3/3/2013 8:43 P.M. ET
Blanton emphasizes working quickly, efficiently
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Joe Blanton was scheduled to throw two innings in his spring debut against the Cubs on Sunday, but the Angels wanted him to get 35 to 40 pitches under his belt. Blanton only needed 20. He gave up a solo homer, struck out two batters and, true to his nature, worked fast and pounded the strike zone.
So Blanton's other 20 pitches had to come off the bullpen mound beyond the right-field fence.
"I've always felt like working quick is going to be to my benefit versus hitters and it's going to be to my team's benefit, fielders behind me, keep them on their toes," said Blanton, who didn't allow a baserunner besides the Brian Bogusevic homer. "If I give up a run or two in an inning or I don't, I want it to be a quick inning, get my hitters back in there, so they're not standing out on the field all day."
That approach helped Blanton rack up the 20th-most innings in baseball from 2005-12, at 1,426 2/3, and is a main reason the Angels signed him to a two-year, $15 million contract in the offseason.
During that eight-year span, Blanton has gone 83-75 with a 4.37 ERA and has walked 2.37 hitters per nine innings, tied for 21st in the Majors. And over each of the last four years, the 32-year-old right-hander's strikeout-to-walk rate has increased, to a career-high 4.88 mark in 2012.
A big reason is his aggressiveness.
"I try to make [hitters] aggressive and then I can gradually maybe try to nibble a little bit more," Blanton said. "If they know I'm throwing strikes, I feel like I'll get more strikes on the borderline pitches than if I'm all over the place, especially with umpires."
Trout calls move to left field 'fun adjustment' for him
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike Trout would prefer to play center field. That's no secret. He's played there since his senior year of high school, enjoys the position and proved he's among the best center fielders in baseball during his rookie season.
On Saturday, Trout's agent, Craig Landis, offered up a reminder of that desire by indicating in a statement that Trout was disappointed about no longer being the everyday center fielder, in addition to being given $20,000 more than the minimum -- $510,000 -- for 2013.
Landis has previously voiced his displeasure to the front office about Trout moving to left field this season, in favor of Peter Bourjos. But Trout himself hasn't said much of anything -- publicly or to Angels executives -- and manager Mike Scioscia doesn't believe it's an issue.
"What's best for the team is what's best for the player," Scioscia said. "Mike is going to be a center fielder, no doubt. We understand that's his position. But right now, his versatility is something that's going to make us a better team."
Asked about no longer playing center field on an everyday basis Sunday morning, Trout called left field "a fun adjustment" and didn't express any bitterness.
"I'm just happy to be in the lineup every day," he said. "My main position is center field, obviously. It's definitely a different position than left field, but I just have to make an adjustment and go from there."
But in an email on Saturday, while writing that Trout's 2013 compensation "falls well short of a 'fair' contract," Landis added: "As when he learned he would not be the team's primary center fielder for the upcoming season, Mike will put the disappointment behind him and focus on helping the Angels reach their goal of winning the 2013 World Series."
Asked about Trout's position change shortly before Spring Training, general manager Jerry Dipoto admitted that Trout prefers center field, but dismissed the possibility of it becoming an issue.
"Mike's a team player, he has said he's a team player," Dipoto said. "What he has passed off to us is, 'At the end of the day, I believe I'm a center fielder and I'd like to play center field, but I'll do what's best for the team.'
"If somebody told me they're going to switch my position after I just had an MVP runner-up year, I'd probably be irritated by it. He's an outstanding defender, there's nothing about him that suggests he's not capable of being a standout center fielder. It just so happens that the other guy [Bourjos] is also a standout defensive center fielder. And from a positional profile, it suits [Bourjos] better to play center."
Madson eager to return, but wants to avoid flareup
TEMPE, Ariz. -- At this point, Angels reliever Ryan Madson's recovery from Tommy John surgery is all about striking the tough balance between his desire to get back quickly and the threat of another flareup.
"That's the juggling I have to do," Madson said. "That's the tough part for me, just to not flare anything up and have to get shut down again."
As time goes by, though, that balance becomes a little easier. And at this stage, where the 32-year-old right-hander is back to baby steps after a Feb. 1 setback, the small things still mean more. Like Sunday, when Madson was getting ready to throw off flat ground on back-to-back days for the second time in seven days.
"That means it's healing," Madson said. "The inflammation I had in the flexor pronator muscle is gone. The muscle's functioning good."
Madson wants to push it just far enough before he has another flareup, which occurred after his fourth offseason bullpen session and essentially caused him to start from scratch.
He's confident it won't happen again.
"I don't foresee that anymore," Madson said. "I feel strong, I feel good, I don't have any feelings that anything's going to come back. I'm just taking it slow."
Madson is throwing from about 90 feet, at an estimated 80 percent intensity, and anticipates being able to get back on the mound after one more week of playing catch. After Sunday, Madson figures to need six more days of throwing off flat ground -- three sets of back-to-backs -- meaning that if all goes well, he'll be throwing bullpen sessions right around mid-March, as expected.
That's when the real test will start.
"Once you get off a mound, that angle provides another stepping stone where you have to build up again, because it's a different angle," Madson said. "You're adding a little more stress because of the position you're putting your body in off the slope. I'll probably just back it down again and build back up. I think that's the proper way to do it."
The team remains hopeful Madson will be ready by the middle of April.
• Defenseman Cam Fowler, forward Nick Bonino and goalie Viktor Fasth of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks put on Angels T-shirts and shorts and took batting practice in the back fields of the Tempe Diablo Stadium complex on Sunday.
• In his third spring appearance, Josh Hamilton served as the designated hitter for the second straight time Sunday, with Angels manager Mike Scioscia preferring to ease him in. Hamilton, who went 1-for-2 and scored a run, is able to fully participate in workouts and Scioscia expects him to start in right field again at some point next week. "He's doing drills, just trying to get his arm where it needs to be, get the spring stiffness out, and he can do it at DH," Scioscia said.
• Bill Hall, who left Wednesday's game early with tightness in his right quad, is able to take batting practice but hasn't been on the field for workouts. The veteran infielder anticipates being ready to go in a couple of days.
• Switch-hitter Luis Rodriguez, fighting for the Angels' reserve infield spot, is batting .467 (7-for-15) this spring. "Both sides of the plate, he's been a tough out," Scioscia said. "He hits the ball hard from both sides of the plate, and we'll see where we are a month from now."
• After Sunday's game, the Angels sent catchers Jett Bandy, Carlos Ramirez and Zach Wright to Minor League camp. Coaches Jim Gott, Bill Hasselman, Orlando Mercado and Mike Micucci will also be working out of the Minor League complex.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.