Well, the Angels are now about 1/4 of the way through Spring Training and though Opening Day is still more than three weeks away, things are starting to come into focus in the battle for what figures to be three available spots on the Halos' 25-man roster.
Barring any injuries, the team figures to open the season with the following.
Pitchers (11): Lackey, Weaver, Garland, Saunders, Santana, Rodriguez, Shields, Speier, Oliver, Moseley and ???.
Catchers (2): Mathis & Napoli.
Infielders (6): Kotchman, Kendrick, Aybar, Izturis, Figgins and ???.
Outfielders (6): Anderson, Hunter, GMJr., Guerrero, Rivera and ???
That means there's a spot for one relief pitcher, one infielder and one outfielder; however, the battle for the last spot in the bullpen is the most intriguing.
Despite a slow start and a mediocre 2007, Robb Quinlan figures to claim one of the final two spots for position players. Quinlan offers flexibility in his ability to handle all four infield and outfield corners; he's a "vehtrun," and he's out of options. If he doesn't make the roster, he's probably gone. I can't see the Angels discarding him this early in the season.
Nathan Haynes figures to claim the other position spot. In addition to his ability to play all three OF spots, Haynes provides speed off the bench, and quietly established himself as the Angels' alternative hitting coach last year. Plus, Haynes is also out of options.
Thus, Quinlan and Haynes probably beat out the other contenders, chiefly Kendry Morales (who's probably better off playing every day in SLC than sitting on the bench in Anaheim) and last year's rookie sensation Reggie Willits. Willits, with his versatility and OBP, would be a better choice, but other factors will conspire to relegate him to a role at AAA to start the season.
This brings us to the mound, where Chris Bootcheck's strained oblique opens up a spot, and the competition appears to be wide open. The leading contenders are Jason Bulger, Jose Arredondo, Rich Thompson, Darren O'Day, Matt Wilhite, and Alex Serrano.
The first three are already on the 40-man roster, but there's room for one more as the Angels have only 39 players listed.
So, who will it be? Conventional wisdom says it's Bulger, who already has some big league experience and posted a phenomenal K-rate at SLC last year (13.58 k/9). But check out O'Day and Wilhite, both of whom have been getting regular work this spring and have pitched quite well. O'Day has a much more impressive minor league track record; moreover, he's a sidewinder. Guys like that tend to find their niche in the game as long as they can throw strikes. See, e.g., Chad Bradford.
Prediction: Darren O'Day