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SoCal Exclusive: Al Balderas


Anyone who is a subscriber to The Orange County Register will be familiar with today’s interview subject: Al Balderas. Balderas has no peer when it comes to coverage of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. So, we got him talking about the Mark Teixeira trade, the frustrating Gary Matthews, and the upcoming pennant race.

Q: Casey Kotchman said that it was a blessing to go to Atlanta . Do you think that he’s happy to be leaving Anaheim ?

I don’t think that Casey Kotchman is happy to be leaving Anaheim because this is the organization in which he began his professional career. The Angels are the team that drafted him and gave him the opportunity to make it to the major leagues. Also, Casey’s father, Tom, is still an employee of the Angels.

With that said, I don’t think he’s disappointed to be going to the Braves. The team is young, for the most part, and he’ll have a chance to develop, grow and mature with players similar to himself. This move gives Casey the opportunity to grow into a team leader and I believe that this is an opportunity that he’s looking forward to.

Q: The trade for Mark Teixeira was obviously a major move. Is there a possibility that Teixeira re-signs with the club, or is he strictly a rental player?

There is a very good possibility that Teixeira will re-sign with the Angels. His asking price will obviously be steep ($18-20 million per season) which means that there are very few teams who would be willing to pay that much for one season, much less a multi-year deal. The Angels are a team that has the resources to pay that kind of money.

Owner Arte Moreno wouldn’t say if the team would take steps to re-sign Teixeira after the season but he also didn’t say that he wouldn’t. He would like to keep the team payroll in the neighborhood that it’s in now, so that means he would probably have to cut some players loose, win some arbitration cases and rely on minor league graduates to fill in some of the holes if he hopes to keep Teixeira.

Moreno does have an insurance policy by the name of Kendry Morales, who is supposedly ready to play at the major league level, if Teixeira can’t be re-signed.

Q: What should be done with Gary Matthews Jr .? He is batting just. 225, has two bum knees, and is a sure-fire bet to ground out every time he steps to the plate. Should he be designed for assignment, sent to the minors, benched permanently, or given a chance to play everyday?

I think Mike Scioscia was more than patient with Gary Matthews Jr., when he allowed him to play regularly during the first half of the season. It’s become obvious that Juan Rivera is taking advantage of the opportunity to play every day now.

Matthews is signed through the 2011 season and is earning $10 million per season so the Angels would be smart to try to get something for Matthews. Releasing him wouldn’t bring anything in return. If they can swing some sort of trade, they would most likely have to pay for a good chunk of his contract.

He is still a talented player but its just not happening for him. The Angels could use him as a late-inning replacement, a pinch-hitter or something like that but at $10 million per season?

I’d be surprised if he came back next season.

Q: In the days before the deadline, there were a lot of people who were suggesting that the team needed to go out and get a left-handed reliever. As currently constructed is the bullpen consisting of Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, Jose Arredondo, Justin Speier, Darren Oliver, and Darren O’Day, good enough to lead the Angels deep into October?

The bullpen remains one of the Angels’ strengths. Scioscia has made it a point to use Rodriguez and Shields sparingly, limiting them to specific situations. Rodriguez will not be asked to pitch more than one inning, which is something he did on occasion last season. Scioscia would also like to keep Shields on a tighter leash.

With the Angels’ offense finally coming to life, the Angels aren’t going to find themlseves in as many close games as they did during the first half of the season. That means save situations won’t be as common and Rodriguez and Shields should get some more rest as a result.

Jose Arredondo has been a pleasant surprise and recent callup Shane Loux (who replaced O’Day) is getting some pretty strong reviews. Their lone lefty, Darren Oliver has a 3.28 ERA, and Scioscia is not afraid to use him.

The only reliever with some inconsistency is Justin Speier, who has an ERA of 4.79 but there is no reason to think that the Angels’ bullpen will falter before late October.

Q: If the Angels are unable to win the World Series , will this season be considered a major disappointment?

Absolutely. The team’s goal, coming into the season, was the same as the other 29 teams out there – to win the World Series. Adding Torii Hunter to the lineup seemed to make the Angels one of the few teams that was realistically capable of reaching that goal.

While there was a little bit of a letdown with the way the way the first half went (struggling offense, struggling Gary Matthews Jr.), the addition of Mark Teixeira and the continued success of the starting pitchers has given new life to that goal. Anything less than winning the World Series would be a pretty big disappointment at this point.