Cumberland Times-News

Local Sports

March 29, 2013

Hamilton, Angels ready to take on Tigers

(Continued)

WEST

TEXAS RANGERS

After an embarrassing collapse in the final week of the season and a loss in the wild-card game, the Rangers then irked some fans. They didn’t open their wallet to keep Hamilton or Mike Napoli and traded the team’s career hits leader, Young, to the Phillies.

There’s no panic in Texas, though, and rightly so. The Rangers’ lineup is still formidable, with MVP candidate Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz. The feisty Pierzynski hit a career-high 27 homers for the White Sox last season and could approach that number again in Texas’ homey ballpark. And, the club has the top young position player in the minors ready to break into the lineup, infielder Jurickson Profar.

Texas might not be able to match the Angels run for run, but it will outpitch Los Angeles. Harrison and Darvish, with 16 wins as a major league rookie last year, lead a deep rotation. Joe Nathan returned to form as the closer.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Fans will be sticking to their seats when the hitters are taking their hacks, but when Weaver’s not on the mound the concession lines could get a little long.

Weaver’s an ace and C.J. Wilson can be a formidable No. 2, although he had an up-and-down first season in California. After that, who knows? The Angels brought in Jason Vargas, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson to fill out their rotation. The three went a combined 37-34 last year and Vargas was the only one to have an ERA under 4.00. The bullpen doesn’t offer much more confidence. Ryan Madson was signed away from Cincinnati to be the closer, but he’s coming off Tommy John surgery and was recently shut down for a stretch because of elbow tightness.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

The A’s rode a young pitching staff — five rookies at times after Bartolo Colon was suspended for 50 games for a drug violation — and the surprising performances by players such as Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson to the West title.

Can they repeat the magic that produced a majors-best 14 walkoff wins when Moss likely slugs at a percentage closer to his career average of .442 rather than the .596? Cespedes appears ready to be a breakout star and his production will be key. Jed Lowrie’s addition should help perk up the middle infield.

For Oakland to pull off another stunner in this division, it’s going to need ace-in-the-making Brett Anderson to remain healthy and the veteran Colon to help bolster the young staff.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Step one in the Mariners’ long-term health is taken care of: they locked up 2010 Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez with a $175 million, seven-year contract. Now, they need everything else to follow.

Seattle improved one of baseball’s worst offenses by bringing in Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez. The Mariners really are hoping Jesus Montero lives up to the potential he showed as a late-season callup with the Yankees in 2011 — and led them to trade top young pitcher Michael Pineda to New York for the catcher-designated hitter.

The addition of the Astros in the West should help their record some, but Seattle could be in for another dreary summer.

HOUSTON ASTROS

The inexperienced, overmatched Astros are going to be fodder for the big bats at the top of the division. Still, GM Jeff Luhnow has the team headed in a better direction with an improved farm system that should yield results in a couple of years.

This season, though, Houston could become the first team since the New York Mets from 1962-65 to lose at least 100 games for three straight years.

When new manager Bo Porter makes out his lineup every day, Jose Altuve might be the only name fans recognize. Bud Norris is the highest-paid player on the team at $3 million.

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