TEMPE, Ariz. -- Chris Iannetta can see now, and that is making a big difference.
The Los Angeles Angels catcher couldn't see all that well behind the plate during the first half of last season. However, when he started wearing contact lenses, he started hitting again, improving his batting average from .205 to .264 over the final two months of the season.
During his struggles, Iannetta was eager for the season to end, he admits now.
"I just wanted to hit the reset button," he said. "I wanted to chalk it up to a really bad year. It was a really bad year, but at least the last 1 1/2 or two months, I was able to turn something really bad into something positive. The way I finished was definitely a bright spot, and I tried to focus on that more than the negative stuff that happened and the way I played for three months."
Iannetta, 30, will compete for playing time this season with up-and-comer Hank Conger. Conger, a 26-year-old, switch-hitting power threat, had his best season to date in 2013, and he could usurp the starting role from Iannetta with a similar 2014.
They split the catching at-bats about 60-40 last year in Iannetta's favor. It is too early in the spring to draw any conclusions about the forthcoming battle, but Iannetta was hitting .455 and Conger just .133 through March 10, in a similar amount of chances.
The likelihood is that the players will platoon again this season, with Conger facing a lot of right-handed pitching and Iannetta the left-handers.
"I think the combination worked well, and we'll probably use some form of that," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of his catchers. "Exactly how or what it's going to be is tough to say, but we expect a lot of both guys."
--RHP Brandon Lyon, who pitched a perfect inning March 10, had retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced in four spring outings. The 34-year-old veteran is a dark-horse candidate to make the Angels' bullpen as a non-roster invitee.
--LHP Tyler Skaggs pitched four strong scoreless innings in his second spring start, walking Reds 1B Joey Votto twice but otherwise demonstrating solid control. "You couldn't ask for anything more," manager Mike Scioscia said. Skaggs, likely to begin the season as the Angels' fifth starter, pitched only two innings in his first outing.
--RHP Joe Blanton is a candidate to make the Angels' Opening Day roster as a potential eighth reliever, manager Mike Scioscia said. Blanton appears to be the team's sixth starting pitcher, next in line for a rotation slot if one of the incumbents gets hurt, but he has little experience pitching in relief.
--INF Grant Green received starts at shortstop and third base in early March as the Angels assess his readiness for a potential utility role on the major league roster. Green played second base nearly exclusively last season but was a college shortstop. He was earning positive reviews on his defense.
--C Anderson De La Rosa remains a no-show in Angels camp because the political unrest in his homeland of Venezuela is preventing him from getting papers permitting him to leave. The team is not expecting the non-roster invitee in camp until the minor league season begins in early April.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "His name will be synonymous with baseball until the robots take over." -- LHP C.J. Wilson, on the late Dr. Frank Jobe, the inventor of Tommy John surgery. Wilson had the elbow operation while still a minor-leaguer in 2003.
RHP Jered Weaver
LHP C.J. Wilson
LHP Hector Santiago
RHP Garrett Richards
LHP Tyler Skaggs
The rotation is strong at the top, but after Weaver and Wilson, it is full of question marks. Santiago, Richards and Skaggs each have potential to be solid major league starters, but none has made 30 starts in a single season yet.
If one or more of them fails, the Angels could be in trouble. They don't have much depth behind them.
RHP Ernesto Frieri (closer)
RHP Joe Smith
LHP Sean Burnett
RHP Kevin Jepsen
RHP Dane De La Rosa
RHP Michael Kohn
RHP Fernando Salas
Frieri is a lightning rod for criticism from Angels fans because he has a tendency to make his saves a little more dramatic than they'd prefer, but he still gets the job done. He has converted 90 percent of his save opportunities over the past two years.
After that, the Angels are hoping for a much-improved bullpen if they get healthy seasons from Burnett and Jepsen. Smith, a free-agent signee, is one of the most dependable right-handed setup men in baseball.
1. RF Kole Calhoun
2. CF Mike Trout
3. 1B Albert Pujols
4. LF Josh Hamilton
5. 3B David Freese
6. DH Raul Ibanez
7. 2B Howie Kendrick
8. C Chris Iannetta or Hank Conger
9. SS Erick Aybar
Despite a disappointing season from Hamilton and an injury-marred year from Pujols in 2013, the Angels still finished sixth in the league in runs. They are hoping simply getting improvement from those two, plus the additions of Freese and Ibanez, can more than offset the loss of Mark Trumbo.
Freese and Ibanez are two of the biggest question marks, though. Ibanez is 41, and Freese is coming off a disappointing season in which he battled injuries in St. Louis.
Calhoun will be a key player to watch. He was very good in two months at the end of 2013, and showed an ability to get on base and hit for some power. He's likely to get a crack at hitting leadoff, even though he's not a prototypical leadoff hitter.
TOP ROOKIES: LHP Tyler Skaggs, originally drafted by the Angels, was one of the top prospects in the Diamondbacks system before the Angels acquired him in the Mark Trumbo trade. Skaggs is just 22, but the Angels are going to give him a shot at breaking camp in the rotation. 2B Taylor Lindsey is considered by many to be the top prospect in the Angels system. He spent last season at Double-A. If he progresses quickly, he could make Howie Kendrick trade bait.
--OF Josh Hamilton (strained left calf) was hurt Feb. 25. He is expected to make his Cactus League debut in mid-March.
--LHP Sean Burnett (left elbow surgery in August 2013) threw off a mound March 10 for the first time in 10 months. It is possible he could be ready for Opening Day, but the Angels are very hopeful he will be healthy by mid-April.
--1B Albert Pujols (partially torn plantar fascia) was nearly fully recovered by the end of the 2013 season, and he went through normal conditioning and baseball activity over the winter. He won't play in the field regularly in Cactus League action, but he is expected to be the everyday first baseman once the regular season begins.
- Sports & Recreation
- Sean Burnett
- Mike Trout
- Albert Pujols
- Ernesto Frieri