One disappointing season was enough for the Anaheim Angels.
Just 18 months removed from a World Series title, the Angels get their first look at several new players when they face the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in the season opener for both.
After finishing eight games below .500 last season following the franchise’s only World Series title in 2002, the Angels were one of the most active teams in the free-agent market.
New owner Arte Moreno signed outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, one of the game’s best players, pitchers Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar, and outfielder Jose Guillen. Adding Guerrero and Guillen to a lineup that already includes Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus, Tim Salmon and Darin Erstad should improve an offense that ranked 11th in the 14-team AL in runs scored last season.
Guerrero, signed to a $70 million, five-year contract, will finally get the chance to perform on a bigger stage after spending his first eight seasons in Montreal. The 28-year-old outfielder is a career .323 hitter and has averaged 37 homers over the past six years.
With Guerrero signed to play right field, Anderson will shift from left to center and Guillen will play left. Longtime center fielder Erstad will move to first base, and Tim Salmon, a right fielder for most of his 12 seasons with the Angels, will be used mostly as the designated hitter.
Injuries and poor starting pitching were two of the biggest reason for Anaheim’s 77-85 finish last season. The signings of Colon and Escobar should help the Angels’ rotation compete with Seattle and Oakland in the pitching-rich AL West.
“The talent we have is going to be of championship caliber,” said Mike Scioscia, heading into his fifth year as Angels manager. “The challenge is to make sure that the great team you see on paper translates into a type of play that leads to wins on the field.”
Colon, Anaheim’s opening-day starter, has reached double-digit wins in each of the last six seasons. His 17 complete games over the past two years are the most in the majors, and his 475 1-3 innings are third highest.
“He’s a workhorse,” Anaheim pitching coach Bud Black said. “He’s so good at changing speeds to keep hitters off-balance. He can throw his fastball anywhere between 90-98 mph.”
Guillen may not be able to play Tuesday because of deep bruise on his hand, the result of an errant pitch by Los Angeles’ Jeff Weaver on Friday.
Despite some changes in the offseason, the Mariners figure to contend for the AL West title again this season. Seattle has averaged 98 wins the past four years, but has never advanced to the World Series.
Ageless Jamie Moyer, coming off the best season of his 18-year career, gets the opening day start for the Mariners. Moyer has averaged 18 wins and 218 innings the past three seasons.
“Moyer obviously deserves it,” manager Bob Melvin said. “With what he’s done the last three years, not only statistically for himself but for the team, he’s a slam dunk.”
Another 41-year-old Mariner, designated hitter Edgar Martinez, is back for his 18th season with the team.
“I feel that I can play still and produce,” Martinez said. “I feel healthy. I would have regretted if I would have stayed home when I felt I could still play, and I didn’t want to have any regrets.”
Though Seattle lost center fielder Mike Cameron to free agency, the additions of shortstop Rich Aurilia and outfielder Raul Ibanez to a lineup with Martinez, Bret Boone, Ichiro Suzuki and John Olerud should make the Mariners an even more potent team.
“I like this team,” Boone said. “I think the new guys are fitting in well. All this is on paper, though. We’ve still got to go out and do it on the field.”
While Oakland has three top-notch starters and Anaheim clearly improved its pitching staff, Seattle may have the best rotation in the league. Last year, Moyer, Ryan Franklin, Freddy Garcia, Gil Meche and Joel Pineiro made the Mariners only the second team since 1904 to use only five starters all season.
2003 STANDINGS: Angels - 3rd place, 19 GB, AL West. Mariners - 2nd place, 3 GB, AL West.
ANGELS PROBABLE STARTER: Colon (15-13, 3.87 ERA). Colon spent last season with the Chicago White Sox, finishing second in the AL in innings and tied for the lead in complete games. The hard-throwing right-hander was 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA in three starts against Seattle last season. He is 5-6 with a 4.46 ERA in 14 career starts against the Mariners.
MARINERS PROBABLE STARTER: Moyer (21-7, 3.27 ERA). Moyer reached the 20-win plateau for the second time in his career last season and at 40 became an All-Star for the first time. He was second in the AL in wins, sixth in ERA and eighth in innings. Moyer was 4-2 with a 1.67 ERA in six starts against Anaheim in 2003.
2003 OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Angels - Anderson, .315 avg., 29 HRs, 116 RBIs and 80 runs; Adam Kennedy, 22 SBs. Mariners - Ichiro, .312 avg. and 34 SBs; Boone, 35 HRs and 117 RBIs; Ichiro and Boone, 111 runs.
2003 SEASON SERIES: Mariners, 11-8.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Angels - CF Anderson is 19-for-56 (.339) with four homers and 11 RBIs lifetime against Moyer. … If LF Guillen is unable to play Tuesday, Jeff DaVanon, Chone Figgins or Salmon will play in his place. … Anaheim is 14-24 all-time at Safeco Field. Mariners - DH Martinez is 10-for-28 (.357) with two homers and eight RBIs lifetime against Colon. … Seattle is 45-23 in April the past three seasons. … The Mariners set a major league record last season by committing just 65 errors—22 fewer than runner-up Minnesota.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Angels- 32-48 on the road. Mariners - 50-31 at home.
INJURIES: Angels - OF Guillen (hand), day-to-day; RHP Brendan Donnelly (nose), 15-day DL; RHP Greg Jones (shoulder), 15-day DL. Mariners - LHP Guardado (shoulder), day-to-day; 3B Scott Spiezio (back), 15-day DL; OF Chris Snelling (wrist); RHP Aaron Taylor (shoulder), 60-day DL.