GM meetings accelerate critical winter for Angels, GM Billy Eppler

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Also, this year there is a much deeper pool from which to fill the Angels’ most glaring need: starting pitching. Last winter Patrick Corbin was the best pitcher available. The Angels tried to sign Corbin, but the East Coast native instead picked the Washington Nationals. They also tried to sign Nate Eovaldi, arguably the second-best starter on the market, but he returned to the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox. After that, there was Dallas Keuchel, whose demands were apparently high enough that no team signed him until June. Then the choices dropped off to pitchers like Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ.This year, the group starts with Gerrit Cole, who is a native of Orange County and has been widely connected to the Angels. Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jake Odorizzi, Cole Hamels and Keuchel are all on the market.There are also a handful of mid-tier pitchers who could be back-of-the rotation innings-eaters, at least, including Julio Teheran, Kyle Gibson and Tanner Roark.That’s a much stronger collection of arms than was available last year.Although it may seem difficult to squeeze two pitchers out of that group with the Angels available payroll space, even with an increase, bear in mind that they can always backload contracts. They could pay less up front, and more after Albert Pujols comes off the books in 2022.The Angels also might explore a trade for a controllable pitcher like Noah Syndergaard or Matthew Boyd, who they discussed at last July’s deadline. Less likely, they could try to swing a deal for a one-year rental like Robbie Ray.In truth, the Angels probably need to find a way to get at least two reliable starters, supplementing a rotation that was decimated last year by injuries, poor performance and the tragic loss of Tyler Skaggs.As of now, the Angels are probably locked in to having Shohei Ohtani — who will be back as a two-way player after Tommy John surgery — in front of Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning.Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barría, José Suarez, Dillon Peters and Félix Peña will all be around for depth, but the Angels will certainly prefer to let one or two of those pitchers surprise them, rather than count on them for a prominent role.Beyond starting pitching, the Angels could probably stand to upgrade at catcher. They have Max Stassi, who is coming off hip surgery, and Kevan Smith. Yasmani Grandal is the top free agent catcher, although it’s difficult to imagine the Angels being able to afford him while still making the necessary upgrades to the rotation. Cheaper alternatives include Travis d’Arnaud, Robinson Chirinos and Martín Maldonado. A former Angel, Maldonado became Cole’s personal catcher at the end of this season in Houston.Related Articles Angels’ poor pitching spoils an Albert Pujols milestone SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When Billy Eppler convenes with his colleagues at baseball’s GM meetings, starting on Monday, it will signal an acceleration into the business of what appears to be a critical winter for the organization.Two months ago the Angels merely picked up Eppler’s option, rather than extending his contract. Then they fired manager Brad Ausmus with two years left on his deal and replaced him with Joe Maddon.Those moves would seem to indicate that patience is running thin from owner Arte Moreno after the team’s fourth straight losing season.“We are in the entertainment business,” Moreno said at Maddon’s introductory press conference a couple weeks ago. “If you want people coming to the ballpark, or watching or listening, you want to be able to put a product out there… We have a lot of loyal fans. We’ve built a loyal fan base, but the reality is we need to perform, so when people come out here they have a little more fun. It’s more fun on the winning side.” Angels’ Shohei Ohtani spending downtime working in outfield Angels offense breaks out to split doubleheader with Astros center_img For his part, Eppler insisted he is feeling no more pressure than at any other time during his tenure. Having come from the high-intensity world of the New York Yankees, Eppler said he tries to maintain the same philosophy each year.“I approach every season like it’s my first year on the job, regardless of if it’s my fifth year, 10th year, whatever,” he said. “I grew up in a pretty adverse environment in New York. I had a lot of training. I understand you focus on what you can control, focus on doing your job, focus on putting the strongest team that you can on the field, and let everything happen as it comes.”Skeptical fans will certainly question Eppler’s plan after what happened last winter. The Angels brought in Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey, Cody Allen, Jonathan Lucroy and Justin Bour, and none of them delivered.As the Angels head into this offseason, there are a few reasons to believe that this winter could work out better.First, Moreno has indicated that the payroll will go up, although it remains to be seen how much. The Angels figure to have at least $30 million, plus whatever increase Moreno makes available. Given his frustration with the team’s performance after last year’s deals, it’s reasonable to suspect that Moreno may be willing to open his wallet a little more to acquire a higher caliber of player. Angels’ Mike Trout working on his defense, thanks to Twitter The good news is that the Angels can probably afford to stand pat everywhere except the rotation, and possibly behind the plate. Position players like David Fletcher, Tommy La Stella, Brian Goodwin and Luís Rengifo all emerged into 2019 as productive major leaguers, and Jo Adell figures to be on the way. Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons both had down seasons because of injuries, so the Angels can be optimistic that they’ll rebound.And, of course, this winter they also have one element they didn’t last winter: They know Mike Trout’s future. Having inked Trout to a 12-year, $426.5-million deal in March, the Angels not only have the certainty of having him on the roster, but they can use that to sell to other free agents who a year ago may have been unsure.All of that provides a foundation on which Eppler will need to start building something better than what he has so far.“We thought we were being active last year,” Moreno said. “We just didn’t get it done. We want to win… Every year, the way I want to run our business, we shouldn’t be taking steps back.” Jose Suarez’s rocky start sinks Angels in loss to Astros last_img read more

On deck: Reds at Dodgers, Sunday, 1:10 p.m.

first_imgTV: SportsNet LA (where available)Where: Dodger StadiumTHE PITCHERS Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error LHP HYUN-JIN RYU (2-6, 4.08 ERA)Vs. Reds: 2-1, 3.54 ERAAt Dodger Stadium: 13-10, 3.23 ERAcenter_img Hates to face: Arismendy Alcantara, 3 for 4 (.750), 1 doubleLoves to face: Zack Cozart, 0 for 7, 4 strikeoutsRHP TIM ADLEMAN (4-2, 4.42 ERA)Vs. Dodgers: 1-0, 0.00 ERAAt Dodger Stadium: Has never pitched there beforeHates to face: Adrian Gonzalez, 1 for 3 (.333), 1 doubleLoves to face: Yasmani Grandal, 0 for 2last_img

LA Lakers’ Byron Scott likes D’Angelo Russell’s progression, but is it enough to become a leader?

first_imgThe sample size filled with stronger production and increased minutes in a starting role made Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell credit something that went beyond his control. “I have more freedom and a longer leash,” Russell said. “Earlier in the year, it was no leash.”The Lakers (11-49) enter Tuesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets (17-42) at Staples Center with Russell averaging 17 points on 50 percent shooting and 5.25 assists in 31.5 minutes since becoming a starter. That marks a sharp contrast from his season averages of 12.3 points on 41.8 percent shooting and 3.5 assists in 27.3 minutes per contest.Yet, Lakers coach Byron Scott downplayed whether Russell’s improved numbers stemmed from increased playing time. “I don’t think I loosened it up. He’s just getting more comfortable in his role,” Scott said. “I don’t feel it was that tight in the first place.”Russell lost his starting spot 20 games into the season and often sat in late-game stretches. But Scott argued Russell received his starting spot back as he sensed improvement with his playmaking, consistency and work ethic.“He’s getting more comfortable and his confidence is growing,” Scott said. “His practice habits have gotten so much better.”Yet, Scott sounded unsure on if Russell could become the Lakers’ leader.“He could, but that’s not something you can appoint,” Scott said. “Guys are going to follow guys they believe in and they know about the right stuff.” Russell argued he has leadership qualities. But as the Lakers’ No. 2 draft pick, he believes he needs to build credibility. “He’s being a little reluctant,” Scott said of Russell. “I think that the guys respect him. But they’re still sitting there and saying you have to show me this is something you want to do.” But Scott reported that Chris Paul earned immediate respect as rookie when he coached him in New Orleans (2005-06) by showing something Scott believes Russell has not fully mastered. “His work ethic has to be that guys are seeing he’s willing to bust his butt every single day to get better,” Scott said. “Is he a Kobe Bryant type worker? I don’t think we have that kind of worker. But he is a guy that works.”Practice makes perfectA quirk in the NBA schedule suggested the Lakers would enjoy Saturday off. But not in Scott’s world.“If you’re going to play like crap,” Scott said, “you’re going to practice a whole lot.”But does Scott fear that would cause resentment in the locker room?“Is that something I worry about? No.” Scott said. “We have a bunch of good guys who want to be good.”Standings raceThere appears little intrigue for Tuesday’s game against Brooklyn, except for one thing. Whoever loses the game could benefit in the NBA draft lottery in late May. “I can’t control that,” Scott said. “That has nothing to do with me at all or our team. The bottom line for us is to continue to grow and keep playing.”Injury updateScott expressed optimism Bryant will play both on Tuesday vs. Brooklyn and on Wednesday in Denver after missing Friday’s game vs. Memphis with a sore right shoulder. center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

Amid swirl of controversy, Lakers introduce Frank Vogel as head coach

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersIf nothing else, Vogel rolled in a surreal morning in which the excitement of the Lakers introducing the coach they hope can break a six-year playoff drought was dampened by dirty laundry airing from the previous season. The former Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic coach, who has a 304-291 overall record on the sideline, did his best to steer the conversation from the difficult past to what he sees as a team with “tremendous promise.”Inheriting a roster with LeBron James, a number of recent first-round picks, and cap space for an additional star salary and the No. 4 pick in the next draft, Vogel said he was brimming with optimism. But he emphasized that while his success will ultimately be judged by the ability to get back to the postseason – which is an urgent issue for a franchise which has never been shut out from the playoffs for this long – his approach will be characterized by staying present and creating a strong work ethic within the Lakers organization.“We are going to be focused on the work: the day-to-day, stay in the moment,” he said. “How do we get better at practice? How do we win the next game? Focus on the task at hand, and then those accolades, those achievements, those results, they will come.”Among the many awkward questions for the Lakers at Monday’s press conference, General Manager Rob Pelinka was asked to account for how the team came to Vogel after a month-long search for Luke Walton’s replacement that had other favorites before Vogel. Notably, the Lakers were close to terms with Tyronn Lue, who had previously coached James to the 2016 championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, when negotiations broke down over the length of his contract offer (reportedly just three years) as well as the Lakers desiring to place former Nets and Bucks coach Jason Kidd on his staff.Neither of those appeared to be problems for Vogel, who acknowledged Kidd’s role as one of his assistants and is reportedly on a three-year deal. But Pelinka said Vogel ended up standing out from the initial list of names for his detailed preparation, his outlined vision for the Lakers’ style of play, and his playoff success of reaching back-to-back Eastern Conference finals with the Pacers. Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers PreviousLos Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel conducts an interview at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. Vogel was most recently the head coach at the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)Los Angeles Lakers player LeBron James watches as his new head coach Frank Vogel, foreground, conducts an interview after Vogel was introduced as the Lakers new head coach at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG) SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsLos Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel conducts an interview at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. Vogel was most recently the head coach at the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)Los Angeles Lakers player LeBron James watches from the back of the gym as Frank Vogel is introduced as the Lakers new head coach at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. Vogel was most recently the head coach at the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, left, introduces Frank Vogel as the Lakers new head coach at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. Vogel was most recently the head coach at the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)Los Angeles Lakers player LeBron James wipes his brow as he watches from the back of the gym after Frank Vogel was introduced as the Lakers new head coach at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. Vogel was most recently the head coach at the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, left, watches Frank Vogel talks about his role as the Lakers new head coach at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. Vogel was most recently the head coach at the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, left, introduces Frank Vogel as the Lakers new head coach at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. Vogel was most recently the head coach at the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, left, and general manager Rob Pelinka arrives for a press conference at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. Vogel was most recently the head coach at the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)Los Angeles Lakers senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis arrives for the press conference announcing Frank Vogel as the Lakers new head coach at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. Vogel was most recently the head coach at the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel conducts an interview at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. Vogel was most recently the head coach at the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)NextShow Caption1 of 10Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel conducts an interview at their training facility in El Segundo on Monday, May 20, 2019. Vogel was most recently the head coach at the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)ExpandEL SEGUNDO — During the hiring process, the Lakers told Frank Vogel something that was immediately reinforced in his first week at work: This ain’t Indiana.That manifested in topsy-turvy fashion on Monday morning, as Vogel spent most of his 26-minute introductory press conference as head coach of the Lakers silently listening as his general manager handled accusations of backstabbing from the outgoing team president.It didn’t throw the 45-year-old New Jersey native off his message – that he’s here to instill a positive, forward-thinking culture to a franchise in need of one – but even Vogel acknowledged it was a little outside his normal operating procedure.“It’s a little different,” Vogel said. “Definitely different than I expected and different than I’ve ever been a part of. But I understand the line of questioning, in light of the events of this morning, so you just roll with the punches.” “Throughout the process, he just continued to emerge as someone that had those qualities I talked about at the beginning of this and we celebrate that,” he said. “He is the coach. He is the right guy for this job.”Vogel shares an agent with Lue and was initially excited to be an assistant on Lue’s staff in Los Angeles. But once Lue bowed out, the Lakers “moved quickly” to interview him for the top coaching job and make him an offer.“It’s very emotional and exciting,” he said from the dais. “I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty cool to be up here right now.”Vogel’s belief that the future holds brighter things applies to his own coaching style, which he said has evolved since his days in Indiana. A disciple of Rick Pitino, Vogel built Indiana teams which won with defensive grit and just enough on the offensive end. But as the NBA has changed, so has he, he said, and in Orlando, he tried to grow a more 3-point-oriented style that he continued to study into his “sabbatical year” since he was fired from the Magic in 2018.Under his leadership, Vogel said the Lakers will aim to create an “outside-in” approach to offense which will rely on the threat of 3-point shooting to set up attacking the rim. It puts an impetus on the front office to add shooting in free agency to a team that finished 29th in 3-point percentage (33.3). On defense, Vogel will shoot for an inverse approach: a scheme predicated on protecting the rim and the paint first.“I’m really, really excited about the chance to instill my beliefs of how it’s going to look,” Vogel said.Kidd’s hire has incited speculation since it was first reported: As a former assistant coach who has a pre-existing relationship with James who has had sometimes turbulent relationships with coaches and management, outsiders have wondered if Kidd would function as an in-house replacement for Vogel if his tenure gets off to a rough start.Vogel literally laughed at the suggestion.“You can’t worry about looking over your shoulder,” he said. “You gotta worry about getting good damn coaches. That’s how I feel about this hire.”Vogel said he had extensive conversations with Kidd, whose hire has not been officially announced by the organization, and that he believed Kidd would be “an incredible asset” in what he hopes will be a collaborative coaching staff.Asked about Kidd’s history of domestic violence (he pled guilty to spousal abuse in 2000 as a player), Vogel said it did initially concern him, but he and Kidd had spoken about it: “This was something that was in the past and he’s sort of spoken upon it and moved on from it. I believe he’s in a very different place than back then.”Related Articles How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years center_img Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions The introduction was attended by most of the Lakers’ front office staff and several players, most notably James who stood in the wings of the team’s practice facility and did not speak publicly to reporters. Vogel’s Pacers teams twice clashed in the conference finals with James’ Miami Heat teams, once pushing them to seven games before the Heat prevailed. Vogel said his conversations with James had been “very positive,” and he sounded hopeful that the culture he built in Indiana would help inform their future relationship and buy in his investment.He didn’t see a clash of ideology trying to coach a young group along with a veteran of James’ stature: “Every player I’ve ever been around that’s, quite frankly, worth a damn wants to be challenged and wants to be pushed and wants to be coached hard and wants to be held accountable.”Vogel is the latest in an unsteady chain of coaches: He’s the fifth coach the Lakers have hired since Phil Jackson left in 2011. None have lasted longer than Walton, who coached for three years without bringing the Lakers back to the postseason, finishing his final campaign with a 37-45 record marred by injuries.Even on a day when the baggage of the last era was still front and center, Vogel remained undaunted – and promised that true change is forthcoming.“There’s a positive vibe happening with our team right now,” he said. “There really is. OK? And it’s just one of those things where you’re going to have to wait and see, but you’re going to be happy with the product that we put on the floor this year and where we’re going as an organization. You really are.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more