The rest of the A.L. West

Published: Sunday, Mar. 31, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5X
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 17, 2013 - 10:02 pm

RANGERS

• 2012: 93-69, second, lost wild-card playoff game

• Manager: Ron Washington (seventh season)

• Hot spot: Texas is waiting for the return of fifth starter Colby Lewis (6-6, 3.43 ERA in 16 starts before surgery), the veteran right-hander who could be back from elbow surgery by the end of May. Robbie Ross, whose long-term goal is to start, had a standout rookie season in the bullpen after being a surprise last spring to make the team. Martin Perez was the likely option for the No. 5 spot until being hit by a line drive and breaking a bone in his forearm. Maybe Derek Lowe, 39, the right-hander who arrived on a minor-league deal after Perez's injury, gets a chance.

• Outlook: After consecutive World Series appearances, the Rangers didn't even win a game last October, losing the American League West title after being swept in three games by the A's to end the regular season, then losing the A.L.'s first one-and-done wild-card game. Gone are Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young. Lance Berkman is being counted on to rebound from an injury-plagued season and, as primarily a designated hitter, take over the No. 3 spot in the order. Despite significant changes to the offense, the Rangers should still be able to produce runs. Add its solid pitching, and Texas should contend for another A.L. West title.

ANGELS

• 2012: 89-73, third

• Manager: Mike Scioscia (14th season)

• Hot spot: The biggest spotlight in Los Angeles' rock-solid lineup will be on center fielder Peter Bourjos, the promising speedster who is bumping A.L. Rookie of the Year Mike Trout to left field so he can play every day. If Bourjos struggles at the plate, Trout will be itching to move back, allowing DH Mark Trumbo to play in the outfield again.

• Outlook: Although they won more games last season than A.L. Central champion Detroit, the Angels missed the playoffs for the third straight year – a first under Scioscia, baseball's longest-tenured manager. Owner Arte Moreno wrote another lavish free-agent check to right fielder Josh Hamilton in his bid to get back to the postseason, pairing him with first baseman Albert Pujols in the best heart of the order money can buy. With two former MVPs backing two of the game's most exciting young hitters in Trout and Trumbo, the Angels will be expected to score plenty of runs.

MARINERS

• 2012: 75-87, fourth

• Manager: Eric Wedge (third season)

• Hot spot: Seattle desperately wants to see Justin Smoak succeed at first base and match the expectations that came with his arrival in the trade that sent pitcher Cliff Lee to Texas. This may be the last chance for Smoak – Seattle has plenty of replacement options in Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez and even Dustin Ackley. How Smoak does at the plate will ultimately determine his future.

• Outlook: This is the year Seattle needs to take a step forward. Young prospects Ackley, third baseman Kyle Seager and outfielder Michael Saunders need to produce with consistency, Jesus Montero needs to show he can be an everyday catcher, and center fielder Franklin Gutierrez needs to stay healthy. If all those things happen, and Morales and left fielder Michael Morse hit as expected, Seattle's offense should be much better.

ASTROS

• 2012: 55-107, sixth in N.L. Central

• Manager: Bo Porter (first season)

• Hot spot: Questions abound at every position except second base, where Jose Altuve will look to build on an All-Star season in 2012, and catcher, where Jason Castro enters his third major-league season.

• Outlook: Porter takes over a Houston team that finished last in the majors the last two seasons. The Astros will try to avoid becoming the first team to lose at least 106 games in three straight seasons since the expansion Mets (1962-65). It won't be easy, especially after moving from the N.L. Central to the powerful A.L. West.

– Associated Press

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