Thursday, February 28, 2013

By Brian Waller, Columnist -- 

This is the time of year all baseball fans look forward to. The weather is warming up, spring training games have started and each of us, no matter which team we support, have at least a glimmer of hope that this could be the season our favorite ballclub makes the post season. As fans look forward to the upcoming season, managers and coaches sift through dozens and dozens of players to put together their opening-day 25-man roster. So many different aspects go in to building a contending ballclub; the rotation, offense, bench, bullpen, minor league systems, etc. With so much information to follow from each team it may get a little overwhelming for the common fan. Fortunately, the MLB Network has an annual series called “30 Clubs / 30 Days”, the one stop shop for baseball fans wanting to scope out the competition or learn more about their team going into the season. was provided an opportunity to discuss the upcoming 2013 season with MLB Network analyst Eric Byrnes. Many of you will remember Byrnes from his playing days with the Oakland Athletics, Colorado Rockies, Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Seattle Mariners. Byrnes has hung up the cleats for a position on MLB Network where he shares his baseball expertise and experience with viewers around the country.

Waller: First and foremost, on behalf of I just wanted to thank you for your time today, I know you have been roaming all over the Cactus League for the 30 Clubs / 30 Days feature on the MLB Network.

Byrnes: It’s my pleasure Brian. It has been a little crazy with visiting each club in the Cactus League; I have so many ERA’s, WHIPS, and WAR stats floating around in my head its crazy. It’s been enjoyable though catching up with the teams.

Waller: Now, jumping right into it, what are your thoughts on the moves the Angels made this past offseason, was it enough to shift the balance in the AL West?

Byrnes: You know, there is a lot of talent in the AL West. The A’s are for real and aren’t going anywhere. The Rangers still have the talent to compete and win the division so they are in the mix as well. The Angels definitely improved their offense. The addition of Hamilton gives them, in my opinion, potentially the best offense in baseball however; their rotation took a hit in the offseason and has some question marks.

Waller: Speaking of the A’s, do you feel they have improved going into 2013?

Byrnes: Actually yeah. The A’s have great depth and I really think they will again compete in 2013. 

Waller: You bring up the rotation; can you give me your thoughts on the additions the Angels made to their pitching staff in the offseason?

Byrnes: Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton and Vargas will be interesting to watch this season.  Blanton will eat innings and give the Angels anywhere from 190-200 innings. Vargas will eat up some innings as well; it will be interesting to see how he pitches this season away from Safeco Field. Hanson will be a wild card in my opinion. If he can stay healthy he is capable of putting up solid numbers. I think if two out of three of those pitchers perform well then it will result in a successful season for the Angels. On the other hand, if two out of those three pitchers falter for the Angels it will hurt their chances in the AL West.

The addition of Madsen and Burnett should really help the bullpen out; the Angels blew quite a few saves last season and I don’t think that happens again this year. The improved bullpen is definitely a positive going into the season.

Waller: What are your thoughts on Mike Trout; will there be a drop off from 2012?

Byrnes: Mike Trout is a special player. There may be a drop off because the numbers he put up last year were just crazy. I think he will have another really good season. Again, this Angels offense has the potential to be the best in baseball. They will be a fun team to watch this season.

Waller: Many fans remember you from your playing days. You played with the A’s for six seasons and faced the Angels numerous times through the years; can you share some of your experiences facing the Halos?

Byrnes: You know it’s funny; the Big A is a great place to play baseball. The fans are tremendous and get really into the games. In my opinion Angel Stadium can be as noisy as Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium. I always enjoyed playing in Anaheim because I grew up in the area. It would be great to have family and friends from the area come to the game to watch me play. It was also great to play against Troy Glaus who I played with at UCLA. We would catch up on the field and then go grab a bite and a few drinks after the game. I have a lot of good memories playing at the Big A.

Waller: Who was the toughest Angels pitcher you faced?

Byrnes: Oh man, no doubt about it…K-Rod. Frankie Rodriguez was always tough to hit. He had a good fastball and a hard, heavy curve ball. It was always tough facing him; his stuff was just plain nasty.

Waller: its common knowledge that good natured “ribbing” or jokes are played amongst players during the course of the season; thinking back to your playing days, what would you say was the best prank you were involved in?

Byrnes: Wow, good question. There are always the typical pranks like “hot foot” and stuff like that but I think the best happened when I played with the A’s. I won’t use the player’s name but there was a time we got a guy pretty good with an Icy/Hot type burning cream. In the past people have put it in someone’s jock strap but this time the cream was put in someone’s suit for the plane ride home. Needless to say, it was a long trip back home for the prank victim. No harm was done and we all had a good laugh out of it. Gags and pranks like that really help break up the monotony of traveling and the long season and help build team chemistry. 

Waller: Eric, I know you are getting ready to cover another Cactus League team  for 30 Clubs / 30 Days, on behalf of I wanted to thank you for your time today. We really appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us on the upcoming season.

Byrnes: No problem at all Brian, it was my pleasure. It will be a fun season and the Angels are going to be an exciting team to watch. I plan on following on Twitter and maybe catching up down the road.

Waller: Sounds great Eric thanks again.

30 Clubs / 30 days will roll into Tempe, Arizona THIS COMING FRIDAY (March 1st). The content covering the Halos will air on MLB Tonight Live at 10:00 p.m. Eastern / 7 p.m. Pacific.

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