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Rotation: RH Jered Weaver (11-8, 3.27 ERA, 117 Ks), LH C.J. Wilson (17-7, 3.39, 188 Ks), RH Garrett Richards (7-8, 4.16), LH Hector Santiago (4-9, 3.67 with White Sox), LH Tyler Skaggs (2-3, 5.12 ERA for Diamondbacks).

Key Relievers: RH Ernesto Frieri (2-4, 3.80, 37 saves), RH Dane De La Rosa (6-1, 2.86), RH Joe Smith (6-2, 2.29 with Indians), RH Kevin Jepsen (1-3, 4.50).

Hot Spots: The Angels are relying heavily on their high-priced bats returning to form for their return to the playoffs. Pujols appears healthy and ready to play most games at first base after injuries ended last season in July, while Hamilton is hoping to regain his MVP swing by adding muscle after an ugly debut season in Orange County. If Pujols and Hamilton have still got it, the Angels should be in good shape. If they don’t, the Angels’ payroll and lineup will be weighed down for the next several years.

Outlook: After four straight years out of the postseason for the big-budget Angels, 2014 feels like a make-or-break year for manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto. While they wait to see whether owner Arte Moreno’s expensive hitters finally come through, Dipoto filled the club’s glaring holes in the offseason with Freese, Santiago and Skaggs. Weaver and Wilson are back to headline a rotation that was the Angels’ true downfall last season. Los Angeles still has arguably the majors’ best player in Trout, and the club is talking about a long-term contract extension with the gifted outfielder. But the two-time MVP runner-up needs support from a veteran lineup. Pujols and Hamilton realize they’ve got to get going quickly to give the Angels a chance to get back to October.


Seattle Mariners

Manager: Lloyd McClendon (first season).

2013: 71-91, fourth place.

He’s Here: 2B Robinson Cano, OF Corey Hart, 1B-DH Logan Morrison, C John Buck, INF-OF Willie Bloomquist, RHP Chris Young, RHP Fernando Rodney.

He’s Outta Here: Manager Eric Wedge, OF Raul Ibanez, DH Kendrys Morales, SS Brendan Ryan.

Projected Lineup: CF Abraham Almonte (.264, 2 HR, 9 RBI in 25 games; .314 at Triple-A Tacoma) or Michael Saunders (.236, 12, 46), 3B Kyle Seager (.260, 22, 69, 32 doubles), 2B Robinson Cano (.314, 27, 107, 41 doubles with Yankees), RF/DH Corey Hart (.270, 30, 83 in 2012 with Brewers), 1B Justin Smoak (.238, 20, 50), DH Logan Morrison (.242, 6, 36 in 85 games with Marlins), C Mike Zunino (.214, 5, 14 in 52 games), LF Dustin Ackley (.235, 4, 31), SS Brad Miller (.265, 8, 36, 6 triples in 76 games)

Rotation: RH Felix Hernandez (12-10, 3.04 ERA, 216 Ks), RH Hisashi Iwakuma (14-6, 2.66, 185 Ks), LH James Paxton (3-0, 1.50 in 4 starts; 8-11, 4.45 at Tacoma), RH Taijuan Walker (1-0, 3.60 in 3 starts; 5-3, 3.61 at Tacoma), RH Erasmo Ramirez (5-3, 4.90 in 13 starts), RH Chris Young (4-9, 4.15 in 20 starts in 2012 with Mets).

Key Relievers: RH Fernando Rodney (5-4, 3.38, 37/45 saves), RH Tom Wilhelmsen (0-3, 4.12, 24/29 saves), RH Danny Farquhar (0-3, 4.20, 16/20 saves), LH Charlie Furbush (2-6, 3.74, 71 appearances).

Hot Spots: Injuries have left the rotation as Seattle’s biggest concern heading into the regular season. Neither of the setbacks to Walker (shoulder) and Iwakuma (finger) should be long-term issues with the likelihood that both are back within the first month of the season. But the rotation was already unsettled even before the injuries, leaving the likes of Blake Beavan, Ramirez and newly signed Chris Young as needed contributors the first few weeks while Seattle tries to hang on through a brutal first 16 games all against division contenders Texas, Oakland and the Angels.

Outlook: The arrival of Cano gives Seattle an offensive equivalent to what they have in the pitching staff with Hernandez: a superstar that’s among the best in baseball. Whether Cano can get Seattle into contention with the top three in the loaded AL West, well, that’s another story. Seattle could use another right-handed bat in its lineup, but will likely go into the season lefty heavy. If Cano is going to have the same impact he did in New York, he needs Seager and Hart to be good enough to provide protection. Hernandez is the only certainty in the rotation as the season begins, with Iwakuma and Walker slowed by injuries. The Mariners are again a team filled with just as many questions as answers and in division stacked with contenders that could mean a 13th straight season without a postseason berth.

Story Continues →