Notes: Valuable beyond their years
Angels have had to rely on youngsters, and they've delivered
ANAHEIM -- It's a rule of survival for Minor League players: Always make sure the farm director knows you for all the right seasons. So when Howie Kendrick walked through the hallway leading to the Angels clubhouse Sunday morning, he noticed Tony Reagins, and made it a point to say hello.
Although Kendrick is one of a number of young players who have established themselves as solid everyday Major League contributors this season for the Angels, the pipeline is far from dry. On a day when the Angels hoped to finally clinch the American League West, Reagins came to watch many of his farm system's products. The Angels had four Minor League clubs reach the playoffs this season. The player development products this season have given the Angels a cheaper, younger, deeper dynamic to complement their well-paid veterans.
"That depth has saved us," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think that's a statement for the whole organization, not so much for what I've done. This has been an abnormal year for what you would expect from a contending team. The only thing that saved us is the young talent from this organization. It's been groomed and ready to fill roles up here."
Triple-A Salt Lake, Class A Cedar Rapids, Rookie-level Orem and the organization's entry in the Dominican Summer League all reached the playoffs.
"You want them to get used to winning," Reagins said. "Some of those kids have never won anything. You want them to get introduced to winning, but the key component is developing players to get them to the Major League level. Without them, this organization is nothing."
Reagins said Triple-A infielder Matt Brown (.276, 19 home runs) and Class A Rancho Cucamonga shortstop Hainley Statia (.288, 29 stolen bases) were the most improved position players in the organization. He was also pleased with the progress of Double-A right-handed pitcher Nick Green (10-8, 3.68) and Cedar Rapids starting pitcher Sean O'Sullivan (10-7, 2.22).
Cedar Rapids catcher Hank Conger, the club's No. 1 Draft pick in 2006, battled injuries but still showed progression, especially behind the plate. He hit .290 with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs.
"Conger did well," Reagins said. "As far as being able to make adjustments and being able to take instruction, he did extremely well. We were really pleased with his intelligence and the way he handles pitchers. He's still learning. There are some areas we have to work with him on. His growth is impressive, because you can instruct him, and he can apply it. He was raw when we got him. We take the catching side of it very seriously."
Rotation depends on Sunday's outcome: The shape of the Angels rotation for the final week of the season would depend on the outcome of Sunday's game. "I think everything right now is in pencil," Scioscia said.
If the Angels clinch on Sunday, they may consider skipping Kelvim Escobar to give the right-hander additional rest for his sore shoulder. Bartolo Colon could also get another start based on his strong performance Saturday.
"Obviously, Kelvim is feeling a lot better and we'll see when we can fold him back in," Scioscia said. "Bart threw the ball well yesterday and I think the question with Bart is recovery time. We want to see how he comes out of it."
Matthews evaluation: Outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. and Scioscia were both pleased with the way in which Matthews came back to the starting lineup Saturday after missing two weeks with an ankle injury. "I felt fine," Matthews said. "Nothing affected me at all."
"Gary feels good," Scioscia said. "He's back out there today. I thought his at-bats looked good for a guy who's been out for a couple of weeks. He played fine in center field and slid into second base with no problem."
Historically speaking: What does Vladimir Guerrero have in common with Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn, Honus Wagner, Willie Keeler, Stan Musial, Harry Heilmann, Lou Gehrig, Paul Waner, Ed Delahanty, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby and Al Simmons? According to researcher Trent McCotter of the Society for American Baseball Research, Guerrero is on the verge of his 11th consecutive season with a .300 average and over 100 games played. Gwynn holds the record, having done it 16 times, from 1984-1999. Wagner (1899-1913) is second with 15 consecutive seasons.
McCotter also points out that when Chone Figgins went 0-for-4 on Friday, it snapped a 35-game on-base streak, which was the third longest in franchise history following Orlando Cabrera (63, 2006) and Chili Davis (35, 1995).
Figgins began play Sunday with 475 plate appearances, 27 short of the 502 to qualify for a batting title. His .347 average placed him third in the American League after Detroit's Magglio Ordonez (.358) and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki (.351).
Coming up: The Angels head to Texas for a three-game series with the Rangers beginning on Monday at 5:05 p.m. PT. Ervin Santana is slated to start against Armando Galarraga, a right-hander making his first big league start.
John Klima is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.