The start of spring training always brings optimism and World Series dreams. Even to teams like the Pirates and the Orioles, every player who takes those first few steps onto those beautifully manicured fields, feels the same way. The Angels are not only one of those teams, but one of the few that would be upset if that goal is not achieved.
Lots of changes have been made by the Angels. Gone is their No. 1 starter, their lead-off hitter and their most feared bat in the line-up. Most teams would be entering spring training with a lot of doubt; that’s not the case with this team. They were able to add 15-game winner Joel Pineiro to an already deep starting rotation, a power arm for their bullpen in Fernando Rodney and to boot, the 2009 World Series MVP, Hideki Matsui to the line-up that led MLB in batting average. World Series hopes are still a reality.
With lots of hope and the game’s best manager in Mike Scioscia, the Angels , still like most teams, need to be healthy and have keys player bounce back to their normal reliable selves.
Can Scot Shields return to Mr. Automatic in the 8th inning? Can Rodney be consistent enough to give Scioscia the option of a dynamic left-right combo to close out games for the club? Does the power totals of Matsui in the homer haven of the new Yankee Stadium translate into big flies at the Big A? Will Erick Aybar fill the role Chone Figgins did so well last year?
Lots of questions but that’s the joy of spring training. Plenty of time to figure things out. Lots of time for the pitchers to work on their golf swings. Time for the catchers to get beat up, catching bullpen after bullpen. And if that’s not enough, Scioscia takes them to the back fields to block baseballs until they turn black and blue.
Like I said, the smells and sounds of spring training are like no other in sports. I’m still extremely happy I was a pitcher and not a catcher! I prefer a golf course to bruises . More to come as the position players arrive to camp and get to hear Mike Scioscia’s first talk of spring training, which in itself, is always memorable.