Notes from Tempe, Day 1

Jon Bachanov
2007 first round pick Jon Bachanov pitched a simulated game today.


I’m here in Tempe for three days of extended spring training.

For the uninitiated, extended spring training is pretty much what it sounds like. These are players who weren’t assigned to one of the four full-season minor league affiliates. Some of them are rehabilitating injuries. Others were working on a new skill. The rest are valuable enough to keep around until the short-season leagues begin in mid-June.

Two major leaguers, Ervin Santana and John Lackey, are here on rehab assignment. Santana threw a bullpen session today, 40 pitches, and is tentatively scheduled to throw in Wednesday’s game. That game was originally scheduled to be against the Cubs at Fitch Park in Mesa, but the Angels arranged with the Cubs to move that game to Thursday, which was originally supposed to be a “camp day” for intrasquad play. Ervin’s start will now be the intrasquad game, which means the Angels can fully control the environment in which he’s pitching.

I filmed Ervin’s bullpen session today. Click Here to watch. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.

I didn’t see Lackey around today, but he did pay for the clubhouse meal after the game. Since he’s one day behind Santana in the rehab schedule, my guess is he’ll throw a bullpen session tomorrow, suggesting he’ll pitch at Fitch Park on Thursday. (I leave after Wednesday’s game.)

Other rehabbing pitchers performed today. Jon Bachanov, the Angels’ first-round draft pick in the 2007 draft, pitched a simulated game. His catcher was in a portable batting cage behind home plate, and various batters would stand into the batter’s box. Because he’s been out so long (after Tommy John surgery), the Angels are slowly working him back into a game environment.

David Austen and Tim Schoeninger, two Angels minor league veterans also on rehab assignment, pitched in today’s game against the Giants camp team. They were followed by John Hellweg and Abe Gonzalez. I filmed video of all four pitchers but probably won’t have time to edit the video until I return home.

The Angels lost 6-5, but as with minor league spring training and fall instructional league these games can’t be taken too seriously. In the first inning, both starting pitchers struggled, so their managers called “roll over,” meaning they called an end to the inning without recording three outs. That keeps the pitch count down, which is especially important for a rehabbing pitcher.

I was pleasantly surprised to find an old friend with the Giants. Brian Cooper, who pitched with the Angels in the late 1990s, is the pitching coach for the Giants’ camp team. Brian is now living in Phoenix, as is his longtime buddy Matt Wise, who also once pitched for the Angels. Matt recently retired too. You may remember tales about Matt having a major jones for In ‘N Out Burger. I told Brian there’s one being built about a block from my hotel, and asked him to pass it along to Matt.

I filmed during the game, but missed almost all the scoring as I was shooting still photography at the time. I may try to put together some video highlights when I return home.

Another video clip now up on is a phenomenon I hadn’t seen before. It’s called “Shogun Batting Practice.” Click Here to watch. The way it works is that two batting cages are placed side-by-side, facing two pitching machines side-by-side. One is right-handed, the other left-handed. It was explained to me that a batter must face one machine for four minutes, then go into the other cage for four minutes. The idea came from former Angels minor league hitting coordinator Ty Van Burkleo, who is now the hitting coach for the Seattle Mariners. Ty brought the idea back to the U.S. after playing in Japan, hence the name which apparently he gave it.

Does it serve any meaningful purpose? Your guess is as good as mine. If nothing else, it breaks up the monotony of the same batting practice routine every day.

I’ll post tomorrow night after Day 2. My current plan is to drive home to California immediately after Wednesday’s game, so the Day 3 entry may have to wait until Thursday. Video when time permits. And yes, parents, I’m shooting still photography — Exhibit A being the above photo of Mr. Bachanov.

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