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Baseball / Sports

Angels welcome a more subdued camp

TEMPE, Ariz. -- There will be no shortage of marquee names when the Angels take the field for their first full-squad workout Wednesday. Mike Trout, American League most-valuable-player runner-up the last two years, will be in camp, as will three-time National League MVP Albert Pujols and 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton.

What's missing will be the buzz and expectations that accompanied such star power the last two springs, and that could be a good thing for these Angels, who entered 2012 and 2013 with World Series aspirations but were buried by brutal starts.

The Angels spent $317.5 million on Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson before 2012 and were 18-25 and eight games back in the AL West by mid-May. They spent $125 million on Hamilton before the 2013 season and were 15-27 and 12 games back by mid-May.

The Angels have bolstered their rotation with the acquisition of young left-handers Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, and made several moves that should improve a shaky bullpen. But their only off-season splurge was on setup man Joe Smith, who signed a three-year, $15.75-million deal.

Most forecasts have the Angels finishing third in the division, behind two-time defending champion Oakland and Texas.

"All the hype of, 'Oh my God, we signed another $200-million guy,' is not here," Angels ace Jered Weaver said. "It's kind of different this spring. Things have settled down. Hopefully, it will mellow things out a bit, so we can concentrate on coming together and focusing on our main goal, to win the World Series."

There were numerous factors in the sluggish starts of 2012 and 2013 -- a lack of rotation and bullpen depth, injuries, awful starts by Pujols in 2012 and Hamilton in 2013 -- but Weaver acknowledged that the Angels may have been a bit overconfident coming out of spring training.

"I think we were playing the team on paper instead of on the field," Weaver said. "We went into each season knowing we had a lot of talent, but we've seen the last couple of years that it takes more than just the names on paper. You have to go out there and make it work."

Playing to win

The Angels have incorporated several changes into their spring-training program in an effort to avoid another slow start.

They built a bunting cage, which will allow them to better simulate game conditions and gauge the effectiveness of their bunts. Pitchers will throw live batting practice before the spring games start. Batters will focus more on situational hitting. Relievers will throw more often and with more intention.

But Manager Mike Scioscia said he will not treat exhibition games any differently, because he has always treated them with importance.

"Our philosophy is that it's a baseball game," Scioscia said. "It's not a spring game. It's not a regular-season game. It's not a pennant-race game. It's not a playoff game. It's a baseball game, and you have to go out there and do the things you need to do to try to win. That's what we want to do."

The Angels open Cactus League play Feb. 28 against the Chicago Cubs.

Too much information

It's not quite the Beatles treatment, but Trout, who made a brief appearance in camp to play catch Tuesday morning before leaving for an all-day photo shoot for a shoe company, said about 200 fans greeted him in the baggage-claim area of the Phoenix airport Monday night.

"I shouldn't have tweeted that I was flying in," Trout said, jokingly. "It was crazy."

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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