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Monday, April 8, 2013
Angels look to speed up slow start in home opener

Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The big-budget Los Angeles Angels are off to another low-rent start, and they don't want it to linger.

After going 2-4 away from Anaheim in the first week of the season, the Angels all realize they've got to get rolling before they fall into the same type of hole that doomed them last season.

Los Angeles plays the AL's final home opener Tuesday night against the AL West champion Oakland Athletics. The Angels began the season by dropping two of three to 2012 playoff teams in each of their first two series, and they could use a few quick wins to create some good feelings around a team that spent nearly every week of last season playing catch-up.

"We've got high expectations, and we've got to get off to a good start," said Mike Trout, who went 7 for 28 with eight strikeouts in the Angels' opening week. "The rough start last year hurt us."

Indeed, the Angels have the same record they posted in the first week of last season. That start dragged into a 6-14 slump before the Angels recalled Trout from the minors, leaving Los Angeles in a hole it never escaped despite being one of the majors' best teams for the rest of the year, even winning more games than eventual AL champion Detroit.

The April slump played a large role in keeping the Angels out of the playoffs for the third straight season, the longest stretch in manager Mike Scioscia's 14-year tenure.

"I think we've made improvements, (but) we had a really good team last year as well," said Mark Trumbo, who batted .280 with 5 RBIs in the first week. "The goal is to make the playoffs. Obviously, we didn't get there last year, but we've been over it a million times before. Our start really put us in a deep hole, and we never were able to get out of it."

The whole opening week wasn't pretty. New $125 million outfielder Josh Hamilton went 4 for 25 with 10 strikeouts while enduring vociferous boos from his former fans in Texas. The Angels scored more than four runs in just one of their six games, going 5 for 45 as a group with runners in scoring position.

What's more, ace Jered Weaver left Sunday's loss early with a strained elbow, painfully jamming his non-throwing arm while dodging a line drive.

Left-hander C.J. Wilson will start for the Angels on Tuesday night, facing Oakland's Jarrod Parker. The A's won the West last year with a fraction of the Angels' payroll, and Oakland is out to a 5-2 start this season.

Hamilton got off to a slow opening week with his new club, managing just one hit in the first five games before a three-hit effort Sunday amid constant boos. He still hasn't homered after hitting a career-high 43 last year for Texas -- but this club has a little experience in waiting for a high-priced slugger to get his first homer as a Halo.

Albert Pujols already hit his first two homers of this season on Saturday, but the $240 million first baseman didn't hit his first homer of his first season with the Angels until May 6 last year. His tepid start was just one factor in Los Angeles' early stumbles, and the Angels are trying to keep the 33-year-old healthy for a long season, using him at designated hitter for two games last weekend.

"Albert had a great year last year, regardless of April," outfielder Peter Bourjos said. "Last year took us a while to jell, and that's why we got off to the slow start."