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Angels Preview: Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers

The Angels start the season on the road with an interleague series against the Reds and then head down to Arlington to take on the Rangers.

Hamilton's Old Place
Hamilton's Old Place
Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Finally, it's here. Coming off of a season in which they started slow, won eighty-nine games, and failed to make the playoffs, the Angels have reloaded. The 2013 campaign will start with Major League Baseball's first interleague series opener on April 1 against the Reds. After that, the Halos take on their rivals, the Rangers. Let's take a look at this week's series!

Angels at Reds (April 1 1:10pm, April 3 4:10pm, April 4 9:35am)

The Halos visit Cincinnati in their opener against a team that won ninety-seven games and lost to the eventual World Series winning San Francisco Giants. So what changes did the Queen City's team make? The Reds really only made one large addition -- Shin-Soo Choo. He joins Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce in the heart of the lineup. Jason Donald and Jack Hannahan also joined the team team through the Indians deal.

This season the Reds will start with their work cut out for them as the Angels will send ace Jered Weaver to the hill. Weaver looks to build on each of his last two seasons, when he won at least eighteen games. Also, the the heart of Cincinnati's lineup may hit a speed bump on Thursday when CJ Wilson pitches because both Bruce and Choo's averages dropped below .250 when facing lefties in 2012. Votto, however, maintained a healthy .288 average against left-handed pitchers.

The Reds' starting rotation remains the the same with Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Bronson Arroyo being the probable starters for their opening series against the Halos. This trio was part of a staff that had the fourth-best ERA last season.

But they may have their hands full because the Angels added a former Red -- 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton. The slugger joins a powerhouse lineup including Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, and Mark Trumbo in Anaheim. Last season, the Halos' bats produced the highest batting average along with the fourth-best RBI total. Josh Hamilton can replace, and probably add, to the numbers voided by Torii Hunter's departure.

Projected Starting Pitchers -- Weaver/Cueto, Wilson/Latos, Blanton/Arroyo

Angels at Rangers (April 5 11:05am, April 6 1:05pm, April 7 5:05pm)

For the second season in a row, Jerry Dipoto pulled off yet another move in the Angels favor. Last offseason, the new General Manager was able to shock everyone and not only sign Albert Pujols, but also CJ Wilson. This offseason Dipoto used his poker face and signed Josh Hamilton. Coincidentally, the Angels are adding former Rangers in the same way that Texas did a few seasons ago. Vladimir Guerrero, Darren Oliver, Mike Napoli? All went from red to blue. Now, Josh Hamilton and CJ Wilson go from blue to red. Start making bets for the next offseason, who knows who will be jumping ship.

This series should provide us for some interesting baseball because it ended on a very intense note last season. Remember the ever-so important game when Torii Hunter kept the Halos alive with that hit to the left-center gap? That kept the Angels alive for a few more hours as their fate would soon be realized at the doubleheader's night game.

The Rangers have not made any flashy moves, but that doesn't mean their lineup isn't strong. Yes, they lost Josh Hamilton but they still have Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler. Also, they added former Astros star Lance Berkman. And they have Jurickson Profar joining a solid infield (at a later date). Even with the loss of Hamilton, expect the Rangers to continue being an RBI machine.

As for the Rangers' pitching, the Angels should be comfortable due to no significant change in Texas' rotation. In the bullpen, they added Joakim Soria from the Royals and Jason Frasor to put behind longtime closer Joe Nathan, who continues his route to 300 saves.

Projected Starting Pitchers -- Vargas/Ogando, Hanson/Tepesch, Weaver/Darvish

The Angels are going to start their 2013 season with two series against strong teams. The pitching match-ups at Great American Ballpark should be of high quality and the ball will likely be flying at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Play Ball!