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Few roster decisions remain for Angels

No. 5 pitcher, some bullpen pieces still to be decided as Halos whittle down
March 16, 2017

With Opening Day less than three weeks away, the Angels' 25-man roster is beginning to take shape, though manager Mike Scioscia will still have tough decisions to make regarding the fifth starter spot and the bullpen.Here's an updated look at who appears primed to make the team this year:CatcherMartin Maldonado,

With Opening Day less than three weeks away, the Angels' 25-man roster is beginning to take shape, though manager Mike Scioscia will still have tough decisions to make regarding the fifth starter spot and the bullpen.
Here's an updated look at who appears primed to make the team this year:
Martin Maldonado, Carlos Perez
It remains to be seen how the Angels will divide time behind the plate between Maldonado and Perez during the regular season, but Maldonado seems to have a strong shot at becoming the club's primary catcher due to his cannon-like arm and his pitch-framing abilities. Perez also figures to draw plenty of playing time, especially since Maldonado has spent most of his career as a backup and has not started more than 79 games in any season.
First base
C.J. Cron, Luis Valbuena
Valbuena missed nearly two weeks this spring with sore legs, but returned to the lineup Wednesday against the Giants. If he's healthy, Valbuena should get most of his at-bats at first, likely cutting into Cron's playing time. Cron still has an option and could open the season at Triple-A Salt Lake to alleviate the Angels' corner infield logjam, but he entered Wednesday hitting .457 (16-for-35) with three home runs in 12 Cactus League games, and is making a strong case to break camp with the team.

Second base
Danny Espinosa
The Angels' outlook at second base remains unchanged. Espinosa, the switch-hitting middle infielder acquired from the Nationals over the winter, will start at second, providing a defensive upgrade and some power, especially from the left side.
Andrelton Simmons
Simmons has spent the past two weeks playing for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, but the starting shortstop job is his when he returns to Angels camp. A two-time Gold Glove Award winner, Simmons will team up with Espinosa to give the Angels one of the best defensive double-play combinations in baseball.
Third base
Yunel Escobar
Escobar will reprise his role as the Angels' everyday third baseman and leadoff hitter in 2017. Valbuena, who primarily played third for the Astros last year, could also see time there and spell Escobar.
Designated hitter
Jose Pujols
Pujols was considered questionable for Opening Day at the outset of the spring, but has progressed well in his recovery from December foot surgery and appears to be on track for the start of the season. The 37-year-old slugger entered Thursday 3-for-10 with one home run in four Cactus League games. Pujols isn't ready to play first base yet, but the Angels don't need him to play on the field, since they already have Valbuena and Cron.

Cliff Pennington
Pennington has not played since March 10 because of shoulder stiffness, but the ailment is not considered serious and he is expected to return to action in a couple of days. If Pennington has any other setbacks, Jefry Marte or Kaleb Cowart could get the opportunity to win a spot on the bench as the Angels' reserve infielder.
Michael Trout, Cameron Maybin, Kole Calhoun, Ben Revere
The Angels figure to have an elite outfield unit headlined by Trout, the reigning American League Most Valuable Player. The 25-year-old center fielder will be flanked by Maybin in left and Calhoun in right. Maybin, acquired from the Tigers in an offseason trade, has gotten off to a slow start this spring, but Scioscia has already said his starting job in left field is safe. Revere will serve as a backup in all three spots and will also provide speed off the bench.

Starting pitching
Garrett Richards, Matthew Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Ricky Nolasco, Jesse Chavez
One of the biggest questions for the Angels entering the spring was how their three top starters -- Richards, Shoemaker and Skaggs -- would bounce back from injury, but the trio has had few hiccups so far. Skaggs hit a minor speed bump after missing a start with shoulder weakness, but returned to the rotation Wednesday against the Giants and still has time to ramp up for the season. The competition for the fifth starter spot will likely come down to the wire, but Chavez is likely the frontrunner after signing a one-year, $5.75 million contract over the winter. Alex Meyer, Manny Banuelos and Bud Norris could still challenge Chavez for the job, however.
Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, JC Ramirez, Yusmeiro Petit, Jose Alvarez, Kirby Yates, Mike Morin
Huston Street suffered a back strain in his first outing of the spring on March 3 and will be sidelined for three to four weeks, putting his Opening Day availability in doubt. His absence could open the door for Bedrosian to start the season as the Angels' closer, though Bailey is also fighting for the role this spring. The rest of the bullpen slots appear to be up for grabs. The Angels are trying Ramirez as a starter this spring, though he has a better shot at earning a relief role since he's out of options. Petit and Alvarez have been away from Angels camp representing Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, but they performed well in their Cactus League outings before departing. Yates, who was claimed off waivers from the Yankees, has impressed this spring and has not allowed a run in five innings, putting him in position to earn a spot in the bullpen. Morin, on the other hand, has struggled, logging a 9.00 ERA over five innings, which makes his spot on the team tenuous. If he continues to be ineffective, Deolis Guerra or Norris could emerge as right-handed alternatives.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for