Scioscia: Feldman ‘was working slow’ …

Scott FeldmanAngels manager Mike Scioscia felt Astros starter Scott Feldman may have been taking a little too long between pitches while throwing seven innings of one-run ball against the Angels on Saturday, though he doesn’t believe his pace was ultimately an issue.

“He’s certainly more deliberate,” Scioscia said. “And the umpires were aware of it. I don’t think there was an issue. It seemed like there was a lot of miscommunication with the catcher, and we looked at the catcher and definitely he was shaking a lot of signs off.”

Rule 8.04 states that when bases are empty “the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball.” Each time the pitcher goes over the allotted time, a ball is supposed to be called.

That rule, however, is rarely enforced. And when guys are on base, pitchers can take as long as they’d like.

Chris Guccione, the home-plate umpire, he tried to keep it going as best he could,” Scioscia said. “I think you’re going to have those times. He was working slow, no doubt about it.”

The Angels have seen Feldman a lot from his time with the Rangers, from 2005-12, and know he’s among the pitchers who usually takes a while. C.J. Wilson, who starts Monday’s series finale for the Angels, is similar.

Did Feldman’s pace affect the Angels hitters in Saturday’s 7-4 loss?

“I think if guys let it become a distraction, it could,” Scioscia said. “But I don’t think it was an issue.”

Here’s the Angels lineup, with David Freese sitting against a tough right-hander …

Angels (2-4)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, DH
Raul Ibanez, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Ian Stewart, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS

SP: LH Wilson (0-1, 9.53 ERA)

Astros (3-3)

Jonathan Villar, SS
Robbie Grossman, CF
Jose Altuve, 2B
Jason Castro, DH
Jesus Guzman, LF
Chris Carter, 1B
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Carlos Corporan, C
L.J. Hoes, RF

SP: RH Jarred Cosart (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Alden

Burnett ‘needs a little bit of work’ …

Sean Burnett, Mike SciosciaSean Burnett threw a second simulated game on Saturday and felt good coming out of it, “But he needs a little bit of work,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of his rehabbing lefty reliever.

Burnett — recovering from August elbow surgery and coming off a season that was limited to 13 appearances — has been throwing bullpen sessions since March 13, though he had a minor setback due to a bad reaction to an arthritis shot on March 21. Saturday’s sim game, in Arizona, was his second, occurring three days after he threw his first at Angel Stadium, but he isn’t ready to venture out on a rehab assignment just yet.

“He needs to be in a controlled environment right now,” Scioscia said.

Asked if it’s realistic that Burnett can be back by the end of April, Scioscia said: “I think the next 10 days will give us a little bit better indication of what’s happening. He hasn’t gotten close enough to really make a call on how close he’s going to be and how long.”

Pior to Wednesday, the last time Burnett had even faced hitters was in a regular-season game on May 26 of last year.

“He really hasn’t done this basically for a year,” Scioscia said of Burnett, in the final guaranteed season of a two-year, $8 million contract. “You’re not going to all of a sudden feel good, throw a couple ‘pens and go out there and pitch in a game. There’s a progression, and right now he’s really going through what you’d hope would be Spring Training for him. So it’s going to take a little bit of time.”

Day game tomorrow, so Raul Ibanez and Kole Calhoun get a break against the left-hander, with Josh Hamilton sliding down to fifth …

Angels (1-3)

Collin Cowgill, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
David Freese, DH
Hamilton, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS
John McDonald, 3B

SP: LH Tyler Skaggs (0-0, -.– ERA)

Astros (2-2)

Jonathan Villar, SS
Robbie Grossman, CF
Jose Altuve, 2B
Jesus Guzman, LF
Chris Carter, 1B
Matt Dominguez, DH
L.J. Hoes, RF
Carlos Corporan, C
Marwin Gonzalez, 3B

SP: LH Dallas Keuchel (0-0, -.– ERA)

Alden

Angels facing RISP troubles again …

Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick, Chris IannettaThe Angels are struggling to hit with runners in scoring position out of the gate, just like they did last year.

Maybe that means you shouldn’t worry?

In 2013, the Angels had just 10 hits in their first 79 at-bats with runners in scoring position, good for a .127 batting average that ranked last in the Majors through the first nine games. By the end of the year, though, that number rose to .264, good for 10th in the Majors.

So, take what you will out of the Angels going 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position in a series-opening sweep to the Mariners.

“We talk about what parts of our team right now you need to apply patience to and what parts you need to adjust, and we need to be patient there,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It’ll happen.”

Hitters will tell you it’s a lot more difficult to bat with runners in scoring position, because of the pressure of the situation and because the opposing pitcher is bearing down. But small sample sizes can be particularly deceiving in this circumstance. Many believe that over time, results with runners in scoring position – similar to results in the postseason – will reflect a player’s general track record over long enough stretches.

“Not hitting with runners in scoring position is really a function of guys not really being comfortable at the box right now for the first 10, 15 at-bats,” Scioscia said. “It’s going to go hand-in-hand where you’re not comfortable and you’re not hitting that some of those situations will find you and you may not get hits in it. But I don’t think it’s a problem at all with the approach.”

The Angels stressed situational hitting in Spring Training, with hitting coach Don Baylor calling out specific situations during batting practice. But acting that out in a regular-season game, in front of sold-out crowds and with a Major League pitcher taking it to another level with guys on base, isn’t really something can be simulated.

“You can talk about situations every day,” right fielder Kole Calhoun said, “but when you get in that situation, I don’t think there’s anything that can simulate it.

“This is a potent lineup. We ain’t clicking yet, but we will soon.”

Alden

Mike Trout’s jersey cracks Top 20 …

The latest list of most popular jerseys was unveiled on Thursday morning, and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz ranks first. That’s no surprise, given that numbers are based on sales in the offseason, after the 2013 World Series was concluded. Naturally, teammate and fellow champion Dustin Pedroia ranks second.

Mike Trout, meanwhile, ranks 14th. When the previous list came out in late September, based on sales following the 2013 All-Star Game, Trout was 10th. Both seem a little low for the game’s best all-around player and potential “face of baseball.” But overall team popularity plays a huge part in these numbers, which is a big reason why the Red Sox (3), Yankees (2), Dodgers (2), Cardinals (2) and Rangers (2) have more than one current representative.

Here’s the full list …

1. Ortiz
2. Pedroia
3. Derek Jeter (NYY)
4. Yadier Molina (StL)
5. Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
6. Andrew McCutchen (PIT)
7. Buster Posey (SFG)
8. David Wright (NYM)
9. Robinson Cano (NYY/SEA)
10. Manny Machado (BAL)
11. Yasiel Puig (LAD)
12. Bryce Harper (WAS)
13. Miguel Cabrera (DET)
14. Trout
15. Matt Harvey (NYM)
16. Prince Fielder (DET/TEX)
17. Adam Wainwright (StL)
18. Koji Uehara (BOS)
19. Yu Darvish (TEX)
20. Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS/NYY)

Alden

De La Rosa, Burnett throw in sim game …

Dane De La RosaKey Angels relievers Dane De La Rosa and Sean Burnett took important steps in their respective rehab programs while taking part in simulated games at Angel Stadium early Wednesday afternoon.

Not a moment too soon.

The Angels’ bullpen has started the year by giving up eight runs over six innings through the first two games, with closer Ernesto Frieri and setup man Joe Smith sitting idly by as the middle relievers struggled to keep small deficits manageable. On Monday, Kevin Jepsen and Nick Maronde gave up six runs in the ninth. On Tuesday, Michael Kohn gave up two more in the ninth.

But by the time the Angels play their next home game — on April 11 against the Mets, following a six-game road trip through Houston and Seattle — De La Rosa expects to be back.

“I’m getting antsy,” said De La Rosa, who’s working his way back from a right forearm strain suffered on March 6. “When we get everybody healthy, together at the same time, we’re going to be a shutdown bullpen.”

Before April comes to an end, Burnett — limited to 13 games last year, recovering from August elbow surgery — also hopes to return, giving the Angels a critical late-inning lefty reliever.

“I just want to get out there and play,” Burnett said. “I’m a baseball player. It’s been what I’ve doing since I was a little kid. I’m itching to get back out there.”

De La Rosa, who has already taken part in a couple of Minor League games, threw roughly 35 pitches in the bullpen and 25 more to hitters knew what was coming ahead of time. When the Angels hit the road, De La Rosa will venture out on a rehab assignment with Double-A Arkansas in hopes of being activated by next Friday.

Burnett threw 30-some-odd pitches in the bullpen and another 15 in the sim game. It was his first time facing hitters since May 26, 2013, and called it “the biggest hurdles I think I can possibly clear.” He’ll throw in another sim game in Arizona in two days, then hope to go out on a rehab assignment after that.

“I couldn’t throw the ball much better than I did today,” Burnett said. “Now it’s just arm strength, building up to 25, 30 pitches.”

Here are the lineups for the series finale, with the tarp currently on the field …

Mariners (2-0)

Abraham Almonte, CF
Brad Miller, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Justin Smoak, 1B
Corey Hart, DH
Stefen Romero, RF
Dustin Ackley, LF
Mike Zunino, C
Willie Bloomquist, 3B

SP: LH James Paxton (0-0, -.– ERA)

Angels (0-2)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
David Freese, 3B
Josh Hamilton, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS

SP: LH Hector Santiago (0-0, -.– ERA)

Alden

Tuesday’s intentional walk of Robinson Cano …

Justin SmoakLefty C.J. Wilson clearly wasn’t on board with Mike Scioscia‘s decision to intentionally walk lefty Robinson Cano to face the switch-hitting Justin Smoak, who wound up hitting the three-run double that pretty much decided the game. Asked if it felt weird to walk a left-handed hitter to face someone batting from the right side of the plate, Wilson said: “Yes. No more questions on that one.”

So, no more questions were asked.

But we can examine it a little further.

First, the facts …

Situation: 2nd and 3rd, 2 outs, T3, Mariners lead 1-0

Cano vs. Wilson: .389/.450/.611, 40 PA
Cano lifetime: .309/.355/.505, 10 yrs
Smoak vs. Wilson: .207/.281/.517, 32 PA
Smoak as RHH: .223/.294/.362
Smoak as LHH: .230/.324/.401
LHH’s vs. Wilson: .196/.278/.274
RHH’s vs. Wilson: .252/.336/.382

So, not only is Cano one of the most dangerous hitters in the game; he’s one of few left-handed hitters who has actually had success against Wilson. Smoak, meanwhile, has never produced like a first baseman should — and isn’t necessarily a dangerous cleanup hitter. The only circumstances that made this scenario remotely debatable are (1) Smoak was 3-for-5 with a three-run homer heading into that at-bat and (2) the end result wasn’t good for the Angels.

If Scioscia would’ve done the opposite and pitched to Cano, and Cano would’ve brought in the runs, he would’ve been hammered for the decision — and rightfully so.

“Robinson Cano is the guy you want to try to minimize as much as you can,” Scioscia said. “Justin Smoak, give him credit – got some big hits last night, got some big hits tonight. If that continues, then Robinson Cano will get some pitches to hit. But right now, you’re going to want Justin Smoak to swing the bat instead of Robinson.”

Wilson clearly wanted to face Cano, which is fine. He’s a competitor; he should want to face Cano. But that doesn’t make it right. And the end result doesn’t mean the decision to walk Cano was a bad one. I’ll take my chances with Smoak over Cano, every single time.

And Smoak would, too.

“No doubt,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you? I don’t care if it’s lefty-on-lefty or what. There’s a reason why they do that.”

Alden

Moving on without ‘Groove’ …

Don BaylorWhen Angels coaches passed the phone around late Monday night, shortly after a 10-3 Opening Day loss to the Mariners, Don Baylor‘s first reaction from UCI Medical Center was, “How’d our hitters do?”

When Angels vice president of communications Tim Mead checked in on Tuesday morning, hours before he would undergo surgery for a fractured right femur, Baylor had just one question: “What do you think is the best way to get me in the clubhouse on crutches?”

“That’s the kind of guy we’re dealing with, man,” said Angels assistant coach Dave Hansen, who played for the Mariners when Baylor was the hitting coach there in 2005 and will now take over for him on the interim.

“Don’s one tough guy,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia added. “He’s not giving in to anything. He wants to get back and help us. He’ll get this done and we’ll see exactly where he is, what he can do.”

Baylor underwent surgery at about 1 p.m. PT on Tuesday, but results aren’t available just yet. Recovery time for a fractured femur is usually a minimum of 12 weeks, and may be longer for somebody who’s 64 years old and was previously afflicted by multiple myeloma, a cancer that attacks plasma cells in the bone marrow.

But Baylor is cut from a different cloth.

“He’s one tough dude,” Hansen said.

“Knowing Don, he’ll want to come on the next road trip,” Scioscia said. “He’s going to have an impact for sure — watching video, texting, staying connected – whether he’s here or not.”

Baylor crouched down for Vladimir Guerrero‘s ceremonial first pitch on Monday night, his left knee on the dirt. The throw came in a little low, a little outside and a little fast, and Baylor’s weight shifted to the right side and caused his right leg to practically buckle underneath him (video can be found here, but it’s pretty graphic). He remained stoic, slowly tried to get up, but his right leg gave out, prompting the Angels’ training staff to rush out to the field and help him off it. Three innings later, he was taken to the hospital.

Minor League hitting coordinator Paul Sorrento has been summoned by the organization to help out on the Major League coaching staff. Rick Eckstein, a hitting coach with the Nationals the previous five years, will continue in his role as player information coach. Hansen will run the meetings, but said his workload shouldn’t change too much.

The greatest void will be Baylor’s presence.

“He brings a natural presence,” Hansen said. “He just has that about him. Plus he’s done so much on the field that demands that, too. MVP, so many years in the game, done so many things. That’s a pretty big presence. I can’t explain what the void will be. I’m just hoping he’ll be around enough to keep his presence felt.”

Mariners (1-0)

Abraham Almonte, CF
Brad Miller, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Justin Smoak, 1B
Corey Hart, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Stefen Romero, RF
Dustin Ackley, LF
John Buck, C

SP: RH Erasmo Ramirez (0-0, -.– ERA)

Angels (0-1)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
David Freese, 3B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Hank Conger, C
Erick Aybar, SS

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (0-0, -.– ERA)

Alden

Vladimir Guerrero retiring with the Angels …

vladVladimir Guerrero isn’t just throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Opening Day today.

He’s signing a one-day contract, so that he can officially retire with the Angels.

Guerrero is one of two players in Angels history to win an MVP, along with Don Baylor, who will catch the first pitch. Guerrero signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Angels in January 2004,won the American League MVP in his first year and spent six of his 16 seasons with the Angels, batting .319/.381/.546 with 173 home runs and 616 RBIs.

If Guerrero enters the Hall of Fame — he’s got a good chance, with a career .318/.379/.553 slash line, 449 homers, 181 stolen bases and one of the greatest arms in history — he could be the first to enter as an Angel. But he could also go in as a Montreal Expo (.323/.390/.580 with 234 homers in his first eight seasons).

Guerrero batted .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs with the Rangers in 2010, then .290 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs with the Orioles in 2011, which ended up being his last season.

Here are the Opening Day lineups …

Mariners (0-0)

Abraham Almonte, CF
Brad Miller, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Justin Smoak, 1B
Logan Morrison, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Michael Saunders, RF
Dustin Ackley, LF
Mike Zunino, C

SP: RH Felix Hernandez (0-0, -.– ERA)

Angels (0-0)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, LF
David Freese, 3B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Chris Iannetta, C
Erick Aybar, SS

SP: RH Jered Weaver (0-0, -.– ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Mike Scioscia is happy to report that he’s lost 40 1/2 pounds since Nov. 1, “and I’ve got 25 more to go.”
  • In case you missed it, the A’s signed Joe Blanton to a Minor League contract. In semi-related news, the Mets signed Bobby Abreu to a Minor League deal.
  • Dane De La Rosa (right forearm strain) threw an inning in a Minor League game on Thursday and Saturday and is slated to pitch in a sim game at Angel Stadium on Tuesday, just before venturing out on a rehab assignment. He looks lined up to be activated by the time the Angels return from a six-game trip, for the April 11 home game against the Mets.
  • Sean Burnett (recovery from August elbow surgery) expects to pitch in a sim game on Wednesday, then probably head to Arizona to appear in games there. On not being active for Opening Day, Burnett said, “Yeah, it’s frustrating, but we’re going in the right direction.”
  • Brian Moran (left elbow inflammation) is playing catch in Arizona, and Scioscia said he’s “close” to getting off a mound. Moran hasn’t since appearing in a game on March 12.

Alden

Door is open for a fast Angels start …

A strong belief in one’s roster is usually followed by a phrase like “as long as we stay healthy.”

Well, the American League West is anything but to start the season. The Rangers are littered with injuries, with starter Derek Holland (right knee), second baseman Jurickson Profar (right shoulder) and catcher Geovany Soto (knee) all out until midseason and Yu Darvish (neck) starting the year on the disabled list. A’s Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker will miss all of 2014 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery and A.J. Griffin (right flexor muscle strain) is on the shelf. And the Mariners — in town the next three days — have two starters on the DL in Hisashi Iwakuma (right middle finger) and Taijuan Walker (right shoulder).

The door is wide open for the Angels.

Mike Scioscia, Jerry DipotoThey’ve had the fourth-worst April winning percentage the last two years, crippling any chances they had of reaching the playoffs. But of the Angels’ 27 games through the month of April this year, only nine will come against teams that made the playoffs in 2013. Four will come against an Astros team that has lost 100 games three straight years (though, granted, they won 10 of 19 games against the Angels last year), and three will come against the Mets, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006. But there’s one really tough swing — a three-city trip from April 18-27, which will see the Angels visit the Tigers, Nationals and Yankees.

The Angels will also be off in each of their first six Thursdays. Yes, you’d rather have the days off at the end of the year, but a fast start is crucial this year, and those off days certainly won’t hurt that cause.

In hopes of facilitating a better start, the Angels tweaked their Spring Training program. Position players took more swings and focused more on situational hitting. Starting pitchers were stretched out earlier. Relievers attacked their bullpens more aggressively. Live BP was re-introduced after a one-year hiatus. And more shifting is taking place defensively, after the Angels went from 2nd to 27th in Defensive Runs Saved over the course of one season.

One year after having by far the worst Spring Training record and ERA in the Majors, the Angels had a much better camp. Here’s a look at the numbers …

Record: 19-11-2, 2nd in the Cactus League
Runs: 190, 4th in MLB
OPS: .803, 3rd in MLB
SP ERA: 4.01, 11th in MLB
RP WHIP: 4.20, 4th in MLB

Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Kole CalhounPositives from camp: Albert Pujols looked light on his feet around the bag and on the bases. … Josh Hamilton quickly got his timing back after missing time with a strained left hamstring. … Tyler Skaggs was mostly sitting at 95 mph, after having a hard time touching 90 mph last year. … Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun — batting ninth and first, respectively, and ahead of Mike Trout — drew a combined 21 walks. … C.J. Wilson had a 1.88 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. … Ernesto Frieri didn’t allow a run in 10 outings. … Trout batted .414/.460/.828. … The Angels rid themselves of two potential distractions, releasing Joe Blanton and signing Trout to the much-talked-about extension. … Out-of-options infielder Andrew Romine was turned into much-needed starting-pitching depth in Jose Alvarez.

Negatives from camp: Sean Burnett is still working his way back from August surgery, but he’s expected to face hitters for the first time in a sim game on Tuesday or Wednesday. … Dane De La Rosa is starting the season on the DL with a right forearm strain, but he could be back as soon as the weekend series in Houston. … Brian Moran is working his way back from left elbow inflammation, leaving Nick Maronde (1.89 Cactus League WHIP) as the only lefty in the bullpen to start the year. … Skaggs and Hector Santiago had their occasional long innings, an indication that there will be some growing pains. … Newcomers David Freese (one extra-base hit) and Raul Ibanez (.218 batting average) didn’t have great results at the plate, but both were happy with the way they were driving the ball.

Now, what does all this mean for the regular season?

I have no idea.

***

The Angels’ depth chart can be found here.

Now, if you’ve followed baseball long enough you know that a team never goes an entire season with the same 25-man roster (or even the same five-man rotation). So, here’s a look at who’s next in line at every position …

Catcher: Luis Martinez
Third base: Luis Jimenez
Shortstop: Tommy Field
Second base: Grant Green
First base: C.J. Cron
Left field: J.B. Shuck
Center field: Matt Long
Right field: Brennan Boesch
Starter: Wade LeBlanc or Alvarez
Reliever: Brandon Lyon

***

Mike TroutOn that Trout contract

For months, many wondered how much Trout would be worth in the open market and speculated what it would cost to lock up the best all-around player in baseball. They put his three arbitration years at upwards of $60 million, had him pegged as a $35 million free agent and believed he could be baseball’s first $300-million player.

But three are three important things to keep in mind about Trout’s situation …

1. He isn’t in his free-agent years yet. He still needed to get through three arbitration years, which greatly limits how much a player can make.

2. Being a $300-million player would’ve probably required a 10-year, contract, and that wouldn’t have been ideal because Trout wants to cash in on another monster contract by hitting the open market before age 30.

3. There’s just as much incentive for Trout as there is for the Angels, no matter how great he is. Why? Because free agency is a whole four years away, a lot can happen in four years, and it’s hard to turn down that much financial security so early.

So, Trout’s contract is $144.5 million over the course of six seasons, from 2015-20 (with a full no-trade clause, basic incentives and no additional option years or opt-outs). And I think it gives both sides what they want. It gives the Angels three additional years of Trout and some cost-certainty. It gives Trout a chance to be a free agent again at age 29 and makes him the highest-paid player relative to service time at every juncture.

Here’s a look at the year-by-year breakdown, and who Trout surpasses …

2014: $1M (Pujols in 2003 and Ryan Howard in ’07 with $900K for a pre-arbitration player)*
2015: $10.25M (Howard, $10M in ’08 for first-year arbitration)**
2016: $15.25M (Howard, $15M in ’09 for second-year arbitration)
2017: $19.25M (Howard, $19M in ’10 for third-year arbitration)
2018-20: $33.25M (Miguel Cabrera, $31M AAV in ’14 for a free agent)

* the $1M compensation was done before the contract
** $5M of that will be paid to Trout in 2014, as part of a signing bonus

***

Jered WeaverSome questions, answered …

Can the Angels stay competitive for the next seven seasons to keep Trout’s interest in the team? (@ryanwjsmyth)

One of the reasons Trout felt comfortable staying with the Angels long term is because he knows the owner, Arte Moreno, isn’t afraid to put his money into making this team competitive. One thing is for sure: The Angels will not be in rebuild mode over the life of Trout’s contract, or even while Moreno is around. But it’ll be harder and harder to stay below the luxury tax and put a World Series-contending product on the field as Hamilton and Pujols naturally decline. Jerry Dipoto has a tough task at hand — continue to build a contending team while also developing young pitching. Getting Santiago and Skaggs is a good start, though. Also, keep in mind: Trout’s decision to stay will be based more on how good the Angels can be after 2020, not necessarily what they’ve done leading up to it.

Will Albert Pujols hit 30+ home runs this season? (@adreamersview)

If healthy, I think you can bank on that. He hit 30 in 2012 even though he went a month and a half without hitting his first (and I don’t expect that to happen again). Plantar fasciitis didn’t just limit his defense and baserunning. It made his right knee, surgically repaired the previous offseason, swell up. And it sapped his power because a hitter is nothing without a healthy base. I’m never going to doubt Pujols’ ability to hit. He’s proven it long enough.

If the Angels make a run for the postseason what do you see them doing at the trade deadline? (@gizmosol)

Trying to get their hands on more starting pitching. Justin Masterson and Max Scherzer are heading into their final seasons before free agency, Cliff Lee and David Price may get shopped, and all sorts of other starters could become available in July. The Angels still have roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold that they’re willing to use. Yes, the farm system is still pretty barren. But the list of teams in the market for a starting-pitching rental in July is usually very short, and the Angels could dangle Cron or Taylor Lindsey or Kaleb Cowart or some of their (few) good pitching prospects if they feel they’re close (and hope for a better result than the 2012 trade for Zack Greinke).

***

Here are some links to our Opening Day coverage …

The Angels 2014 Season preview
Jered Weaver gets franchise-record sixth Opening Day nod
Ibanez reflects on what Opening Day means to him
Broadcaster Jose Mota talks about the upcoming season

Some feature stories from earlier in the spring, in case you missed them …

Weaver leads rotation’s quest for redemption
Pujols, Hamilton facing more doubt than ever
Mike Scioscia eager to reclaim winning formula
John McDonald “a magician” with the glove
The odyssey of De La Rosa, and a lesson in never giving up
Trout can’t believe how fast this is all happening

Alden

Angels finalize their roster, option Shuck …

The final two bench spots go to right-handed-hitting outfielder Collin Cowgill and left-handed-hitting infielder Ian Stewart, alongside utility infielder John McDonald and backup catcher Hank Conger.

The final four bullpen spots go to right-handers Matt Shoemaker, Fernando Salas and Michael Kohn, and left-hander Nick Maronde. That’s in addition to closer Ernesto Frieri, setup man Joe Smith and middle reliever Kevin Jepsen.

That means outfielders J.B. Shuck, Brennan Boesch and Matt Long, infielder Grant Green, catcher Luis Martinez, right-hander Cory Rasmus and left-hander Jose Alvarez are optioned to the Minor Leagues. Brandon Lyon was also sent to the Minors.

Relievers Dane De La Rosa (right forearm strain), Sean Burnett (left elbow discomfort), Brian Moran (left elbow soreness) and Cory Rasmus (right elbow soreness) start the season on the disabled list.

Alden

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