Los Angeles Angels: Tampa Bay Rays

Five trade ideas involving David Price 

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
10:00
AM PT
David PriceMike Carlson/Getty ImagesIt makes more sense for the Rays to trade David Price now than wait until this offseason.
The top-of-the-rotation pitcher most likely to be traded between now and the trade deadline is David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeff Samardzija and Cliff Lee are also in the conversation, but the Cubs still could re-sign Samardzija, and a Lee trade would require a return to full health for him and a willingness to be traded to specific teams. The Rays don't have either obstacle with Price.

The Rays also know the best time to trade Price is now; the return won't be as high this offseason or next July as it will be over the next six weeks. So it's only matter of time before he's dealt to the highest bidder.

The most interesting aspect of a potential deal is that there aren't as many contending teams looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter as in the past. For example, in the National League, teams such as the Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Giants, Dodgers and Nationals all have enough pitching at the top that they have no reason to empty their farm system to acquire Price. In fact, I would argue the Braves (who, by the way, have the best starting pitcher ERA in the league) are the only NL team likely to inquire about Price.

In the American League, two of the top teams -- Oakland and Detroit -- also probably won't be bidding, though I'd never put anything past A's GM Billy Beane, based on his track record.

The Rays could get a large package for Price -- as many as four or five prospects -- but it's more likely they'll shoot for quality over quantity and end up with a two-for-one or three-for-one deal, with the possibility of more players being thrown in by either side. For the purpose of this exercise, I'll try to find the best two-for-one or three-for-one deals that could be offered for Price.

Here are the five teams I view most likely to trade for Price, along with potential deals involving each club:

1. Los Angeles Angels

The Angels appear to be the favorite to win the American League's first wild-card berth, and they actually have a legitimate shot of overtaking the Oakland A's and winning the West. A deal for Price would certainly seal the deal, and the Angels have enough to make it work. They might not have the young starting pitching the Rays would ideally seek, but they do have the bats to get it done. C.J. Cron would have to be the central piece in the deal, and given his potential to develop into a 30-homer, middle-of-the-lineup hitter, he'd be a perfect fit for the Rays, who are trying to build the middle of their lineup to complement Evan Longoria and Wil Myers. Sure, the Rays have James Loney signed for two more years, but the Rays could have Cron and Loney share the first base and DH slots until Loney's deal is up, or they could trade Loney this offseason, given his affordable contract.

There's no 'W' in Anaheim for Greinke

July, 29, 2012
7/29/12
5:15
PM PT

AP Photo/Reed Saxon
Zack Greinke made his first start as an Angel on Sunday afternoon, but it was his third start at Angel Stadium.

Here's how his luck has gone in Orange County:

In 2009, he took his first loss of what proved to be a Cy Young season when he allowed one run in eight innings and the Kansas City Royals couldn't score at all off the Angels' Joe Saunders.

"I was mad, because I thought we should have scored on Saunders," Greinke said Sunday.

The next year, he again gave up one run, but Jered Weaver struck out 11 batters and the Royals lost 2-1.

"My bad," Weaver chirped as Greinke addressed reporters Sunday.

And, this time wearing an Angels uniform, Greinke showed everyone how promising this rotation might prove with he and Weaver as teammates, but it was more of the same on Sunday. He struck out eight batters in seven innings and lost 2-0.

So, to recap, he has a 1.57 ERA in his Angel Stadium starts, is 0-2 and his team is 0-3.

Not exactly the fond thoughts the Angels were hoping to plant in his head as he mulls where he wants to sign a long-term extension this fall. Greinke has been the toughest pitcher in baseball when he has the crowd on his side -- 19 straight home wins entering Sunday -- but at this rate, it's going to take a while before he considers Anaheim home.

Then again, there's more to life than results.

"It's fun so far. I like the clubhouse and I've always liked this stadium," Greinke said. "I don't know, it's pretty early, but I feel pretty comfortable so far and, hopefully, we'll win a bunch of games and it becomes a fun season."

Greinke's home winning streak went all the way back to the end of 2010 and, since it was stretched between Kansas City and Milwaukee, seems to be more of an anomaly than a stat. It's probably more a reflection of his overall prowess than anything specific to the environment. Most pitchers perform better in comfortable locales, of course. Just ask Weaver, who has been as reliable in Anaheim as the incoming tide.

Still, it was a cool distinction for Greinke and it ended the day after he arrived in Anaheim.

"It was a pretty lucky streak, a lot of good things happened out of my control to make it," Greinke said.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Rays 2, Angels 0

July, 29, 2012
7/29/12
3:35
PM PT
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If it's going to be like this pitching in Anaheim, Zack Greinke might want to head back to the Midwest.

Greinke's 19-game home winning streak ended in his first start in Anaheim. Greinke pitched seven strong innings Sunday in his Angels debut, but took the loss in a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Angels managed just four hits off Jeremy Hellickson and three Tampa relievers.

The Angels go into their biggest series of the year -- four games in Texas -- in a sudden cold spell. They managed just nine hits in the past two games against the Rays, both shutout losses.

The good:

Fast start. Greinke looked like the guy the Angels thought they were getting. He combined a lively, 93 mph fastball with tough breaking stuff and the ability to get ground balls in key spots. From the end of the second through the sixth inning, he didn't allow a base runner. He struck out eight batters in seven innings and walked just one batter. A little fatigue and the burden of pitching without run support seemed to catch up to him at the end. The sixth and seventh innings got messy, with some bunched hits and a run-scoring wild pitch. Otherwise, it was an encouraging start to Greinke's Angels career, however long it lasts.

Possible upgrade. For a guy hitting .203, Chris Iannetta looks like he could be a significant boost to the bottom of the Angels' order. He takes pitches and works walks, unlike most Angels hitters, and he has more pop than virtually anyone who will hit in the bottom third of the lineup. After missing 10 weeks with a wrist injury, Iannetta had some encouraging at-bats in his return. He hit a deep fly ball to center, a towering shot to left and singled sharply off the second baseman's glove. It wasn't all that much, but did you see the rest of the hitters' lines?

Salty relief. If Jason Isringhausen and LaTroy Hawkins had known as much about pitching when they were younger -- and still had mid-90s fastballs -- they might have given Mariano Rivera a run for his money. The Angels' two 39-year-old relievers are putting up impressive numbers even though they're closer in age to the coaches than to most of their teammates. They each pitched a stress-free, scoreless inning to keep the Angels in range for a rally that never came. Both relievers have sub-3.00 ERAS.

The bad:

Trout's knee. The Texas Rangers must feel a little bit of relief knowing they open their crucial four-game series against the Angels on Monday against the Angels' worst starter, Ervin Santana, and with their best hitter, Mike Trout, questionable because of a left knee bruise. Trout, the league's leading hitter, slammed his knee into the center-field wall Saturday and, while he figures to play soon, the Angels will see how he feels Monday before making a determination.

Flashbacks. These guys looked a lot like the April Angels. Vernon Wells started his second straight game, Albert Pujols struggled and hitter after hitter went down feebly against 2011 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson. For most of July, the Angels were the hottest offense in baseball, but the past two games they have hit the skids dramatically. They managed just seven hits in the two games. Maybe Tampa's good young pitching was the reason. But without Trout, the Sunday lineup looked susceptible even before the game started.

Wells. With Trout out and Torii Hunter getting a scheduled day off, Mike Scioscia gave Wells a second straight start. Wells hit a sharp grounder that Ryan Roberts made a nice play on, but he went hitless again and still looks a lot like the guy who batted .218 -- with a historically awful on-base percentage -- in 2011. Absent Trout and Hunter, the Angels' lineup lacked energy and nothing about Wells' play suggests he's going to inject much life into things.

Mike Trout scratched with bruised knee

July, 29, 2012
7/29/12
12:31
PM PT
It doesn't sound like a long-term concern, but with a player this talented, any injury is a concern.

The Angels scratched Mike Trout from the lineup shortly before Sunday afternoon's game with the Tampa Bay Rays with a left knee contusion. Trout hurt his knee colliding with the center-field wall trying to catch Ben Zobrist's home run Saturday night.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it was even possible Trout could pinch hit late in Sunday's game and he figures to be back in the lineup Monday night in Texas.

The injury does raise the question of whether Trout's aggressive style could make him injury-prone in the long run. The Angels saw that for years with Darin Erstad, who played with a reckless style and spent his last few years on and off the disabled list. Last week, Trout made a diving attempt at a ball down the left field line in a game with two outs in the ninth inning and the Angels leading comfortably.

Here are lineups for Sunday:

Tampa Bay
Desmond Jennings CF
Sam Fuld LF
Ben Zobrist 2B
Matt Joyce RF
Jeff Keppinger DH
Carlos Pena 1B
Ryan Roberts 3B
Jose Lobaton C
Elliot Johnson SS

Angels
Maicer Izturis SS
Howie Kendrick 2B
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo RF
Kendrys Morales DH
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Vernon Wells LF
Chris Iannetta C
Peter Bourjos CF

C.J. Wilson and the art of coping

July, 28, 2012
7/28/12
10:35
PM PT
C.J. WilsonKirby Lee/US PresswireC.J. Wilson went 0-for-July after losing to the Rays, but said he hopes August will be better.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Because the Angels signed C.J. Wilson as a free agent this past winter, it's easy to forget he's not exactly a sage when it comes to being a starting pitcher.

Until 2010, Wilson had never started a major league game, having pitched out of the Texas Rangers' bullpen from 2006 through 2009.

He's still dealing with all kinds of new experiences, the latest being the irritation of watching so much of his work go to waste. Wilson hasn't exactly been dominant -- he tends to throw too many balls to work deep into games -- but he certainly has pitched better than to be shut out without a win since June 26.

He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in five of those six intervening starts, four of which have been Angels losses.

"It's a little bit odd, you know what I mean? It's not what I'm used to," Wilson said. "The last couple of years, I've gone out there and won one or two or three or four or five games a month, so July was rough, but August is going to be better and everything averages out."

The Angels out-hit Tampa 5-4 on Saturday but left eight runners on base and, consequently, lost 3-0. It looked like a momentary blip for a hot offense (Tampa pitcher Matt Moore has some of the most devastating stuff in the American League), but it seems Wilson has been getting most of the bad luck this month. Not only haven't the Angels scored, but they have made a handful of crucial errors behind him.

Wilson seems to have this thing in pretty good perspective. He said he chatted with fellow Angels starter Dan Haren about what it's like to pitch with scant run support. Early in the season, the Angels were shut out repeatedly with Haren and Ervin Santana on the mound. Santana has struggled ever since. Haren has pitched better of late but is having a subpar season.

"You just have to sort of be robotic and just go out there and do your job, throw as many innings as you can and try to keep your team in the game," Wilson said.

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3 up, 3 down: Rays 3, Angels 0

July, 28, 2012
7/28/12
9:12
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Angels say they're still focused on winning their division, but now they have two teams to get past.

The Angels managed just five hits against Matt Moore and three relievers, and lost 3-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night. The loss pushed them out of second place for the first time since May 25. The Oakland A's, 18-3 this month, won again and relegated the Angels to second-to-last in the four-team division. The Angels, with roughly three times the payroll of Oakland, trail first-place Texas by four games.

The Good:

More deserving. C.J. Wilson should not be 0-for-July. He has had only two bad starts since that rain-shortened clunker in Texas and has given the Angels quality starts in four of his past five outings. He fought through some awful fielding early Saturday and sidestepped some damage, managing to pitch into the seventh inning. For a guy with a sub-3.00 ERA to be stuck at 9-6 seems a little silly. The Angels don't seem to show up to play on some of the nights he pitches.

Who's this guy? Maybe he sensed the diminished playing time with Chris Iannetta coming from the disabled list or maybe it's a coincidence, but Bobby Wilson is hotter than he has ever been at this level. He had one of the few hard-hit balls off Moore all evening, a double to left field. At that point, he was 7-for-his-previous-14 with two doubles and two home runs. This from a guy who struggled to keep his batting average above .200 most of the season.

Tough man. Albert Pujols didn't do much Saturday. He went 0-for-3 and stranded four baserunners, but the guy deserves some credit just for staying on the field. In the past two weeks, he has endured a nasty-looking ankle injury and a badly bruised right forearm while missing just one game. Adding injury to injury, he took a mid-90 mph fastball to the upper rib cage in the fourth inning but stayed in the game.

The Bad:

Wells conundrum. Here we go again. Vernon Wells is back, he's getting booed again and he's causing a logjam of players hoping for at-bats. Manager Mike Scioscia said before the game that Wells wouldn't drastically affect youngster Peter Bourjos' playing time, but how is that possible? Bourjos typically has been playing against left-handed pitchers, and on Saturday, it was Wells supplanting him. Wells went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and played a first-inning double awkwardly. General manager Jerry Dipoto has shown a knack for acting decisively when something needs to be done, and you wonder whether Wells is in jeopardy of being released the next time the Angels need a roster spot.

Efficiency. Wilson deserves a share of the blame for his winless month. He has erratic control much of the time, and his high pitch counts tend to limit his innings. Wilson hasn't pitched more than seven innings since June 8, and he has done it just three times all year. He needed 121 pitches (and only 69 strikes) to get through 6 2/3 innings.

Early focus. The Angels are above average in the field, but early on, Wilson had a mess to contend with because of the Angels' sloppy fielding. Maicer Izturis just plain dropped a Matt Joyce pop-up, and Bobby Wilson sailed a throw into center field (although, it probably should have been caught). The misplays cost Wilson pitches, but more importantly, they cost the Angels an unearned run. Tampa doesn't score much, but it does pitch well, so playing poor defense is a good way to lose against the Rays.

Angels hope Greinke settles in fast

July, 28, 2012
7/28/12
5:23
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Zack Greinke will be riding a 19-game home unbeaten streak when he takes the mound at Angel Stadium on Sunday afternoon, but those came in a different home -- actually, two different homes.

Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young winner, has pitched once at Dodger Stadium and three times at Angel Stadium, though he estimates he has been to Southern California 20 or 30 times with the Kansas City Royals or Milwaukee Brewers.

You could look at the next two months as a feeling-out period for Greinke, who will be a free agent after this season and said the Angels are an organization that "just about anybody in baseball would want to be a part of, that's one way to put it."

The Angels acquired Greinke on Friday in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura and Double-A pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena. It could prove a hefty price to pay if Greinke leaves in November. A Florida native, Greinke knew virtually nobody on the Angels roster before he walked in the door Saturday afternoon, though he played some travel ball as a kid with catcher Bobby Wilson.

"I'd definitely get lost if I didn't have a map, but I know what direction to kind of head," Greinke said at his introductory media conference Saturday. "I don't know what roads to take, but I like to get a rental car because there's a lot of stuff to do around here."

The Angels say they think Greinke could give them the deepest rotation in the American League. He'll follow Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and C.J. Wilson. For now, Ervin Santana (4-10, 6.00 ERA) will remain as the Angels' No. 5 starter, but Garrett Richards will be standing by -- in the bullpen-- if Santana struggles again Monday night in Texas.

The Angels activated catcher Chris Iannetta from the 15-day disabled list Saturday and he will catch Greinke's Angels debut. The Angels optioned John Hester to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Iannetta has never caught Greinke, but he faced him last year in National League games and several times before that in spring training.

"He's a really tough at-bat," Iannetta said. "He doesn't give you a lot of pitches to hit and, when he does, they're not ideal. They're really tough breaking balls in the strike zone."

[UPDATE: The Angels optioned lefty reliever Hisanori Takahashi to make room on the 25-man roster for Greinke. It's a little surprising since Takahashi is a three-year veteran and is making $4.2 million this season. In 33 appearances, he had a 4.37 ERA and a 1.086 WHIP]

Here are lineups for Saturday's game vs. the Tampa Bay Rays:

Tampa Bay
Desmond Jennings LF
B.J. Upton CF
Ben Zobrist DH
Jeff Keppinger 1B
Ryan Roberts 3B
Sean Rodriguez SS
Matt Joyce RF
Brooks Conrad 2B
Jose Molina C

Angels
Mike Trout CF
Torii Hunter RF
Albert Pujols 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Howie Kendrick 2B
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Vernon Wells LF
Maicer Izturis SS
Bobby Wilson C

3 up, 3 down: Angels 3, Rays 1

July, 27, 2012
7/27/12
9:52
PM PT


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Angels got a boost before Friday's game by the trade that brought them Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke.

That, plus a stalwart outing from Dan Haren, good relief and a couple of key hits, propelled them to a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Angels, who have won five of the seven games in this homestand, gained a game on the first-place Texas Rangers and now trail by four.

The Good:

Back to form. Haren didn't look happy when Mike Scioscia came to get the ball when the first two batters reached base in the seventh inning. That's probably a good thing, a reflection that Haren feels good again. For all the buzz created by Greinke, a healthy Haren could be of equal value to the Angels. In the two starts since he came off the disabled list, Haren has looked like the rotation stabilizer he has always been. In the 12 innings since he came back from lower-back inflammation, Haren has allowed just eight hits and three runs. Once again, the Angels could have the rotation everyone thought they had.

Energy. Torii Hunter was clearly excited before the game by the Greinke addition and he played like he was 20 years old again. Hunter had hits in his first two at-bats and he played spirited right field. In fact, he lost count of the outs in the sixth inning and fired the ball into the infield after Matt Joyce flew out to end the inning. Hunter is in the final year of his contract with the Angels and nobody wants to reach the World Series more than he does.

Production. Albert Pujols has a way with numbers. Since early May, his have been steadily improving. Angels fans had some reason to worry after Pujols missed Wednesday's game after taking a pitch off his right forearm in Tuesday's game. It was only the second time out of the lineup for Pujols this year. Friday, he bounced back just fine, going 3-for-4 and driving in two runs on a missile of a double to left field in the third inning. Pujols is as hot as he has been all year, with seven multi-hit games in his last 13 starts.

The Bad:

Crowding. Vernon Wells, who was activated before Friday's game, has handled his demotion to the bench about as well as a veteran player can. He understands he has no chance to start ahead of any of the current outfielders and he said he'll do everything he can to learn how to be an effective reserve. Still, you have to wonder whether just having another player Scioscia needs to find at-bats for could be an issue. Early in the season, with Bobby Abreu still around, Scioscia admitted it was a "dysfunctional" situation. What's different about this one?

Quiet bat. Kendrys Morales looks like he's just trying to serve the ball into play these days. He's swinging at virtually every pitch and making only scant contact. He struck out and hit a couple of harmless grounders Friday and has been on base just three times since July 19, without a walk since then. The Angels have a hot offense, but questionably not a deep one. Getting him clicking finally could fix that.

Unnecessary roughness. Veteran pitchers almost seem to be taking Mike Trout's success personally lately. Matt Harrison brushed him back a couple of times. Kyle Farnsworth threw one up and in that nearly hit Trout in the eighth inning. The book is clearly to pitch Trout inside so he can't extend his arms, but these guys have better command than to miss by that much. They'd be better served figuring out how to get him out rather than trying to send a message.

3 Up, 3 Down: Rays 4, Angels 3

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
1:38
PM PT
Every time it seems things can't get much worse for this team, they do.

The Angels' offense, otherwise known as Mark Trumbo, finally managed to eke out a small lead, but closer Jordan Walden blew it by allowing a two-run, walk-off home run to pinch-hitter Brandon Allen as the Angels were swept out of Tampa Bay.

After Thursday's 4-3 loss, the Angels have lost four in a row and seven of their last nine.

The Good:

Big bat. How can Mike Scioscia continue to justify periodically benching Trumbo when he's the only catalyst right now? When the Angels were doing nothing against hard-throwing young lefty Matt Moore, Trumbo broke the ice with a solo home run and he had the key, an RBI double, during their two-run rally in the sixth. It doesn't matter where Trumbo plays, only that he plays.

By example. Torii Hunter probably ruffled a few feathers with his postgame comments Wednesday when he told reporters the Angels were "going through the motions." He also said his comments applied to "not just the players," which could be taken as a swipe at Scioscia. The comments seemed well timed, but even more important was Hunter's single through the right side to spark the go-ahead rally in the sixth.

Solid start. Jerome Williams did a little spin move, leaving the mound after his inning-ending strikeout of B.J. Upton in the sixth. After a shaky start to his season at Yankee Stadium, Williams has given the Angels some stability at the back of their rotation. Now, if Ervin Santana can stop giving up all those home runs, the Angels might have the dominating rotation everybody figured they would.

The Bad:

Bullpen blues. You can put it on the offense all you want, but at some point this bullpen needs to prove it can protect a slim lead. Walden has had spotty work all season and maybe that was the reason he left a fastball in a bad spot, low and inside to a power-hitting lefty. Either that, or maybe Walden just isn't ready for this role? Considering Scott Downs had gotten four quick outs and has been the only reliable reliever two years in a row, is he a candidate to close?

Still slumping. Who knows, maybe the little jam-shot single Albert Pujols hit will get his bat going. But -- indicative of the way things are going -- Pujols was out trying to stretch it into a double. And by the way, he's now gone 76 at-bats without a home run, rapidly approaching Willie McCovey's record for 400-homer hitters who went to a new team. It took McCovey 87 at-bats to hit his first one for the San Diego Padres.

Slow going. People seem to assume that either Torii Hunter or Vernon Wells will have to give ground if the Angels call up their top prospect, Mike Trout. But right now, it looks like the most likely candidate to lose his job is center fielder Peter Bourjos, who is batting .178 in 45 at-bats. Bourjos did draw a walk, but it was only his second all season. Would the Angels be better off optioning Bourjos to Triple-A and seeing if Trout can spark them from the leadoff spot? They might lose a bit of defense, but it's not like Trout is a slouch in center field.

Bowden proposes Trumbo-for-Davis swap

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
11:09
AM PT
In his latest offering, ESPN.com's Jim Bowden proposes five trades that could fortify contending teams. His proposal for the Angels is to ship slugging first baseman Mark Trumbo to Tampa Bay in exchange for pitcher Wade Davis.

Bowden writes:
With the recent signing of Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales projected to be healthy enough to be a full-time DH, Trumbo is now expendable.

The Angels could use Davis as their fifth starter, replacing Jerome Williams, or they could put Davis in the back of their bullpen to pair with closer Jordan Walden, giving them two arms that have the potential to shut down the game’s best lineups.

The Rays signed Carlos Pena to a one-year deal but are still looking for that non-arbitration eligible long-term solution at first base. The Rays have enough pitching depth to deal Davis. While Trumbo's not a high-OBP guy, he did hit 29 homers as a rookie and the power is real. Of course, Trumbo is still recovering from a foot injury, so no deal would happen until it heals. The Rays could also wait until July and trade for first-base prospect C.J. Cron, the Angels’ first-round pick from last June, who profiles to be another 30-home run bat. Regardless, the match is there.

Seems fairly reasonable actually, for both teams. The players are the same age, 26, and both are under team control at reasonable salaries. Davis is going into the second year of a four-year, $12.6 million contract and Trumbo won't be eligible for arbitration until after the 2013 season.

The Angels can talk all they want about Trumbo playing other positions, but it seems unlikely he'll play more than a handful of games at third base given his size (6-foot-5), the fact he couldn't do it in the minor leagues and the serious foot injury he's recovering from. He's not going to get any better sitting on the bench most of the year, even if the Angels envision him as the replacement for Torii Hunter in right field beyond 2012.

Tampa Bay is flush with young pitching and Davis (4.22 career ERA) would be a good fit as the Angels' fifth starter, allowing them to keep Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards as injury insurance.

As spring training moves along, the Angels will have enough information to move some of their spare parts, and you know they'll start listening to offers for Trumbo.

Projecting Angels pitching

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
9:01
AM PT
The Angels had the second-best starting pitching in the American League behind Tampa Bay last season, before they added C.J. Wilson, the most-coveted pitcher on the open market.

In Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, the Angels had three starters who pitched at least 225 innings, won at least 11 games and had a sub-3.00 ERA. Weaver finished second in Cy Young balloting, Haren finished seventh and Santana threw a no-hitter.

Wilson (16-7, 2.94 ERA) satisfied two of those criteria, but fell a couple innings shy of the 225 mark. As the only left-hander in the rotation, he adds a little balance and should benefit by facing different lineups than the other Angels starters.

At the back of the rotation, the Angels figure to give Jerome Williams first shot to continue his mid-career resurrection, with hard-throwing youngster Garrett Richards standing by if Williams struggles.

Add it all together and what was a strength last year figures to be the team’s salvation in 2012, right? With Albert Pujols energizing the Angels’ listless offense and reliever LaTroy Hawkins helping hold leads, getting wins might actually be a little easier for Angels starters.

Every starter on this staff is in his statistical prime. Having turned 31 in October, Haren is the oldest member of the Angels’ rotation. There’s a reasonable expectation that the team’s pitching could actually improve in 2012. Santana and Weaver haven’t turned 30 yet.

But one respected projection system, Bill James’, has the Angels starters struggling to repeat what they accomplished last season, with a combined record of 60-50 and an ERA approaching 4.00. Here are James’ 2012 projections, via Fangraphs.com, for Angels starters:

Weaver: 15-10, 3.17 ERA

Haren: 16-10, 3.27

Wilson: 15-9, 3.31

Santana: 11-13, 3.95

Williams: 3-6, 5.11

Richards: 0-2, 5.79


Do the Angels have the best starting pitching in the American League? They’re certainly in the running, though it’s hard to argue with Tampa Bay, which had last year’s Rookie of the Year in Jeremy Hellickson and whose staff veteran, James Shields, just turned 30.

Do they have the best rotation in their division? They’d be the safest bet, with Oakland beginning to auction off its talent, All-Star Trevor Cahill traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Seattle a little thin behind Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda. Texas has to rebound from losing Wilson, its No. 1 starter, but still has plenty of young talent with Neftali Feliz joining the rotation and Derek Holland seemingly on the verge of breaking out.

As usual, there are no sure things in December, but the Angels’ foundation seems as solid as any in baseball.

A's 6, Angels 5: Three Up, Three Down

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
3:44
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- The Angels blew their chance to nudge closer to the playoff picture with a spectacular ninth-inning meltdown.

Rookie closer Jordan Walden, in his second inning of work, made a throwing error on what would have been an inning-ending double play and allowed four Oakland A's runs to score in a 6-5 loss Sunday.

The loss probably cost the Angels their shot at the wild card. They trail the Boston Red Sox by 2 1/2 games pending Boston's night game in New York and they lost ground to second-place Tampa Bay, which trails Boston by just a half-game. The Angels have three games remaining, scant time to make up so much ground on two teams.

The Good:

Stealthy stuff. Joel Pineiro was 0-3 with a 10.26 ERA against Oakland in 2011 entering this game. Six of the nine batters in Oakland's lineup were hitting at least .318 in their careers against Pineiro. So, where did this come from? Pineiro breezed through six innings and had thrown just 77 pitches when Mike Scioscia pulled him after two straight singles in the seventh. Pineiro worked aggressively and fast, getting nine groundball outs and allowing just three hits.

Bobby's blast. Bobby Abreu was batting .214 since the All-Star break and had settled into a part-time role, but he's still a professional hitter. He had an RBI single in the first and a solo home run in the third. If the Angels are going to make some noise in this pennant race, you get the impression Abreu could be involved.

Scrappy offense. The Angels still haven't found a way to get their offense in gear, but they showed a little more patience than in recent games and parlayed a couple of eighth-inning walks by Fautino De Los Santos into two big insurance runs on Peter Bourjos' bloop single. It seemed like they would be important until the ninth-inning implosion.

The Bad:

Relief worries. Scott Downs hadn't allowed a run at Angel Stadium all year before Sunday. That charmed streak came to an end with a shaky eighth inning. Downs allowed two hits and walked Oakland's No. 9 hitter to allow the A's to tighten this one up considerably. Scioscia pulled him in favor of Walden with two outs and two on.

Walden's work. Speaking of which ... these apparently are desperate times, because Scioscia resorted to a desperate measure. He brought his closer into the eighth inning, a move typically reserved for late pennant races and the playoffs. The rookie was about as wobbly as could be -- giving up a home run, three hits, a walk and throwing wildly to second base on what would have been a double play. Walden hadn't blown a save since Aug. 20, nailing down six in a row.

Trumbo's ankle. For the second straight game, the Angels' most productive power hitter had to leave the game with discomfort in his right ankle. Mark Trumbo looked awful striking out three times before that. With the Rangers coming to town, the Angels figure to need some offense in the next three days and losing Trumbo -- or an effective Trumbo -- would be a blow.

What needs to happen

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
10:36
AM PT
The Angels are in a tricky spot in this all-of-a-sudden wild-card race. You could argue that they're in the perfect position, waiting for a swooning team to fall back to them. So far, the Boston Red Sox have done just that, going 5-16 this month.

It's been about Boston's collapse more than the Angels' surge. Going 5-4 on a road trip to Oakland, Baltimore and Toronto isn't exactly applying the heavy-duty heat.

The Angels likely need to go 5-2 -- at least -- in this final week to have a shot at returning to the postseason, where they've landed in six of Mike Scioscia's first 11 seasons. Let's dig down deeper and figure out how they can complete this improbable feat:

Win: Obvious, right?

Sure, but that's not the same thing as automatic. The most worrisome thing about this opportunity is the Angels' trajectory. They went into Baltimore with Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver lined up. That's about as automatic as you can get, right? No such thing as automatic.

Haren and Santana didn't pitch well -- it happens -- and the Angels lost the two games that, in retrospect, cost them a chance to really apply pressure to Boston. This is the one time of a baseball season that is all about momentum, and the Angels desperately need it.

Straighten the A's. The Angels may have exorcised some demons by taking two of three games in Oakland last week, but they're still 7-9 this season against the A's. It's pretty simple. They're batting .223 against Oakland, their worst mark against any team other than the Cleveland Indians (oddly).

The A's haven't announced a starter for Sunday's game yet, but they'll use ace Gio Gonzalez (who just shut the Angels down in Oakland) and Guillermo Moscoso (who is pitching the best of his career) in the first two games. This Oakland series isn't automatic no matter how lifeless the A's are looking right now. They show more fight when they face the Angels, probably a mixture of confidence and motivation.

Let Texas party. The Angels should root hard for Texas in the next few days. Manager Ron Washington has said he won't rest his regulars until his club has clinched. The Rangers' magic number to win the AL West is three. The ideal scenario: Texas sweeps Seattle and clinches Sunday, meaning the Angels will see lineups sprinkled with September call-ups in each of their three season-ending games against the Rangers.

They figure to face Texas' ace, C.J. Wilson, on Monday. If Texas has clinched, Washington probably will limit Wilson to five innings or so as a tuneup for the playoffs, a huge advantage for the Angels.

Buy a Yankees cap. The Angels could get stung by the flip side of Texas clinching early. The New York Yankees have already sewn up the AL East. They're on the verge of locking up the best record in the league, with a five-game lead over Detroit and Texas.

While Yankees manager Joe Girardi undoubtedly will pay lip service to the integrity of pennant races, his first responsibility is to get his team set for the playoffs. The Yankees will look to rest regular position players and scale down their starters' innings over the final week.

The Angels need to hope that the Yankees' depth (and pride) wins out, because they play exclusively against the two other wild-card contenders in their final six games. The Angels need help, and the Yankees are their best friends right now. So, what is the Yankees' reward if they help the Angels? They get to face them in the American League Division Series.

Torii Hunter moves on up (the lineup)

June, 8, 2011
6/08/11
6:02
PM PT
How desperate are the Angels to shake some runs out of their sleepy offense?

Desperate enough that manager Mike Scioscia moved his cleanup hitter, Torii Hunter, into a spot in the lineup where he hasn't hit since 1999: the two-hole. Hunter couldn't ever remember hitting there, in fact. He started just 16 games batting second for the Minnesota Twins 12 years ago, when he was 23.

Hunter, who averages 23 home runs per year, has played 85 percent of his games in the Nos. 3 through 6 spots in the lineup.

Wednesday night's lineup was as much about experimentation as finding Hunter's ideal spot, though he's hoping to see a few more fastballs if Angels leadoff hitters can reach base in front of him. The Angels have averaged two runs per game in their last five games and haven't scored more than three in a game since May 30.

"This is just about four games where we've (stunk) and trying to shake things up. If I was the manager, I'd probably do that, too," Hunter said. "But I am who I am. I'm Torii. Pitcher's know what I do and I'm not going to change how I swing, powerfully."

* The Angels drafted Scioscia's son, Matt, in the 45th round Wednesday. Scioscia said Matt, who played first base, designated hitter and catcher at Notre Dame, likely will sign Thursday. Scioscia batted .200 in 16 games for the Fighting Irish.

"He can really swing the bat," Mike Scioscia said. "He's excited just for the fact to get out there and play professional baseball."

Here are the lineups for Wednesday, with dueling aces on the mound, Jered Weaver opposing James Shields:

Tampa Bay

1. Johnny Damon DH

2. Ben Zobrist 2B

3. Matt Joyce RF

4. B.J. Upton CF

5. Casey Kotchman 1B

6. Justin Ruggiano LF

7. Felipe Lopez 3B

8. Kelly Shoppach C

9. Reid Brignac SS

Angels

1. Maicer Izturis SS

2. Torii Hunter RF

3. Alberto Callaspo 3B

4. Bobby Abreu DH

5. Howie Kendrick 2B

6. Mark Trumbo 1B

7. Vernon Wells LF

8. Peter Bourjos CF

9. Jeff Mathis C

Rays 4, Angels 1: Three Up, Three Down

June, 7, 2011
6/07/11
9:54
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- The Angels shook up their lineup and welcomed back their highest-paid player Tuesday, but the result was the same old lifeless performance, this one a 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Angels have scored three runs or fewer in seven straight games and lost six of those.

The Good:

Torii's tosses. He can't make as many circus catches as he used to make as a center fielder, but Torii Hunter has found a way to impact games with his defense. Teams are testing his arm and Hunter is passing. He threw out Johnny Damon at the plate (or, at least, umpire Laz Diaz thought he did) to end Tampa's fourth inning. It was Hunter's seventh outfield assist, tying him for second-most in the majors.

Escapism. Dan Haren looked pretty calm after the Rays loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning. Then again, Haren always looks calm. He got Sean Rodriguez to pop out foul, Reid Brignac to pop out fair and Damon to hit a harmless ground ball to evade damage.

Things happened. When teams are going this bad, you have to dig hard for signs of life. Here's one: Bobby Abreu and Hunter had a decent little two-man game going at times. They combined for four of the Angels' seven hits and Hunter actually drove in a run, a rare species around here lately.

The Bad:

Range. Peter Bourjos got one night off and his absence from the outfield was obvious. Damon led off the game with a triple to left-center -- a ball that arguably could have been caught by a younger left fielder than Abreu, 37 -- and later hit an RBI double over Vernon Wells' head. Would Bourjos have had it? Hard to say, but yeah, probably.

Depth issues. The names change, but the number of outs being generated doesn't. The bottom of the Angels' lineup is a revolving quagmire. Tuesday, Mike Scioscia went with Wells (.179), Russell Branyan (.120) and Hank Conger (.232). Tomorrow, three new people will make nine or 10 outs.

Sputtering start. Pitchers aren't allowed to give up runs, particularly not in the early innings, or this team begins flopping around on the deck of the boat. Haren actually had a pretty solid outing overall, but he was unable to get his pitches into good zones early and the Rays pounded hits all over the field, scoring three times in the first four innings before Haren cruised through his last three.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Mike Trout
BA HR RBI R
.310 21 68 63
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 21
RBIM. Trout 68
RM. Trout 63
OPSM. Trout 1.003
WG. Richards 10
ERAG. Richards 2.71
SOG. Richards 119