After five division titles in six seasons, the Angels are in an unfamiliar position this spring, trying to get back to the top. They have high expectations for a strong rotation to get them back into contention with a stronger overall defense providing support. There are questions about the offense, though, and the spring has done nothing to assuage them. 1B Kendrys Morales is crucial to an offensive rebound in 2011, but he has recovered slowly from last year's traumatic leg injury and most likely will start the season on the disabled list.
1. RHP Jered Weaver
2. RHP Dan Haren
3. RHP Ervin Santana
4. RHP Joel Pineiro
5. LHP Scott Kazmir
Few teams in the majors can match the Angels' rotation in talent or depth. The first four have to rank alongside elite rotations of the Phillies, Red Sox and White Sox, with Kazmir a wild card as the fifth starter.
Weaver and Haren give the Angels a 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation that many teams would envy. Both are among the top strikeout pitchers in the AL (Weaver led the majors with 233 K's in 2010). The trio of Weaver, Haren and Santana each threw at least 220 innings last season, with Haren the most durable starter in the majors since 2005 (a big-league-high 203 starts without missing a turn and at least 215 innings every season).
There is little depth beyond the front four, however, and the Angels were guilty of a lack of support for their starters last season (offensively and defensively). The defensive shortcomings were addressed, but the Angels figure to put a heavy burden on their starting pitchers to carry the team back into contention.
RHP Fernando Rodney (closer)
RHP Kevin Jepsen
RHP Jordan Walden
LHP Hisanori Takahashi
RHP Michael Kohn
RHP Rich Thompson
RHP Jason Bulger
The bullpen was a sore spot for nearly the entire 2010 season, particularly in the middle innings, where leads got away or deficits grew insurmountable. They thought they addressed that this offseason with the signing of free agent LHPs Scott Downs and Takahashi, but Downs will open the season on the disabled list after fracturing a bone in his foot away from the field. That puts the onus on young right-handers Jepsen and Walden to handle the setup innings in front of shaky closer Rodney.
Rodney did not finish strong last season after inheriting the closer role when LHP Brian Fuentes was traded in late August. Rodney blew four saves in September and had an ERA near 6.00 over his final 15 appearances. If that inconsistency follows him into 2011, the Angels could find themselves searching for ninth-inning outs from him, Downs, Jepsen or even the rookie Walden. Downs will likely bump Bulger or Thompson out of the picture when he returns from his fractured toe.
1. 3B Maicer Izturis
2. DH Bobby Abreu
3. RF Torii Hunter
4. LF Vernon Wells
5. 2B Howie Kendrick
6. 1B Mark Trumbo
7. SS Erick Aybar
8. C Jeff Mathis or C Bobby Wilson
9. CF Peter Bourjos
With their most dangerous hitter (Kendrys Morales) out of the lineup for the final 111 games last season, other weaknesses in the lineup were exposed and the team scored 202 fewer runs than the season before. The Angels were counting on Morales' return and the acquisition of Wells to recoup some of that offense. But it now appears Morales will not be back in the lineup for some time after the season has begun -- and he could be limited by his recovery from last year's fractured ankle when he does return.
That puts even more pressure on a number of hitters (Aybar, Abreu and the oft-injured Izturis, in particular) to have bounce-back years if the offense is going to rebound from last year's drop-off. Trumbo tied for the minor league lead with 36 home runs in Class AAA last season and had a hot spring. But he is unproven at the major league level, as is the speedy Bourjos. Couple that with questionable offensive production at catcher and third base, and the offense appears to be short again, particularly in a division ruled by the Rangers last season.
C Jeff Mathis or C Bobby Wilson
INF Alberto Callaspo
INF Brandon Wood
OF Reggie Willits
The Angels' likely decision to go with a 12-man pitching staff to start the season leaves an uninspiring bench even thinner. Mathis and Wilson are likely to split the catching duties, and Callaspo will get ample playing time at third base and second base, spelling Izturis and Kendrick (who could see some playing time at first base while Morales recovers). After a disastrous season in 2010 (.146 batting average), Wood's value is minimal.
Willits could open the season on the disabled list after straining a muscle in his left calf during spring training. If he is out, Chris Pettit could grab the final bench spot after missing all of 2010 following surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
--LHP Scott Downs (broken left big toe) was injured in an accident at home. He will open the season on the disabled list.
--1B Kendrys Morales (fractured left ankle) is being brought along slowly in spring training. He will open the season on the disabled list.
--1B Mark Trumbo (right groin tightness) left the March 16 game. The injury was not considered serious, but Trumbo was expected to sit out a few games.
--OF Reggie Willits (strained left calf) was hurt March 13. Willits was working toward a return to action before the end of the Cactus League schedule but could open the season on the disabled list.
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