Fall Ball – Day Two

Dallas McPherson played three innings Friday in his first rehab game of 2007.

“The f***in’ problem is the f***in’ DH!” — An instructor commenting on last night’s headhunting by the Mariners’ Jorge Campillo at Vlad Guerrero.

Although the big leagues are far removed from the Arizona Instructional League, last night’s dustup between the Mariners and Angels was very much a topic of conversation.

Minor league field coordinator Bruce Hines gathered the young players around him to discuss the incident. It’s not my place go into detail, but he made it very clear to them that the Angels’ organizational philosophy is NOT to throw at opposing batters. That comes straight from Mike Scioscia. The best way to retailiate is to win the game. There are other ways, all legal, to retaliate.

One coach who I won’t name expressed his opinion that the designated hitter has led to more headhunting episodes. In the old days — and it’s still played this way in the National League — a pitcher might think twice about throwing at a batter because that pitcher has to bat himself, and might find himself knocked on his butt. If he’s not around, his catcher might suffer the same fate.

Losing cool under pressure manifested itself on September 14, when the Orem Owlz upset the Great Falls White Sox for the Pioneer League title. The Owlz won a 3-2 game in 16 innings at Great Falls. The White Sox had three players ejected from the game, and their manager too.

I asked Zeke Zimmerman, Owlz manager Tom Kotchman’s pitching coach who’s here as an instructor, when was the last time Kotch was ejected from a game. He thinks it was about eight years ago, and believes it’s been that long for one of Kotch’s players to get tossed too.

That says a lot about how smart the management is in this organization. They teach discipline, they teach calm under fire, and most importantly they teach how to pressure the other guy into losing his calm under fire.

I recorded two interviews this afternoon. One was with Jordan Walden, the Owlz’ ace pitcher who was on the mound that night in Great Falls. Jordan is quickly becoming one of the top pitching prospects in the Angels organization. He’s scheduled to pitch tomorrow, so hopefully I can get video and post it on-line after I return home late Saturday night.

The other interview was with Trevor Reckling, an 18-year old lefty out of New Jersey. Trevor attended a small prep school in Newark, but despite the obscurity of his amateur career was drafted by the Angels this year in the eighth round. He had knockout numbers in the Arizona Summer League — a 2.75 ERA in 36 innings, striking out 55 and walking only seven! Trevor seems very excited by the opportunity to soak up so much baseball knowledge from people like Zeke, pitching instructor Kernan Ronan and Tempe Angels pitching coach Brandon Emanuel. As Trevor will tell you in the interview, any meaningful instruction was pretty much non-existent at his high school.

Today’s game was against the Cubs at Fitch Park. The Angels lost 8-4. More importantly, the game marked the return to action of Dallas McPherson. Once destined to replace Troy Glaus at third base for the Angels, Dallas suffered a series of back injuries and underwent increasingly drastic surgeries in an attempt to fix the damage. His last surgery was in January to have a herniated disk removed and a bone spur shaved down.

Dallas started the game at third base and played three innings. In two at-bats, he grounded out and then drilled a ball off the right-field wall. His baserunning was definitely in first gear, although the Cubs’ pitcher forced him to dive back into second on a pickoff play.

I have video of Dallas’ at-bats and will post them this weekend after I return to California. I also shot plenty more footage of the morning instructions. My favorite was Zeke working with the young pitchers on what’s called the strap drill. (Get your minds out of the gutter …) Zeke began by saying that what he was about to explain was passed on to him by Marcel Lachemann, the Angels’ famous pitching coach and manager in the 1990s. So although Lach is long gone from the organization, his pitching philosophies remain, and Zeke is passing it along to a new generation — including Tempe pitching coach Brandon Emanuel, who not too many years ago was a young pitching prospect himself learning from Zeke.

Oh, an update on Hank Conger … He suffered a left hamstring strain in yesterday’s game. The early belief is that he won’t play again in the Instructs, but he was previously scheduled to join Team USA in the Arizona Fall League starting in mid-October so it appears the Angels will shut him down to quiet the hamstring and then let him get his extra work with Team USA.

Tomorrow’s game is at 10 AM. My game plan is to check out of the motel, go work the game, then drive home to Orange County. Since it’ll probably be around 8 PM PDT before I get home, watch the home page at www.futureangels.com for the video updates from Day 2 and Day 3.

P.S. Yes, it’s still hot here.

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