Al West

March 30, 2003|By Roch Kubatko

Anaheim Angels

Manager: Mike Scioscia

2002 record: 99-63 (second, wild card)

What's new: The rings on their fingers. No other Angels team has won the World Series, which brings the burden of proving they're not a fluke. The rotation must get healthy. This is pretty much the same team as last year, except outfielder Eric Owens arrived from the Florida Marlins.

On the spot: Francisco Rodriguez still qualifies as a rookie despite his postseason glory. He threw 5 2/3 innings in the regular season, then won five games in the postseason. It's a tough act to follow. The Angels expect him to be the primary right-handed setup man.

Where they'll be in October: This team could go deep into the playoffs again, though repeating as world champions is a tall order. Same players, same offensive philosophy. Why not?

Oakland Athletics

Manager: Ken Macha

2002 record: 103-59 (first)

What's new: For a team that won 103 games and its division, the A's have undergone serious changes. Macha replaces Art Howe. Closer Keith Foulke arrived from the Chicago White Sox. Erubiel Durazo was obtained from the Arizona Diamondbacks to provide power missing since Jason Giambi left. Former Oriole Chris Singleton will play center field.

On the spot: Ownership has decided not to sign shortstop Miguel Tejada to a long-term deal. The vault remains closed, even for the league's reigning Most Valuable Player. That can't sit well with fans still stinging from Giambi's defection.

Where they'll be in October: Quite possibly in first place again, making a strong push toward the World Series. Three good reasons: Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder.

Seattle Mariners

Manager: Bob Melvin

2002 record: 93-69 (third)

What's new: Melvin takes over for Lou Piniella, so he's been practicing his post-game rants. Outfielder Randy Winn arrived from Tampa Bay as compensation for Piniella's leaving. He could be the answer in left field. John Mabry and Greg Colbrunn fortify the bench.

On the spot: Melvin never has managed anywhere except the Arizona Fall League, and his hiring is a gamble for a team that still regards itself as a contender. Piniella casts a large shadow - it stretches all the way to Tampa Bay - and Melvin must avoid getting lost in it.

Where they'll be in October: Standing at the nearest wall, banging their heads against it for being in such a tough division. They could end up with 90 wins and another third-place finish.

Texas Rangers

Manager: Buck Showalter

2002 record: 72-90 (fourth)

What's new: Showalter moves into the manager's office. It's his turn to lose with A-Rod. The bullpen went through its yearly overhaul. Ugueth Urbina will close, with Esteban Yan moving into a setup role and Aaron Fultz assisting from the left side. Einar Diaz replaces catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Outfielder Ruben Sierra returns to the organization for a third stint. And that's just scratching the surface.

On the spot: Who isn't? Diaz is replacing a likely Hall of Famer. Chan Ho Park, signed to a huge contract before the 2002 season, was injured and a bust. Alex Rodriguez has a herniated disc in his neck, perhaps from carrying this team.

Where they'll be in October: It's awfully lonely in the Lone Star state. Only one team can be in last place. No visitors allowed.

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