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Freeway Series signals dawn of new season

Freeway Series signals dawn of new season

Freeway Series signals dawn of new season
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It'll still be Spring Training. Pitchers will continue working on their stuff, hitters will continue seeking timing and Angels manager Mike Scioscia will continue navigating through important roster decisions. But there's some added significance to the three exhibition games against the Dodgers from Monday to Wednesday.

Because after six weeks of early-morning workouts and afternoon baseball, there's a significance to finally getting under the lights of a big league stadium.

"I think on Monday night, you'll see a fresher team out there," Scioscia said. "The grind of spring, playing day games, certainly has a toll -- physically and mentally -- on players. I think when we get to Anaheim, Angel Stadium on Monday night, just everything we do in our workouts, I think you'll see crispness to it."

The Angels and Dodgers will start the Freeway Series at Angel Stadium on Monday at 7:05 p.m. PT, with Jamey Wright facing the Angels' Dan Haren, then they will play at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday (7:10) and Wednesday (12:10). Ervin Santana will oppose Aaron Harang in Game 2, with C.J. Wilson facing the Dodgers' Nathan Eovaldi in the finale.

The first and third game will be televised on FOX Sports West, and each contest will go exactly nine full innings -- even if it's tied and even if the home team is winning after the top of the ninth.

Closer Jordan Walden said "the focus is still getting ready, but it's still a game."

"We always want to win," he added. "We definitely want to go there and take three from them."

The Angels will arrive in Southern California with 28 players, plus four callups from Minor League camp to help fill innings -- pitchers Kevin Johnson, David Carpenter and David Pauley and outfielder Kole Calhoun.

The fifth starter -- either Jerome Williams or Garrett Richards -- still hasn't been named, but the Angels don't need one until April 15. And the bullpen was set once Trevor Bell was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake on Saturday.

That means only one decision remains before Opening Day: The 14th position player.

Hank Conger is still in camp, but it's unlikely that the Angels will carry a third catcher. Ryan Langerhans is here, but his .185 spring batting average -- not to mention Bobby Abreu's presence as another lefty-hitting outfielder -- probably means he starts his season in Triple-A Salt Lake.

That leaves Jorge Cantu and Alexi Amarista.

Cantu, who has hit .256 but has still impressed this spring, brings veteran makeup and a solid right-handed bat off the bench. That's the good part. The bad part is the Angels have plenty of right-handed-hitting corner infielders. Cantu's opt-out option isn't until May 1, but if he doesn't make the club, he's hoping the Angels can get him out of his deal earlier so he can try to jump on with another team and not have to go down to the Minor Leagues.

That remains to be seen.

"I guess I'm just going to wait until the last day of exhibition games and see what happens," Cantu said. "I wish I would've known a little earlier, just in case it doesn't work out here, it can maybe work out somewhere else. But that's just the way it is. I'm with these guys 100 percent, and I'm sticking with them. I want to be here."

Amarista especially impressed this spring, batting .333, and he seemingly helps the Angels in more ways because he's versatile -- with experience in the middle infield and all three outfield spots -- and can be used as a pinch-runner.

But the 5-foot-7 left-handed hitter also has options left, meaning he can be sent to the Minors while still being retained by the organization.

"I'm not worried about it," Amarista said in Spanish. "I'm just focused on doing my job the best way possible. If I start in Triple-A, I'll work as hard as I can to get back up here."

The Angels wrapped up Cactus League play with an 8-1 loss to the Cubs on Sunday, putting them at 17-11-2 before heading back home.

Their stint in Arizona offered plenty of positives.

Like Kendrys Morales' return to health, Mark Trumbo's relatively smooth adjustment to third base, Albert Pujols' dominance (batting .407 with six homers), the offense averaging 5.4 runs per game, the starters staying healthy and on track, and the club setting a franchise record in attendance (130,126 fans through 15 games at Tempe Diablo Stadium).

There were also some negatives.

Like Abreu's performance, which saw him bat .115 and further diminish his role on the team. Or Mike Trout battling a virus that caused him to lose more than 15 pounds and have little time to showcase his skills at big league camp. Or Michael Kohn (forearm strain) and Bobby Cassevah (labrum tear) starting the season on the disabled list, further weakening what already seemed like a thin bullpen.

Now, with Opening Day looming on Friday, the scene shifts to California.

"We're going in with a goal to accomplish," Haren said of the Freeway Series. "We're building pitch count, we're trying to make sure everything's sharp. Results really don't matter in the grand scheme of things, so you just want to feel good and feel healthy."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. AJ Cassavell contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }