Angels in sticky situation

first_imgRodriguez’s 92 saves over the past two seasons are the most in baseball. His 312 strikeouts over the past threeseasons are the most over that span for a reliever. With Colon on the mend, Lackey inherits the role as staff ace. His mastery of the Oakland Athletics last season (3-1 with a 2.10 ERA in fivestarts) will be counted on again. Colon wants to be back for OpeningDay, but his recent injury history suggests a more patient timetable. Adding free agent Justin Speier while trading Brendan Donnelly to the Boston Red Sox effectively strengthened the middle relief corps, which leads into setup man Scot Shields. Catcher: It will be a wide-open race for the Opening Day slot between Jose Molina, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis. The veteran Molina might be playing with some fire this season after missing out on a lucrative bonus in September. Molina was relegated to the bench in the final few days of the season, costing him a games-played incentive. Napoli has the inside track at a roster spot over Mathis, and anything close to his torrid stretch last June (sixhome runs, 17 RBIs) will earn him the starting spot. Mathis has the most to prove after making the Opening Day roster last season and lasting only a month before he was sent back to Triple-A Salt Lake. Infield: Things are set up in the middle with Orlando Cabrera at shortstop and Howie Kendrick taking over for the departed Adam Kennedy at second. The biggest battle of the spring likely will take place at first base, where Casey Kotchman, Kendry Morales and Shea Hillenbrand will fight it out for the starting spot. Morales appeared to have the edge with some impressive power numbers in winter ball, but he ended up with a sore knee. He isn’t expected to miss much time this spring. Kotchman, who has the best defensive skills of the bunch, also played winter ball after missing most of last season with mononucleosis. Third base belongs to Chone Figgins, whose lackluster on-base percentage will force him to move to the No.9 spot in the lineup. Matthews will take over at the leadoff spot. Maicer Izturis, Robb Quinlan and Hillenbrand could see significant time at third if Figgins falters. Even if he doesn’t end up at first or third, Hillenbrand still could see significant time in the designated-hitter role. Outfield: Say what you want about Matthews’ $50 million deal, but the signing made the Angels better defensively. Remember, it was defense that was a big part of the team’s undoing last season. Matthews will be looked upon to deliver, at minimum, his 19homers and 79 RBIs from last season. The Angels would gladly take last year’s .313 batting average and .371 on-base percentage. Losing Juan Rivera to a broken leg in winter ball was costly. His status still is unknown, with an optimistic return date set for the All-Star break. A healthy Anderson will be vital. The sore foot that plagued him last season started almost a year ago during Cactus League action. The injury could be blamed for his reduced production, but Anderson’s .280 average with 17homers and 85RBIs weren’t much different from his 2005 numbers (.283, 17HRs, 95 RBIs). [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2731 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE March 1 – vs. Kansas City at Tempe, Ariz., 12:05 p.m. March 2 – vs. Chicago Cubs at Mesa, Ariz., 12:05 p.m. March 3 – vs. Colorado at Tucson, Ariz., 12:05 p.m. March 4 – vs. Milwaukee at Tempe, 12:05 p.m. March 5 – vs. Oakland at Tempe, 12:05 p.m. March 6 – vs. San Francisco at Scottsdale, Ariz., 12:05 p.m. March 7 – vs. San Diego at Tempe, 12:05 p.m. March 8 – vs. Arizona at Tucson, 12:05 p.m. *March 9 – vs. San Diego (ss) at Tempe, 12:05 p.m. vs. Kansas City (ss) at Surprise, Ariz., 6:05 p.m. March 10 – vs. Seattle at Tempe, 12:05 p.m. *March 11 – vs. Oakland (ss) at Tempe, 1:05 p.m. vs. Texas at Surprise, 1:05 p.m. March 12 – vs. Kansas City at Surprise, 1:05 p.m. March 13 – vs. Kansas City at Tempe, 1:05 p.m. March 14 – vs. San Francisco at Tempe, 1:05 p.m. March 15 – vs. Milwaukee at Phoenix, 1:05 p.m. March 16 – vs. Milwaukee at Tempe, 1:05 p.m. March 17 – vs. Chicago White Sox at Tucson, 1:05 p.m. *March 18 – vs. Chicago Cubs at Tempe, 1:05 p.m. vs. Oakland (ss) at Phoenix, 1:05 p.m. March 20 – vs. San Diego at Peoria, Ariz., 7:05 p.m. March 21 – vs. Arizona at Tempe, 1:05 p.m. March 22 – vs. Texas at Tempe, 1:05 p.m. March 23 – vs. Seattle at Peoria, 1:05 p.m. March 24 – vs. Colorado at Tempe, 1:05 p.m. March 25 – vs. Chicago Cubs at Mesa, 1:05 p.m. March 26 – vs. Chicago Cubs at Tempe, 1:05 p.m. March 27 – vs. Chicago White Sox at Tempe, 1:05 p.m. March 28 – vs. Oakland at Phoenix, 1:05 p.m. *March 29 – vs. Milwaukee at Phoenix, 12:05 p.m. at Dodgers (ss), 7:10 p.m. March 30 – at L.A. Dodgers, 7:40 p.m. March 31 – vs. L.A. Dodgers, 6:05 p.m. * Denotes split-squad. The team is broken into two squads. All times subject to change (TV listings unavailable). PROJECTED LINEUP F Gary Matthews SS Orlando Cabrera RF Vladimir Guerrero LF Garret Anderson DH Shea Hillenbrand 2B Howie Kendrick 1B Casey Kotchman C Mike Napoli 3B Chone Figgins P John Lackey 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Now for the pessimists. Not only did the Angels not add the impact bat they desired, owner Arte Moreno essentially reneged on a boast to enhance the roster with an impact acquisition. It can’t be a good sign that management grossly underestimated the free-agent market. The Angels also have received an abundance of criticism for committing $50 million over five years to Matthews (Granada Hills High/Mission College), who will try to build off his breakout season in 2006 at age 32. First base and third base remain question marks. When pitchers and catchers work out for the first time today, that pitching staff might want to do some early weightlifting, just to feel what it would be like to carry the weight of the team on its shoulders. Angels personnel breaks down as follows: Pitching staff: Not only will one of the top rotations start things off, one of the best closers will be counted on to finish things. Francisco Rodriguez might be a notch behind the New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera for the title of best closer, but the Angels’ right-hander probably has more value considering that at age 25, he is 12years younger than Rivera. The Angels’ offseason could best be described as a glass-half-empty, glass-half-full situation. The optimists will point to the various reviews that say the Angels might posses the best bullpen in the American League, if not in all of baseball. center_img The starting staff is first-rate with John Lackey, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar and Joe Saunders. Bartolo Colon could be back by May, if not sooner. Even more upbeat news is that the outfield of Garret Anderson, Gary Matthews Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero is now considered by some as the best in the business. Nobody dared to make such a boast last season. last_img

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