TEMPE, Ariz. — As kids, Sean Burnett and Prince Fielder were teammates on a travel ball team in Florida.
The team was called The Juice, and packed with 11- and 12-year-olds. Rickie Weeks played second base. Chet Lemon, the former major league outfielder, was the manager.
The Juice won an AAU national championship, Burnett said.
“We probably won 85 games in a row,” he said. “That was probably the best team I’ve ever been a part of.”
Burnett and Fielder should have quite a few reunions this summer. Burnett is the Angels’ primary left-handed reliever, making him the go-to guy to face the big left-handed bats new to the American League West: Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo in Texas, and Robinson Cano in Seattle.
“Good for me,” Burnett said. “Makes my job a little more important.”
Burnett has gotten the best of old friend Fielder, so far. In 13 career at-bats against Burnett, Fielder has no home runs, three hits and four strikeouts.
In 2013 — the first year of a two-year, $8-million contract with the Angels — Burnett was limited to 9 1/3 innings because of injury. He had elbow surgery last August, and the Angels expect him to be ready on opening day or shortly thereafter.
The Angels’ bullpen ranked 13th among the 15 American League teams in earned-run average last season, when free-agent signees Burnett and Ryan Madson were lost to injury. Manager Mike Scioscia had no trouble coming up with a word to describe Burnett’s potential impact on the bullpen this season.
“Huge,” Scioscia said. “We saw what it meant not having him last year. We hope we don’t have to revisit that.”
The Angels observed a moment of silence for Jim Fregosi, their former shortstop and manager, before Friday’s Cactus League opener. Fregosi died last month at 71. … The Angels’ spring roster includes players with these uniform numbers: 0 (Collin Cowgill), 00 (Brennan Boesch), and 99 (Brandon Lyon). … Closer Ernesto Frieri tweeted a picture of himself dressed in hospital scrubs, with this caption: “I’m ready to receive my new baby!!” He did, with wife Carolina giving birth to the couple’s second child, a girl named Veronica.