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Angels report: Inside pitch

The Sports Xchange
Notes, quotes · Roster · Inside pitch

It seems nothing the Angels count on comes true.

They had hoped to enter the 2011 season with a revamped lineup featuring the infusion of a dynamic athlete (free agent outfielder Carl Crawford) and a recovered slugger (injured first baseman Kendrys Morales). But Crawford signed elsewhere and Morales' recovery from last May's broken ankle has progressed slowly, likely sending him to the disabled list to start the season.

As a result, the Angels are counting on one of baseball's deeper rotations to carry them back into contention with just enough offense to support it.

"To me, always. Every year is our responsibility," said one of those starters, right-hander Ervin Santana. "Always. We're the ones who have the ball. The game doesn't start until we throw the ball."

Nonetheless, the Angels will have to find the bats to make up for the 202-run drop-off they experienced between 2009 and 2010. The addition of outfielder Vernon Wells will help, as will the eventual return of Morales. But the Angels are also counting on bounce-back seasons from a number of players -- most prominently the fragile Maicer Izturis and veteran Bobby Abreu (now the primary designated hitter). Some offensive contributions from defensively superior center fielder Peter Bourjos as well as the catcher position would help.

"Getting Vernon Wells and hopefully getting Kendrys Morales back, no matter what had happened on the free agent market ... our offense is going to be more contingent on guys like Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Maicer Izturis staying healthy and contributing along with some of the young guys like Peter Bourjos holding his own on the offensive end," manager Mike Scioscia said this spring.

"We need that. We need that depth. It was something that was missing at times last year. We need these guys to produce like they can. That's as important as anything we're talking about."

But there are other potential pitfalls that could drag the Angels down again in the AL West. There is little -- if any -- depth beyond their top four starters, including a very questionable reclamation project with fifth starter Scott Kazmir that has yielded mixed results in the spring. Also, they addressed some issues in the bullpen with the free agent signings of left-handers Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs -- but Downs will open the season on the DL, and Fernando Rodney remains an inconsistent closer in whom the Angels have little confidence.

The combination is probably good enough to make the Angels contenders again after last year's 80-82 season. But everything would have to go right for them to return to the playoff picture.

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