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When rating Scott Kazmir, Torii Hunter has a higher standard

'I don't like facing him . . . I want him on my team,' says the Angels' Gold Glove center fielder.

September 01, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

SEATTLE — Torii Hunter knew of Scott Kazmir's All-Star credentials and was aware of the left-hander's impressive track record against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, both potential playoff opponents in the fall.

But the center fielder used a different standard to assess the trade Friday that brought Kazmir, 25, from Tampa Bay to the Angels for three prospects.

"I don't like facing him," said Hunter, who has a .267 average (four for 15) with no home runs and no runs batted in against Kazmir. "And if I don't like facing him, I want him on my team."

The Angels won't know until October whether Kazmir, who is 6-4 with a 2.53 earned-run average against the Yankees and 8-7 with a 3.59 ERA against the Red Sox, will be a difference maker in the playoffs.

But with the Texas Rangers within striking distance in the American League West, the acquisition of Kazmir, who will make his Angels debut Wednesday in Seattle, could go a long way toward ensuring the Angels make it to October.

"This is a good time to have five guys who, potentially, can give you a chance to win every night," Manager Mike Scioscia said of his rotation. "Hopefully, we'll be able to pitch better and finish strong."

The Angels have used 13 starters, including five rookies, and their rotation ERA of 4.91 before Monday ranked 11th in the AL and 23rd in the major leagues.

But, with the exception of two starts, John Lackey has been dominant since early July and Jered Weaver (13-5, 3.89 ERA) has been the most consistent starter all season.

Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana appear to have rebounded from injuries that slowed them for much of the season, and Kazmir is a huge upgrade from Sean O'Sullivan and Trevor Bell. "We needed this guy, we needed another starter," Hunter said. "He has the stuff of a No. 2 or 3 starter and still has plenty of upside. It puts us where we need to be."

Relief in sight

Reliever Jason Bulger, sidelined since Thursday because of shoulder tightness, said he was feeling "better" Monday, but the right-hander probably won't be available until later this week. He is scheduled to resume throwing today.

"I think I know the difference between a serious injury and soreness, and this was just fatigue that got worse," said Bulger, who is 6-1 with a 3.54 ERA in 53 games. "It was wise to get some rest."

Setting up

Though Kevin Jepsen, who began Monday with a 1.71 ERA in 24 games since July 1, appears to have emerged as the team's clear-cut setup man, Scioscia was still reluctant to anoint the hard-throwing rookie right-hander as his primary eighth-inning reliever. "Kevin has responded very well, but I still look at it as a role that is best served if a lot of guys, like Bulger and Darren Oliver, can do it," Scioscia said.

Short hops

Dustin Moseley, who made three starts in April before being shut down because of forearm tightness and nerve problems in his neck and shoulder, is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left hip. The right-hander is expected to be ready for all baseball activities by spring training. With rosters expanding today, the Angels called up infielder Brandon Wood, catcher Bobby Wilson, outfielder Reggie Willits and pitchers Sean O'Sullivan and Rich Thompson from triple-A Salt Lake.


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