Pitchers and catchers report to spring training this week, and soon, the answers to all those key questions you have about your favorite team will start to take shape. Outgoing A’s beat writer Josh Suchon broke down five key questions for the A’s on Sunday. In that spirit, the next three days
here are three key questions for each of the A’s AL West division foes. I’ll do the same for the NL West on Wednesday.
ANAHEIM ANGELS (89-73 in 2006)
1. What’s thes status of Bartolo Colon?
The 2005 Cy Young winner didn’t pitch after mid-July last season, because of a slight tear in his right rotator cuff, and he’s probably going to have to win the fifth spot in the rotation. Colon has only recently begun to throw, but he sounded optimistic, telling the Orange County Register that he’s going “to push himself to be ready for the opening week.”
2. Will Gary Matthews Jr., live up to his millions?
Hey, nobody should give Matthews grief over the Angels’ decision to give him $50 million over the next five years. But his track record suggests that last season was a career-year offensively for him, and the Angels surely are counting on some big-time production for him given their offensive struggles from last season.
3. Is Vladimir Guerrero over the hill?
Not a chance. Guerrero suffered from a lack of support around him in his lineup. Not sure the Angels have remedied that, but to suggest Guerrero is going to start to slide at age 31 is ludicrous.
TEXAS RANGERS (83-79)
1. What impact will Ron Washington have?
Keep in mind that any manager is only as good as the team he’s given, and the Rangers have ample questions, both with their pitching and lineup. But if nothing else, this will be a far looser bunch than it was under Buck Showalter, whose presence clearly had worn on them. Looser, happier teams tend to play better.
2. Should we pay attention to Sammy Sosa?
Look, when a guy is closing in on 600 home runs and carries the baggage that Sosa does, you can’t help but pay attention. But he hasn’t faced big-league pitching since 2005, and who can forget how awful he was for the Orioles that season? So if you expect the Slammin’ Sammy of old, you’ll probably be disappointed.
3. Is the pitching as shaky as normal?
Actually, it shouldn’t be. Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla head the rotation, and as far as 1-2 guys, you could do a lot worse than that, and Brandon McCarthy, their key acquisition from the White Sox, might be ready to become a quality contributor, too. In the bullpen, Akinori Otsuka is ready to close if the Eric Gagne experiment doesn’t work, and Otsuska was very good last season.
SEATTLE MARINERS (78-84)
1. Forget Mike Hargrove, is Bill Bavasi on the hot seat?
The Mariners’ GM made a plethora of moves in the offseason, most notably adding Jeff Weaver, Miguel Batista and Horacio Ramirez to Seattle’s pitching staff and Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro to the lineup. That could vault Seattle out of its three-year stay in the basement — and Hargrove, the manager, is so optimistic he has said Seattle can win the AL West — , but if it doesn’t, ownership might run out of patience .
2. Is Felix Hernandez ready to be an ace?
It might be a bit much to ask, considering he doesn’t turn 21 until April. But Hernanez has devoted himself to conditioning this winter and lost 20 pounds. Considering he’s dominated at every level he’s ever pitched, he might be ready to become a perennial Cy Young candidate.
3. Will Ichiro Suzuki really go into a season without a contract?
The Mariners reportedly have started talking new deal with Suzuki, but don’t be surprised if he decides to play out the season and see what happens. Suzuki has been frustrated with the Mariners’ losing the past three season, and though he’s said all the right things, he may not be crazy about playing center field, either.