Have Oakland and Texas Injuries Given AL West to the Angels?

The Angels offense, coming off a disappointing 2013, looks greatly improved, and with one of the game’s best managers in the dugout and a great defensive team on the field, the one real question mark as the season approaches is again the pitching. The top of the starting staff with ace Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson coming off his best season, is excellent, but are Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs major league three-four-and five starters? Will Ernesto Frieri have a consistent year as the closer and is there enough in the bullpen to preserve leads to the ninth inning and Frieri?

Those are key questions, especially in light of two talent-laden teams in the Oakland As and Texas Rangers seeming ready to again dominate the division. But, with less than a week to opening day (unless your team has recently been to Australia), injuries have totally changed all that.

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On paper, the deep and talented Texas pitching staff looks marvelous, but all is not well on the Rangers’ mound. Ace Yu Darvish will miss at least his first start with back pain and no diagnosis and no timetable for his return are yet forthcoming, but speculation is that he could be headed for the disabled list. Lefty starter Matt Harrison was the team’s best pitcher in 2012 but he is not yet ready to pitch after missing virtually all of 2013. Derek Holland has yet to throw this spring and starts the season on the 60 day DL. Recovering from off-season microfracture surgery, he may not return until mid-season.

In the bullpen, former closer Neftali Feliz not only failed to regain that job this spring, but he failed to make the roster. The closer’s job is now in the hands of Joakim Soria, who made only 26 appearances late last season after missing a year and a half after Tommy John surgery.

The Rangers also start the season missing two key regulars. Catcher Giovanny Soto will miss three months after knee surgery for a torn meniscus, and perennial super prospect Jurickson Profar, handed the second base job this spring after the trade of Ian Kinsler, is

also likely to miss at least as much time with a torn shoulder muscle. Shortstop Elvis Andrus has had arm soreness and he also may not be ready for opening day.

In Oakland, after losing Jarrod Parker for the season and with A. J. Griffin sidelined for an unknown period, their starting depth is now


questionable, with Jessie Chavez now in the rotation after starting a grand total of twice in six seasons and over his first 191 appearances. Also in the rotation is the resurrected Scott Kazmir, who came back to post a 10-9 record with Cleveland last season after missing two full years.

The Angels still have the most question marks, that also include how well Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton come back from disastrous 2013 seasons, but the competition does not look quite as formidable as it did a couple of weeks ago.

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