CLEVELAND — Manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Bud Black held a lengthy closed-door meeting with pitcher Ramon Ortiz Wednesday in an effort to stem a two-game regression in which the right-hander slipped into some of the same bad habits that got him demoted to triple-A last May.
After two winning performances against Texas, in which Ortiz gave up four runs and nine hits in 14 1/3 innings, he gave up nine runs and 17 hits in 11 innings in losses to Oakland and Seattle.
Ortiz seemed to tense up when he got into trouble instead of relaxing and making his pitches. He also crossed up his catchers a few times, throwing pitches that were different than what the catcher called for.
"They wanted to know why I got so mad on the mound the last time I pitched," Ortiz said of a 5-0 loss to the Mariners Sunday. "I thought I was throwing good pitches, and they were still hitting them. That's why I was getting ticked off."
This is exactly the reaction the Angels want Ortiz to avoid.
"I don't care how hard a guy throws or how good his stuff is, location is the most important thing," Black said. "Ramon gets to the point where the harder he tries, his command suffers. In pitching, the harder you try doesn't equate to good pitches. He has to realize that."
Cleveland third baseman Russell Branyan took offense to an inside Al Levine pitch in the seventh inning Wednesday night, glaring at the Angel reliever and complaining to home plate umpire John Shulock.
He did not receive any sympathy from Shulock, who essentially told Branyan to shut up and get back in the batter's box.
"Like I'm trying to hit him with a two-run lead?" Levine said, a little dumbfounded at Branyan's response. "Shulock had a talk with him, and that was the end of that. I've never seen that before, but I like it. He took control of the game, that's for sure."
Shawn Wooten is a third baseman who was converted to catcher in the minor leagues and is now playing some first base for the Angels. Though he has had trouble with some plays at his new position, he did make a nice backhand diving stop of Jim Thome's shot in the second inning Wednesday night, preventing a possible Indian rally.
"I'm just trying to make all the plays I should over there and not hurt the team," Wooten said. "That ball somehow found my glove."
Actually, it found Scott Spiezio's glove. Wooten is borrowing Spiezio's first baseman's mitt.
"I charge rent," Spiezio said.
(0-3, 6.75 ERA)
(1-2, 6.45 ERA)
Jacobs Field, 4 PDT
TV--Fox Family Channel.
Radio--KMXN (94.3 FM), KMPC (1540),
* Update--In a battle of Louisiana natives, Rapp and Finley will attempt to shake off slow starts. After getting rocked for 13 runs by Texas in his first two starts, Rapp showed improvement in his next two games, limiting Seattle to five runs in 15 innings in a no-decision and a loss. Finley, the former Angel, had a complete-game victory over Detroit April 14 but not much else. "I've been kind of doodling this year," Finley said. "I've had one good start, two mediocre starts, and one where I shouldn't have even been out there."