05/16/10 8:20 PM ET
Kazmir hopes return to Texas is tonic
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
"I need to get deeper in games than I have been," he said. "I need to get ahead of hitters and put them away."
It has been a restless start to 2010 for the gifted 26-year-old Angels southpaw, who returns to his native Texas -- he's a Houston man, born and raised -- to face Vladimir Guerrero and the Rangers on Monday night.
Kazmir, who is 2-2 with a 6.82 ERA while averaging five innings per start, has been working diligently to recover his former, over-the-top delivery after letting it slip to a three-quarters motion to compensate for elbow pain during the 2007 season. Pitching coach Mike Butcher has been monitoring those efforts in bullpen sessions.
"At times, he's pitched good baseball this year," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "At times, he's struggled. The only thing pivotal would be if a guy would need time to work on things. We need Scott to get out there and find it. We're very confident he's going to do that.
"When you talk about release point with pitchers, you're talking about basics. This is something he's searching for -- sometimes in the wrong cupboard. He's a young veteran with a lot of upside. His talent is there. He doesn't have to reinvent himself. He's just gotten away from a simple release point that was very natural for him. Butch is working very hard with him to get his stuff where it can play."
Kazmir had one of his best outings last season in Arlington, beating the Rangers, 2-0, with six scoreless innings, yielding six hits and no walks while striking out five men. He did it with fastball command, still looking for the elusive slider that helped make him a two-time All-Star in Tampa Bay. He's 3-1, 2.03 in five starts at Rangers Ballpark and 6-1, 2.05 in 10 career outings against Texas.
Hunter digs cleanup spot
ANAHEIM -- The Angels' new-look lineup, with Howard Kendrick batting second, between Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu, and Torii Hunter fourth, ahead of Kendry Morales and Hideki Matsui, has drawn the stamp of approval from the 2009 Silver Slugger-winner in center field.
"I might not be the prototype cleanup man," Hunter said, "but I love hitting there. I feel like I can swing, cut loose a little bit more than hitting third. Hitting between Bobby and Kendry can't be a bad thing. I really like this lineup."
The Angels won their first two games after manager Mike Scioscia went to the new look. Over the past two seasons, they're 63-36 with Abreu batting third, 29-19 with Hunter fourth. They haven't been nearly as successful with others hitting in those spots.
"I know Bobby's always felt comfortable in the 3 hole," Hunter said. "He's hit there his whole career, and it feels like home to him. He brings everything you could want to that spot, and he thrives in it."
Wood trying aggressive approach
ANAHEIM -- Angels third baseman Brandon Wood clearly came out in an attack mode at the plate on Saturday night against the Athletics, taking the kinds of power swings that made him a Minor League sensation.
He lined an RBI single to left and lifted a sacrifice fly to left that Jack Cust mangled for an error, striking out in his other two at-bats.
"I've been behind in the count a lot in the first month and a half," Wood said. "I'm trying to build to that point where I can swing confidently early in counts, not always taking that first pitch.
"I definitely felt more like me, even though I struck out twice. I put a good swing on the line drive and just missed the fly ball to left by a fraction. When I'm right, I'm driving balls to left, swinging freely, without worrying so much about striking out.
"I'm trying to turn it loose and play baseball. Hey, it's not going to get any worse, right?"
Wood was in a 5-for-43 slide when he produced his season-high two RBIs on Saturday night. He entered Sunday batting .170 for the season in 106 at-bats.
Cassevah keeping it simple
ANAHEIM -- Bobby Cassevah, who worked two scoreless innings on Friday night to close out a win against the A's, has taken a simple philosophy to the mound with the Angels.
"I'm just taking the mindset to throw my sinker down the middle and let them hit it," he said, grinning. "I've got a big league defense behind me."
Cassevah was selected by the A's in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft and returned to the Angels. The 24-year-old Floridian struggled to balance his strikeouts and walks in the Minor Leagues. At Double-A Arkansas last season, he issued 37 walks while striking out 45 men.
"My fastball is usually 89 to 93 [mph]," he said, "and I throw a split that's 83, 84 and a slider that's 83 to 85. I rarely throw the split. It's usually a strikeout pitch, usually to lefties, because of its break."
Cassevah has taken the advice of more experienced moundmates in making the transition from smaller parks to large ones, packed with loud fans.
"I'm trying not to look up," he said. "I'm concentrating on the sign and the [catcher's] glove. You can't be shy. You've got to get after it."
Wilson returns from DL; Budde optioned
ANAHEIM -- After completing a three-game sweep of the Athletics, the Angels announced on Sunday that they were bringing catcher Bobby Wilson off the 15-day disabled list and sending catcher Ryan Budde to Triple-A Salt Lake.
Wilson, who will rejoin the Angels on Monday for the start of a two-game series in Texas with the Rangers, spent the weekend with the Bees, catching Friday and Saturday.
He was 3-for-3 with a two-run homer and a walk on Friday night, and the Angels were impressed with his defense and throwing. He'll resume a backup role behind Mike Napoli that was being held by Budde.
Budde caught Jered Weaver's gem in Seattle on May 7 and, in the same game, hit his first Major League homer against Felix Hernandez.
Wilson suffered a concussion and a sprained left ankle in the third inning on April 23 at Angel Stadium, in a violent home-plate collision with Yankees first baseman and former teammate Mark Teixeira.
Wilson, who was making his first Major League start, blacked out after contact with Teixeira and didn't regain awareness of where he was until he was in the clubhouse, trying to sort it all out.
"I remember [Bobby] Abreu fielding the ball [on Robinson Cano's single] and throwing it," Wilson said. "Everything else is a blur."
ANAHEIM -- Free of the cast that had been protecting his fractured left wrist, Angels catcher Jeff Mathis said he's "starting to move it around" and is encouraged that he'll behind the plate soon. His target date for a return is June. ... Mike Napoli, following a run of six consecutive strikeouts, made solid contact twice on Saturday night, with a single through the middle and a rocket to right-center for an RBI double. "That's more like it," Napoli said, grinning. "That's me. Not that other guy who was up there." ... Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he anticipated that Vladimir Guerrero would land somewhere in the American League, where he can DH, and was not surprised to find him surface with the Rangers, playing in a ballpark he has plundered throughout his career. "He hit the ball well in a lot of parks," Scioscia said, "but that park was something special for him. Most guys' numbers are inflated in that park. It's been a good fit for him with those guys." Guerrero's 2010 splits are revealing. He's hitting .397 with six homers and 19 RBIs at home, compared to .262, with one homer and 12 RBIs on the road. ... Juan Rivera, who got Sunday off with Michael Ryan in left field, figures to be hacking away in Texas with the Rangers sending a pair of lefties -- Derek Holland and C.J. Wilson -- to the mound.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.