Halos hurlers, backstops get to work
Pitchers, catchers to report to Spring Training camp
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Eager to get started with his new team, Jon Garland was among the early arrivals on Wednesday as pitchers and catchers began to gather at the Angels' Spring Training base at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
"I'm really excited about being part of this team," said Garland, who met with Mike Napoli, one of his new catchers.
Garland, acquired from the White Sox in exchange for shortstop Orlando Cabrera, is looking forward to settling into his new surroundings in pursuit of a World Series ring to match the one he helped the 2005 White Sox claim.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, GM Tony Reagins, consultant Bill Stoneman and the coaching staff held the first of their meetings in the early afternoon, laying the groundwork for a busy spring for the reigning American League West champions.
Pitchers and catchers reported to camp Thursday, with the first workout set for Friday under the watch of Scioscia and the staff.
The full squad, featuring new center fielder Torii Hunter, is expected in camp on Feb. 19, with Feb. 26 the mandatory reporting date for all players. The Angels' first Cactus League game is set for Feb. 28 at Tempe Diablo Stadium against AL West Division rival Texas.
Hunter, a seven-time Rawlings Gold Glove winner for the Twins, is known for his defense, but he'll also add a lethal bat to the mix. He's coming off a careeer-high 107 RBIs, and his 28 homers tied him for the most among all AL outfielders with Jermaine Dye and Magglio Ordonez.
An optimist by nature, Scioscia is as enthused as ever about his athletes and the challenge ahead, with the early focus on a pair of right-handed starters, one familiar to everyone, one new to the cast.
"I really like our club," said Scioscia, embarking on his ninth season as leader of the Angels. "I think it's going to be another exciting year. I can't wait to get started."
Kelvim Escobar, after experiencing discomfort in his shoulder throwing in preparation for Spring Training, will be eased into baseball activities. An 18-game winner last season, Escobar isn't expected to do any throwing until the second week of camp, at the earliest.
Jon Garland, acquired from the White Sox in exchange for shortstop Orlando Cabrera, is looking forward to getting to know his new teammates and getting comfortable in his new surroundings.
With Escobar unlikely to be ready to assume his No. 2 spot behind John Lackey at the start of the season, Garland and Jered Weaver figure to move up a notch, with Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders filling out a deep and talented rotation.
"Jon Garland is a big acquisition for us," Scioscia said. "We gave up a guy who was a tremendous player for us in O.C., but you have to give something to get something. Starting pitching is our foundation, and we think Jon is going to be outstanding."
Garland, a Southern California native who attended the same high school (Granada Hills Kennedy in the San Fernando Valley) as new teammate Garret Anderson, was an 18-game winner in 2005 and 2006.
Garland excelled in postseason play for the '05 World Series champion White Sox, outdueling Lackey in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series in Anaheim.
Slipping to 10-13 last season with a 4.23 ERA, Garland is confident he'll return to top form.
"I feel like I'm getting better," Garland said. "I think I've learned a lot and become a better pitcher."
He's certainly durable, a quality the Angels feel will pay dividends across the board -- especially with a bullpen that at times was overworked last season.
Since moving full-time into the White Sox rotation in 2002, Garland has averaged 207 innings per season and 6.4 innings per start. He missed a start only once in his career, in his 2000 rookie year when Fred McGriff smashed a line drive off his pitching elbow.
"He's proved he's going to take the ball, make his 30-plus starts and get deep in games," Scioscia said. "He's a guy who can pitch in the front of a rotation."
Lackey embraces the arrival of another tall craftsman to the rotation. At 6-foot-6, Garland can look the ace right in the eyes.
"He'll definitely benefit from pitching in a fair park -- and having that guy [Hunter] roam center field won't hurt either," Lackey said in welcoming Garland aboard.
Garland's former home park, U.S. Cellular Field on Chicago's South Side, is known as a launching pad compared to Angel Stadium.
Escobar's situation could ease some of the early pressure on Santana and Saunders, who'd been expected to duel for the No. 5 role in the rotation.
"He'll be behind the other guys in camp," Scioscia said of Escobar, who had shoulder inflammation in April and again in September. "You have to be smart with these things. But if he picks up the ball in the second week and everything goes right, he could fold into the rotation late in the spring. I'm not ruling anything out.
"Even if he's not in the rotation the first time or two around, we'll be fine. We have calculated depth with our starters. The big thing is to make sure Kelvim has his arm strength when he goes back out there. It's a long season."
Escobar has been in Tempe, going through rehab and getting treatments. His situation calls to mind last spring, when Weaver and Bartolo Colon were recovering from arm ailments.
The Angels opened the 2007 season with Weaver and Colon out of the rotation. Saunders and Dustin Moseley filled in capably before Weaver returned on April 17, Colon on April 21.
As for the catchers, the focus will be on a return to prime form of Mike Napoli, who was limited to only 42 at-bats in the second half of 2007 after suffering a high ankle sprain in early July.
Napoli and Jeff Mathis are expected to share the bulk of the catching duties, with Ryan Budde and Bobby Wilson offering support.
The lineup is set except for shortstop, where Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis and Brandon Wood will bid for Cabrera's job.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.