8/28/2013 12:34 A.M. ET
Hamilton makes sentimental stop on off-day
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Angels had an off-day here on Monday, so Josh Hamilton, his wife, Katie Chadwick, and his two oldest daughters, Julia and Sierra, made the 35-minute drive to Clearwater, Fla., for some fishing off the Gulf of Mexico.
After they packed up the rods, they had one more destination: Jack Russell Memorial Stadium, home to "The Winning Inning Baseball Academy" that's run by Roy Silver and Randy Holland, two of the most instrumental people in Hamilton's storybook return to baseball.
"Grace and mercy" are the emotions Hamilton feels every time he goes back there.
"Just having the opportunity for God to put me in a place and put me in a relationship with two guys that love the game that I love, and understand life and that things happen," Hamilton said of the experience. "It just brings back those memories of where I was and the place in my life where I was still struggling."
It was January 2006. Hamilton had worked his way back from the four-year, harrowing drug-and-alcohol addiction that prompted him to receive six suspensions and get banned from baseball for three full seasons. He was staying at his grandmother's house in Raleigh, N.C., when he told a local reporter he was ready to play baseball again.
Silver, formerly a Rays Minor League coach, and Holland, an ex-trainer for the Blue Jays, saw the story, invited Hamilton to their facility and for two months gave him the structure he had been missing. If he didn't memorize his Bible verses, he couldn't hit in the batting cages. If he didn't finish his chores -- be it scrubbing toilets or taking out garbage or raking the field -- he couldn't be, as he put it, "rewarded by doing something that I love."
"It gave me a sense of what my priorities should be," Hamilton said. "I do well with structure. Obviously, that was one thing when I was out of baseball that hindered me -- there was no structure there. So I was just always looking, trying to fill it with something."
The short stint at the facility kick-started Hamilton's return to baseball. He played 15 games for the Rays' Class A affiliate that season, was left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft later that winter, had a successful rookie season with the Reds in 2007 -- eight years after the Rays made him the first overall pick -- and then went on to the five-year run in Texas that earned him a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels.
Hamilton, still trying to prove his value in Anaheim, has "mixed feelings" every time the baseball schedule takes him to Central Florida.
Bad ones, of the tattoo parlor in Bradenton where his drug addiction began.
Good ones, of the Clearwater baseball facility that gave him a chance.
"I always remember details, but I try not to harp on them or think about them," Hamilton said. "You just realize they're there and help make up some of the story."
Angels sending eight players to Arizona Fall League
ST. PETERSBURG -- Arizona Fall League rosters were announced on Tuesday, and the Angels will be sending eight players to the prestigious offseason tournament: Pitchers R.J. Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Mike Morin and Michael Roth, catcher Jett Bandy, infielders C.J. Cron and Taylor Lindsey, and outfielder Zach Borenstein.
The group will help make up the Mesa Solar Sox, composed of promising prospects from the Angels, A's, Cubs, Nationals and Tigers, and managed by Angels Rookie-level Orem skipper Bill Richardson.
Cron (second), Lindsey (fourth), Morin (10th), Alvarez (12th) and Borenstein (15th) are all ranked among the Angels' Top 20 prospects by MLB.com. Cron represented the Angels at the Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game this year, Borenstein was recently named the California League's Most Valuable Player and Roth has appeared in 15 games for the Angels this season.
Asked recently to name the organization's top pitching prospect not named Mark Sappington and Hunter Green -- two guys who have separated themselves in a depleted system -- assistant general manager Scott Servais had a quick answer: Morin.
The 22-year-old right-hander was taken in the 13th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and may already be the Angels' top relief-pitching prospect. With a low-90s fastball and a devastating changeup that fades away from lefties and cuts in on righties, Morin has posted a 2.01 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, an 8.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 20 saves between Class A Advanced Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas.
"For a kid who just came out of last year's Draft, his numbers have been outstanding," said Servais, who oversees scouting and player development. "He's been a nice, nice surprise for us this year."
Cron was red-hot at the start of his first year of Double-A, which followed September shoulder surgery. But the right-handed-hitting first baseman has batted .250 since the start of June, and his home runs are way down -- from 27 in 127 games with Inland Empire in 2012 to 12 in 127 games for Arkansas this season.
Servais said a lot of that has to do with Arkansas' deep dimensions to left field and believes Cron's power will re-emerge -- but he needs to improve his plate discipline.
"The big thing with C.J. is his ability to control the strike zone and kind of hunt for his pitch a little bit," Servais said. "He's a very aggressive hitter, and sometimes he goes after pitches that aren't the best ones for him to hit."
Lindsey, a left-handed-hitting second baseman, has gone the opposite way for the Arkansas Travelers, his home runs jumping from nine to 17 while sporting a .276/.341/.449 slash line.
"But the thing that I'm most excited about is how much Taylor has improved defensively," Servais said. "We had a lot of questions about that, but he's really improved his pivot on the double play, he's improved his range to his right. And of course, he's always been able to hit."
Kendrick improving, but no timetable for return
ST. PETERSBURG -- Howie Kendrick will return before the end of this season, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia still doesn't know when.
Kendrick, out since suffering a sprained left knee on Aug. 5, continues to do light agility drills while fielding ground balls and taking batting practice. But the Angels' second baseman won't be activated for the three-game series against the Rays and there's still no definitive timeline for his return.
Scioscia said Monday that Kendrick is "definitely moving better," but he added that it's "not enough to where you're excited and you're going to go, 'Hey, this guy's going to be ready in a day or two.' It's going to take a little more time."
• C.J. Wilson's Children's Charities will host the fifth annual "Throw Strikes" bowling tournament on Thursday, Sept. 19, at Bowlmor Anaheim from 6-10 p.m. PT. The event will include food, drinks, prizes for top bowlers and a raffle, with all proceeds benefiting patients at the Hematology Clinic of CHOC Children's Hospital and The Hemostasis and Thrombosis Center at Children's Los Angeles.
• Right-hander Billy Buckner cleared waivers for the third time this season on Sunday and was outrighted to Triple-A Salt Lake. Buckner, 30, has posted a 4.67 ERA in 17 1/3 innings for the Angels this season.
• Angels outfielder Brandon Bayardi, currently with Rookie-level Orem, was handed a 50-game suspension on Monday for violating Major League Baseball's Drug Policy. Bayardi tested positive for Methylhexanamine, a dietary supplement.
• Hamilton, 1-for-3 with two walks in the Angels' 6-5 win over the Rays on Tuesday night, was removed for the bottom of the ninth with what Scioscia said was a "tender" left shoulder from throwing.
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.