3/17/2014 9:15 P.M. ET
Angels trim spring roster, send down seven players
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels' clubhouse is a lot more spacious these days, now that Opening Day is only two weeks away.
On Monday, seven players were cut from big league camp -- right-handed reliever Josh Wall, left-handed relievers Buddy Boshers and Clay Rapada, third baseman Luis Jimenez, shortstop Tommy Field, first baseman Efren Navarro and catcher John Hester -- and now a Spring Training roster that began with 67 players has been whittled to 42.
And most of those who remain either have a guaranteed spot on the roster or a legitimate chance to get one.
The Angels' starting lineup was set in stone before Spring Training began, and 22-year-old Tyler Skaggs is a near-lock to nail down the fifth spot of the rotation. But there's still plenty of competition for three bench spots, and there could be up to four open bullpen spots if Sean Burnett (recovering from August forearm surgery) and Dane De La Rosa (right forearm strain) start the season on the disabled list.
Here's a look at the jobs available and those who are left to compete for them:
Utility infielder: John McDonald, Andrew Romine (out of options), Grant Green
Backup outfielder: J.B. Shuck, Collin Cowgill, Brennan Boesch, Matt Long
Left-handed pinch-hitter: Ian Stewart, Chad Tracy, Carlos Pena
Right-handed relief: Michael Kohn, Fernando Salas, Brandon Lyon, Cory Rasmus
Left-handed relief: Brian Moran, Nick Maronde
The tricky one, of course, is Joe Blanton, who has $8.5 million remaining on his contract and can only crack the rotation if the Angels surprisingly option Skaggs to Triple-A to start the year. The Angels will continue to look to trade Blanton to a team willing to absorb some of his contract, and they could stash him in the bullpen to begin the season to buy some time. But he isn't expected to serve as a long reliever all year.
Ernesto Frieri, Joe Smith and Kevin Jepsen (out of options) all have solidified spots in the 'pen, in addition to Burnett and De La Rosa. Angels manager Mike Scioscia has floated the possibility of starting the season with eight relievers, but that's unlikely.
Lively pitches mean walks a way of life for Santiago
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Generating lots of movement on your pitches is never a bad thing, but Angels starter Hector Santiago -- like fellow lefty C.J. Wilson -- will always have a relatively high walk rate because of it. Over the last two years, the 26-year-old left-hander has walked 4.6 batters per nine innings, which trails only Edinson Volquez among those who have compiled at least 200 innings in that span.
Santiago has command of five pitches -- a fastball, a cutter, a slider, a changeup and a screwball -- and they all move.
Walks are just something he has to live with.
"Definitely," he said. "There's times where I throw 15 changeups that are nice and straight, and then there's some of them that just get massive depth to it. But right now I feel great. I feel like I'm in the zone all the time, whenever I want to be. I feel like right now I'm probably better than I've ever been with strikes in the zone."
Santiago issued just three walks in his first 11 Cactus League innings, but gave out three more in a 91-pitch, 5 1/3-inning outing against the Giants on Monday, which saw him scatter three runs on four hits while striking out five.
Santiago "felt like everything was working," and he even threw three pitches he never had before -- a sinker and a cutter that broke inside to righties, and a faster screwball that reached about 85 mph.
Sometimes, he isn't sure how his pitches will break.
"I throw a four-seamer that will [start straight], and then all of a sudden take off to the right like a cutter," Santiago said. "Then I'll throw the next one and move it over a little bit and it'll stay straight and I'm like, 'Come on, one or the other.' But that's not a bad thing, because they're seeing one straight, hopefully the first one, and then the next pitch has a little cut in it. That's where I get those jams."
Ibanez gets reacquainted with first in spring game
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Raul Ibanez figured he didn't need a first-baseman's mitt anymore, so he handed it down to his 12-year-old son. Then Angels manager Mike Scioscia called the 41-year-old designated hitter over the winter and told him he'd be working on first base in Spring Training, even though he hasn't started a game there since 2005.
"My son was in the car and was like, 'You want that mitt back, Dad?'" Ibanez said.
Ibanez reclaimed the glove that day and made his spring debut at first base Monday, while right fielder Kole Calhoun saw four innings there Sunday and an additional three Monday.
Scioscia's hope is that at least one of them gets comfortable there, so that his lineup doesn't really have to change on the days Albert Pujols serves as a designated hitter.
"That's the goal is to have the options on the offensive side to be strong every day," Scioscia said, "even if some guys are going to have to DH or switch positions."
Calhoun -- listed at a generous 5-foot-10, which makes him a bit undersized for the position -- played 37 innings at first base in the Majors last year and appeared there in 34 of his 353 career Minor League games.
Ibanez started 12 games at first base in 1998, 18 in 1999, one in 2000, eight in 2001, 45 in 2002, 18 in 2003, nine in 2004 and four in 2005. Since then, he's played two regular-season innings at the position. No ball was hit to him in six innings Monday, and only four throws were made to first while Ibanez was in the game.
"Certain things come back," said Ibanez, who has been working with infield coach Alfredo Griffin and will also see action in left field. "It's different. There's a lot of little movements going on, with kind of where to be and reminding myself, 'OK, if this happens I have to do this, and if this happens I have to do that.' But I think it'll be OK."
• Angels first baseman Albert Pujols was excused from the team Monday so he can attend an event for the Pujols Family Foundation in Chicago. He's expected back Tuesday and should start Wednesday.
• Garrett Richards will pitch on the main field at Tempe Diablo Stadium at 1 p.m. PT during the Angels' off-day Tuesday, against the Cubs' Triple-A team. Hank Conger will catch, and Frieri is also slated to pitch. Richards will get up at least six times.
• The Angels will have their annual Prospects Game at Tempe Diablo Stadium on March 24 at 7 p.m., with all of the organization's top prospects playing in a scrimmage.
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.