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3 Anaheim Angels Nothing would be more heavenly than a return to form by two pivotal sluggers

March 25, 2002
March 25, 2002

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March 25, 2002

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3 Anaheim Angels Nothing would be more heavenly than a return to form by two pivotal sluggers

Is Tim Salmon finished as an All-Star-caliber hitter? Salmon,
the Angels' rightfielder, kicked that question around after a
pathetic 2001 season in which he had a slugging percentage
(.383) more feeble than those of lightweights Cesar Izturis and
Jose Macias. "It was embarrassing," Salmon says of last year,
when he hit .227 with 17 homers and 49 RBIs with a weakened left
shoulder. "You do sometimes say, 'Man, is my shoulder ever going
to feel strong again? Am I ever going to be the same again?'"

This is an article from the March 25, 2002 issue Original Layout

Then, three months into a workout regimen that began three days
after the season ended, Salmon stepped into a batting cage for
the first time and emphatically drove away any doubt. "Right
away--I mean right away--I could feel it," he says. "The ball
just jumped off my bat again. It was like, Wow, where was that
last year?"

Over the winter Anaheim added free-agent righthander Aaron Sele;
acquired righty Kevin Appier in a trade with the Mets for a
homesick, hefty Mo Vaughn and a pizza to be named later; and
brought in its first full-time DH since Chili Davis by getting
Brad Fullmer from the Blue Jays for minor league pitcher Brian
Cooper. However, the Angels' season hinges on whether their list
of additions include the former, better versions of Salmon and
centerfielder Darin Erstad, who pulled an equally baffling
disappearing act last season. Erstad had a higher batting
average (.355) in 2000 than MVP Ichiro Suzuki did last year
(.350) but then sunk to .258.

Salmon, 33, and Erstad, 27, have relative youth on their side and
no systematic pattern of decline. Each offered forensic evidence
to explain his crash. Salmon's shoulder was so weak that he
couldn't lift weights all season, which caused him to drop about
20 pounds, to 212. He reported to camp this spring at a robust
240. Erstad, who would seem due to rebound if only because he's a
.322 hitter in even years and .269 in odd ones, suffered from
back and knee ailments and the emotional fallout of a marriage
breakup.

Salmon and Erstad hit 33 fewer homers and drove in 85 fewer runs
combined than they did in 2000. That helped drop the Angels to
12th in the American League in runs. Also abetting the
decline--and provoking the need for Fullmer--were the DHs, who
were the least productive in the league (.212, eight homers).

Anaheim did stay in the wild-card race deep into the season--at
least until a 6-25 flameout--thanks to the progress of young
starters Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz and Scott Schoeneweis.
Largely because of them, Oakland's rotation was the only one in
the league that threw more innings than the Angels'. Says
pitching coach Bud Black, "All of them should be better with
another year under their belts." Or three. Ortiz, known as
Little Pedro because of his resemblance to Martinez, aged three
years under the crackdown on visas. He's 29, or only one year
younger than Pedro Classic.

The only rotation filled entirely with double-digit winners from
a year ago falls into the soft hands of catcher Bengie
Molina--that is, unless his kid brother Jose takes his job away.
Bengie, 27, never caught until he signed as a pro in 1993,
rushing to Kmart to buy the catcher's mitt he used in rookie
ball. Jose, 26, a lifelong receiver, tutored his older brother.
"I kid him all the time, 'Don't forget. I'm the teacher. You're
the student,'" Jose says.

They played together briefly in the big leagues last year, with
Jose (.270 in 15 games) and Bengie (.262 in 96 games) showing a
familial resemblance in batting averages. Another brother,
Yadier, 19, is a catcher in the Cardinals' system.

One way or another, the Brothers Molina (See them catch! Gasp at
their throws!) and the rest of the Angels are a changed team. To
the dismay of no one but Martha Stewart, they ditched the unis
that featured periwinkle in favor of a red-dominated ensemble.
Now they can only hope that Salmon and Erstad are as completely
transformed. --T.V.

COLOR PHOTO: BRAD MANGIN Erstad, who had a career year in 2000, saw his numbers take a precipitous slide last season, which continued an odd statistical trend.COLOR PHOTO: TOM HAUCK/GETTY IMAGES APPIER

In FACT
The 2001 Angels were 65-0 when leading after eight innings, the
best such mark since the 1999 Astros (82-0).

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Angels

"The Mo Vaughn trade was a great move. A new environment might
give Kevin Appier a chance to shine. He hasn't pitched well this
spring--he's throwing a lot of breaking balls, not throwing the
fastball as much as he used to. He's not throwing a lot of
strikes. He nibbles quite a bit. It looks like he's having
trouble trusting his stuff. But I'm optimistic he'll break out
of it because of his experience.... Ramon Ortiz has great stuff.
He has a power fastball, but he falls in love with his slider
too often.... Aaron Sele has good command of his breaking stuff
and a good fastball. Still, I don't see him winning 15
again--more like 12.... They've got to find a guy to get them to
Troy Percival. What a power year he had. He wasn't throwing his
breaking ball in the dirt anymore, so you couldn't just look
fastball.... Defensively they're very solid up the middle. David
Eckstein and Adam Kennedy are limited in range, but what they
get to, they catch.... Don't forget about Benji Gil. He swung
the bat well last year, so they had to put him in the lineup. He
could find himself in the number 2 spot.... Bengie Molina is
going to have some trouble getting used to the new pitchers,
figuring out what they like to do in a crisis.... The way Darin
Erstad plays the game, at that speed he'll be injured again, but
he'll still be good. He's got a football mentality where he
won't allow himself to have another bad year. Tim Salmon's kind
of the same. He feels cheated by what's happened the last couple
of years."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2001 statistics

PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
BATTING ORDER

SS David Eckstein R 119 .285 4 41 29
CF Darin Erstad L 66 .258 9 63 24
RF Tim Salmon R 96 .227 17 49 9
LF Garret Anderson L 53 .289 28 123 13
3B Troy Glaus R 22 .250 41 108 10
DH Brad Fullmer[1] L-R 124 .274 18 83 5
1B Scott Spiezio S-R 183 .271 13 54 5
C Bengie Molina R 231 .262 6 40 0
2B Adam Kennedy L-R 242 .270 6 40 12

BENCH

IF Benji Gil R 268 .296 8 39 3
OF Orlando Palmeiro L 326 .243 2 23 6

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA
STARTERS

RH Aaron Sele[1] 53 15 5 6.5 1.24 3.60
RH Kevin Appier[1] 59 11 10 6.3 1.19 3.57
LH Jarrod Washburn 64 11 10 6.4 1.29 3.77
RH Ramon Ortiz 94 13 11 6.5 1.43 4.36
LH Scott Schoeneweis 181 10 11 6.4 1.48 5.08

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA
BULLPEN

RH Troy Percival 25 4 2 39 0.99 2.65
RH Al Levine 119 8 10 2 1.31 2.38
LH Dennis Cook[1] 256 1 1 0 1.25 4.25

[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 154)

Manager
Mike Scioscia
third season with Anaheim

2001 record
75-87
third in AL West

IN THE FIELD
with defensive ratings

Golden Glover

Erstad
Glaus

Good Leather

Anderson
Salmon
Spiezio
Kennedy
Eckstein
Sele
Molina

Iron Hands