Carter among Angels' dark-horse candidates
Quick jump to spring games creates opening for roster hopefuls
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels will play their first Cactus League game on Friday against the A's in Mesa, with right-handers Nick Tropeano, Parker Bridwell and Osmer Morales scheduled to take the mound for the Halos.
Because Spring Training games are starting earlier this year, most of the Angels' regular position players aren't expected to see Cactus League action until next week, which could create early playing opportunities for those who are competing for jobs this spring.
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Here's a look at four dark-horse candidates for the Angels' Opening Day roster this year:
1B Chris Carter: The Angels signed Carter to a Minor League deal this week, replenishing the first-base depth they lost when trading C.J. Cron to the Rays. Carter, 31, led the National League with 41 home runs in 2016, but he hit just .201/.284/.370 with eight homers and 76 strikeouts in 208 plate appearances before being released by the Yankees last season.
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Jose Pujols and Luis Valbuena are projected to draw most of the starts at first base for the Angels, but an injury to either could open the door for Carter to make the team this spring.
RHP Luke Bard: A Rule 5 Draft selection in December, Bard must be on the Angels' 25-man roster for the entire season or offered back to the Twins, so he'll be given an opportunity to stick with the club. The 27-year-old logged a 2.76 ERA over 65 1/3 innings between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester in 2017, averaging 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
Richard Parker, Jim Johnson, Cam Bedrosian, Keynan Middleton and Jose Alvarez seem well positioned to earn spots in the Angels' bullpen, but the final vacancies are likely up for grabs. Bard will be among the candidates to fill out the 'pen, but he'll have to outperform holdovers like Blake Wood and Noe Ramirez to nab a spot on the team.
LHP Ian Krol: Alvarez is the only left-handed reliever on the 40-man roster, but he could face some competition this spring from Krol, who recorded a 5.33 ERA with 44 strikeouts and 21 walks over 49 innings with the Braves last season. Krol, 26, is in camp as a non-roster invitee.
INF Colin Walsh: The Angels are expected to carry 13 pitchers on their roster this year, so they're putting a greater premium on versatility, particularly since they'll be limited to a three-man bench. Walsh, who signed a Minor League deal with the club over the offseason, fits that profile, as he is a switch-hitter who can play all four infield positions and left field.
A 28-year-old Stanford alum, Walsh appeared in 38 games for the Brewers in 2016, batting .085 with a .317 on-base percentage, though he has a career .397 on-base percentage in the Minors. Walsh will likely compete with Kaleb Cowart, Jose Fernandez and Nolan Fontana for the Angels' final bench spot this spring.