05/26/11 4:00 PM ET
Angels leaning heavily on young players
By Lyle Spencer and Jordan Garretson / MLB.com
"No," he replied, tongue firmly in cheek. "The '97 Peoria Javelinas [of the Arizona Fall League] were younger than these guys."
Turning serious and nodding in affirmation, Scioscia acknowledged that his current club, with five rookies and seven players 25 or younger, is the most youthful of his 12 Angels outfits. Today's joy and exuberance can be tomorrow's frustration and disappointment. With veterans' roles to fill, notably in the season-long absence of Kendrys Morales and with Vernon Wells on the disabled list, the Angels are younger than intended in the original blueprints.
"The part that's by design doesn't surprise me," Scioscia said, referring to Peter Bourjos in center field, Jordan Walden at the back of the bullpen and Mark Trumbo and Hank Conger on the roster. "The part that's by circumstance does surprise me.
"We've had to dig deep in our system. We're pleasantly surprised by some of the developments, such as a pitcher like Tyler Chatwood coming in and doing the job. There are growing pains that go along with having a lot of young players. It's something we'll smooth out as we go along. When you have two, three, four young guys in the lineup, there's a learning curve that makes it a little difficult to evaluate and project."
Eleven of the team's 25 players have fewer than two years of Major League service time. The 25-and-under set includes Bourjos, Trumbo, Conger, Walden, Chatwood, Alexi Amarista and Trevor Bell.
Chatwood has performed beyond his years (21) and experience (62 Minor League games) to take the sting out of losing Scott Kazmir at the back of the rotation. Bourjos, Conger and Trumbo have contributed handsomely in a variety of ways, while Walden appears to have locked down the closer's role perhaps for years to come with his Texas heat. Amarista also has had some impressive moments at second base and in left field and shown surprising power for such a small package. Rich Thompson (26), Kevin Jepsen (26) and Bell (24) are power arms out of the bullpen.
Wells, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Joel Pineiro, Dan Haren, Scott Downs, Hisanori Takahasi and Fernando Rodney are the only Angels on the other side of 30.
Scioscia: Home-plate collisions part of game
ANAHEIM -- As one of the leading authorities on the art of catching, Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked on Thursday morning to comment on the home-plate collision with the Marlins' Scott Cousins that resulted in season-ending injuries to Giants catcher Buster Posey on Wednesday night.
Scioscia, who was known for his ability to block the plate during his 13 years as a Dodgers catcher, had not seen video of the incident, but responded in general terms to the dangers inherent in the play that felled one of the game's premier young talents with a broken ankle and other injuries.
"There's a code that's alive in baseball that it's acceptable [to do what's necessary within the rules] if you're trying to score a run and the catcher is trying to stop you from scoring. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's the adrenaline of the runner understanding he's trying to score the run and the catcher trying to stop him.
"I don't know if there's enough to rewrite the rulebook. We work on technique, and it's the catcher's comfort level on trying to secure the plate and absorb the contact the best way he can.
"I know a lot of the collisions I had looked worse than they were, because I was able to absorb most of the contact. Baseball governs itself pretty well on plays of contact. There are guidelines well accepted by players. If a player's trying to score and a catcher is trying to block the plate, it's part of baseball and will continue to be part of baseball."
Scioscia was tutored in the art of blocking the plate by such early masters as Del Crandall, John Roseboro and Roy Campanella in his youth with the Dodgers. He took his share of jarring collisions, while also delivering some punishment in return on occasion.
"From personal experience, I never had any psychological issues afterwards where I would back off from making a play," he said. "Carlton Fisk was injured and still had to make a play. Steve Yeager got hit hard a couple times and played for years after it.
"I know I had a concussion, sure. I was knocked out once by Chili Davis. He hit me like a linebacker on a blitz. He separated his shoulder on it and I was woozy."
Scioscia, who is as impressed with Posey's multiple talents as everyone else in the game, said he hoped the Giants' youthful star "makes a full recovery and returns as good as ever."
Small ball continues to loom large for Angels
ANAHEIM -- Since taking the reins as the Angels' manager in November 1999, Mike Scioscia has regularly employed a traditional National League style of play. Bunting, stealing bases, the hit-and-run -- "small ball," in the popular vernacular.
They've done it well, too -- his clubs have ranked in the top half of the American League in sacrifice hits and stolen bases in all but three of Scioscia's 11 full seasons in Anaheim.
And now, with an altered lineup in search of an identity, the execution of that philosophy is even more crucial. The Angels own the AL's third-worst batting average with runners in scoring position (.230), have grounded into the Majors' fourth-most double plays (49), and average 44.5 at-bats for every home run.
"Our lineup has not established the depth to just line 'em up and let them play," Scioscia said. "We need to really focus on the situational hitting. If it's moving a runner, and if it's putting a ball in play on the ground when a guy's in motion, that situational hitting's important to us and hopefully we'll get better at it."
Scioscia said his team has shown the ability to run-and-hit well, but the hit-and-run? Not so much.
"As far as the hit-and-run ... we've been awful," he said. "And we have to be better at that. We're swinging through pitches, hitting balls in the air."
With speed demons such as Erick Aybar (12 stolen bases) and Peter Bourjos (five), and a crafty veteran like Bobby Abreu, who has already swiped eight bags, Scioscia won't waver from his philosophy. The Angels are suffering from a severe power outage, and need to parlay their athleticism into offensive production.
"Our team speed is something that we're going to continue to push," Scioscia said. "With our lineup not being as deep, you have to try to create some other avenues to adjust what's happening in the batter's box, and that's what we're going to continue to do."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.