When the Angels opened training camp opened just over three weeks ago, the concern about the rotation was initially which pitchers would end up there and who would end up as potential trade bait. Now, just over a week into Cactus League play, the concern has shifted to health and effectiveness, or more specifically who will have both when camp breaks on March 31st.
Jered Weaver became the latest starter to end up on the shelf, as the veteran righty had a precautionary MRI done on his neck on Thursday, reporting stiffness a day after getting lit up by the Dodgers in his second spring start. Weaver joins southpaws C.J. Wilson and Tyler Skaggs in dealing with injuries. However, the issue is initially believed by the club to be minor and shouldn’t affect Weaver’s readiness to start the season.
Wilson has yet to be ready to make an appearance thanks to tendinitis after recovering from arm surgery at the end of last season, while Skaggs continues to make his way back from Tommy John surgery last year. Neither pitcher is expected to be ready by Opening Day, which means an almost certain trip to the disabled list to start the season.
Making things even more tenuous for the Angels rotation is Matt Shoemaker‘s inability to keep the ball in the park and Nick Tropeano showing no marked improvement from a year ago when he bounced between the Halos and Salt Lake.
Yes, there are still three weeks left in spring games and plenty of time for everyone to get back on track. However, that process really needs to begin in earnest this weekend as the starters figure to have only four more appearances the rest of the way.
Something of interest in the first week and change: the rarity of the position players expecting to be on the team actually all playing together in the same game: manager Mike Scioscia has only fielded his projected starting nine three times, and not at all outside of Tempe Diablo Stadium.
The other twist is that Kole Calhoun has appeared at the top of the lineup just once. Calhoun, who has spent the last two seasons setting the table for Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, has been batting either fourth or fifth in the majority of his appearances. The exception was in the Halos first spring game in Tempe when he hit second and delivered three hits and scored two runs.
If the early lineups are any indication, Scioscia looks as if he is going to leadoff with Yunel Escobar, folowed by Daniel Nava before getting to the heart of Trout, Pujols, Calhoun and C.J. Cron. The bottom of the order looks to be some mix of Andrelton Simmons, Carlos Perez and Johnny Giavotella. Again, with three weeks of spring games left and plenty of at-bats remaining, nothing can really be set in stone as of yet.
David Freese is now officially a former Angel with no return happening, as the 2011 World Series MVP signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday. In two seasons with the Halos, Freese went .258/.322/.401 with 24 home runs and 111 RBI in 255 games, missing a chunk of time in both seasons with injuries.
The signing and lack of any interest by the Angels virtually assures Escobar of the third base job this season instead of being used as a super utility. It also means that the Halos will once again go with Giavotella at second despite the knock on his defense, though he has looked better in camp so far after spending the offseason working with Oakland coach Ron Washington on footwork and other fundamentals.