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Senior Baseball Columnist

Angels' firing of scout Bane looks bad with success of Trout, Weaver, Trumbo

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Eddie Bane signed slugger Kendrys Morales as an international free agent in 2005. (US Presswire)  
Eddie Bane signed slugger Kendrys Morales as an international free agent in 2005. (US Presswire)  

Mike Trout is the most exciting thing to happen to baseball since the concession-stand hot dog. He's arguably the very best player in the game, even after he spotted everybody else a month this summer. At 21, he is the youngest to ever -- as in, ever -- produce a 25-homer/40-theft season.

He also pilots the Angels charter flights, personally cleans the halo above the Big A in the parking lot and feeds the Rally Monkey before he goes home each night.

Well ... some of those last items might not be true, technically. But this is: A total of 23 players were chosen by 21 different clubs in the 2009 draft before the Angels picked outfielder Randal Grichuk 24th and Trout 25th.

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For this, you would think the genius who drafted Trout for the Angels would have been rewarded with, what? A lifetime contract? A Lamborghini? A personal masseuse?

Instead, Eddie Bane got fired.

Then-general manager Tony Reagins summoned Bane, Angels' scouting director from 2004-2010, into his office two years ago and told him to get lost.

"Real short conversation," says Bane, who now scouts for the Detroit Tigers. "He said, 'We're not going to renew your contract.' I said, 'You've gotta be kidding me.' He said, 'I don't like your last couple of drafts.' "

Stuff happens in baseball every day, some things more unexpected than others. Even lifers like Bane know you're hired to be fired. In Houston this week, first-year general manager Jeff Luhnow's reorganization of the Astros included dumping a handful of veteran scouts, including Scipio Spinks and Jack Lind.

"Scouts hate this time of year, the end of August, early September," Bane says. "Because after the draft, that's when guys get let go.

"It drives a stake through your heart because you see guys on the road all the time, and then all of a sudden you don't see them anymore."

But ... you find a Trout and you're still a short-timer?

The Angels, with Bane drafting, also acquired All-Stars Jered Weaver and Mark Trumbo (2004). Trumbo smashed his career-high 30th home run the other day, becoming the first Angel to club 30 or more homers in a season since Kendrys Morales in 2009.

Morales? Signed by Bane as an international free agent in 2005.

Also from the '09 draft came pitchers Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin, whom Reagins wound up trading to Arizona as part of the four-player package for pitcher Dan Haren on July 25, 2010 -- about a month before the GM dismissed Bane.

Skaggs (supplemental first-round pick) and Corbin (second round) followed Trout in '09. So did Angels pitcher Garrett Richards (3-3, 4.84 ERA in 14 games, nine starts), who also was another supplemental first-round pick in '09.

"Saying he didn't like that draft was like a slap in my face, because those were really good drafts," Bane says. "You look at Dan Haren, who is a really good pitcher, but I never understood that trade because you knew how good Skaggs was going to be, and Corbin had potential.

"Skaggs has got a chance to be a No. 1 starter, and Corbin is almost a lock to be a No. 3. That was the one that bothered me the most."

There are many reasons why the Rangers have replaced the Angels as the elite team in the AL West. Chief among them is that, while the Angels' baseball operations department became dysfunctional during the Reagins era (2008-2011) under owner Arte Moreno, the Rangers' brain trust emerged state-of-the-art under club president Nolan Ryan and GM Jon Daniels. First-year Angels GM Jerry Dipoto and his staff, almost entirely new, are playing from behind in attempting to close that gap.

The Angels, through a club spokesperson, declined to speak on the subject of Bane's firing this week.

"Everyone knows we didn't get along," Bane says of Reagins.

Nevertheless, scouts become so invested in the players they bring into an organization that they often view them as family. And so it is that, from afar, Bane continues rooting for his guys (when they're not playing the Tigers, of course).

"Without a doubt," Bane says. "I get texts from those guys, and I text 'em back."

"He texts my parents quite a bit, and he still keeps in touch with me," Trout says. "He's a great dude. I thought he was a great guy.

"I guess the Angels wanted to go their separate way."

When the Angels were in final deliberations leading up to the '09 draft, Bane flew East for what since has become a storied dinner with the Trout family. They went to a place just outside of Trout's home town of Millville, N.J., to become better acquainted.

"You could tell they were really good people," Bane says. "His parents bragged on his brother and daughter, too. Not just on Mike. Everybody got cut down, and then everybody got boosted up.

"You could tell nobody was phony. Mike acted how he wanted."

Trumbo, too, continues to keep in touch with Bane.

"He was the main reason I got a chance," says Trumbo, the Angels' 18th-round pick in '04. "He believed in me when a lot of people had doubts.

"That's really special to me. You never forget."

Trumbo, in fact, vividly remembers the first time he met Bane: During a Fall Ball game before his senior year of high school, when Trumbo was warming up in the bullpen before pitching at Cal State Fullerton.

"Phil Hughes threw the first inning," Trumbo says of his old teammate, who now pitches for the Yankees. "I threw the second inning. Every week."

From those early days, relationships -- and careers -- are shaped.

"We're all big boys," says Bane, 60, who also is responsible for drafting fleet outfielder Peter Bourjos (2005) on the current Angels' roster (and Paul Konerko when he was with the Dodgers in the 1980s). "Everybody understands things happen."

He pitched for the Twins from 1973-76, coached in the minors and then started as a scout with the Indians in the mid-1980s, learning under executives Joe Klein and Birdie Tebbetts.

"Those guys were like my grandfathers," Bane says. "When I thought I knew everything, they let me know I didn't. Joe Klein used to say there are good people in every organization. Sometimes I think we can forget that."

So the game delivers reminders.

"I'm really lucky I ended up where I did," Bane says. "Dave Dombrowski [Tigers' GM] and Scott Reid [special assistant to the GM] have been great.

"Jim Leyland, Gene Lamont ... they're all baseball people, and they're tremendous. Dave is just a genius in making everybody feel like they're involved."

Crazy, how this game can produce bad bounces and true hops, sometimes both at the same time. While Bane's pulse is with the Tigers, his fingerprints remain evident all over the Angels.

"I didn't know he had that kind of power," Bane says of Trout. "Maybe when he'd be 26, 27 years old. But he's hitting balls a real long way now. He's driving in runs, playing the outfield, running the bases ... and he does it all with so much enthusiasm.

"That's what's infectious. And I think he'll be doing that his whole life."

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Player News
Redmond: Jose Fernandez to throw off mound 'within the next few days'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:26 am ET) Marlins manager Mike Redmond said Friday starting pitcher Jose Fernandez could throw off a mound "within the next few days," per The Miami Herald. It will be the first time he throws off a mound since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.

MLB.com reported last week Fernandez could throw off a mound as early as March 1, which is Sunday.


Blue Jays not counting on Johan Santana being ready by opening day
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:22 am ET) Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Friday pitcher Johan Santana will eventually vie for a spot in the rotation, but it doesn't appear he will be ready by the season opener

Santana, who suffered a torn Achilles in June, was shut down in January after having some shoulder discomfort while pitching in the Venezuelan winter league.

“If he’s healthy, he’s gonna be good," Anthopoulos said, per the National Post. "(He is) just getting into his throwing program right now, so highly unlikely he’s ready for opening day.”

Anthopoulos said Santana's deal will pay him $2.5 million, if he makes the club. His contract also includes incentives for active days and number of starts. Santana can also opt out of his contract by April 28.


Nationals taking a cautious approach with Nate McLouth
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:39 am ET) Nationals manager Matt Williams said Thursday the team will take a cautious approach with outfielder Nate McLouth, who has started a throwing program coming off shoulder surgery in August.

"If we were to say at the end of this week that we're going to play a game and Nate was going to go two innings, we probably wouldn't do that at this point because he has got to go through that progression," Williams said, per MASNsports.com. "What that timeframe depends on is how he feels. You can look at the big picture and say well, you need X amount of rehab for this particular surgery. Everybody is different, of course. But we want to make sure that when he's ready to play, he's ready, because we don't want a setback.

"That being said, he's going through the progression of all of his throwing, he's hitting right now. He doesn't have an issue with that. It's going to get sore, we know it. So there's going to be days where he's going to have to just shut it down for that particular day. Which is frustrating because you want to play. We'll get through spring training with him and kind of monitor him on an everyday basis to see where he is at and act accordingly."


Red Sox's Betts focused on preparing for season, not OF competition
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:32 am ET) Mookie Betts knows he will have to put his best foot forward this spring in order to land a starting spot in the Red Sox's outfield. Betts, however, is not trying to think as much about the competition and rather focus on what he needs to do to prepare for the 2015 season.

“I feel as if I’m just getting ready for the season,” Betts told WEEI.com. “Whether it’s in the big leagues, Triple-A, Double-A, wherever it is, I’m just getting ready for the season and not really focusing so much on making the big-league team, just really just getting ready."

If Betts doesn't win a starting job in the outfield, then he could be a bench option for Boston instead of heading back to the minors.

“Whatever [manager John] Farrell and [general manager Ben] Cherington, whatever they do is what’s going to be best for the Red Sox,” Betts said. “And if that’s me sitting and watching, that’s perfectly fine and I’ll just fill into my role.”


Red Sox's Mujica reveals neck injury played part in 2014 struggles
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:21 am ET) Red Sox reliever Edward Mujica got off to a rocky start in 2014, posting a 6.41 ERA through the first two months of the season. He eventually settled down, posting a 2.68 ERA and seven saves over the final four months.

On Friday, Mujica revealed a neck injury played a part in his early season struggles. Mujica was diagnosed with his C1 vertebrae being out of place when he signed with the Red Sox and added the issue didn't clear up until midway through the 2014 season.

“My neck was bothering me when I got here, I got treatment and in spring training I felt good because of the weather,” Mujica said, per WEEI.com. “But then I felt sore in the neck because of the cold weather. I was also adjusting to the American League, all the teams have pretty good hitters 1-9. I just kept working every single day, watching videos, got that [physical] adjustment and got going in the second half.

“The C1 was a little moved out of place, but they put it in the right place in spring training to get through the season. With treatment every single day it helped me a lot after the first two months.”


Cardinals' Adam Wainwright targeting 2-3 weeks for spring debut
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:12 am ET) Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright is targeting 2-3 weeks before he is able to pitch in a spring game, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wainwright was diagnosed with an abdominal strain Thursday after heading back to St. Louis for further evaluation.

Wainwright will have 4-5 days of light activity before he can gradually increase his workouts. He will be re-evaluated Monday before the Cardinals decide if he can rejoin the starters’ throwing program.

“The good thing is it doesn’t hurt so I can continue to throw off the mound and face hitters,” Wainwright said. “I can throw live BP and just won’t field my position.”

With his current timetable and barring setback, Wainwright could make four starts during spring training. 

“Everybody was saying that you need to scale back your innings in spring training,” Wainwright said. “God just naturally found a way to make that happen without ticking me off. ‘OK, Adam, you don’t want to have time off? I’ll make you take time off.’”


Report: Bartolo Colon in the running to start opening day for Mets
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:55 am ET) The Mets are strongly considering veteran starting pitcher Bartolo Colon for the opening day start April 6 at Washington, multiple sources told ESPN. The sources added the Mets have narrowed the choices to Colon and one other pitcher, who was not named.

If Colon, who went 15-13 with a 4.09 ERA in 2014, gets the nod, then he would become the oldest pitcher (41 years, 317 days old) to start on opening day in the majors since Jamie Moyer (43 years, 136 days) and Randy Johnson (42 years, 205 days) in 2006. He also would become the oldest Mets' opening day starter, surpassing Tom Glavine in 2007 (41 years, 7 days). 

Colon has started six times on opening day. Dillon Gee started on opening day for the Mets last season.


Rays' Archer changes offseason program, already seeing benefits
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:45 am ET) Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer has spent the early days of spring training picking the brain of manager Kevin Cash about how Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber transformed into the 2014 AL Cy Young winner, according to The Tampa Tribune. Before taking the job with the Rays, Cash was the Indians bullpen coach (2013-14).

“Kluber has always had stuff, he just hasn’t had the success on that level,” Archer said. “And I’m trying to apply those things, because he saw it firsthand.”

Thus far, Cash has raved about Archer's bullpen sessions and said Archer appears to be game-ready. Archer believes the change in his offseason program is contributing to his promising start to spring training.

“In September, I had success but the body was tired, so I paced myself better in the offseason and I feel really good now,” Archer said. “I would just cycle it a little better to pace myself, because I’m thinking those (less intense) weeks in the offseason are going to help me feel better on the back end (of this season).

“I got to pump the brakes a little bit, because I don’t want to overdo it right now. Because what good is February and March? I’m trying to be good April through October.”


Ernesto Frieri hoping Rays pitching coach can revive career
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:32 am ET) Rays reliever Ernesto Frieri said one of the reasons he signed with Tampa Bay was for the opportunity to work with pitching coach Jim Hickey, per The Tampa Tribune.

“That’s why I’m here,” Frieri said. “I’ve seen Hickey, he’s the man. He knows what he’s doing. He fixed a couple of guys before, and I hope I’m not the exception. I’m pretty sure he’s going to give me the right information and I’m going to take advantage.”

The 29-year-old Frieri had a good run as the Angels closer in 2012 and 2013 before the wheels came off in 2014. He lost the closer's job with Los Angeles and was eventually traded to Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, he was only there a few months before more struggles led to his release.

Frieri said his 2014 struggles were because he developed bad habits. Instead of getting quicker to the plate, he was taller in his delivery, which robbed him of the deception, and caused his fastball to flatten out. The results were a 6.39 ERA with the Angels and a 10.13 ERA with the Pirates.

"(Fernando Rodney was) decent before he got here, but when he got here, wow, he got amazing,” Frieri said. “Hickey said something to him that really worked for him. Hopefully he says something to me that really works for me.”

Thus far, Frieri appears to be the ideal student.

“He seems to be extremely eager to hear what we have to say,” Hickey said. “You never know (how it will turn out), but at least it demonstrated his willingness to be open and try things.”


Report: Angels' Hamilton likely to receive suspension
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2:05 am ET) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will likely be suspended for at least 25 games, according to FoxSports.com.

Hamilton met with Major League Baseball on Wednesday for a disciplinary hearing. CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reported that Hamilton experienced a drug relapse a few months ago, and confessed that relapse to MLB. 

This is technically Hamilton's second violation as a major-leaguer. Hamilton was on the Rays 40-man roster during his first suspension, making him a major-league player. Typically, players who violate their drug treatment program for the first time are subject to a 15-25 game suspension. Given that this is Hamilton's second violation of his drug treatment program, it's unclear how severe the punishment will be.

With that said, commissioner Rob Manfred is reportedly trying to be lenient with any punishment. The league has a "favorable view of Hamilton's efforts to remain sober." Since his return to the majors, Hamilton has spoken honestly about his struggles with addition.

On top of that, Manfred is concerned about making the punishment too harsh. Hamilton's past relaspes have come when he's been away from the game. Manfred reportedly is not close to making a final decision on Hamilton's punishment at this time. 

Hamilton was already expected to miss the beginning of the season due to a shoulder surgery. It's unclear how much longer he'll be out due to a suspension.


 
 
 
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