5 things to know about Angels going into camp
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)
Five things to know about the Los Angeles Angels as they start spring training camp:
SLUGGERS REBOUND: After their worst season in a decade, the Angels are counting on bounce-back performances by the big bats at the heart of their lineup for a return to the playoffs. Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are coming off dismal seasons, but the 30-something sluggers are back in top shape and ready to start earning their enormous paychecks. Hamilton is coming into camp lighter and more flexible after bulking up and then struggling for most of his first season in Anaheim, while Pujols has been resting and rehabilitating since playing in his last game July 26.
STARTING FIVE: Last season's rotation was pretty much an epic fail, so general manager Jerry Dipoto is rebooting. After veteran pitchers Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas all couldn't get the job done behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, the Angels decided to invest in cost-controlled young pitching, acquiring left-handers Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago in trades that cost them slugger Mark Trumbo. The youngsters will pitch alongside Garrett Richards, and the Angels will even take a spring look at Mark Mulder, who hasn't pitched in the majors in nearly six years.
WE HAVE TROUT: Mike Trout is back for his third full big league season, and there's little reason to think the 22-year-old outfielder won't cement his reputation as arguably the best player in the majors. After finishing second in AL MVP voting twice to Miguel Cabrera, it's tantalizing to imagine what the darling of baseball's statistical analysis crowd might be able to do next. One thing is for certain: He'll have the chance to make even more highlight-reel catches by moving back to center field, his favorite outfield position, after the Angels traded Peter Bourjos.
HOT CORNER: After several years spent barely getting by at third base, the Angels finally have a significant talent at the hot corner. Los Angeles acquired former World Series MVP David Freese from St. Louis in the offseason, filling the most obvious remaining hole in their lineup with a veteran slugger. Freese struggled with the Cardinals last season, but he'll be expected to contribute in the middle of the lineup from opening day.
QUICK START: April just might be the most important month of the Angels' season. That's because they've started slowly in every year since their last playoff appearance in 2009, forcing them to play catch-up for the rest of four mostly dismal seasons. A fast start will be a key to the job security of Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, the majors' longest-tenured manager heading into his 15th season. Both bosses appeared to be in trouble last October before owner Arte Moreno gave them another shot to turn it around.