Sean McAdam: Previewing the A.L. West

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Sean McAdam: Previewing the A.L. West

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

For most of the last decade, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ruled the West, winning the World Series in 2002, the division title six times and going to the ALCS as recently as 2009.

But no more. Texas beat out the Angels last year and after a winter in which the Angels struggled to find someone -- anyone! -- to take their money, the case could be made that they're now the third-best team in the division.

Under new ownership, the Rangers have demonstrated a willingness to spend like the big-market team they are. Meanwhile, if the A's ever get a new ballpark, they, too, could become more of a force. As it is, their pitching staff should keep them in contention.

(IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER):

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

ONE THING THAT MUST HAPPEN: The offense must get better - and quickly. The Angels scored 202 fewer runs last year than they did before. Overpriced though he may be, Vernon Wells will help, and so, too, will the return of first baseman Kendry Morales, who missed the last four months with a broken leg.

ONE THING THAT CAN'T HAPPEN: The two high-priced trade acquisitions in the last two years -- Scott Kazmir and Dan Haren -- can't underperform. The Angels have too much money (almost 25 million this year alone) to have that happen again.

BIGGEST ADDITION: OF Vernon Wells
BIGGEST SUBTRACTION: C Mike Napoli
ROOKIE TO WATCH: C Hank Conger

Oakland A's

ONE THING THAT MUST HAPPEN: The additions made in the off-season (David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui) must support the pitching staff better. The A's were second-to-last in homers in the A.L. and hit just .241 with runners in scoring position.

ONE THING THAT CAN'T HAPPEN: The young starters can't regress. The A's rotation is talented but still relatively inexperienced. Only Dallas Braden will begin the season older than 25.

BIGGEST ADDITION: OF David DeJesus
BIGGEST SUBTRACTION: DH Jack Cust
ROOKIE TO WATCH: OF Michael Taylor

Seattle Mariners

ONE THING THAT MUST HAPPEN: New manager Eric Wedge must gain control of the club. The team was full of turmoil last year, with naps in the clubhouse and fistfights in the dugout. That can't continue if the Mariners are to improve.

ONE THING THAT CAN'T HAPPEN: Felix Hernandez can't struggle for runs the way he did a season ago when his teammates scored seven runs in his 12 losses. Another frustrating year like that could do damage to Hernandez's psyche.

BIGGEST ADDITION: C Miguel Olivo
BIGGEST SUBTRACTION: INF Jose Lopez
ROOKIE TO WATCH: 2B Dustin Ackley.

Texas Rangers

ONE THING THAT MUST HAPPEN: Someone must step up and help fill the void left by the departure of Cliff Lee. Maybe Tommy Hunter will mature, or Neftali Feliz will transition from the bullpen or maybe the Rangers will get a comeback season from Brandon Webb.

ONE THING THAT CAN'T HAPPEN: The Rangers can't battle injuries like they did a year ago. Ian Kinsler and MVP Josh Hamilton must stay on the field and in the lineup if the Rangers are going to repeat as division champs.

BIGGEST ADDITION: 3B Adrian Beltre
BIGGEST SUBTRACTION: LHP Cliff Lee
ROOKIE TO WATCH: RHP Tanner Scheppers

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Notes, quotes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Rays:

QUOTES:

* "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully, the tests come back clean.'' -Andrew Benintendi, on the uncertainty surrounding his knee injury.

* "Sometimes, I like that, sometimes I don't because I'd kind of take a couple of quick outs in place of those to get a couple of more innings out there.'' -Drew Pomeranz on his career high 11 strikeouts.

* "That's probably the spot that looms the largest. Jackie's become more aggressive early in the count, but at the same time, that aggressiveness can work against you.'' -Farrell on Jackie Bradley Jr. swinging at the first pitch following a walk with the bases loaded.

NOTES:

* Drew Pomeranz recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts

 * Since moving to the leadoff spot, Dustin Pedroia has a slash line of .397/.418/.460 in 16 games.

* Pomeranz has yielded two runs or fewer in five consecutive starts.

* On the just-completed road trip, the Red Sox led in all but one game.

* Thursday's loss was the fourth this season in which the Sox allowed two runs or fewer.

 * The past 18 Red Sox losses have come by a combined 37 runs.

* Until Thursday, the Red Sox had won 20 of their past 31 day games.

* The bottom third of the makeshift Red Sox lineup combined to go 2-for-12.

* The Sox missed out on a chance to have an eight-win road trip, which would have been their first since 2011.

STARS:

1) Jake Odorizzi

The Rays started, facing a depleted Red Sox lineup, limited the Sox to a single run over seven innings, allowing just five hits and getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by allowing just one run.

2) Mikie Mahtook

Mahtook was 0-for-34 when facing Drew Pomeranz in the seventh inning, but that didn't stop him from doubling home Steven Souza Jr with what proved to be the winning run.

3) Dustin Pedroia

The Sox couldn't generate much of anything at all offensively, but don't blame Pedroia. The leadoff hitter had three hits and a walk and was on base four times for the Sox.