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Thursday, December 8, 2011
Thad Levine: AL West just got tougher

By Richard Durrett



DALLAS -- Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine joked that once he'd heard the Angels had signed Albert Pujols, he raced to the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton Anatole hotel to change his club's Rule 5 draft strategy.

"I was too late," Levine said, with a smile. "We had already passed."

But Levine knows Pujols bolsters an Angels offense that was lacking some in 2011.

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"I think one of the best players in major league baseball just landed in our division," Levine said. "I think the road to garnering our third American League West championship just got much, much more difficult.

"We've always had a ton of respect for the Angels. To a certain extent, even though we've won the division the last two years, we still see them as the class of the division. They have been our main competition and will continue to be as Oakland is rebuliding, Seattle is turnig the corner. We'll have to respond. I think our players will rise to the challenge."

Levine said he was surprised that Pujols left St. Louis, figuring the slugger would end up staying with his longtime team.

Now the Rangers wait to see if the Angels can also add left-handed free agent C.J. Wilson.

"I can say that we sinecerly hope not," Levine said.

In other words: The Rangers are hoping Wilson heads to Miami and the National League.

Texas faced Pujols in the World Series, which included his Reggie Jackson moment, hitting three home runs in Game 3 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Now they get to see him a lot more during the regular season.

"We just saw him for seven games," Levine said. "I can't say we've exactly figured him out just yet. So our advance scouts still have a lot of work to do."

We'll see how often manager Ron Washington walks the slugger in 2012.