Friday, April 5, 2013

Over the course of the 2013 calendar season -- brought to you by former Angels beat writer Joe Haakenson who covered the Anaheim Angels 2002 Championship club -- we will be posting these detailed game summaries that Joe compiled throughout the 2002 campaign.

Joe Haakenson is a veteran baseball writer and a voter for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was the Angels' beat writer for 15 seasons in Southern California newspapers that include the Los Angeles Daily News, and is the author of Out of the Blue and 100 Things Angels Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die.. Joe lives in Huntington Beach, California.

Back to the feature series we're going to run throughout the year. You all know it starts off rough, 6-14, but bear with these until game 21 up in Seattle when the 2002 Anaheim Angels turned their season around, and never looked back. With all the incredible insight, stats, player updates, quotes that Joe compiled throughout the '02 season, we the fans can reflect, reminisce and then discuss what was the greatest complete season in Angels history on The Internet Home For Angels fans.

I just wanted to thank Joe for his contributions to that I'll will unravel one thread at a time. Be sure to pick up his latest book 100 Things Angels Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die as a thank you to him, and an incredible read for yourself.

By Monday, with posting a couple a day over the weekend, I will be caught up with the dates and lined up with this series on April 8th.

Enjoy the first in this series below. I encourage discussion & comments as we go back in time together, reliving this incredible season that we'll never forget.

MARCH 31, 2002

By Joe Haakenson, Contributor

ANAHEIM -- The new-look, new-attitude Angels opened the 2002 major league baseball season by getting an old-fashioned whoopin' at the hands of the Cleveland Indians Sunday night before a sellout crowd of 42,697 at Edison Field and a national television audience.

The Indians' offense scored four runs almost before the Navy Seal skydivers had left the field following a pre-game demonstration, and pitcher Bartolo Colon was nearly unhittable in throwing a five-hit shutout in a 6-0 Indians victory.

''The game was really anti-climatic,'' Angels right fielder Tim Salmon said, referring to the pre-game festivities. ''As much as you'd like it to be the other way around, you know you've still got 161 left. Colon threw a great game; he threw like Nolan Ryan out  there.''

The revamped Angels offense, decked out in their new red and white uniforms, struggled to catch up to Colon's 97-mph fastball all night. And when they geared up for that fastball, Colon fooled them with his slider.

Colon had made 88 pitches entering the ninth, when he gave up a leadoff single to Garret Anderson. But he got Troy Glaus to hit into a double play and Brad Fullmer to ground out to first and complete the game making an economical 98 pitches.

''We didn't put a lot of pressure on him to get his pitch count up and make him work,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''Part of it was due to the way he was throwing the ball. He wasn't going deep into counts because he was executing his pitches.''

Angels starter Jarrod Washburn found trouble at the outset, allowing the first five Indians batters to reach base. He walked Matt Lawton to open the game, then yielded consecutive singles to Omar Vizquel, Ellis Burks, Jim Thome and Travis Fryman.

And it didn't help Washburn's cause that Salmon mixed in a throwing error in the inning.

Still, Washburn nearly got out of the inning only two runs in the hole because he got Ricky Gutierrez to hit into a 5-2-3 double play. But Milton Bradley followed with a two-run single and a 4-0 Indians lead.

''I felt great but I made some bad pitches and they made me pay,'' Washburn said. ''And walking the leadoff guy never helps. They got some bloopers that fell, but that's baseball.''

Angels catcher Bengie Molina said he thought Washburn threw better than he has all spring, but the Indians did a good job of putting the ball in play.

''He was hitting his spots, but the balls just fell in holes,'' Molina said. ''You've got to give them credit for putting the bat on the ball.''

Bottom line, the Angels were down before Colon even took the mound.

''Everyone's excited and pumped up for the first game and before we even get a chance to bat we're down, 4-0,'' Washburn said. ''It all falls on me right there.''

Washburn settled down after the first, allowing one run (home run by Fryman) and three hits during the next four innings. By then, he had made 91 pitches and he was finished after five innings.

Angels relievers Donne Wall (two scoreless innings) and Lou Pote (one scoreless inning) held the Indians without a hit after Washburn left, but the Indians broke through in the ninth against Mark Lukasiewicz for one run and two hits.

Through seven innings, the Angels managed only three hits -- singles by Darin Erstad, Benji Gil and Anderson -- and got only one baserunner as far as second base.

The Angels nearly got something going in the eighth after David Eckstein poked one inside first and down the right-field line for a double with one out. He moved to third when Erstad grounded out, but was stranded when Salmon struck out.

''We faced a guy that had great stuff and he just dominated,'' Salmon said. ''He didn't give you many good pitches to hit, and when he did, it was 97 miles an hour. So, is that really a good pitch?''


ANAHEIM -- When Adam Kennedy last played at Edison Field, he didn't know where he stood with the organization. Confused and unhappy about being benched in favor of Benji Gil occasionally, Kennedy knew he had to win back his starting job at second base this spring.

He did, hitting .439 during spring training while improving his defense. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said last season's situation was more a compliment to Gil than criticism of Kennedy, but Kennedy knew he had to step up his game if he was going to figure into the club's future plans.

''Part of stepping into the batter's box and being a good hitter is being confident,'' Kennedy said. ''I knew it was going to be a long off-season. I wanted to feel like a hitter again. And now I have confidence going into the season.''

Defensively, Kennedy needed work turning the double play. Early in spring training, ex-Angel Bobby Grich served as a guest instructor and helped Kennedy.

''Finding a style of turning the double play is what I was lacking,'' he said. ''I think I figured it out with help from Mike (Scioscia), (coach) Alfredo (Griffin) and Bobby Grich. Getting everybody else's style and putting together what works best for me.''


First baseman Scott Spiezio took batting practice, suited up for pre-game introductions, then went back into the clubhouse to lift weights and watch the game on TV. Such is the life of a player suspended to start the season.

Spiezio was suspended for his role in the March 9 fight with the San Diego Padres. It has since been reduced from six games to five, leaving the Angels to go with Gil as their first baseman for the first week of the season.

Gil is primarily a middle infielder, but has been able to make the necessary adjustments having played most of his career as a utility player.

''It's hard to put me at one position for a long time,'' Gil said. ''As a utility player I practice all positions because I could get in a game at any position.''


Shawn Wooten, recovering from thumb surgery, said he is planning to come back as early June 1. Doctors said initially it would be the All-Star break -- mid-July -- before he could come back. But Wooten said he'll have his cast off in three weeks and be able to begin rehab.

Wooten, who has been able to do some light weight-lifting and cardio work, has tried to keep his spirits up in the meantime.

''It's been tough ... I should've been a farmer,'' he said.


Scioscia said his most memorable opening day as a player came in 1981, after Dodgers pitcher Jerry Reuss suffered a calf injury and was replaced by Fernando Valenzuela, who shut out the Houston Astros.

''It was my first opening-day start,'' Scioscia said. ''I was 22 and Fernando was 20. What an experience.''

Going back to last season, the Angels have lost eight in a row and 20 of 22 overall. … Sunday's shutout loss was the second in team history on opening day. They were blanked by the Yankees in the opener in 1968.

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