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Wednesday, March 2, 2011
What matters so far?

By Mark Saxon

After four spring games, you could argue that none of it matters.

A slightly less jaundiced view is that a few things matter.

One thing that probably doesn't matter is how the veteran starting pitchers are throwing. Guys such as Jered Weaver, Joel Pineiro, Dan Haren and, to a lesser extent, Scott Kazmir, are just getting their arms ready for the abuse of the next seven months. Their outings are the equivalent of a jogger stretching before a run.

Things that could have a bearing on the Angels' 2011 season:

Kendry Morales hasn't played in a game and hasn't even been in camp the past couple of days. He was running with about 80 percent of his weight on his legs before he caught a virus and had to stay home sick. It's not that we know he won't be ready by Opening Day, but it's never good to see a spring with so many stops and starts.

Say things go smoothly and he has no setbacks, he is able to run with all 235 pounds on his left ankle in five days and he is playing 10 days from today. That would put him on target to start at first base March 31. But things rarely go that smoothly, do they?
Peter Bourjos is making stuff happen. The Angels' offense looks a little lumpy right now. You've got a solid middle of the order from Bobby Abreu to Erick Aybar batting seventh, but the edges have the potential to be flaccid. If Bourjos can connect the No. 9 hole to leadoff man Maicer Izturis, it could help catalyze unexpected action. Bourjos has been working on his bunting this spring, according to mlb.com, and he has scored four runs in three games.

These are good things for the Angels.

• The young arms are bringing appropriate levels of heat. Pitching has carried the day for the Angels in these early games, particularly the youngest pitchers on the roster. Tyler Chatwood, Michael Kohn, Garrett Richards, Francisco Rodriguez, Rich Thompson and Jordan Walden have combined for nine scoreless innings.

That matters, at least a little, because all those guys have big upsides and might not be in camp long, and the Angels have desperately lacked quality pitching depth in recent seasons. You saw that last year. After Pineiro got injured, the season essentially collapsed. Early indications are that some of the young arms will start forcing difficult decisions, and difficult roster decisions are better than easy ones in spring training.