3/1/2014 6:35 P.M. ET
Wilson welcomes challenge of facing hard-hitting Cano
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Left-handed hitters don't typically do very well against Angels southpaw C.J. Wilson, but Robinson Cano -- the $240 million second baseman who now resides in the American League West -- is a big exception.
In 40 career plate appearances against Wilson, including the regular season and playoffs, Cano has a .389/.450/.611 slash line. This year, they'll face each other a lot more than they're used to.
"It's a good challenge," Wilson said. "Robbie's one of the best hitters in baseball, and I like him. He's a great guy."
Wilson and Cano joked around in the outfield prior to Saturday's game at Peoria Sports Complex, a 5-3 Mariners victory that ended in the seventh inning due to heavy rain. Cano asked Wilson take it easy on him, and Wilson obliged by throwing him a 2-0 fastball right down the middle that Cano fouled off.
"What more do you want?" Wilson told Cano after his spring debut was over.
"That's the fun part of the game," Wilson said, "going up against the best guys and challenging them."
Wilson struck out Cano looking in his first and only encounter with the Mariners' new superstar, ending a first inning that saw the Angels' No. 2 starter strike out the side. Wilson frequently missed his spots in the second, allowing two runs while facing seven batters, then came out for the third, gave up a leadoff single to Xavier Avery and left the game -- with Cano waiting on deck.
"It's like [Mike] Trout," Wilson said of facing Cano. "If he hits a single against you and doesn't steal second base, you're like, 'That's kind of a victory.' If you don't let him drive in any runs, then you're OK."
Kendrick not fazed by popularity in trade rumors
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It seemed like a near certainty that second baseman Howie Kendrick would be traded before the 2014 season, until Spring Training arrived and he still wasn't.
His name was frequently in rumors leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline last season, then again in the early stages of the offseason as the Angels looked to acquire cost-controlled starting pitching -- the kind they ultimately got by instead dealing Mark Trumbo to the D-backs on Dec. 10.
"When I was younger, it affected me a lot more, because you're [potentially] going somewhere new and you don't know what to expect," Kendrick said. "Now, being a little older, I've got a lot more playing time under my belt, I don't even worry about those things because I know that I can't control them.
"I've been with the Angels, I love the Angels, I grew up here, and this will always be home. But sometimes trades happen. Whether that's on the business side or needing to acquire something that's beneficial to the team, I don't hold that against anybody because that's part of the game."
Even though you agreed to an extension 10 months before free agency just to stay with the Angels?
"Yeah, that's fine," said Kendrick, who signed a four-year, $33.5 million contract with limited no-trade protection in January 2012. "I wasn't thinking about whether or not I'm going to get traded when I signed that extension. That's not part of my thought process and still isn't. If a trade happens, it happens. All I can control is how I play the game."
Kendrick, taken in the 10th round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, is approaching his ninth season with the Angels and coming off a year that was arguably his best, with a .297/.335/.439 slash line despite missing five weeks with a sprained left knee down the stretch.
The 30-year-old is no stranger to seeing his name in rumors, a frequent theme as he made his way up the system. Heck, he was one of the guys who could've gone to the Marlins when the Angels were trying to acquire Miguel Cabrera seven years ago.
Kendrick has an interesting way of looking at all that.
"Your name popping up is not a bad thing," he said. "Obviously other teams see a lot of value in you whenever they're looking to acquire you in a trade. ... I work hard, I get prepared. My biggest thing is to try to help the team out and to help the team win and be a part of this team, and a part of what we're trying to do as a team. Trades are something that come up, but you can't control it as a player."
Jepsen unveils new changeup in Cactus League debut
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Kevin Jepsen spent the offseason trying to re-discover the changeup he utilized when he was a starting pitcher nine years ago, and he threw two of them Saturday in his spring debut against the Mariners.
Both were strikes.
"I feel just as comfortable throwing my changeup for a strike right now as I do my fastball," Jepsen said.
Jepsen spent most of the winter working with John Ely, the former Dodgers reliever who features a solid changeup. Ely showed him a four-seam grip for the pitch, and Jepsen constantly threw it while playing catch, since throwing a changeup requires the same arm motion as a fastball.
The 29-year-old Jepsen -- out of options for the first time this spring -- features a fastball, curveball and cutter, but wants a pitch that will keep hitters off-balance and not break in to opposing left-handed batters, who posted an .877 OPS against him in 2013.
"The changeup is all deception to hitters," Jepsen said after pitching a 1-2-3 fourth inning in the Angels' 5-3 loss at Peoria Sports Complex. "You're acting. You're trying to get a hitter to think you're throwing a fastball and it's just not there. So, for me, if they swing or not, it's not really a huge deal. I just want to create that deception."
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.