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Only a few spots remain as Angels near opener

Roster seemingly close to being set, with likely one job left in rotation, bench, bullpen @Alden_Gonzalez

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Spring Training schedule is 62 percent complete now. When the Angels conclude their Wednesday off-day, only 11 days and 10 exhibition games will separate them from Opening Day.

Their roster is starting to solidify.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Spring Training schedule is 62 percent complete now. When the Angels conclude their Wednesday off-day, only 11 days and 10 exhibition games will separate them from Opening Day.

Their roster is starting to solidify.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said there's "still some competition" that can influence the final spots, but most of it has seemingly already become clear.

C.J. Wilson (coping with tendinitis in his left shoulder) and Tyler Skaggs (easing his way back from Tommy John surgery) will open the season on the disabled list, with Skaggs due back by mid- to late-April and Wilson still unsure when he'll throw off a mound again.

The Angels are waiting for Albert Pujols (cautious in his return from November foot surgery) to appear in his first game at first base, and for Jered Weaver (trying desperately to rekindle life in his fastball) to prove he's ready for Major League games.

The lineup, however, appears set.

Against righties, it'll go as follows: Yunel Escobar (third base), Daniel Nava (left field), Mike Trout (center field), Pujols (first base or designated hitter), Kole Calhoun (right field), C.J. Cron (DH or first base), Andrelton Simmons (shortstop), Carlos Perez or Geovany Soto (catcher), Johnny Giavotella (second base).

Against lefties, it'll probably look like this: Escobar, Calhoun, Trout, Pujols, Cron, Simmons, Perez or Soto, Craig Gentry (left field), Giavotella.

Now only one rotation spot, one bench spot and one bullpen spot seem up for grabs.

Below is a look at where those competitions sit.


Garrett Richards is primed to be the Opening Day starter, though Scioscia won't officially announce that until the end of the spring. Andrew Heaney and Hector Santiago are basically locks for two other spots. And if Weaver is ready by the first week -- he promises to be -- Nick Tropeano and Matt Shoemaker would be competing for the fifth spot in the rotation.

The Angels need the depth in Triple-A, and both Tropeano and Shoemaker have options, so whoever doesn't win the job will probably go to the Minor Leagues rather than be used out of the bullpen.

Shoemaker is two years removed from finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting, but he gave up an inordinate number of home runs last season and has been hit around this spring, giving up 13 runs in 14 innings.

Video: TEX@LAA: Scioscia discusses Shoemaker's start

Tropeano hasn't necessarily excelled either (six runs in 8 2/3 innings), and he was scratched from his Monday start because of the flu. The 25-year-old right-hander said Tuesday morning that he's still feeling "a little weak," but he is confident he has enough time.

"I don't think this is going to affect me being ready for the season," Tropeano said. "I think I'll be ready to go, for sure."


Cliff Pennington is the utility infielder, Gentry is the fourth outfielder on the days righties start and Soto and Perez will probably alternate as the backup catcher. That leaves one bench spot open, with Rule 5 Draft pick Ji-Man Choi seemingly the favorite.

Choi has struck out a team-leading 13 times in 19 games, but he ripped a double off the left-field wall and lined a single to right field in Tuesday's 6-5 win. Scioscia has also been impressed by his defense, both at first base and in left field. Choi gives the Angels a left-handed bat off the bench and a potential late-game defensive replacement for Cron at first base.

Video: LAA@ARI: Choi puts Halos in front with two-run homer

The fact that Choi must be offered back to the Orioles if he's not on the active roster only strengthens his cause.

Outfielders Rafael Ortega (.294/.350/.471 line this spring) and Nick Buss (.370/.400/.556) have impressed, as has power-hitting corner infielder Jefry Marte (.313/.371/.563). But they can all be optioned to the Minor Leagues without being exposed to waivers.

Todd Cunningham cannot.

The speedy switch-hitting outfielder is out of options and has hit well this spring, batting .364/.417/.545 in 11 games. But he's also dealing with a tender left wrist. An MRI exam on Monday revealed no fracture, and Cunningham will continue to play through some discomfort.

"It definitely doesn't help," Cunningham said. "It would be nice to be 100 percent, but you can only do what you can do."


A team normally carries seven relievers. For the Angels, Huston Street is the closer and Joe Smith is the setup man. Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus are both out of options and appear to be locks. Mike Morin is a popular breakout candidate and has yet to allow a run in seven spring appearances. That's five.

Then there's starter-turned-reliever Jose Alvarez, a lefty with some length whom Scioscia called "extremely valuable last year."

That, seemingly, makes six.

Left out of this alignment is Al Alburquerque, who throws hard, features a wicked slider and was given $1.1 million over the offseason. The 29-year-old right-hander would appear to have a spot. But what about Deolis Guerra, another Rule 5 Draft pick who stands 6-foot-5? Or Javy Guerra, the former Dodgers closer? Or Greg Mahle, the lefty reliever prospect who has a 2.00 ERA?

The competitions could come down to the wire.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast.

Los Angeles Angels