10/12/2002 10:58 PM ET
Appier looks to stay on routine
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- When Angels GM Bill Stoneman pulled off his team's biggest deal of the offseason and what amounts to the biggest coup of his three-year tenure, he definitely knew what he was giving up. But he also had a very good idea what he was getting in return.
What he was giving up was the man who was supposed to take the Angels to a new level but could not: Mo Vaughn.
What he got was a man who has been a big part of the Angels' ascension to greatness this season: Kevin Appier.
When Appier takes the mound for the second time of the American League Championship Series in Sunday's Game 5 vs. the Twins and Joe Mays, the 34-year-old right-hander will continue a season that has made him a perfect fit in the Angels rotation.
Indeed, Stoneman knew what he was getting in Appier -- 30-plus starts, double-digit wins, an ERA around 3.50 or so and a positive clubhouse presence.
"He's pretty much come as advertised," Stoneman said of Appier, who went 14-12 with a 3.92 ERA in 32 starts in 2002. "He's a very competitive, very talented pitcher, and that's what we expected to see.
"He's a guy who's changed his pitching style from when he was in Kansas City years ago. He doesn't have the overpowering style he had before, but he knows how to pitch."
When the Christmastime deal with the Mets was consummated, the Angels sent Vaughn and his hefty salary to New York. Vaughn had signed a six-year, $80 million deal with the Angels prior to the '99 season, but his three years in Anaheim simply weren't worthy of his superstar status and the money that went with it. While he was out for the entirely 2001 season with an injury, Vaughn actively lobbied for his exit from Anaheim -- and Stoneman gave him his wish on Dec. 27.
In Appier, the Angels got a starter who had been successful throughout his 12-plus years in the Majors, an All-Star once but not quite the superstar Vaughn had been. But he offered a positive clubhouse presence, which is something Vaughn was supposed to bring but by the end of his time in Anaheim was nil.
"(Appier) came with a great reputation in terms of fitting in with the team," Stoneman said, "and he's done a great job of that here."
A native of Lancaster, a high desert town about 100 miles from Anaheim, Appier followed the Angels when he was growing up. He'd signed a four-year, $42 million deal with the Mets as a free agent prior to the 2001 season and figured that's where he'd be for that time, but coming home to Southern California has worked out quite well, as it turns out.
Through 2002 and into the postseason, Appier has predictably delivered a professional approach that can only rub off on his teammates, none of whom have as much experience in the big leagues as he does.
And in a postseason setting, the approach Appier takes doesn't change -- another aspect that provides a positive influence on a team making its first run at the World Series.
"My preparation stays the same," he said. "I stay with the same routine. I won't go into the whole thing, but it's identical to what I do during the season.
"That's one of the things, like we've been saying, it's 'same old game.' Games mean more, but you're doing everything you could do during the regular season, so you shouldn't change now."
Appier definitely did everything he could do in the Angels' Game 1 loss at the Metrodome. He gutted his way through five innings, throwing 94 pitches while allowing two runs on five hits to take the loss in the 2-1 Twins victory.
Afterward, Appier was of course not happy with the outcome, even if he'd done pretty much all he could have from his standpoint.
Heading into his second meeting with the Twins in six days, Appier heads in with a little more idea of how to handle the Minnesota lineup but said he had a pretty good idea what he was up against already.
"There weren't too many surprises in that game," Appier said. "They battled just like we thought they would and spit on pitches that were close.
"They're kind of tough from that aspect because they'll be really patient on pitches that are close, but as you start being too aggressive, next thing you know, they're hacking and putting all kinds of balls in play. It's definitely playing a feel-as-you-go type thing."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.