG think of he children!  High-schooler throws 194 pitches in 14-inning start -  "On Tuesday, Dylan Fosnacht of Rochester (Wash.) High School not only worked 14 innings of an eventual 17-inning victory but also racked up 194 pitches (and 17 strikeouts) in the process. To repeat: A high school kid threw 194 pitches in a single start."  Reading through the kid's Twitter account, he's totally enjoying the "fame".  There's even a tweet from Tampa's David Price calling him "a beast".
  • Poor Rex.  He didn't have a very good day yesterday.  First he thought the moon was a planet, and then Joe Posnanski wrote this: Knowing Arky - Joe Blogs.  "And then, the Royals announcers started to talk about it. Ryan Lefebvre’s color commentator these days is Rex Hudler. I’ve never met Rex. I’ve been told he’s a wonderful guy, and I have every reason to believe that. But I will not lie: He’s the reason I don’t watch the Royals broadcast regularly anymore. His voice hits me the way Mary Hart’s voice used to hit Kramer on Seinfeld. Well it’s not the voice itself — his voice is fine — it’s the stuff he says about baseball. I’m not going to go any deeper than that; he’s not my thing.  (H/T to: BBTF's Newsblog Discussion)
  • Do we really want to live in a world where the Bleacher Report is a legitimate news site?  Or should we revel in their growth from click-whores?  An Inside Look into the Harsh Conditions of Minor League Baseball - Bleacher Report.  "In Single-A, we developed a term for guys on the team that would eat more than their rationed amount before a game. We called them "Spread Killers." They were often the pitchers who came off the field before batting practice officially ended, thus giving them early access to the pregame spread. All it took for them to kill it was an extra peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This made it impossible for one of the later arrivals to get a full sandwich, and forced him to play hungry."  Either way, good story.
  • The 2014 season will be remembered for two things; the unusual number of elbow injuries/surgeries, and The Shift: O will determine how high Royals rebound - SweetSpot Blog - ESPN.  "Moustakas is an amazing 0-for-25 while hitting a ground ball or "short line drive" against a shifted defense this season. According to Baseball Info Solutions, opponents have employed a shift against him 62 times already this year, compared to only 23 times for all of 2013."
  • Earl Weaver and the Malleable Process – The Hardball Times.  "I’ve always wondered how the course of baseball history would have been changed if the word sabermetrics was something other than "sabermetrics."
  • Maybe he tried to bunt: Nelson Cruz gestures at Justin Verlander after being thrown behind - Yahoo Sports.  "After the 1-0 fastball breezed by the numbers on the back of his uniform and bounced off the backstop behind him, Cruz immediately turned to Verlander to stare him down before not-so-subtly making an inappropriate gesture."