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AMERICAN LEAGUE Angels back intact and ready to begin defense of crown



Published: Mon, February 10, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Almost everybody is returning from last year's World Championship team.

ANAHEIM, Calif (AP) -- Just about everybody will be back for the Anaheim Angels this year, including the Rally Monkey.

"It's really going to be neat, having the same guys back," right fielder Tim Salmon said. "Our biggest moves -- uh, move -- was signing back Brad Fullmer. We also got Eric Owens, and other than that, we haven't done much.

"That's a testament to the club we have. We've got a good club, and we've got everybody signed."

The Angels proved they were a very good club in the postseason.

First, they lost only one game apiece in beating the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins to win the first two postseason series in the franchise's 42-year history.

Then, in the World Series, they showed their mettle by rallying from a 5-0, seventh-inning deficit in Game 6 to beat the San Francisco Giants 6-5. It was the biggest comeback by a team facing World Series elimination.

Finally, the Angels breezed to a 4-1 victory over the Giants in Game 7.

Disney raises team payroll

Although it's going to be seeking offers for the Angels, the Walt Disney Co., boosted the team's payroll from $63 million to around $83 million this year following the dramatic title run.

So players such as 18-game winner Jarrod Washburn, second baseman and league championship series MVP Adam Kennedy, and first baseman Scott Spiezio, whose three-run homer sparked the World Series Game 6 comeback, each received substantial raises while avoiding arbitration.

The Angels parted with relievers Lou Pote, Dennis Cook and Al Levine and outfielders Orlando Palmeiro and Alex Ochoa -- none of whom were key members of the team. Pote, Cook and Levine didn't throw a single pitch in the postseason. Palmeiro had one hit and Ochoa had none.

The team also picked up several players who may or may not make the roster.

That was about it. A very quiet winter -- in contrast to their noisy, ThunderStix-pounding autumn.

The one brief shopping trip was to sign Fullmer, the Angels' designated hitter last season, to a $1 million, one-year deal after the Angels allowed him become a free agent in December.

When the Angels open spring camp in Tempe, Ariz., it will be with an infield featuring World Series MVP Troy Glaus, David Eckstein, Kennedy and Spiezio, an outfield manned by Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad and Salmon, and a relatively young and still-improving mound staff.

"From hearing from some free agent players over the winter, some guys looked at us and said it was not a good spot for them, that we looked solid. We're still a club that's got quality at every position," general manager Bill Stoneman said, noting with pride that this winter was a month shorter than usual for the team since it was still playing in late October.

Salmon agreed that the Angels look solid.

"So we didn't make any big moves, but that's OK," he said. "The Yankees go out and win it and the next year they still make a big move, but that's different. We've got young talent and we don't need to make those big moves.

"Where are you going to make a move? We've almost got too much pitching, which is a great thing to have, and we have a lot of depth everywhere else."

Some significant moves

Stoneman pointed out that while the Angels didn't do anything dramatic this offseason, they made significant moves the previous year.

"We made some changes a year ago, didn't make many, but we moved Mo Vaughn, got Kevin Appier, signed Aaron Sele and traded to get Brad Fullmer and we were about as well-balanced a club as you could imagine," Stoneman said. "We had starting pitching depth, bullpen depth and bench depth.

"We really ended up with not just a club with eight guys plus the pitcher, but with 25 quality guys."

That, Stoneman added, also had something to do with players coming up from the farm system.

"The other thing was that we had depth in the organization -- John Lackey, Brendan Donnelly, Scot Shields, Francisco Rodriguez -- guys who weren't with us when we broke spring training but ultimately became very important guys," Stoneman said.




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