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Angels 2009 Season Preview

Spring Training Opens and people hire you to write synopses previews for their print publications and you do so with a deadline that precludes including Bobby Abreu. At least I did:

The Angels were spurned by Free Agent first baseman Mark Teixeira and record-setting reliever Francisco Rodriguez. They let veteran franchise hits leader Garret Anderson. And yet, could they actually emerge form the offseason better than the team that won 100 games in 2008? If the answer is to be yes, the secret will be in the pitching staff, where Frankie was replaced with Colorado Rockies closer Brian Fuentes. The $23 Million Dollar Angel bullpen features veteran late-inning men Scot Shields, Darren Oliver and Justin Speier along with sophomore phenom Jose Arredondo and prospect Kevin Jepsen. A 6th inning lead for the Angels is more than likely a 9th inning lead. With Ace John Lackey in a contract year followed by Aces in waiting Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver, All-Star 17-Game Winner Joe Saunders is a shocking 4th in the rotation depth, a testament to how deep the arms are in the Angels organization. Spring training brings heavy competition for that Fifth Starter slot, with rookie Anthony Ortega favored over last year’s bullpen mopper and fifth-spot stopper Dustin Moseley.

On offense, the big battle will be finding At-Bats for phenom Brandon Wood, an infielder with power. Wood is blocked at 3B by veteran Chone Figgins and at SS by wonder-glove Erick Aybar. The right side of the infield looks set with Howie Kendrick at 2B and Cuban legend Kendry Morales at 1B. Mike Napoli looks to catch 120+ games with Jeff Mathis his backup. Maicer Izturis and Robb Quinlan will fight for ABs, but a strong spring by prospect Sean Rodriguez could give the Angels even more options. Future Hall of Fame RF Vladimir Guerrero and Gold Glove CF Torii Hunter return in the outfield with Juan Rivera, Gary Matthews Jr. and Reggie Willits all fighting for ABs in Left Field or RF if manager Mike Scioscia rotates Guerrero through the DH slot.