Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Los Angeles Angels Center Fielder Peter Bourjos, Left, Is

By Bruce Nye - Columnist

The Angels head home tonight from Texas with a 5 -1 road record and have one of the best records in MLB at 12-6.  On this road trip, they swept the White Sox and took 2 of 3 from their rivals the Texas Rangers.  Is it time for pennant fever?

With just over 10% of the season behind them, the Angels have turned some heads with most of the headlines discussing the starting pitching records of Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.  To be sure, that is a great storyline but there is more to the story.

What the Angels have shown so far is they can play and they can play competitively. Most national pundits had the Angels finishing in 3rd place in the AL West this year because of several question marks:

  1. Will Fernando Rodney be an effective closer?
  2. Who will play third base? Can Brandon Wood win the job?
  3. Is it a new and improved bullpen?
  4. Will the 2011 Scott Kazmir be like the 2009 version?
  5. Can Jeff Mathis take over the catcher position?
  6. Will Kendrys Morales be back to start the season
The answers to those questions is largely no, no, maybe, no , no and no.  Rodney has been replaced by Jordan Walden, who has done a terrific job with 3 saves in 3 3 opportunities.

Alberto Callaspo has filled in admirably as the every day third baseman until Eric Aybar returned from the DL, while Macier Izturis who leads the AL with a .380 batting average and tied for most hits with Alex Gordon (27), will most likely move back to the third base position with Callaspo giving him a breather at the position from time to time. Brandon Wood got off to another terrible start hitting just .143 with eight strikeouts and was released last night.

The bullpen got off to a shaky start, but has responded in fine form the last two weeks.

Scott Kazmir has not improved, but the 21 year-old Angels Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Tyler Chatwood has stepped up and impressed the Angels and their fans. Matt Palmer was nails against the Rangers on Tuesday night winning his first game on the 2011 season. What a gritty performance considering he pitched against a division rival, limited the Rangers strong offense in what's a tough ballpark to pitch well in.

Rookie Hank Conger has been a breath of fresh air and has appeared to have won the starting catching position providing offense, power, worked well with the pitchers and strong behind the dish defensively.

Rookie Mark Trumbo has filled in for Morales and now leads all MLB rookies in home runs and RBIs.  His power and defense has been terrific coming off a strong 2010 minor league campaign and excellent spring.

Center fielder Peter Bourjos continues to thrill with his blazing speed on defense and with two home runs, 8 RBIs and close to a .300 average has answered questions as to whether he is MLB quality. 

So what does this all mean?  It means that April is still April and pennants are not won this month, but can be lost.  The youngsters are showing the Angels FO and manager that they are ready and it is beginning to show the fans that the “rebuilding process” from 2010 has been a success and the right buttons so far have been pushed.

The team will welcome Joel Pineiro and Kendrys Morales back to the line-up, because it takes all 25 players to provide a winning team.  There is a long way to go and Manager Mike Scioscia will preach again about playing one game at a time.  But Scioscia is once  again showing why he is arguably the best manager in MLB.
Love to hear what you think!

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