The Yankees and Angels will close out their three-game series tonight on Sunday Night Baseball at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN, and calling the action will be Dan Shulman, Buster Olney, and John Kruk. Karl Ravech and Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin will have pre-game coverage during Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown an hour beforehand. Tonight's game will see Masahiro Tanaka and Garrett Richards square off, and ESPN Media was nice enough to offer the chance to interview one of their commentators. I spoke with Shulman, who will call the play-by-play tonight.
It's hard to say. It doesn't seem like Tanaka exactly fools people--it more seems like he's just a really good pitcher with a great idea of what he's doing out there. He moves the ball around very well and mixes up his pitches. Tanaka facing those two hitters will lead to some of the greatest pitcher/hitter matchups possible in the game today.
The Angels have had back-to-back disappointing seasons despite big off-seasons. Does this year's edition have enough offense and pitching to reach relevancy again?
It's too soon to tell whether this Angels group is actually a good enough team. We'll have to wait until Josh Hamilton gets back to make better judgments about their lineup, and we'll also have to wait for both Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson to pitch better as well. The offense does lead the American League in homers right now with 36, but the pitching must improve. Overall, they're certainly off to a decent start.
Pujols is off to a hot start with a league-high nine homers already. Do you think the mashing Albert of his Cardinals days is truly back, or is this just a nice streak?
The answer probably lies somewhere between the two. High expectations led to a slow start to his Angels career in 2012, though he eventually rebounded. His 2013 campaign was plagued by injuries, especially the plantar fasciitis that ended his season in late July. Pujols is hitting very well, but it's important to remember that he's 34 now. A return to his prime offensive numbers would likely be asking for too much, though he could definitely still be a very productive hitter.
The Yankees will face the somewhat-unknown righty Garrett Richards on Sunday night. What can they expect from him?
Richards has as live an arm as there is on that Angels pitching staff. He's a power arm who can throw 94-95 mph, and he also has a sharp breaking slider and curveball. He's been strong so far this season.
Despite some injuries, the Yankees' bullpen has pitched pretty well in the early goings. Which of their young arms have most impressed you?
They've all pitched well, from Shawn Kelley (though he isn't really young) and Adam Warren to David Phelps and Vidal Nuno. They've dealt with injuries, but they've all done a good job stepping in with a lot of different guys filling a lot of different spots.
What are your early impressions of Derek Jeter, playing in his first healthy season since 2012?
Jeter is swinging the bat very well, hitting the ball to right-center field the way he always used to do, even though he hasn't seemed quite as good getting down the line. At shortstop, there's no getting around the fact that he's turning 40 soon, but he's been mostly healthy and he's made about all the plays you could possibly expect from someone his age. Overall, he's looked fine.
Thanks again to Dan Shulman and ESPN Media for arranging this interview.