And so it begins....
On Monday morning, Vernon Wells arrived at the stadium to find his name not in the lineup card. Moments later Mike Scioscia called him into the office and asked that he shut the door behind him. You don't have to be around a lot of major league clubhouses to know that this is generally a bad sign. Three games into the 2012 season and Vernon Wells may already be in danger of losing his job. The Angels are rightfully trying to salvage anything they can out of the deal that sent the slugger from homer-friendly Rogers Centre in Toronto to the pitching friendly confines of Angel Stadium in Anaheim. By the sound of things (and Vernon's .154 batting average and relatively poor spring) that attempt is not going very well.
Wells admitted that in 2011 he felt he was pressing, trying to be worth the ridiculous contract, trying to carry a struggling Angels offense, trying to prove himself worthy of the deal that brought him to Southern California. Some optimistic Angels fans were willing to buy it and give him a free pass on the 2011 season. 2012 would be different, Vernon would be different. He'd have to be if he wanted to hold onto his job. No one questions the left-fielder's effort, just his ability these days. Wells even went so far as seeking the help of hitting guru Rudy Jaramillo in the offseason in an effort to rebuild his swing and make him a productive hitter again. The batting stance is a little different and theoretically so should the approach. However, the results have been largely the same. Vernon still dives out over the zone on outside pitches he needs to stay back on. He attempts to pull them out to leftfield and either ends up popping up or hitting a weak grounder. He's constantly behind in the count, swings at bad pitches and takes ones worth swinging at. We don't even know Vernon's approach on inside pitches because no pitcher is actually dumb enough to try and pitch him inside when he's an automatic out on the outside corner.
The problems with Vernon not producing are all within. His mechanics, his mentality, his approach, it's all off right now. But it's the outside influences that may have more effect on his playing time.
- Maicer Izturis has all of three AB's through the first three games of the season. Mike Scioscia will undoubtedly find a way to get him into the lineup more often. Moving Kendrick to LF and Izturis to second base is a legitimate option.
- Alexi Amarista is spending a lot of time on the bench right now. He hit his way onto this team and it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to get him and his hot bat into the game in LF.
- Mike Scioscia idiotically promised Bobby Abreu a boatload of playing time this offseason. The worst part, Abreu's playing the field when he's in the lineup. I'm not the only one who clearly realizes Bobby Abreu is the worst defensive outfielder in baseball, but if you're Vernon Wells and you're own manager is willing to swallow that large of a hole in the defense just to get your bat out of the lineup, you know things are going bad.
- Mark Trumbo's experiment at third base isn't going very well yet. Should he continue to struggle defensively, it wouldn't be hard to imagine Trumbo doing just fine in a corner outfield spot.
- Mike Trout is hitting .500 in AAA. I'm just sayin'.....
- Kole Calhoun is clearly not over-matched in AAA, I'm still just sayin'.....
There are a lot of options for the Angels in leftfield right now. It remains doubtful that the Angels would pull the plug and outright release Wells just yet. He could be a useful power bat off the bench and be a fine defensive option as a fourth outfielder. But he's inching ever closer to what many fans saw as an inevitable outcome, Vernon Wells will play himself out of the lineup. With every Wells strikeout, every Trout base hit, and every Trumbo long ball, the Angels and Wells inch closer to a bittersweet end. Bitter in that Wells will earn 21 million a year for the next three years. Bitter in that Wells cost the Angels Mike Napoli. Yet sweet in that then lineup could improve greatly with Trumbo and Trout getting the playing time in leftfield.