TEMPE, Ariz. -- Sean Burnett did not have a good 2013.
The 31-year-old left-hander spent almost all of it puzzled about his physical condition, first recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow, then trying to figure out what was ailing him in his forearm during the first half of the season and then having August surgery to repair a tear in the flexor tendon of his left elbow.
Following four months of rest and rehab, he played catch for the first time a couple days before New Year's Eve. In total on the year, he threw 9 2/3 innings in 13 games, allowing just one run -- after averaging more than 70 appearances the four previous seasons.
"Last year was frustrating because we couldn't figure out what it was," Burnett said. "I was throwing the ball somewhat well, it was just physically and mentally taking a toll on me to go out there, because I didn't know what was going on. It hurt every time I threw the ball, and obviously you can't have that. You have to get an answer. And for two or three months, we couldn't get any."
But Burnett and Los Angeles eventually did get answers, and he is now only days away from resuming throwing off a mound, and he might be the most overlooked addition to the Angels' 2014 roster. In combination with steady offseason signee Joe Smith and effective if unsteady closer Ernesto Frieri, a healthy Burnett would help make for one of baseball's better late-inning trios.
But an unhealthy Burnett would make the Angels bullpen look a lot like it looked at various points last season -- a question mark.
The team doesn't have another proven major league left-hander on its roster. And getting 60 or so innings from Burnett would work wonders for a team that will also be relying on inexperienced starting pitching.
"I think we saw what it meant not having Sean there last year," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We definitely hope we don't have to revisit that. This guy's a terrific reliever and he gives us a lot of balance."
--CF Mike Trout signed a $1 million contract for the 2014 season, a record amount for a pre-arbitration player. Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols shared the previous record of $900K contracts in the position that Trout is in now. The Angels continue to negotiate with him and his agent, Craig Landis, about a long-term deal and could come to an agreement over the next month.
--RHP Jered Weaver had a successful first spring start, throwing three scoreless innings, which he attributed to more maintenance he did on his aging body over the winter. The 31-year-old ace met multiple times weekly with the Angels' team massage therapist and threw more than he had in the past. Angels manager Mike Scioscia called it a "more aggressive" regimen.
--3B Luis Jimenez arrived at spring training several days late due to visa issues traveling from his native Dominican Republic. He started a month's worth of games at third base for the Angels in 2013 but will need to prove his versatility at second and first in order to break camp with the team this spring, per Angels manager Mike Scioscia.
--RHP Ernesto Frieri, the Angels' closer, left the team for two days last week to be with his wife, Caroline, for the birth of their second daughter, Veronica. She was born at a Phoenix hospital at 10 a.m. on Feb. 28, pushing back Frieri's first appearance to Monday.
--LHP C.J. Wilson was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of non-roster catcher Yorvit Torrealba on Feb. 25, but he did not sustain a concussion and is continuing preseason preparation as normal. He threw two-plus innings in his spring debut, striking out four, walking one and allowing three runs on three hits.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This was a landmark. I think it's fitting. Mike has earned that. We're glad to provide that for him. He's certainly been an extraordinary player and there's no doubt that he'll continue to be that." -- Angels manager Jerry Dipoto, on CF Mike Trout signing a $1 million contract for the 2014 season, a record amount for a pre-arbitration player.
RHP Jered Weaver
LHP C.J. Wilson
LHP Hector Santiago
RHP Garrett Richards
LHP Tyler Skaggs
The rotation is strong at the top, but after Weaver and Wilson, it is full of question marks. Santiago, Richards and Skaggs each have potential to be solid major league starters, but none has made 30 starts in a single season yet.
If one or more of them fails, the Angels could be in trouble. They don't have much depth behind them.
RHP Ernesto Frieri (closer)
RHP Joe Smith
LHP Sean Burnett
RHP Kevin Jepsen
RHP Dane De La Rosa
RHP Michael Kohn
RHP Fernando Salas
Frieri is a lightning rod for criticism from Angels fans because he has a tendency to make his saves a little more dramatic than they'd prefer, but he still gets the job done. He has converted 90 percent of his save opportunities over the past two years.
After that, the Angels are hoping for a much-improved bullpen if they get healthy seasons from Burnett and Jepsen. Smith, a free-agent signee, is one of the most dependable right-handed setup men in baseball.
1. RF Kole Calhoun
2. CF Mike Trout
3. 1B Albert Pujols
4. LF Josh Hamilton
5. 3B David Freese
6. DH Raul Ibanez
7. 2B Howie Kendrick
8. C Chris Iannetta or Hank Conger
9. SS Erick Aybar
Despite a disappointing season from Hamilton and an injury-marred year from Pujols in 2013, the Angels still finished sixth in the league in runs. They are hoping simply getting improvement from those two, plus the additions of Freese and Ibanez, can more than offset the loss of Mark Trumbo.
Freese and Ibanez are two of the biggest question marks, though. Ibanez is 41, and Freese is coming off a disappointing season in which he battled injuries in St. Louis.
Calhoun will be a key player to watch. He was very good in two months at the end of 2013, and showed an ability to get on base and hit for some power. He's likely to get a crack at hitting leadoff, even though he's not a prototypical leadoff hitter.
TOP ROOKIES: LHP Tyler Skaggs, originally drafted by the Angels, was one of the top prospects in the Diamondbacks system before the Angels acquired him in the Mark Trumbo trade. Skaggs is just 22, but the Angels are going to give him a shot at breaking camp in the rotation. 2B Taylor Lindsey is considered by many to be the top prospect in the Angels system. He spent last season at Double-A. If he progresses quickly, he could make Howie Kendrick trade bait.
--OF Josh Hamilton (strained left calf) was hurt Feb. 25. He was expected to be sidelined at least two weeks.
--LHP Sean Burnett (left elbow surgery in August 2013) expects to be ready for Opening Day. He could resume throwing off a mound in the first week of March.
--1B Albert Pujols (partially torn plantar fascia) was nearly fully recovered by the end of the 2013 season, and he went through normal conditioning and baseball activity over the winter. He won't play in the field regularly in Cactus League action, but he is expected to be the everyday first baseman once the regular season begins.
- Sports & Recreation
- Sean Burnett
- Mike Trout
- Albert Pujols
- Ernesto Frieri