4/30/2014 11:25 P.M. ET
Francona family squares off in Indians-Angels contest
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Nick Francona 1, Terry Francona 0.
In Tuesday's fifth inning, Mike Scioscia challenged a play in which J.B. Shuck was initially ruled out at first base and got it overturned, setting up a two-out, two-run single from Howie Kendrick that increased the Angels' lead over Terry Francona's Indians to four.
The call came from Nick Francona, Terry's son, who's in charge of monitoring replay.
"I thought that was kind of weak on his part," Terry joked pregame. "He may work for Scioscia, but he's my son."
Nick graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in 2008, then took a detour to war-torn Afghanistan to commandeer a Marine brigade's scout-sniper platoon in 2011 and is now a crucial part of the Angels' staff, deciding when Scioscia should use his challenge, compiling data for scouting reports and, in this case, trying to figure out ways to beat his father.
"It's definitely an interesting experience," Nick said, smiling.
"He had a great job and was making good money, and decided he wanted to follow what he was passionate about," Terry said. "I'm really proud of him for that. I think he's going to do well. He'll do well at whatever he wants to do."
Baseball was a big part of Nick's household growing up, for obvious reasons, but he said the game was never forced upon him. He pitched until blowing out his shoulder in his second year of college, and aspires to be a general manager someday.
Asked what he learned most about his father, Nick said, "Communication skills."
"One of the things he did pretty well, which you kind of saw growing up but didn't realize until you started working yourself, was he's very good at communicating with players," Nick said. "He's very open, and guys know where they stand, which is very important."
Kendrick getting chance to lead off for Angels
ANAHEIM -- The Angels have used four different hitters in the leadoff spot since right fielder Kole Calhoun went down with a sprained right ankle on April 15.
J.B. Shuck started six games there, Collin Cowgill has led off four times, Erick Aybar set the table on Monday. And over the last two games, it's been second baseman Howie Kendrick, who hadn't batted leadoff since Sept. 21, 2010, prior to that stretch of back-to-back games.
Kendrick -- like Calhoun, in many ways -- isn't a prototypical leadoff hitter, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia mainly wants someone who can get on base consistently to maximize the opportunities Mike Trout and Albert Pujols have with runners on base.
Kendrick, who reached twice on Tuesday and entered Wednesday with a .295/.378/.419 slash line, said leading off is "not that big of a deal. I go out and put up the same at-bat, with the same approach."
"With [Calhoun and Josh Hamilton] being out, we need to get a little bit more creative in how we look at some things," Scioscia said. "Right now, we'll go with Howie in the short term. If it sticks, great. If not, we'll see how we are as we keep moving through the season."
Weaver getting used to Angels shifting
ANAHEIM -- Over the course of an entire season, the Angels -- and several other teams -- believe that an increased amount of shifting will have taken away a lot more hits than it has given up.
Jered Weaver is still waiting for that to benefit him, though.
Against the Indians on Tuesday, three hits came as a result of the Angels' shifts -- an Asdrubal Cabrera bunt in the second, a Carlos Santana bunt in the fourth and a Michael Brantley double on what would've otherwise been a routine grounder to third in the sixth. And against the Nationals last Wednesday, Weaver recalled three similar instances -- a blooper by Bryce Harper, and bunts by Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa.
"When it works, it's great, and when it doesn't, it's frustrating," Weaver said. "What are you going to do?"
Weaver had an animated discussion with Angels manager Mike Scioscia about shifting after the fourth inning, then glared at the dugout after Brantley's double. But the ace right-hander said Wednesday that it was only a heat-of-the-moment circumstance, and that there are no problems between him and the coaching staff.
This is just something he'll have to get used to.
"The game, it's changing, man," Weaver said. "It's becoming more number-oriented. There's so many numbers out there. It's almost overwhelming for a guy like myself. I like to keep it as simple as possible, not get too many things going on in my head. I just want to go out there and try to make pitches.
"But I don't worry about any of that stuff, to tell you the truth. It is what it is. I'm not one of the coaches, I'm not one of the guys that are figuring this stuff out. I just work here, man. I'm a pitcher, and whatever they're going to do, they're going to do."
The Angels are shifting a lot more this year, with Nick Francona and Rick Eckstein mostly responsible for compiling the spray charts that dictate where defenders will be situated. But pitchers were told not to necessarily pitch to the shift; just attack hitters the way they normally would because the numbers will ultimately work to their benefit.
If you go solely by opponents' batting average on balls in play, shifting is working to the Angels' benefit so far this year. Heading into Wednesday's game, opposing BABIP was .269, third-lowest in the Majors. Last year, it was .300, which ranked ninth.
The bunts against the shift, or the occasional balls that go to spots where a traditional alignment would have a fielder situated, is a trade-off the Angels will gladly take.
"You're going to get beat; you're going to have balls that go through different parts of the field," Eckstein said. "But over the course of the season, you can look back and go, 'Wow, we won out more often than we didn't.' And I think we're on that track."
On the mend, Baylor meets with players and coaches
ANAHEIM -- Hitting coach Don Baylor was back at Angel Stadium on Tuesday, joining the team for the first time since suffering a fractured right femur while catching Vladimir Guerrero's ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day.
Baylor, still in a walker, was in the clubhouse for about an hour prior to the game, meeting with the coaching staff and chatting with his hitters.
"Just having Don walk in, you can still feel his presence," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's great to get caught up with him. We miss him."
Based on an earlier prognosis, the 64-year-old Baylor is still anywhere from one to three weeks away from being able to put weight on his right side. Scioscia hopes to get a better gauge for Baylor's ability to be around the team more frequently by the time it returns from its next road trip, through Toronto and Philadelphia, on May 15.
Baylor, mostly resting at his home in La Quinta, Calif., wasn't with the team for Wednesday's series finale against the Indians, but Scioscia is "sure he's going to be by" again during this nine-game homestand.
"I don't know how many times," Scioscia said. "He's making progress, but he still has a ways to go before we're going to see him in the dugout, and it's still an effort for him to get in and move around a little bit."
Baylor, Scioscia added, has been "as connected as you can be" and "definitely has some lineup opinions that are very helpful."
Asked if Baylor would approve of batting Howie Kendrick leadoff on back-to-back days, Scioscia smirked and said: "He's good with the direction we're going."
• Sean Burnett (recovery from August elbow surgery) and Dane De La Rosa (right s/c joint irritation) "are making progress, but they're not really knocking on the door yet," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. Burnett threw 11 pitches in an extended spring training game on Tuesday and will do the same again on Friday, along with De La Rosa.
• Albert Pujols' home-run tracker is still up at Angel Stadium, flashing 501 as it sits beyond the bleachers in right-center field. The sign is expected to come down on Sunday. The Angels are expected to honor Pujols' milestone later this homestand, and will give away a commemorative bobblehead on May 21.
• Angels right-handed reliever Mike Morin made his Major League debut on Wednesday, pitching a scoreless ninth inning in the Angels' 7-1 win over the Indians. Morin was the Angels' Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season and is ranked 10th in their system by MLB.com.
• After Wednesday's game, the Angels optioned right-handed reliever Yoslan Herrera to Triple-A Salt Lake. The corresponding move will be announced on Friday, and it'll probably be a position player to put the Angels back at 12 pitchers and 13 position players on their 25-man roster.
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.