Los Angeles Angels pitching impressive in Day 1

Rafael Ortega hit a sacrifice fly for the only Angels run. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Rafael Ortega hit a sacrifice fly for the only Angels run. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /
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So as the calendar now turns to March it is the beginning of Spring Training baseball.  A sound many Los Angeles Angels fans couldn’t wait to hear was heard today “Play Ball”.  The Angels kicked off their Cactus League season in Scottsdale, Arizona against the San Francisco Giants.  The Angels had impressive pitching from all but one of their pitchers, but lost a tough game 4-1.

The Angels trotted out a starting line-up with only three regulars from last year’s team that finished 85-77 one game out of the Wild-Card spot. Second baseman Johnny Giavotella, catcher Carlos Perez, and first baseman C.J. Cron were three of last year’s started that keyed a September run which saw the Angels go 18-9 to get back in the playoff race before falling on the final day of the season.

In the first inning Johnny Giavotella led off the game with an soft ground ball to first that was played easily by the Giants Brandon Belt. He was followed by newcomer Cliff Pennington who was signed during the off-season from Toronto and he suffered the same fate as Giavotella grounding out to second base.  Promising Rule 5 prospect Ji-Man Choi hit third and the switch-hitter who can play both corner infield spots, but was the designated hitter today lined a single to center.  Cron then followed with a line drive that was caught by Giants second baseman Joe Panik.

In the bottom of the first Hector Santiago took the mound and looked really good retiring the side on 13 pitches including getting a called third strike on Panik. The Angels offense picked it up in the second off of All-Star pitcher Jeff Samardzja, who the Giants signed along with Johnny Cueto in the winter. Carlos Perez led off with a line drive double into the left field corner.  He moved to third on a ground out by Jefry Marte, a rookie hoping to make the club as a back-up third baseman.  PArt of the Angels left-field platoon Craig Gentry, who was signed in the off-season from Oakland, drew a walk from Samardzja putting runners at the corner.  Another outfield prospect acquired from the Atlanta Braves, Todd Cunningham showed great patience at the plate battling back from a 1-2 count to draw a walk to load the bases.  Rafael Ortega, another outfield prospect who came from the Cardinals in an offseason move, lined Samardzja’s first pitch to right which Jarrett Parker caught, but it was deep enough to score Perez to give the Angels a 1-0 lead.  Giavotella grounded out to short to end the threat.

Santiago then went back to work and pitched another strong inning only allowing a Buster Posey single to finish two strong innings of work with two strikeouts and no runs allowed.  Santiago is battling for a rotation spot and his out was definitely encouraging to Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

“Hector was sharp and his command of his secondary pitches was important today,” said Scioscia in a post-game interview with Fox Sports Jose Mota. “He had a good fastball and threw some good change-ups and did a good job.”

In the third inning Matt Shoemaker took over for the Santiago and didn’t fare quite as well as former Angel (only for about a month) Conor Gillaspie hit a Shoemaker pitch over the right field wall for a game-tying solo homer.  Shoemaker then gave up a bloop single to Gorkys Hernandez, but then settled down to retire three of the next four batters including getting catcher George Kottaras to strike out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth Shoemaker looked much sharper retiring the side in order including two strike outs.  The Angels however were getting stymied by the Giants pitching managing no hits after a Cliff Pennington infield single in the fifth.  Pennington stole second, but was left stranded when Choi struck out.

Greg Mahle a left-handed side-armer, a UCSB graduate who was the Angels 15th round selection in the 2014 draft came in and looked very good giving up one hit while retiring three of four batters.

However, in the bottom of the sixth the wheels fell off for the Los Angeles Angels as reliever Cam Bedrosian (his father he is not) came in to pitch an inning and got lit up like a pinball machine.  Bedrosian allowed three runs on four hits and he also uncorked a wild pitch and that was the ball game pretty much as the Angels went down quietly in the next three innings.

Rob Rasmussen and A.J. Achter pitched efficient 7th and 8th innings as Rasmussen allowed a double and a walk but struck out one batter and did not allow a run and Achter retired the side in order with one strike out.

The 8th inning saw Cuban prospect shortstop Roberto Baldaquin get his first Spring at-bat and he grounded out to third and Taylor Ward caught the final two innings, but did not get a chance to hit.

The game ended with Kyle Kubitza lining out to centerfielder Junior Arias. All in all the Angels accomplished their goal of using six different pitchers and giving a chance for players battling for roster spots the first to make an impression.

“We did a lot of good things on the field today, unfortunately the score wasn’t in our favor, but we still did a lot of good things,” Scioscia said to Mota. “They didn’t play them today (most of the regulars), but they worked out hard back in Tempe. We will get a lot of them in tomorrow, by the weekend all these guys should be in games, and we will just take it one step at a time.”

GAME NOTES:

Both candidates for the second base job were in the line-up with Johnny Giavotella leading off and going 0 for 3 and Cliff Pennington going 1 for 3 with an infield single.  Both looked good defensively handling all their chances cleanly.  Carlos Perez who is the incumbent at the catcher spot had a good day going one for three with a run scored.  1B/DH C.J. Cron was also one for three with an opposite-field double. Craig Gentry one half of the left field platoon was 0 for 1 with a walk.

Others that had some nice at-bats were Ji-Man Choi as he ripped a single off of Samardzja in the first before striking out three times as a DH.  The most impressive batter today was Todd Cunningham.  His first time up he worked a walk to keep the rally going. in the second.  He also showed good speed on the bases.

The pitching was outstanding minus Bedrosian who just plain stunk.  Santiago and Shoemaker looked good in their two innings of work.

Tomorrow will be the first home game against Oakland with first pitch on the radio/TV at 12:05 p.m. again.  Garrett Richards will be the starter again and he will be opposed by Eric Surkamp.  This will be the first home game of

the Spring for the Angels at Tempe Diablo stadium. Many regulars are slated to play coming up tomorrow so will see if the offense can put something together.

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