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Winter league cuts irk Angels

Team is displeased after its players were sent home early despite assurances to the contrary.

March 01, 2009|Bill Shaikin

PHOENIX — The winter story: Infielder Brandon Wood was sent home from Dominican Winter League ball after a slow start.

The story behind the story: The Angels say the winter ball club broke its promise to give Wood and their other prospects a long leash.

The aftermath: Angels coach Alfredo Griffin, the general manager of the Estrellas club, said he resigned in protest. Tony Reagins, the Angels' general manager, said he would be unlikely to send players to Estrellas in the future.

"We had the word of the club that, if we sent our players there, they would be more patient," Reagins said. "They started to lose games and got some external pressure, and they folded under pressure."

Winter ball is serious business in the Dominican Republic, where the short season commonly leads teams to cut players rather than wait out their slumps. Griffin, in his capacity as Estrellas general manager, and Reagins each said he received assurances from Estrellas ownership that Angels players would get a long look -- about 75 at-bats, Griffin said -- before anyone would be cut.

Wood got 48 at-bats, hitting .167. Catcher Bobby Wilson got 26 at-bats, hitting .154. Outfielder Reggie Willits got 26 at-bats, with one hit.

"We were losing, and they wanted to make changes," Griffin said. "I was disappointed. I didn't stay."

Reagins called it "very disappointing" that the Angels players were sent home so soon.

"We had the word of the owner that scenario would not take place, and it did," Reagins said. "We'll take steps to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Loux is back

Shane Loux last started in the major leagues six years ago, for the Detroit Tigers team that lost 119 games. Yet he is one of four candidates for the lone vacancy in the Angels' starting rotation, and he made his first spring start on Saturday. He pitched two shutout innings in a 5-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

"I got a special feeling when I was walking from the bullpen to the dugout," he said. "That's what it's like to start a major league game. There's nothing like it."

Loux said he thought his career was over when the Seattle Mariners cut him two years ago. He was coaching young players last year when a friend persuaded the Angels to give him a tryout. He was the Pacific Coast League's pitcher of the year, and now he has a second chance at the job he thought was gone forever.

"That was taken away from me," he said. "It really opened my eyes to how fortunate we are to put on a uniform. I try to realize that every day."

The Angels are considering Loux, Dustin Moseley, Nick Adenhart and Anthony Ortega as their fifth starter, although Manager Mike Scioscia said Ortega reported to camp with a "tired arm" from winter ball and has yet to pitch off a mound. Moseley and Adenhart are scheduled to make their spring debuts today.

Loux is out of options. If the Angels do not select him as their fifth starter, they could keep him as a long reliever or try to trade him rather than risk losing him on waivers.

Short hops

The Angels signed Jered Weaver for $465,000, a raise of $30,000. Weaver will be eligible for salary arbitration for the first time after this season. . . . The Angels, with a renewed emphasis on plate discipline, have 23 walks and 18 strikeouts in their first four spring games. They drew 10 walks Saturday, two apiece by Jeff Mathis, Kendry Morales and Terry Evans. . . . Rookie relievers Kevin Jepsen and Rich Thompson were roughed up, with Jepsen giving up two runs in one inning and Thompson two in 1 2/3 innings. . . . The Angels have not hit a home run in 134 at-bats this spring. They're the only team in the Cactus League yet to hit a home run.


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