4 Anaheim Angels A new attitude and a potent lineup won't make up for an old, flammable staff

March 27, 2000

It's 1994. There's an obscure new TV show called Friends, Hootie
and the Blowfish are on the early path to stardom, Monica
Lewinsky is a student at a small college, and you're a very bad
Rotisserie baseball player. The draft is today, and you've
wasted your first 15 picks on position players. You have no
starting pitchers. You scan the list of those who haven't been
selected: Ken Hill. Kent Mercker. Tom Candiotti. Tim Belcher. "I
can still compose a pretty good rotation," you tell the other
guys at the draft table. They laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

It is 2000. You are Mike Scioscia, the optimistic new skipper of
the Angels. You've got a couple of good power hitters, a steady
shortstop, a logjam of solid outfielders and a good closer. Then
you scan the list of possible starting pitchers and see these
four names included among them: Ken Hill. Kent Mercker. Tom
Candiotti. Tim Belcher. Six years ago those four would have been
decent complementary members of a staff. Hill, a righty, was a
strong No. 2 starter. Mercker, a lefty, was a decent long
reliever and spot starter. Righthanders Candiotti and Belcher
seemed past their prime but ate some innings. Now, thousands of
pitches (and hits) later, they're key components of what could
be the majors' ugliest staff since the Rockies debuted in 1993
with David Nied as their ace. "You're dealing with more
hypotheticals than you'd probably like," says new pitching coach
Bud Black. "We have healthy competition, which is nice. But the
couple of ifs can drive you crazy."

Black's ifs number more like a couple of trillion. If Hill, 34,
can rebound from the myriad injuries (inflamed right elbow,
strained right groin, tendinitis in his left knee) that made him
unproductive (4-11, 4.77 ERA) last season.... If the 32-year-old
Mercker's new paint-the-corners approach transforms him into a
consistent winner.... If Candiotti, 42, can still get hitters
out with his knuckler.... If the 38-year-old Belcher, who is
recovering from right elbow surgery and won't return until May,
can make a strong comeback.... If 23-year-old rookie phenom
Ramon Ortiz, who has a big league fastball and changeup, is
mature enough to be the No. 2 starter.... If lefthander Jarrod
Washburn's spring poundings were only a matter of rust from a
ribcage injury that limited him to 16 appearances last year....
If Jason Dickson, an All-Star in 1997, can bounce back after
missing last season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder....
If closer Troy Percival's abysmal second half (6.00 ERA, seven
blown saves in 15 chances) was a fluke, not the result of a
tired arm.... If new general manager Bill Stoneman can swing
that Matt Walbeck for Pedro Martinez blockbuster....

Last season, surprisingly, Anaheim's staff was something of a
bright spot during a hellish year of finger-pointing, whining
and an inordinate number of injuries. The Angels' 4.79 ERA was
fifth lowest in the American League, and opponents batted just
.269. But Anaheim didn't even try to re-sign its ace, 12-game
winner Chuck Finley.

Scioscia admits the Anaheim pitching is questionable. To offset
it, he's hoping that his lineup, which has the potential to put
up big numbers, remains healthy enough to do so. Last year the
nine hitters in the Angels' projected lineup missed 440 of a
possible 1,458 starts. First baseman Mo Vaughn sprained his left
ankle on Opening Day and missed 43 games. Shortstop Gary
DiSarcina broke his left forearm when he was struck by a coach's
fungo backswing and was on the disabled list for three months.
Outfielders Tim Salmon and Jim Edmonds, the Nos. 4 and 5
hitters, respectively, were plagued by various maladies and
played a combined 153 games. Though Anaheim was 11th in the
league in homers and last in batting in 1999, this year's
offense, which also features leftfielder Darin Erstad and third
baseman Troy Glaus, has plenty of firepower. "This is one of the
most explosive lineups I've ever been with," says Vaughn, whose
.281 average was his first below .300 since 1993. "When I was in
Boston, this team always scared me. The thing is, last year we
weren't together."

In 1999 the Angels' clubhouse atmosphere was toxic. Vaughn
ripped Edmonds for waiting until the season started to undergo
right shoulder surgery, which kept him out until August. Randy
Velarde, now with the A's, Vaughn and other players met with
G.M. Bill Bavasi in June to protest a proposed contract
extension for manager Terry Collins. Collins resigned in
September. Finley was the subject of nonstop trade rumors.

"This is a new season, a new feel," says Vaughn. "We all saw
Mike Scioscia when he was catching with the Dodgers--a
hard-nosed guy who knew how to play the game. Now we've got
someone to play hard for, someone we respect."

But unless Scioscia can pitch, his leadership probably won't be
enough.

--J.P.

COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA PRECISION POINT Mercker, who will work the corners more, is one of many questions on a staff that, though newly armed, is anything but dangerous.
COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA

Around The HORN

OFFENSE
[3 1/2 stars]
DEFENSE
[4 stars]
STARTING PITCHING
[1/2 stars]
bullpen
[2 1/2 nstars]
MANAGER
FIRST YEAR

by the numbers

1999 Team Statistics (AL rank)

Batting average .256 (14)
Runs scored 711 (13)
Home runs 158 (11)

1999 record: 70-92 (fourth in AL West)

Opponents' batting average .269 (5)
ERA 4.79 (5)
Fielding percentage .983 (4)

next up...

Eight years ago, when 17-year-old Bengie Molina was discovered
in his hometown of Dorado, Puerto Rico, by an Angels' scout, he
was a smooth-fielding, strong-armed shortstop. "I thought of
myself as an infielder," says Molina, "but the scout looked at
my body and said, 'Can you catch?'" The 5'11" 207-pounder made
the switch instantly. Molina, who spent half of last season with
the Triple A Edmonton Trappers before a 31-game stint in
Anaheim, has quick feet, soft hands and an above-average arm,
and was named the minors' top defensive catcher by Baseball
America. This year he'll push Matt Walbeck for the Angels'
starting job. He's hoping his opportunities to play in the
majors won't be curtailed by the nagging injuries he has
suffered in four of his seven minor league seasons. "He's a
defensive catcher with pop," manager Mike Scioscia says of
Molina, who hit .286 with seven homers and 41 RBIs in 65 games
in Triple A last year. "He just needs to stay healthy."

the lineup
projected roster with 1999 statistics

Manager: Mike Scioscia (first season with Anaheim)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

LF Darin Erstad L 142 .253 13 53 13
CF Jim Edmonds L 94 .250 5 23 5
1B Mo Vaughn L-R 23 .281 33 108 0
RF Tim Salmon R 55 .266 17 69 4
3B Troy Glaus R 110 .240 29 79 5
DH Garret Anderson L 120 .303 21 80 3
2B Scott Spiezio[1] S-R 271 .243 8 33 0
C Matt Walbeck S-R 332 .240 3 22 2
SS Gary DiSarcina R 289 .229 1 29 2

BENCH

OF Todd Greene R 208 .243 14 42 1
OF Orlando Palmeiro L 304 .278 1 23 5
C Bengie Molina (R) R 312 .257 1 10 0
IF Benji Gil*[1] R 372 .279 17 64 17

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Ken Hill 111 4 11 5.6 1.60 4.77
RH Ramon Ortiz (R) 130 2 3 5.4 1.55 6.52
LH Kent Mercker[1][2] 171 8 5 5.1 1.64 4.80
RH Tom Candiotti[1] 255 4 6 4.7 1.63 7.32
RH Tim Belcher[3] 214 6 8 5.5 1.62 6.73

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Troy Percival 21 4 6 31 1.05 3.79
RH Mark Petkovsek 158 10 4 1 1.28 3.47
RH Shigetoshi Hasegawa 230 4 6 2 1.48 4.91
RH Lou Pote (R) 304 1 1 3 1.19 2.15
RH Al Levine 310 1 1 0 1.24 3.39
LH Scott Schoeneweis 286 1 1 0 1.55 5.49

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 164)
*Triple A stats
[2]Combined AL and NL stats
[3]Will begin season on DL

the book
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Angels

"The Angels will bounce back with a better year for a couple of
reasons. Now that all their players seem healthy, I like their
offense. They won't have trouble scoring runs, and Mo Vaughn
looks like he's going to have a big year. The other reason
Anaheim should improve is new manager Mike Scioscia. Terry
Collins, the former skipper, was a drill sergeant, and you can't
be that way anymore. Scioscia isn't too far removed from playing
to know that.... Now the bad news: The general manager, Bill
Stoneman, hasn't done anything to improve the team. The pitching
is a problem. Ken Hill has good stuff, but he's not close to
being a No. 1 starter. Tom Candiotti and Tim Belcher? They're
way past their primes. I like righthander Ramon Ortiz. He's got
a plus fastball and a good breaking ball with good command....
Troy Percival, the closer, is coming off a shoulder injury. He
looks good, but he still has to show he's ready to pitch two or
three days in a row. With this staff the Angels will need to
score six or seven runs a game to win. Even with their offense,
that's too much to ask. I can't see them finishing higher than
third."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)