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Hope for Halos (cont.)

Posted: Friday May 26, 2006 1:31PM; Updated: Friday May 26, 2006 2:34PM
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Darin Erstad gives the Angels a veteran presence, but his performance is in clear decline.
Darin Erstad gives the Angels a veteran presence, but his performance is in clear decline.
Harry How/Getty Images

"I think they both struggled with the types of adjustments they have to make," Hatcher said. "Sometimes they're thrown out there with no idea of what [to expect]."

Further exacerbating the issue, injuries have meant that the team has had to rush a few prospects to the majors as reserves. In particular, Stoneman spoke frankly about his disappointment in having to promote 22-year-old infielder Howie Kendrick, who wasn't ready to start, nor was he served by sitting on the bench.

"Our infielders at Triple A are very talented but very young," Stoneman said. "I should say we did want to bring him up, because we like to give guys opportunities, but we knew he wasn't going to get opportunities [to play much]."

The Angels' latest attempt to solve their problems from within was the call-up of 22-year-old Cuban first baseman Kendry Morales, who provided some hope with a homer and two singles in his Tuesday debut. But perhaps the biggest decision of the year for Stoneman and the Angels will involve Weaver's younger brother, Jered, who leads the Triple A Pacific Coast League in ERA at 2.05.

With almost no remaining hope for a productive offense this year, the Angels might need Colon and Jered Weaver to save their season. But you might forgive the Angels for hesitating -- if the rough starts of Kotchman, Mathis and Kendrick (.105 EQA) weren't sufficient cautionary tales, imagine the weird dynamic that might arise if Jered replaces Jeff in the starting rotation.

"[Jeff] Weaver's probably the biggest question mark of the lot," said analyst Rob McMillin of 6-4-2 -- an Angels/Dodgers Double Play Blog. "He needs to figure out what's wrong, or else he'll find himself getting shelled in Cincinnati next year on a one-year, $3 million deal."

For all their failings, for all the 2006 what-might-have-beens about signing a free-agent slugger to play first or retaining Molina to catch, the consensus is that the noose will loosen around the Angels in coming years. Though they won't all pan out, there are too many promising minor leaguers to ignore. Plenty are deserving of second chances, and some, like 21-year-old Brandon Wood (43 homers in high-A ball in 2005), haven't gotten their first.

Once the prospects really arrive, we can go back to debating the merits of the suicide squeeze without wondering who the heck is doing the squeezing.

"When you consider owner Arte Moreno's passion and deep pockets, there is no doubt the Angels will be back," Lederer said. "Short of a miracle, it just won't be this year."

A former sportswriter with the Los Angeles Daily News and Los Angeles Times, Jon Weisman writes about the Dodgers and baseball at Dodger Thoughts. His book, The Best of Dodger Thoughts, is on sale now.