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     Baseball '04

American League West

Anaheim Angels  |  Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners  |  Texas Rangers

The Washington Post
Friday, April 2, 2004; Page D5

Team Capsules

National League

American League

1. Anaheim Angels
2003 Finish: 77-85, 3rd.
Manager: Mike Scioscia (fifth season, 333-315).
Ace: Bartolo Colon had more complete games (nine) a year ago than Anaheim's entire staff (five). Colon has logged 200 or more innings five times in the past six seasons.
Best Young Arm: John Lackey won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series but suffered through a 10-16 season a year ago. Still, the 6-foot-6 Lackey is only 25 and throws hard (6.7 strikeouts per nine innings in '03).
Closer: Troy Percival (33 saves) converted 20 straight save chances last year, but his 48 strikeouts were the lowest total for his career. His likely successor, Francisco Rodriguez, will be the Angels' primary set-up man.
Key Acquisition: Vladimir Guerrero (.330, 25, 79) missed almost all of June and half of August; it was the first time in six seasons he hadn't hit at least 34 home runs and driven in 108 or more runs.
Core Question: Having thrived as a gritty wild-card team on their way to the 2002 World Series title, how will the Angels cope as the favorites?
Projected Finish: First. All the pieces are in place for the Angels to finish on top, and they won't sneak up on anyone.

2. Oakland Athletics
2003 Finish: 96-66, 1st.
Manager: Ken Macha (second season, 96-66).
Ace: Barry Zito (14-12, 3.30 ERA) has limited opponents to a .222 batting average over the past three seasons and has won 23 of 29 decisions against AL West foes in the same span.
Best Young Arm: Rich Harden (5-4, 4.46 ERA) won three of his first four starts, and on this staff, Harden doesn't have to be anything more than the fourth or fifth starter, so he has time to develop.
Closer: Arthur Rhodes was solid as a setup man for the Mariners. Despite only 17 career saves, Rhodes moves into a slot that has produced 121 the past three years.
Key Acquisition: Damian Miller has been the primary catcher for two outstanding staffs -- he was with the Cubs last year and Diamondbacks before that.
Core Question: Hudson, Zito and Mark Mulder have carried the A's to the playoffs the past three years, but can Oakland ever get over the first-round hump?
Projected finish: Second. Starting pitching isn't a concern. The offense and bullpen, however, drop the A's.

3. Seattle Mariners
2003 Finish: 93-69, 2nd.
Manager: Bob Melvin (second season, 93-69).
Ace: Jamie Moyer (21-7, 3.27) has no dominant pitch, and has thrown at least 200 innings five of the past six years. However, the 41-year-old's ERA has dipped for four straight seasons.
Best Young Arm: One of the few Seattle starters to close the season well, 25-year-old Joel Piñeiro (16-11, 3.78) was 3-1 in September.
Closer: Eddie Guardado has recorded the most saves among American League relievers the past two seasons (86). Kaz Sasaki's return to Japan will barely be noticed.
Key Acquisition: Rich Aurilia is steady at shortstop and is an upgrade offensively over Carlos Guillen. His 2001 numbers (.324, 37 home runs, 97 RBI) seem like an anomaly, but they did come when he was entrenched in the Giants' No. 2 position. That's where he'll start this year.
Core Question: The Mariners' five-man rotation started all 162 games last year, but can the staff sustain that kind of wear again this season?
Projected Finish: Third. Even if it wins 90 games, Seattle could still finish behind Anaheim and Oakland.

4. Texas Rangers
2003 Finish: 71-91, 4th.
Manager: Buck Showalter (eighth season overall, 634-595).
Ace: Kenny Rogers (13-8, 4.57 with Minnesota) is the Rangers' only proven winner with 13 wins or more six times in his career, four times with Texas.
Best Young Arm: Colby Lewis, 24, was the only full-time starter for the Rangers to post a winning record last year (10-9). Of course, he also had a 7.30 ERA.
Closer: Francisco Cordero saved 15 games and blew another 10 save opportunities. A huge question mark, and Cordero is, at best, an average answer.
Key Acquisition: Alfonso Soriano always has been a No. 3 hitter batting leadoff, averaging 32 home runs and 87 RBI the past three seasons. He is the third player -- Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds were the first two -- to record back-to-back seasons of 35 home runs and 35 steals (2002 and '03).
Core Question: Can Showalter really convince his young team that it can keep pace with the rest of the division?
Projected Finish: Every other team in the division opens the season with playoff aspirations. Not the Rangers. Texas is a safe bet to finish fourth.

-- Drew vanEsselstyn

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