After winning 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 improved 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, White Sox and Giants, 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).
RHP Joel Pineiro will miss at least one start at the beginning of the season after having back issues late in spring. There is little depth beyond the front four, and the Angels were guilty of a lack of support for their starters last season (offensively and defensively). The defensive shortcomings have been 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. 2B Howie Kendrick
3. DH Bobby Abreu
4. RF Torii Hunter
5. LF Vernon Wells
6. SS Erick Aybar
7. 1B Mark Trumbo
8. C Jeff Mathis/Bobby Wilson
9. CF Peter Bourjos
With their most dangerous hitter (1B Kendrys Morales) out of the lineup for the final 111 games last season, other weaknesses in the Angels' 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 Angels' offense appears to be short again, particularly in a division ruled by the Rangers last season.
C Bobby Wilson/Jeff Mathis
C Hank Conger
INF Alberto Callaspo
INF Brandon Wood
OF Chris Pettit
The Angels will open the season with an 11-man pitching staff but will likely go to 12 when Pineiro and/or Downs returns from the disabled list. That will leave an uninspiring bench even thinner. Mathis and Wilson are likely to split most of the catching duties. 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 (a .146 batting average), Wood must prove he still has value.
OF Reggie Willits will open the season on the disabled list after straining a muscle in his left calf during spring training. Pettit will replace him, grabbing the final bench spot after missing all of 2010 following surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
--RHP Joel Pineiro (tight right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He might be able to return to action after missing just one start.
--LHP Scott Downs (broken left big toe) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He might be able to return in early April.
--1B Kendrys Morales (fractured left ankle) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He was brought along slowly in spring training, and there was no timetable for his return.
--OF Reggie Willits (strained left calf) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He might be able to return in mid-April.
--LF Vernon Wells (left hamstring tightness) was sidelined during the last week of spring training. However, he is expected to be in the lineup on Opening Day.
--RHP Bobby Cassevah (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22.
--3B Freddy Sandoval (left side muscle strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He was injured March 3, and he might be sidelined until May.
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