The Angels already assumed they'd be without the services of Josh Hamilton for at least the first few months of the season. This week's unfortunate news regarding Hamilton's relapse not ony threw a wrench in those plans but also reinforced the idea that some things are much bigger than baseball. It's unclear at this juncture whether Hamilton will be punished by the league, but it shouldn't matter. The Angels know he needs to take care of himself and "get right" before he — or they — can think about rejoining the team. What that means for Spring Training is twofold: the Halos have to not let it be a distraction while also figuring out who will play in his absence ... perhaps someone such as Matt Joyce.
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What can Lindstrom provide?
The Angels signed veteran reliever Matt Lindstrom to a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invite, but he could very well wind up on the Opening Day roster. The Angels took a low-risk chance on Lindstrom, who had a rough, injury-shortened 2014 with the White Sox, posting a 5.03 ERA in just 34 innings. Still, over his career he owns an ERA of 3.68 and 51 saves spread across eight seasons, and he could fight for a spot alongside Joe Smith and Huston Street in the Angels' late-inning bullpen corps.
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Keeping everyone healthy
Albert Pujols arrived at camp with a rejuvenated sense of purpose and an intense focus on making 2015 a banner year for the Angels. Whether that happens or not has a lot to do with health ... after all, last season partially derailed because of Josh Hamilton's ongoing injury woes and Garrett Richards' season-ending knee injury in Boston. Keeping players such as Pujols healthy is crucial — after all, he had his healthiest year as an Angel in 2014, posting a .272/.324/.466 slash line with 28 home runs and 105 RBIs in 159 games. More of that in 2015 will be a huge boost.
Who's on second?
In the absence of Howie Kendrick, the Angels have a huge question mark at second base. Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin will arrive late to camp due to visa issues, but there's no way to know yet if he'll impress enough to win starting duties. That leaves newcomer Josh Rutledge and utility man Grant Green as viable options. Rutledge slashed .269/.323/.405 in 105 games for the Rockies a year ago, but most of those games were at hitter-friendly Coors Field. Will he be able to hit like that at the Big A? No matter who wins the second-base role, he'll have to also focus on establishing a rapport with shortstop Erick Aybar, who to this point has worked exclusively alongside Kendrick ... so Spring Training will really help solve that piece of the infield puzzle.
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Making Trout's dreams come true
Mike Trout has done enough on a personal level — he says he's all about the team's goals this season. In a recent media chat with reporters at camp, Trout emphasized that 2015 is a 'title or bust' year for the Angels. Anything less will be a disappointment. Considering that the Angels ran away with the West last year, winning 98 games, only to crash and burn against the Royals in the ALDS, Trout's declaration makes total sense. That said, he and his teammates will have to focus in on the common goal during Spring Training ... something that probably won't be very much of a challenge for them.