Angels’ weaknesses might be exposed
Jered Weaver jogged out of the dugout, serenaded with applause from every corner of the stadium. This was a happy time, or at least it was supposed to be.
Weaver dared not extend a handshake to a teammate, or a fist pump to the fans. He held his left arm gingerly, at a right angle.
For these few brief moments, as the Angels introduced their players one by one before Tuesday’s home opener, Weaver had removed the blue sling that protected his broken elbow.
Pomp and circumstance had been replaced by whispers and apprehension. The Angels lost their ace in the morning and their shortstop in the evening, baldly exposing a stunning lack of depth beneath the surface of a fat payroll.
It would not be unusual for a pitcher to be out at least a month because he was hit by a batted ball. Weaver will sit out at least a month because he got out of the way out of a batted ball — and fractured his elbow on the landing.
The Angels dropped the phrase “silver lining” a little too often for comfort Tuesday. Yes, the elbow is not the one attached to Weaver’s pitching hand. Yes, better early in the season than late.
Garrett Richards should hold his own replacing Weaver in the starting rotation. But that best-case scenario could be two steps backward.
“When you lose someone of Weaver’s ability, it puts a hole in your pitching staff in a couple of areas,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’re going to patch those holes and move forward.”
Weaver was the one guy the Angels could count on to get into the seventh inning. His absence means more pressure on a bullpen that had been stabilized largely by Richards.
That bullpen now includes two guys the Angels picked up on the day they broke camp. One of them, a 30-year-old rookie named Dane De La Rosa, called up to replace Weaver on the roster, never had met the Angels’ pitching coach until Tuesday afternoon.
“Hi,” said the coach, introducing himself with a handshake. “Mike Butcher.”
Erick Aybar, the Angels’ shortstop, left the game because of a bruised left heel. The Angels listed him as day to day. His replacement, Brendan Harris, 32, last played in the major leagues three years ago.
The Angels have a payroll more than twice that of the Oakland Athletics, their opponent in the home opener. Yet, the Angels have no one on their bench who was in the majors this time last year, and nothing resembling a top starting pitching prospect in double A or triple A.
The A’s just sent down a guy who made one start and struck out 11, not that they need to send the Angels a sympathy card for the loss of Weaver.
“They seem to have some resources to be able to withstand that, especially on the offensive end,” A’s Manager Bob Melvin said.
In the first five innings, Josh Hamilton batted twice with the bases loaded. He struck out the first time, grounded into a force play at home the next.
He did not get booed for three hours, as he did three days straight in Texas.
“Dear Lord, anything is better than that,” Hamilton said.
In this win-or-else season, maybe not. The Angels lost five of their first seven games last season too, but Mike Trout isn’t waiting at triple A now.
The Angels announced a sellout for the home opener, but they had tickets available on their website in the hour before game time. They sold 2,000 fewer season tickets this year than last, putting them in jeopardy of selling fewer than 3 million tickets for the first time since 2002.
If the Angels don’t reach the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, who knows who might incur the wrath of owner Arte Moreno.
It is uneasy and uncomfortable here, where the home team leads the Houston Astros by only half a game.
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