The Angels are well-armed headed into the season. Now if they can just hit.
The Angels considerably strengthened their pitching over the winter by acquiring two quality starters in Aaron Sele and Kevin Appier.
Even with what shapes up as one of the league's best staffs, they won't contend in the talent-laden AL West unless two old hands, Tim Salmon and Darin Erstad, and newcomer Brad Fullmer can provide some punch on offense.
In recent years, the Angels have been a good hitting club that lacked pitching. But last season, their pitching was improved, but they ranked 12th in the league with just 691 runs, ahead of only Baltimore and Tampa Bay.
Salmon, who had a career average of .290 with four 30-homer seasons, underwent shoulder surgery after the 2000 season and never really got on track last year. He slumped to .227 with 17 home runs and 49 runs batted in.
Erstad, slowed by a strained ligament in his right knee and other ailments, batted .258 with nine homers and 63 RBIs. The previous season, he hit .355 with 24 homers and 100 RBIs.
Mo Vaughn missed the entire season after surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon and was dealt to the New York Mets for Appier in December.
The Angels acquired Fullmer, who figures to be the designated hitter most of the time and can also fill in at first base, in a trade with Toronto. Fullmer hit .274 and had 18 homers and 83 RBIs last season. The previous year with Toronto, he hit .295 with 32 homers and 104 RBIs.
Manager Mike Scioscia expects Salmon and Erstad, who were both sound and hitting again this spring, to bounce back this season, and hopes Fullmer can have another year like he did in 2000.
Two hitters who did come through for the Angels last year were Garret Anderson (.289, 28 HRs, 123 RBIs) and Troy Glaus (41 HRs, 108 RBIs).
The Angels finished third in the division in each of Scioscia's first two years as manager, and he believes they have the talent to make a run at the playoffs this season. He's particularly pleased with the acquisitions of Sele and Appier.
"They're unique because they're veteran pitchers who are still extremely productive. You look at the number of innings they've pitched combined with the playoff experience and the whole package, and there's something that was sorely needed in our organization," Scioscia said. "Hopefully our younger pitchers will grow into that experience and have that playoff experience they have and keep passing it on.
"They're outstanding competitors and we're looking for them to produce the way they have the last couple of years."
Sele, 31, signed as a free agent, was 15-5 with a 3.60 earned-run average and pitched 215 innings last season. Appier, 34, was 11-10 with a 3.57 ERA and worked 2062/3 innings for the Mets.
They join a rotation that includes Ramon Ortiz (13-11), Jarrod Washburn (11-10), and Scott Schoeneweis (10-11).
The bullpen includes Dennis Cook, a left-hander signed as a free agent; and right-handers Ben Weber, Al Levine and Donne Wall in setup roles. The Angels have one of baseball's best closers, Troy Percival.
The Angels finished 75-87 last year, losing 25 of their final 31 games. They'll have to do considerably better this year if they are to make a run at playoff spot in what may be the major league's toughest division.
"It's ridiculous, the talent in this division," Appier said. "Oakland won 100 games last year and they finished how many games out of first?"
The Athletics, who won a wild-card berth, finished 14 games back of Seattle's 116-46 record.
Even the Texas Rangers look improved, adding Chan Ho Park, Juan Gonzalez and Carl Everett.
"I think the wild card may come out of the division again," Appier said. "I feel like we have the talent to win the division, but we certainly have our work cut out for us."