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Angels pitcher Tommy Hanson won't miss first-and-third pickoff move

Eliminated by MLB, the move involved a fake throw to third to deceive runner at first, which Hanson says confused fans saw as a balk. Manager Mike Scioscia sees advantage to teams with good speed.

February 20, 2013|By Mike DiGiovanna

TEMPE, Ariz. — Tommy Hanson did not shed a tear this winter when Major League Baseball eliminated the first-and-third pickoff move in which the pitcher fakes a throw to third and either throws or fakes a throw to first.

"I hated that play — I'm glad it's gone," said Hanson, the Angels right-hander who was acquired from Atlanta on Nov. 30. "I think the fans are going to like that it's gone too. Every time someone did it, they would freak out and think it was a balk."

Hanson said the elimination of the play "isn't going to affect me," but Manager Mike Scioscia thinks it will have an effect on the game.

Because the intent of the play was to deceive the runner at first and prevent him from getting a good jump on a stolen-base attempt, its removal should benefit teams with good speed.

"It will open up the running game you've been able to contain with pitchers who were proficient at that move," Scioscia said. "Your offense benefits. On defense, you lose a little tool to contain the running game."

Though the move was rarely successful, Angels ace Jered Weaver executed it to perfection in a 10-8 win in Yankee Stadium last July 15. With one out in the third inning, Weaver faked to third, spun and fired to first, where Robinson Cano had drifted too far off the bag.

Just as shortstop Erick Aybar tagged out Cano in a rundown, Alex Rodriguez broke from third to home and was thrown out by Aybar to end the inning.

"Everyone looks at it like you never pick anybody off, but that was never the intent of the move," Scioscia said. "It's to control the jump of the guy at first."

Scioscia said his right-handers will work on live pickoff moves to third base this spring.

"Guys are going to have to be more creative," Scioscia said. "Now they're going to have to throw the ball to third."

Freak injury

Last spring, Sean Burnett's back locked up when he put his glove in his locker, forcing the reliever to miss a week of camp with the Washington Nationals.

This spring, his first with the Angels, Burnett's back tightened up when he put his 4-year-old son in a shopping cart, and that sent the veteran left-hander into an MRI tube Monday and to a back specialist Tuesday.

"Both are random things that weren't baseball-related," Burnett said. "Last spring, it went away after a couple of days. This is the exact same thing."

Burnett, 30, who underwent surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow last October, said his back has already loosened up in the last few days. The MRI test revealed no abnormalities, and he is listed as day to day.

Burnett had a record of 1-2 with a 2.38 earned-run average in 70 games with the Nationals last season and is expected to be one of the Angels' top late-inning relievers in 2013.

Asked to rate his concern level about his injury on a scale of one to 10, Burnett said, "One. It's Feb. 19, so I can be more cautious. I'm not going to miss any games."

Short hops

First baseman Albert Pujols, who had knee surgery last October, has begun moving laterally during ground-ball drills but has not progressed beyond jogging. Asked when he hoped to run, Pujols said, "Whenever I'm ready. My goal is to be ready for opening day, not the first spring-training game." ... The Angels open exhibition play Saturday with split-squad games against San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs, but Scioscia said most starting pitchers won't begin throwing in games until the first week of March.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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