Tag Archives: Angels

Former All-Star Jason Dickson reflects on his first Spring Training and Opening Day

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

With fans around the world anticipating the start of the Major League Baseball season on Sunday, we at Out of WriteField decided to find out how a former Major League player viewed spring training and the start of a new season. We spoke with former MLB pitcher Jason Dickson about his first big-league spring training and the early days of his inaugural season in the big leagues.

 

Andrew McGilligan |Out of WriteField

It was the sixth inning of the second day of the Major League Baseball season when Jason Dickson felt that he could finally exhale and relax on the mound. To that point in the game on April 3, 1997, pitching at home for the California Angels against the Boston Red Sox, Dickson had been masterful, allowing only a pair of hits in what was then a scoreless game.

The start was the first of his rookie season – he had appeared in seven games the year before – but that day, that season, marked a series of first in his young career.

“That first game of the year, the first start, all I was really hoping for was nothing to be a disaster,” Dickson said. “By the time the fifth inning was over and nothing major had gone wrong, it was a sense of relief. I thought to myself, ‘You’ve proven you can do it, so just keep pegging away.”

He would surrender just three more hits the rest of the way in the Angels 2-0 win, tossing a complete-game shutout – the only one of his career. His final line for the day, nine innings, no runs, five hits, five strikeouts (including fanning Fenway slugger Mo Vaughan) and no walks. Not a bad debut for the rookie hurler from New Brunswick.

Coming into spring training, Dickson didn’t think he would crack the major league roster; not many players do their first time out. Despite having been called up the year before, ’97 was his first big-league camp.

“Every year, right around the time spring training starts, I still get the itch be down there, be around the guy and the atmosphere and that all stems back to that first camp,” he said. “You’re excited to be back on the field and in the warm weather.”

Arriving at camp, Dickson figured there were five or six pitchers ahead of him and he would probably return to AAA Vancouver to start the season. The starting pitchers in camp with him included Chuck Finley and Jim Abbott.

“I really had no expectation of making the team,” he said. “I just went out and threw. I was just excited to be there, but at the same time with no expectations, I was doing well, having a pretty good spring.”

As spring wore on, cuts started being made and Dickson was not among them.

“When you start to see the cuts and the guys that are cut are the ones you’re competing with, you start to think you might get the chance to start the season with the big club when spring training breaks.”

This spring training, his first, was also when he learned how tough the business of baseball can be. In order for him to make the starting rotation, a spot had to be opened up; a veteran pitcher would need to be released. Dickson had gotten to know Abbott throughout the spring and considered him a friend, which made it even more difficult when the Angels cut the iconic one-armed pitcher to make room.

“That’s so tough because on one hand, it’s a friend being released, but it also means you’re going to stay. I remember reading Jim’s book a few months ago and he wrote about how tough that was for him. It definitely was a hard situation.”

Making the roster, being part of Opening Day, his win in the second game of the opening series against the Red Sox and earning an All-Star berth was all part of his first full season in The Show. Despite having played baseball his whole life, Dickson said he wasn’t prepared for some of the things that come with being a major league player, things you can’t prepare for.

“Your teammates are guys you had on posters on your wall growing up,” he said. “Everything is bigger, from the clubhouse to the stadiums. You go from being anonymous to being known overnight.

“You go from walking out of the park with no one around in the minors to driving your car past a large group of fans waiting for you after the games. You learn not to use your own name in New York City hotels because you’ll either end up with autograph seekers waiting for you or people leaving you death threats.”

As for Opening Day 2013, Dickson said he’ll be watching, especially the Toronto Blue Jays to see how they handle the pressure given the headline-grabbing offseason. He’ll also think about that first start of 1997 against Boston, standing on the mound trying not to be overwhelmed by the realization he had achieved a life-long dream.

“For the first little while that season everything was awkward, I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing. The only time it felt normal was when I was on the mound making pitches.

“All I was trying to do was convince myself this was no fluke, that I belonged. Just pitch well enough to get four or five more starts.”

He would get 31 more chances that season, earning his way to an all-star game and third-place finish in Rookie of the Year voting.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Trade Market

Albert Pujols certainly doesn’t look like the Albert of the past – but maybe it’s turning around for him. Fantasy buyers and sellers beware of the risk of picking up or trading the greatest hitter of the last decade.

McGILLIGAN:What exactly is Albert Pujols worth today?

It’s not a question many fantasy owners have asked over the years. Having been a perennial top three fantasy producer, Pujols was seen as off limits in trade talks and if he was in the discussion, the price was sky high.

That was until he struggled to find his American League stroke early this season.

What used to be a no-brainer – you can’t trade Pujols – is legitimately up for debate. The question becomes what is he worth and of course that depends on the team you’re dealing with. Does his terribly slow start mean you can offer less than premium players and expect the deal to happen? Or maybe he still commands a ridiculous, and therefore, prohibitive price.

Trading in fantasy baseball is always a fun, but risky proposition.

Trading one of the most consistent players in the history of fantasy baseball is even riskier. So which is the real Pujols? The guy who consistently puts up career averages of .326 with 42 homeruns and 125 RBI or the one hitting .213 with two homers and 17 RBI through 37 games in a new league.

If I had to bet, I would bet on the 32-year-old slugger figuring it out sooner rather than later.  Heading into play Thursday, he has a .310 average (9 for 29) and eight RBI over his past seven games.

If anyone can turn it around, it’s Pujols.

So now might be the time to roll the dice try and buy him at a discounted price. If it works out, you can call yourself a shrewd fantasy manager. If not, you can always blame Pujols for your miserable place in the standings.

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Orioles? that’s a surprise, but so are the A’s

Josh Reddick and the Oakland A’s are, to the surprise of many, one-game over .500 and sit second in the AL West. Can they keep it going with a collective batting average of .218?

LIVINGSTONE: A’s three-hole hitter Josh Reddick is having a bit of a breakout year, his first with the club out of Oakland.

Having spent three years between Triple-A Pawtucket and the Boston Red Sox, filling in post trade in 2009 (Sox shipped Adam LaRoche out of town) and injuries in 2010 and 2011, Reddick is getting his first full season under his belt after being dealt to the west coast team in the off-season (Sox got now injured closer Andrew Bailey and hot-hitting, defensive specialist Ryan Sweeney).

In 149 at-bats this season, Reddick has surpassed his HR total from last season where he hit seven in 278 at-bats. Compared to the eight he’s hit this year in 34 games, Reddick looks to have broken out the power-bat many thought he had tucked away in his arsenal of above-average baseball abilities. Tack on eight doubles, 19 RBI and four stolen bases, Reddick is part of a strong 3-4 duo in the middle of a offensively weak batting line-up (Yeonis Cespedes is the other half of the duo – on the DL at the moment). Well, maybe a trio is forming with the explosive hitting of recently signed Brandon Inge. Inge, who the Detroit Tigers let go earlier in May, has been on a tear as of late (6-for-21, 3 HR, 12 RBI, .286 BA), and could beef up the line-up for the remainder of the season.

While Reddick is one of the minor success stories for the A’s early this season – the fact the team is second in the AL West with an 18-17 record is almost as shocking as the Baltimore Orioles leading the East (ok – not nearly as shocking, but still…). After an off-season fire sale by GM Billy Beane in which the Moneyball man shipped pitchers Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey out of town, many wondered how the A’s would compete with teams like Texas and Anaheim (or LA or whatever you call them now).

But the fact remains, they’ve stayed competitive, even with potential ace Dallas Braden on the DL and the team hitting a collective .218 for worst in the league. The A’s rank 28 in OBP (.293), Slugging (.348) and OPS (.641). While the hitting is under-performing to say the least, the pitching has been a positive sign considering the losses the rotation endured in the off-season.

Veteran Bartolo Colon is 3-3 and pitching efficiently and effectively, eating up innings in the process. Tommy Milone is 5-2, a big surprise for the starting rotation that lacks depth – well, in fact, there isn’t any depth at all really. Future ace Brandon McCarthy is 3-3 woith a 2.56 ERA and has been playing great ball all season long. In the bullpen, only Grant Balfour posts an ERA higher than 3.86 (he posts a 4.24) and at least three guys – Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins and Jim Miller – all post ERAs under 2.00 while pitching in at least 10 innings (0.00, 1.69 and 1.93, respectively. Note: Cook has thrown 16.1 innings and has yet to let in a run).

Jemile Weeks, Cliff Pennington, Kurt Suzuki? The Answer: three guys that are under-performing. If these three guys can start hitting the ball well – and Coco Crisp can remain healthy – plus, we all remember the A’s signed Manny Ramirez in the off-season. If Manny comes back and hits the ball well, like we know he can, he will provided a much needed offensive injection into the order and make for a strong 3-4-5-6 of the order.

No matter what, the fact the A’s are one-game over .500 and sit second in the West is exciting – but can it last?

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Andre Ethier and Matt Joyce two big surprises in young season

Andre Ethier is benefiting from Matt Kemp's Superman start to the season - and if it continues, he could be one of the biggest surprises of the season come September.

McGILLIGAN: This season has been full of surprises. It’s May and the Baltimore Orioles are still playing well, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim look terrible and none of the early season favourites – the exception being the Texas Rangers – look like the teams everyone expected them to be.

I know it’s early, but here are two players having surprising seasons that aren’t getting a lot of talk for different reasons.

The first is outfielder Andre Ethier. While he’s a been a solid major leaguer for several years, he’s off to a great start in 2012. While his solid play is not shocking, the tiny amount of fanfare its received is.

With Matt Kemp playing like Clark Kent’s alter ego, Ethier has been in the shadows hitting in the slot behind Kemp. Ethier is benefiting from Kemp’s great start, but has also played an intricate role in it. His ability to drive in runs means pitchers simply can’t intentionally walk Kemp because Ethier will burn them. His average with runners in scoring position this season is .391. He’s also amassed the National League’s second most RBI with 24, just one behind Kemp.

Ethier is on pace to break his personal best season of 2009 when he lit up NL pitching with a .272 batting average, 31 home runs and 106 RBI.  If it weren’t for the all-world numbers of Kemp, it’s likely more people would be raving about Ethier’s play.

If the Dodgers keep on winning, is possible the Kemp-Ethier combination might become the most formidable in NL and MLB this season.

The second surprising start of the year is outfielder Matt Joyce of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Hitting .294 with five homeruns and 9 RBI, Joyce has been a revelation in Tampa. Having never got a chance for a full season of steady at bats, Joyce mashed the ball when he got his opportunity this season. However, the return of BJ Upton to the lineup and Joyce’s career struggles against left-handing pitching will see him ride the pine when the Rays face a southpaw.

Far be it for me to question Joe Maddon, the guy is one of the best managers in the game, but how does a guy ever get better at hitting left-handers if he doesn’t face them. Joyce’s career numbers are not good versus lefties (.198 in 162 at bats). But he’s only faced a lefty in 15 percent of MLB at bats.

The Rays have a potential break out star on their hands, maybe an everyday outfielder in the making, but he won’t get to that stage without letting him learn against MLB-calibre left-handers.

*All numbers current as of 8 a.m. EST

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