ANAHEIM, Calif. – Justin Speier dashed through the Los Angeles Angels’ clubhouse Thursday, wearing a wet suit and toting a boogie board, with his flippers slapping against the carpet.
“Coach, is there practice today?” he yelled to manager Mike Scioscia, who couldn’t help but smile and wave his arm dismissively in the pitcher’s direction.
The rest of the Angels laughed out loud, with Speier’s monkeying around clearly having the desired effect of loosening up a team coming off its record-tying 10th consecutive playoff loss to the Boston Red Sox.
“He probably did just come from the beach, knowing Justin,” Scioscia said, pausing a beat before tossing out his own one-liner.
“I expressed to him the next pair of flippers he wears will be cement flippers.”
With their AL Division Series taking a break Thursday, the Angels had plenty of time to contemplate – or forget – their 4-1 loss in Wednesday’s opener against the same team that swept them in their last two playoff series.
“A lot of guys have to have amnesia and let that go,” said Torii Hunter, who urged his teammates to “get the dog in you.”
In Hunter’s vernacular that means “be a little more aggressive and not be too timid.”
For anyone who still didn’t get the point, Hunter compared the series to a football game.
“We’ve been hit and guys are ready to go,” he said. “We have to be more patient and make the right decisions.”
Especially Friday night against Boston ace Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3), who was 9-0 on the road in the regular season. The right-hander with the unusual delivery is known for stretching the strike zone with his pitches.
The Angels counter with Ervin Santana (16-7), who didn’t face the Red Sox in the regular season, when Los Angeles won eight of nine matchups. He r is 1-2 with a 5.73 ERA in four career starts against them.
“He’s throwing the ball well and he’s confident,” said catcher Mike Napoli, who will be replaced by Jeff Mathis on Friday since Santana had a 14-4 record and 2.88 ERA when he and Mathis teamed during the regular season.
If the Red Sox can win Friday, they’ll go home knowing ace Josh Beckett remains on schedule to start Game 3 Sunday.
Beckett, originally set to start Game 1, injured a muscle in his side last Friday during a bullpen session. He threw a side session Thursday.
Helton has surgery
DENVER – Colorado first baseman Todd Helton had surgery on his lower back and is expected to be ready for spring training.
Helton, a career .328 hitter, batted just .264 with seven homers and 29 RBIs in 83 games this season. His balky back sent him to the disabled list for the third time in his 12-year career and first since 2006.
Mets to keep Minaya
NEW YORK – Omar Minaya is staying as general manager of the New York Mets. Jerry Manuel is likely to remain as manager. Players, however, could be on the move.
Following the Mets’ second straight September collapse, fans are angry with the team, the front office and the players.
“They all work hard. They all prepare. They all care. All those ingredients are there. So what is it that we lack? What is it that we need to get across that finish line?” Minaya said Thursday when his contract was announced.
“When we bring in personnel into New York, into this environment, are they able to handle the pressures that go with it? Those things do have to be considered.”