Mike Scioscia is widely regarded as one of the best managers in the game. His Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play a National League style, never hesitating to lay down a bunt when needed.
Over the last few years, however, the Angels have been in uncharted waters.
They spent big bucks on the best power hitters in the game in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, but the duo has not delivered. C.J. Wilson, their other big purchase from the winter meetings two years ago, hasn't quite lived up to the contract that a No. 1 starter should.
While the Angels' lineup has star power, the pitching that has always been an anchor for them has begun to let them down. Since Scioscia took over in 2000, Anaheim's pitching staff has consistently ranked in the top five of the American League, ranking sixth or higher six times. Halfway through the 2013 season, however, they rank in the bottom third of the league.
Anyone who watched the Angels-Blue Jays game on Sunday, Aug. 11, saw that six Angels relievers couldn't hold a two-run lead in a 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays.
That's why the Angels' two signings on Monday could benefit them in the long run.
The Angels signed Jason Urquidez on Monday from the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League (via MLBtraderumors.com), and Dontrelle Willis, from the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League, according to Mike Aixa of CBS Sports.
LancasterOnline reported that Urquidez will report to the Angels' Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake, Utah.
Urquidez was drafted in the 17th round of the 2005 MLB amateur draft from Arizona State University. He has eight years of professional experience and over 265 appearances. Despite a 30-17 career record and a very respectable 3.54 ERA, he's never advanced past Triple-A.
That might change this year.
Urquidez put outrageous numbers with the Barnstormers. In 36 innings over 39 games, he has surrendered only 19 hits, struck out 48, walked seven and given up one earned run for a 0.25 ERA.
Make him the Angels closer right now!
Dontrelle Willis, the guy with the brightest smile in the game, has once again made it back to affiliated ball after spending all of 2013 with the Long Island Ducks. Willis has been dealing with control problems since 2007 and hasn't appeared in a big league game since he was with the Cincinnati Reds in 2011 and went 1-6 with an ERA of 5.00.
Willis has been bouncing around the minors for the past six years, spending time with the Detroit Tigers, San Francisco Giants, Reds and Baltimore Orioles organizations. In all that time he never spent more than 28 innings at any stop. A pitcher dealing with the inability to throw strikes needs a considerable amount of time in one spot to get comfortable with his surroundings and to work on his mechanics.
Look at Ricky Romero. He hasn't had nearly the same amount of struggles as Willis, but has spent the entire year—aside from one start in Single-A Dunedin—at Triple-A Buffalo. After 79 innings there, he's still battling and hasn't been recalled by the big club.
With the playoffs almost entirely out of reach for the Blue Jays, there's no use in promoting Romero unless he is absolutely ready.
Willis is having a great year with the Ducks. He is leading the Atlantic League with a 2.57 ERA, and is tied for second in the league with three shutouts. The Angels are most definitely taking a shot by signing Willis, who has nearly 90 innings under his belt this season.
It's uncertain how Willis will perform, but he has proven that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get back to the show, and a stint in the independent leagues is just a stop along the way.
Willis will also report to the Angels' Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake, according to Sports Illustrated.
Statistics courtesy Baseball Reference