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4 anaheim Angels
Jeff Pearlman
March 27, 2000
A new attitude and a potent lineup won't make up for an old, flammable staff
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March 27, 2000

4 Anaheim Angels

A new attitude and a potent lineup won't make up for an old, flammable staff

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by the numbers

1999 Team Statistics (AL rank)

1999 record: 70-92 (fourth in AL West)

Batting average

.256 (14)

Opponents' batting average

.269 (5)

Runs scored

711 (13)

ERA

4.79 (5)

Home runs

158 (11)

Fielding percentage

.983 (4)

It's 1994. There's an obscure new TV show called Friends, Hootie and the Blowfish are on the early path to stardom, Monica Lewinsky is a student at a small college, and you're a very bad Rotisserie baseball player. The draft is today, and you've wasted your first 15 picks on position players. You have no starting pitchers. You scan the list of those who haven't been selected: Ken Hill. Kent Mercker. Tom Candiotti. Tim Belcher. "I can still compose a pretty good rotation," you tell the other guys at the draft table. They laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

It is 2000. You are Mike Scioscia, the optimistic new skipper of the Angels. You've got a couple of good power hitters, a steady shortstop, a logjam of solid outfielders and a good closer. Then you scan the list of possible starting pitchers and see these four names included among them: Ken Hill. Kent Mercker. Tom Candiotti. Tim Belcher. Six years ago those four would have been decent complementary members of a staff. Hill, a righty, was a strong No. 2 starter. Mercker, a lefty, was a decent long reliever and spot starter. Righthanders Candiotti and Belcher seemed past their prime but ate some innings. Now, thousands of pitches (and hits) later, they're key components of what could be the majors' ugliest staff since the Rockies debuted in 1993 with David Nied as their ace. "You're dealing with more hypotheticals than you'd probably like," says new pitching coach Bud Black. "We have healthy competition, which is nice. But the couple of ifs can drive you crazy."

Black's ifs number more like a couple of trillion. If Hill, 34, can rebound from the myriad injuries (inflamed right elbow, strained right groin, tendinitis in his left knee) that made him unproductive (4-11, 4.77 ERA) last season....

If the 32-year-old Mercker's new paint-the-corners approach transforms him into a consistent winner....

If Candiotti, 42, can still get hitters out with his knuckler....

If the 38-year-old Belcher, who is recovering from right elbow surgery and won't return until May, can make a strong comeback....

If 23-year-old rookie phenom Ramon Ortiz, who has a big league fastball and changeup, is mature enough to be the No. 2 starter....

If lefthander Jarrod Washburn's spring poundings were only a matter of rust from a ribcage injury that limited him to 16 appearances last year....

If Jason Dickson, an All-Star in 1997, can bounce back after missing last season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder....

If closer Troy Percival's abysmal second half (6.00 ERA, seven blown saves in 15 chances) was a fluke, not the result of a tired arm....

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