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Washburn Appears on Track

Although the A's beat the Angels, 3-0, his seven effective innings indicate he has put injuries behind him and offer encouragement for next season.

September 11, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND — In these dying days of a painfully long season, the Angel fan passes time by dreaming that the team can hit something of a fantasy league jackpot this winter. The owner promises to spend money, after all. In an era when most owners cry about financial losses and rebuff marquee free agents, the Angels' Arte Moreno pledges to subsidize heavy losses this year and next.

Vladimir Guerrero sure would look good in red. So would Bartolo Colon, or Miguel Tejada, or Kevin Millwood, or Kazuo Matsui, or Greg Maddux.

Winter reality will not be as pleasant as September dreams. The Angels might not offer contracts to all, and not all might want to come to Anaheim. Five years ago, the Angels offered $80 million to Mo Vaughn, $50 million to Randy Johnson and told Kevin Brown to call back if he wished to discuss a five-year contract.

In an unfortunate sequence of events for the Angels, Vaughn said yes and Johnson said no. Johnson preferred to play at home in Arizona, and Brown never called back because the Dodgers gave him a seven-year deal, for $105 million.

The moral of this story: The Angels might sign one or two players, but that will not ensure success next year, even if those players might be Guerrero and Tejada. After all, the Angels advanced to their first World Series not with Vaughn, Johnson or Brown but with Jarrod Washburn, Darin Erstad and Troy Glaus.

"The majority of the rebound we're projecting is going to come in-house," Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said.

"You can talk about potential signings or trades or whatever, but the thing that's going to have the biggest impact on our team is guys coming back healthy and productive."

In that sense, the Angels' 3-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday offered encouraging and discouraging signs.

Washburn, who emerged as the Angel ace last season but stumbled amid shoulder, back and hip injuries this season, appears to have righted himself nicely.

David Eckstein returned after missing seven weeks because of a hamstring injury, batting seventh. After he gets a few at-bats, Scioscia said Eckstein and center fielder Chone Figgins will occupy the top two spots in the lineup.

The Angels again failed to solve Ted Lilly, who bears little resemblance to Oakland's dominant starting trio of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. Eckstein, Figgins, Garret Anderson, Tim Salmon and Scott Spiezio went hitless in 12 at-bats against Lilly, who is 3-0 against the Angels and 7-9 otherwise.

For the second consecutive start, Washburn gave up three runs over seven innings and lost because the Angels were shut out. The Angels, their lineup decimated by injuries to Eckstein, Erstad, Glaus, Brad Fullmer and Bengie Molina, have been shut out three times in the last seven games and 12 times this season, most of any major league team except the pitiful Detroit Tigers.

Still, Washburn has a 3.04 earned-run average in his last seven starts. He is two outs away from reaching the 200-inning mark for the second consecutive season. Although he wore down last fall, he struck out a season-high seven Wednesday.

"I've got the best stuff now that I've had probably ever," he said.

Washburn, who operated almost exclusively on fastballs last year, attributed his resurgence to the development of a changeup and the revival of a slider he junked at double-A, on the order of a minor league coach who told him he would not succeed without something slow and directed him to use a curve.

The Angels could be eliminated from the American League West race within hours.

Said Washburn: "Next year, when we're winning, we'll look back at this year and laugh."

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