Oh happy day! Pitchers and catchers have reported to camp. That means baseball is sort of here! It is the kind of stuff that makes me want to go down to my local high school ballfield just to sniff the grass and lick the dirt. But that would be crazy, right? Right? Ri- right? Yeah, right.
Um, ok, so clearly I need focus on something else to keep my enthusiasm from getting the best of me. I know! Let's look through all the pitchers in Angels camp and see what battles there are. That's a good ol' blogging standby! Of course, the problem is that the Angels have almost no real position battles to speak of. Plus who want to hear me write about no-name non-roster invitees wearing jersey numbers in the 80's? So, rather than just focusing on position battles, we will also take into consideration any personal challenges facing guys in camp. And let's face it, EVERYONE has some kind of personal challenge to overcome… except maybe Mike Trout who is the most perfect baseball-playing human being ever created. Anyway, on to the pitchers!
Jered Weaver: Personal – As the undisputed staff ace, Weaver is living on Easy Street. That being said, he has some questions to answer coming into camp for the first time in years. After dealing with back and shoulder problems last season, Weaver lost a tiny bit of effectiveness and more than a bit of velocity. Seeing him regularly touching 90+ MPH on the radar gun would certainly make everyone feel better.
C.J. Wilson: Personal – He has two personal battles to face this spring. The first is proving his elbow is healthy after having bone chips removed this off-season. After that, he needs to prove that he can be the All-Star caliber pitcher the Angels thought they were signing two Decembers ago. One would hope that by proving the first one, the second one quickly follows suit.
Tommy Hanson: Personal – Easily the rotation member in camp with the most to prove. Showing up in good shape would be a good start. Showing up with his shoulder feeling strong would be even better. If he wants to show up with increased velocity, well, that would just be swell. However, I think the Angels would settle for him actually learning to pitch with reduced velocity.
Jason Vargas: Positional – Eventually, Vargas will have to prove that he can survive outside of the atmosphere in Safeco Field. There isn't much he can do about that in spring training. Instead, he'll just be battling Joe Blanton to avoid the ignominious distinction of being tabbed as the fifth starter.
Joe Blanton: Positional – The fans may already not like him being in the rotation, but he is being paid too much to get shifted to the bullpen before at least getting a shot in the rotation. No, the only thing he'll be battling, as mentioned above, is Jason Vargas to figure out who ranks where on the inning-eating totem pole.
Ryan Madson: Personal/Positional – Our first double threat! Obviously, Madson has to show that he is recovered from Tommy John and reports suggest that he could be ready for Opening Day. The real intrigue though is if/when Madson can get Scioscia to officialy deign him the team's closer.
Ernesto Frieri: Positional – Until Madson is ready, Ernasty gets to masquerade as the Angels' closer. But he could don the mantle on a less temporary basis with a dominant spring in the vein of his no-hit streak when first acquired from San Diego. Anything less and he'll simply be relegated to keeping the spot warm until Madson is ready to take over.
Scott Downs: Personal – I think there will eventually be a battle between Downs and Burnett to determine who the go-to left-handed set-up man will be, hopefully with less hyphens though. But I think Downs has tenure and will thus keep the role through the spring, assuming he can conquer his personal battle of staying healthy during spring for a change and also showing that he has regained the effectiveness that eluded him after his health started to deteriorate in the second half of 2012.
Sean Burnett: Personal – The reason Burnett likely won't get to unseat Downs until later in the season is because Burnett, like Wilson, is coming off of bone chip removal in his pitching elbow. Wow, I just realized that six of the first eight pitchers mentioned here all have health questions to answer. That can't possibly blow up in the Angels' face, right?
Kevin Jepsen: Personal – Please, like anybody trusts Kevin Jepsen.
Jerome Williams: Positional – His $2 million guaranteed salary should grant him job security but a bad spring training and/or a great spring from someone like Garrett Richards and the man with the pink glove could be getting a new address. The Angels have been concerned with rotation depth this off-season, so they won't release him outright, but if some team is desperate for starting pitching a few days before the season, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that the Angels trade him away.
Garrett Richards: Positional/Personal – At the risk of overstating things, this might be a make or break spring for Richards. He already lost the rotation spot everyone thought he would be handed when the 2012 season ended. Now it looks like he might have to head back to the minors unless he can convince the team to keep him as a reliever. To do that, he'll not only have to pitch well, but he'll also have to prove to Scioscia and the front office that he has the right attitude about accepting his fate no matter what it is. If rumors from last spring are to be believed, the attitude part of the equation could be the most difficult part for him to accomplish.
David Carpenter: Positional – An outside shot at being the final arm in the bullpen or at least the token guy who has to wear those clear Oakley-style glasses that are only acceptable on the baseball field.
Bobby Cassevah: Personal/Positional – Did you know Cassevah has been converted into a starting pitcher? I'm guessing half the Angels' coaches don't either, which is why Bobby will be on a mission to show the organization that he can hack it in the rotation. If things go really well though, he could get tabbed for the final bullpen spot where he'd serve as a longman who can also double as a groundball specialist.
Steve Geltz: Positional – His video game numbers in the minors could give him an inside edge at landing a bullpen job on Opening Day, but only if he shows he can keep the ball down during the spring.
Michael Kohn: Personal/Positional – Kohn will be out to prove he is healthy after Tommy John surgery last season and that is really the main focus of his spring. The only way he works his way into the bullpen mix is if he is well ahead of schedule on his recovery.
Ryan Brasier: Positional – Brasier is running out of time to show that he is more than just a Quad-A reliever. This spring will be big for him.
Barry Enright: Personal – The rotation is pretty full up, so Enright will just be jockeying for position on the depth chart as the hopeful 8th starter.
Brad Mills: Personal – See the Enright comment, only don't deduct points for being a soulless ginger.
Brandon Sisk: Personal – In due time, Sisk will battle with Taylor to be the first lefty called up once Downs suffers his trip to the disabled list, but for now, Sisk should be in the business of proving that the Angels actually got a player of value in exchange for Ervin Santana.
Andrew Taylor: Positional – His jockeying for position with the aforementioned Sisk on the organizational depth chart at LOOGY begins now.
Nick Maronde: Personal – Sure, he could probably be a solid contributor in the bullpen now, but who needs three lefty relievers? No, Maronde will be working in camp to prove that the Angels made the right decision to keep seeing if he has the stuff to make it as a starting pitcher.
Billy Buckner: Personal – I think he just needs to prove that he wasn't playing first base for the Red Sox in 1986 and this spring will be considered a rousing success.
A.J. Schugel: Personal – There is no way Schugel earns a role out of camp, but he could turn some heads in the front office with an impressive camp.
Robert Coello: Personal – If he can do anything to show that he is anything other than a warm body to soak up innings in the minors, it will be a major victory.
Fernando Cabrera: Positional – He's got MLB experience and I suspect Dipoto has an eye for underrated relief talent, so who knows?
Kevin Johnson: Personal – I don't know who this is. If that changes by the end of spring, he had a successful camp.
Tony Pena: Personal – Pena seems to be having the worst Tommy John surgery recovery in over a decade. It will be a victory if he actually throws a pitch during a split squad game at this point.