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Monday, March 29, 2010
Angels observations with a week to go


A week from today is Opening Night. A week from tomorrow is the best game of the year.

Why is that? From the perspective of someone who covers these guys, the second game is normally when half the number of media people show up. It's pretty much just the people who will cover the club all season long.

For diehard fans, it's when they can start to get a sense of their team when the glare and electricity of the opener has passed. Tickets are a lot easier to get, too. There's more room to spread out.

Some thoughts on the team as spring training peters to its usually non-climactic ending:

Not to worry about: Ervin Santana. He showed in Sunday's blowout loss to the Cleveland Indians that his velocity remains what it was earlier in the spring. He's throwing in the mid-90s, harder than he has at any time since 2008. I'm guessing he'll be the No. 1 starter by the All-Star break. Emphasis on guessing.

To worry about: Scott Kazmir. Remember last year when Joe Saunders had a little irritation in his left shoulder? Remember how awful he looked in the middle of the season? Remember how much better he looked when he came back from it in late August? The fact Kazmir has already had to shut down because of shoulder tightness doesn't bode well. He hasn't done well when he's been dinged up in the past.

Not to worry about: Jered Weaver's 8.03 spring ERA. In one of his bad starts, Weaver was throwing his sinking fastball 70 percent of the time. Last year, he might have mixed in one or two per game. In other words, he's tinkering, as veterans do in the spring. I don't think he'll be great, but I think he'll be just as consistent as he's always been. He's a polished pitcher. He probably won't get much better than he was last year, but he probably won't get much worse, and that was pretty good.

To worry about: Brandon Wood's strikeouts. He has 14 of them in 58 at-bats. The next highest Angels total is nine (by Robb "See-ya-later" Quinlan) this spring. Wood will probably be hitting deep in the lineup, but Mike Scioscia isn't going to put up with tons of non-productive outs for much longer than a month or so. He'll replace Wood with Maicer Izturis, who certainly is a lot closer to Chone Figgins in style. Then, the question will become: Should Izturis be leading off instead of Erick Aybar? Probably.

Not to worry about: The Angels 8-14 spring record. In a week and forever after that: Who cares?

To worry about: The reason behind it. When I left Arizona after my second stint with the team, I was struck by how much worse off they are in the high minor leagues than I realized. A lot of these spring training games are decided when the regulars are already at home sipping a cold beverage. The Angels Triple-A caliber talent is not impressive. Remember Sean O'Sullivan, Trevor Bell and Anthony Ortega when they made spot starts for the Angels last year? Not impressive. You don't need 25 guys to get through a major-league season. You usually need about 30 and the Angels look dangerously thin in the organization.