6/26/2014 2:35 A.M. ET
Angels confident they'll sign first-round pick
By Alden Gonzalez and Matthew DeFranks / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- The Angels have yet to reach an agreement with their first-round Draft pick, left-handed starter Sean Newcomb, but are confident they'll get it done before the July 18 deadline to sign amateur players.
"We're not close to anything," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "We're continuing to talk. There's been normal rhetoric and we're confident that Sean wants to be an Angel and that we'll get this done."
Newcomb, 21, was plucked out of the University of Hartford by the Angels with the 15th overall selection, representing the organization's first first-round pick in three years.
Newcomb is listed at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, with an electric fastball that sits in the mid-90s, an above-average curveball and a developing slider and changeup that could make him an effective four-pitch starter in the Majors someday. He went 8-2 with a 1.25 ERA in 14 starts for the Hartford Hawks during his junior season, striking out 106 batters and walking 38 in 93 1/3 innings, and has been compared to Red Sox ace Jon Lester.
Major League Baseball has recommended a $2,475,600 signing bonus for the 15th overall pick.
"He's a college kid, but he's just starting to find out who he is," Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said recently. "We'll monitor him moving forward, and at his pace, there's no telling what he can do."
Richards putting himself in All-Star conversation
ANAHEIM -- As the calendar flipped to June, so did Garrett Richards' season.
Richards has been nearly untouchable this month, posting a 4-0 record to go along with a 1.05 ERA while holding opponents to a .178 batting average. Richards (8-2, 2.76) puzzled the Twins on Wednesday night, holding them to two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings while picking up the win.
Richards' dominant month of June has him in the conversation for the American League All-Star team. After Wednesday's performance, Richards now ranks in the top 10 in the AL in ERA (eighth, 2.76), WHIP (seventh, 1.12), strikeouts (eighth, 99) and opponents' batting average (second, .203).
Only six AL pitchers have more wins that Richards' eight.
"He's been pitching really well," catcher Chris Iannetta said. "He has a sub-three ERA, got some wins under his belt. His stuff speaks for itself. He has some of the best stuff in the game. Yeah, I think he meets the criteria."
He has only given up three home runs all year, including one Wednesday. By comparison, the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka, a favorite to start the All-Star Game, has served up 11 homers.
Even the Sabermetrics seem to love Richards. He is eighth in the AL in wins above replacement (2.4) and seventh in defense-independent ERA (2.92).
Manager Mike Scioscia said Richards deserves to be in the All-Star conversation but that he should not focus on it.
"I think he's going to get it, he deserves it but I think that's the last thing that Garrett is going to focus on or think about," Scioscia said. "I think a goal for the All-Star team is always good for a player, it gives you something to shoot for and it's nice to be recognized for your performance but you need to focus on the process. That's where Garrett needs to keep his attention."
Pitchers will be determined through a combination of "Player Ballot" choices and American League manager John Farrell's picks.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 8:59 p.m. PT. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15.
Fans may submit up to 25 online ballots, but they can also earn a one-time bonus of 10 additional online ballots. To access these additional online ballots, you must be logged into your MLB.com account when you submit any online ballot. If you do not have an MLB.com account, register on the site in accordance with the enrollment instructions for a free MLB.com account.
Fans this year once again can participate in the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the Home Run Derby. The 2014 Home Run Derby will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 5 p.m. PT on Monday, July 14.
The 2014 AL and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on the 2014 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show on July 6, with further details to follow on MLB.com. Immediately following the announcement of the AL and NL All-Star rosters, fans can begin voting to select the final player for each league's 34-man roster via the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Experian. Fans will cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over the balloting period.
And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Pepsi, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 85th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Halos to focus on deal to shore up bullpen
ANAHEIM -- David Price of the Rays, Cliff Lee of the Phillies and Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs are the sexy names reportedly being shopped now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline is almost five weeks away. But the Angels' focus isn't necessarily on trading for a top-of-the-rotation starter, which would cripple an already-thin farm system and eat away at their payroll flexibility.
It's on the bullpen, specifically the back end -- and ideally someone who can solidify the ninth inning.
"Our primary need is to make sure we address the bullpen," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "and a left-hander in the 'pen would be huge."
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported Wednesday that the Angels are among the teams interested in Price, but a source familiar with Dipoto's thinking said that's highly unlikely, saying that the Angels' focus is primarily on acquiring a couple of bullpen arms that can team up with Joe Smith and bolster the last nine outs of the game.
The Angels love Price, but aren't in love with giving up another bevy of prospects -- perhaps more than they gave up for Zack Greinke in July 2012, since Price is also signed through 2015 -- or acquiring someone who would leave them with little to no flexibility to address the bullpen.
Closer Huston Street and setup man Joaquin Benoit of the Padres, closer Jonathan Papelbon and lefty Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies and former closer Jim Johnson of the A's are among the names the Angels have or will look into. They'd prefer to acquire a lefty specialist from the outside in order to maintain flexibility with southpaw Hector Santiago, who can help out of the bullpen and in the rotation.
"This is by far the most talent we've had in the bullpen since I've been here, the most depth -- we just haven't been able to figure out how to get it on a consistent roll yet," said Dipoto, who wouldn't comment on specific targets. "There are pieces here that are very functional in getting to a good bullpen, and I believe that we'll get there. But we are going to have to address some of that in July and help this group out."
The Angels rank ninth in the Majors with a 3.61 ERA from their rotation, which boasts three quality arms at the top in Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards, a promising 22-year-old in Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, who's 5-0 with a 3.00 ERA in seven starts, and Santiago.
Their bullpen, however, sports a 4.41 ERA (25th in the Majors), a 1.38 WHIP (23rd) and 12 blown saves (tied for second-most). And Ernesto Frieri, who has been demoted from the closer's role twice, is nursing a 5.64 ERA.
"You can't win without a good bullpen, there's no doubt about that," said Smith, who will handle the ninth inning for now. "I think we have some pieces that are coming along. We're getting there, definitely. I just think collectively, as a whole group, we need to get on a run somehow."
Dipoto's goal is to facilitate that.
Green not supplanting Freese at third base
ANAHEIM -- Grant Green made his first Major League start at third base on Wednesday, but that wasn't an indication he has supplanted David Freese as the everyday guy at the hot corner, or even that he'll cut into his playing time.
Green started simply because Freese's left elbow is "a little sore" after a hit by pitch in Tuesday's eighth inning, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, adding that Freese will "still get the lion's share of the third-base starts."
"He's hit the ball much better than some of his numbers show," Scioscia said of Freese. "He's hit a lot of hard outs. Really what David does is give you that great at-bat with guys in scoring position. We're starting to see a little bit more of that.
"That being said, I don't think he's hit stride, or there's a comfort level of what he did a couple years ago. That just hasn't materialized. But he's giving us good at-bats, and if he can get close to where we project him to be, he's going to be a huge boost to the depth of our lineup."
So far, that hasn't happened.
Freese sports a .226/.305/.282 slash line overall and a .170/.270/.170 mark with runners in scoring position, and he's basically been treading water recently, with a .256 average, 14 strikeouts and one walk in his last 11 games.
Green, meanwhile, enters hitting .333/.347/.435 in an interrupted 25-game stint in the big leagues, but is still getting acclimated to third base -- one of five positions he currently plays.
The 26-year-old -- a natural shortstop who's most comfortable at second base, received the majority of his starts in left field earlier this season and has most recently been experimenting with first base -- hadn't spent much time at third base when the Angels acquired him from the A's for Alberto Callaspo last July. But Green got some time there in the Minors down the stretch last year, spent a lot of time at the hot corner during Spring Training and played third in four of his last six Triple-A games.
"I felt good there when I first came up [to the Angels on May 2]," Green said. "When I first came up, I played a lot of third. When I went back down, I didn't feel rusty. It was just getting back into it, getting back into taking grounders game speed."
• Right-hander Fernando Salas, on the disabled list with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, played catch for a second straight day on Wednesday and didn't feel any soreness. There's no timetable for when the 29-year-old reliever can get off the mound again, but Salas believes he can be ready to do so "in maybe a couple days."
• Smith is the closer du jour, but Scioscia gave his support for the demoted Frieri, once again saying that "our bullpen right now, with this group, works better if Ernie can get back to being the closer that we know he can be."
Frieri closing means Scioscia has more flexibility in how he uses Smith.
• The Angels set a Guinness World Record on Wednesday, when 35,671 people donned Santa Claus hats at Angel Stadium as the club celebrated the midway point to Christmas. It's the Angels' fifth record, after setting marks for the most people wearing fleece blankets (2010), wrestling masks (2011), cowboy hats (2012) and wigs (2013).
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. Matthew DeFranks is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MDeFranks. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.