TEMPE, Ariz. -- Two straight winters, the Angels have gone after a true No. 1 starter. So don't let them tell you they don't think it's important to have one.
Then again, maybe it isn't.
But it's not like the Angels need reminding that not every team that wins has a true No. 1.
After all, who was the no-doubt ace starter on the 2002 Angels?
"We ran through 2002 with terrific offense," manager Mike Scioscia said. "There wasn't that prototypical No. 1."
No Sabathia, whom the Angels went after unsuccessfully as a free agent a year ago. No Halladay, whom they chased unsuccessfully on the trade market this past winter.
The Angels thought that adding Halladay would give them the best antidote to Sabathia, and the best chance of getting past the Yankees if the two teams meet again this October.
But the Angels also move on as well as any team in the game, so when they didn't get Halladay, and when they also lost free agent John Lackey to the Red Sox, they moved on.
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Their message now is that they'll have as good a five-man rotation as anyone.
"Ace?" reliever Scot Shields asked. "You know what, I'll take five aces."
It's debatable whether the Angels have five aces, but they do have four starters with at least one 16-win season on their record. The only starter who hasn't won 16 games, Scott Kazmir, has already pitched in a World Series -- on a 2008 Rays staff that didn't feature a true No. 1.
"We've got five guys who are pretty good," said Jered Weaver, one of those five. "We've got five guys, where I'll want any of them out there."
Those five starters -- Weaver, Kazmir, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Joel Pineiro -- are good enough to make the Angels the once-again favorite in the American League West. While the Angels can't match the Mariners’ 1-2 (Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee), they could have a big edge 3-4-5.
So what happens in October? Are the Angels destined to win the West again (they've won it three straight years and five of the last six), and then destined to lose again in the AL playoffs (they haven't made it back to the World Series since winning in 2002)?
The first answer is that there's a long time between now and October, and most teams in baseball would love to have the same chance of getting there that the Angels seem to have. The second answer is that the Angels hope one of their five becomes a One.
"We have five guys in our rotation who we feel are on the verge of filling the gap that [Lackey] left," Scioscia said. "The potential for us to have a terrific pitching staff is there. I'm very confident that we're going to get that presence that John left from one of the five guys we have."
Sleeper ... Brandon Wood: Anyone who suggests Wood can't succeed because he spent too much time in the minors or won't succeed because he did nothing in spotty major-league duty should remember the case of Kendry Morales.
Bust ... Torii Hunter: As a guy who sniffs 20-20 production every year, he has his place, but if you put too much emphasis on last year's numbers, you'll end up reaching for him. At his age, he should be falling in drafts, not rising.
Breakout ... Howie Kendrick: If you can land him as your middle infielder or backup second baseman, he has a good chance of moving up your own personal depth chart by the end of April.
-- Scott White
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1. Hank Conger, C, Double-A
2. Peter Bourjos, OF, Triple-A
3. Trevor Reckling, SP, Double-A
4. Trevor Bell, SP, Triple-A
5. Jordan Walden, SP, Double-A
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Does it matter whether they get that?
"It definitely has significance," Scioscia said. "But we think we have guys that can develop into that guy. All these guys have the potential to be that pitcher."
And yet, it's hard to get past the memory that the Angels thought they needed to get that guy from the outside. They wanted Sabathia last year, but got outbid by the Yankees. They wanted Halladay this year, but weren't a fit for a deal.
And the problem with chasing a true No. 1 is that there just aren't very many of them.
"How many guys are like CC?" Scioscia asked, needing no answer.
Not many, as the Angels were reminded last October. In their six-game AL Championship Series loss to the Yankees, Sabathia beat them twice, and loomed again had there been a Game 7.
Meanwhile, not one of the Angels starters got credit for a win in the series.
The result was another season that was somewhat satisfying -- another division title, lots of tough times overcome, finally a playoff series win over the Red Sox -- but ultimately a touch disappointing.
"We have to do better," Santana said. "We didn't get to the World Series."
There was a thought among some in the Angels organization that 2009 was the year for them to get back there, if only because they knew that Lackey, Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu were all pending free agents and that it was virtually guaranteed that not all three would be back.
In the end, Abreu re-signed, but Lackey and Figgins didn't. Since Lackey and Figgins were two of the three remaining players from the 2002 team (Shields was the other), their departure only served as another reminder of how long it has now been since the Angels won it all.
They still have the confidence you'd expect from a team that has averaged nearly 95 wins a year over the last six seasons.
"We'll put our team up against anyone," Weaver said.
"We love to win," added Santana.
But they also know it'll be easier to win if at least one of the five good starters finds a way to establish himself as better than just good.
The Angels know it's possible to win without a true No. 1, because they did it before. The Angels also believe it would be a lot better to have one.
You know that, because they keep trying to get one.