04/27/12 7:23 PM ET
Hunter: Club must breed winning confidence
By Zack Meisel / MLB.com
The Angels outfielder has played on teams that have opened the season on a blistering pace (his Twins went 18-6 in April 2001) and clubs that have scuffled mightily out of the gate (his Twins started 18-36 in 1999).
Hunter said the Angels -- off to a 6-13 start -- can't procure a winning mentality on their own. Instead, they must patiently let it come to them.
"Baseball hasn't come to us," Hunter said. "We're trying to go get it. The feeling that you have to have, it has to come to you. The feeling of winning, the feeling that nobody can beat you -- it has to come to you. You can't just go get it."
For the club to breed that winning confidence, Hunter said, it takes one player's energy to spread throughout the clubhouse.
"It's 100 percent contagious," said Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove Award winner. "If [Jered] Weaver is out there busting his butt with a runner on third and strands him, or gets three quick strikeouts, that energy level pumps you up and that adrenaline goes into the next guy. If a guy gets a base hit and hustles for a double and pumps his fist, I can feel that energy.
"It's a ripple effect, a domino effect. Hopefully we get somebody going and it becomes contagious."
Downs in, Walden out as Angels' closer
CLEVELAND -- Less than 24 hours after he served up a walk-off homer to the Rays' Brandon Allen, Angels right-hander Jordan Walden has been removed from the closer role.
Southpaw Scott Downs will take over ninth-inning duties until Walden proves capable to return to the role. Manager Mike Scioscia listed demonstrating better command, putting hitters away when ahead and controlling counts as three areas in which Walden needs to improve.
"It should be a quick fix for what Jordan needs," Scioscia said. "We'll see how that progresses. Right now, we're in a time where we're trying to better define some roles down there."
Walden has yielded four runs on five hits and four walks in six appearances spanning 4 1/3 innings.
"When he gets his stuff right, his stuff plays in the closer spot," Scioscia said. "But he needs to get it right first, and that's what we'll work toward."
Scioscia doesn't want Walden experimenting with the game on the line. Therefore, it's unlikely that the 24-year-old will simply switch to the eighth until ready to reassume the ninth. The Angels' skipper hopes a series of progressive outings in low-pressure situations can boost Walden's confidence.
"Most of this is really just for the physical aspect," Scioscia said, "of being able to put him in the situation where he can still help our bullpen, but be able to throw some pitches when the game isn't going to be won or lost, and he can have more of a practice platform to get his game where it needs to be. Confidence sometimes takes a hit when you're not getting the results you want."
Scioscia remained adamant that Walden possesses the makeup of a closer, who must have the ability to perform with little to no margin for error and a short memory to move past forgettable outings.
Last season, Walden recorded 32 saves in 42 opportunities, while posting a 2.98 ERA and striking out 67 in 60 1/3 innings.
"Jordan, for stretches last year, really pitched great baseball for us," Scioscia said. "There were maybe some more blown saves than some of his peers had, but it wasn't totally off the charts to the point where you say, 'Wow, that guy's not made up to be a closer.' He showed he had, not only the stuff to pitch in the back end of the game, but he showed he had the mentality last year.
"I don't think this has anything to do with makeup as it does with the physicality of repeating a pitch and being able to get a breaking ball that's consistent, which he has shown, but right now, it's just not where it needs to be."
Scioscia confident Pujols will come around
CLEVELAND -- Albert Pujols entered the Angels' three-game set against the Indians batting just .224 with no homers and four RBIs. Don't, however, color his club concerned.
"It's a short sample right now to look at anything that's going on," skipper Mike Scioscia said. "I think there are some things that he will do as he gets comfortable in the batter's box and we'll start to see them."
Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with Los Angeles over the winter after spending 11 seasons in St. Louis. Aside from Interleague Play, nine All-Star Game appearances and two trips to the World Series, this is his first go-around at American League pitching.
His unfamiliarity with opposing pitchers could be factoring into his slow start, though Scioscia said it's too early to draw any conclusions from the first baseman's struggles at the plate.
"He's going to hit," Scioscia said. "He's hit guys that he's never seen before, whether in Interleague or whatever. He's going to be there for us in the end."
In nine career games against the Indians, Albert Pujols has hit .229 (8-for-35) with three homers and four RBIs.
Outfielder Torii Hunter is six runs shy of 1,000 for his career. Pujols is three runs shy of 1,300.