Angels looking like MLB's best team

The Angels looked strong in Albert Pujols' debut with the team on Friday. Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A scout lounged in a seat in the home plate horseshoe here before the Angels played Friday, and joined the growing chorus of folks who believe Albert Pujols' team -- the team of Jered Weaver and Dan Haren and C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana -- is the best in baseball.

"Because they have everything," he said. "Starting pitching. Power. Speed. The best outfield defense. Eventually, they'll get [prospect Mike] Trout up here, and they'll get better. There's room to grow."

A few hours later, Pujols wore a huge smile after his first win with the Angels, sharing handshakes and high-fives with new teammates; there should be a lot of success here this summer.

Whether Mark Trumbo can make a successful shift to third base remains an open question; he made two errors Friday, seemingly squeezing the ball a little too tightly and throwing the ball away for the first error, and then overrunning a foul popup for the second. Meanwhile, Jordan Walden continues to try to establish himself as a viable closer. The key, the Angels believe, is for him to throw strikes with his breaking ball; when that happens, he is dominant.

The Angels will have to settle the Bobby Abreu situation soon, and presumably, that will be when they see that Kendrys Morales can be counted on. For now, Abreu is a left-handed hitting safety net, and while he has been outspoken in his desire to play more, his dissatisfaction won't become a cancer; he's viewed by others as a positive, supportive teammate.

The Angels' players seem to possess the same confidence that oozes off the St. Louis Cardinals this spring: They know they're talented and they are throwing themselves into their work to ensure their success. Torii Hunter had met Pujols before this year, of course, but Hunter said that what surprises him the most, in being around the slugger daily, is how hard Pujols works.

In this group of Angels, he fits right in. The scout may be right.

Angels fans arrived early to see Pujols take batting practice, and they plan to stay late, writes Bill Plaschke. It took awhile for the Angels to get it going, but they figured it out, writes Bill Plunkett. Pujols' favorite thing from the game: "The win."


Greg Holland allowed just two of 33 inherited runners to score in 2011. And on Friday night, he allowed three inherited runners to score in a decisive eighth inning. The season has started, and there are no silver linings now, writes Sam Mellinger.

• MLB officials keep waiting to see the fine print on the Dodgers' sale, and privately, some team executives worry that the specifics will be an issue.

Some paperwork on the sale of the Dodgers was filed on Friday, as Bill Shaikin writes, and it showed that Frank McCourt is going to make a whole lot of money -- but there were few details about the financing of the deal. Readers of the L.A. Times were not happy that Magic Johnson was hanging out with Frank McCourt. The change in leadership could come by the end of the month, writes Richard Sandomir.

• The Royals are as loose and self-deprecating a bunch as you will find in the majors. Soft-tossing lefty Bruce Chen wears a T-shirt that has a Royals crown on the front, with the word "DominaChen." On the back, it reads, "83 By You." As in, 83 mph.

• This bit of interesting news was obscured by Opening Day stuff: Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says stadium talks are progressing, as Ira Kaufman writes.

• A tension remains in the Red Sox clubhouse, and while much has been made of Bobby Valentine's arrival this spring, I think a lot of the problems stem back to last season's collapse and unresolved issues between some teammates. The division is too difficult for the Red Sox to succeed unless they're all pulling in the same direction. Boston's problems need immediate fixing, because the team's first 15 games are against the Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. A bad start -- following last September's collapse -- will set off an angry-fan frenzy.

Josh Beckett's season begins today.

• Some rival hitters -- who shall go unnamed -- texted each other after Justin Masterson's first start and agreed completely on this point: Masterson has climbed into a higher echelon of pitchers. "He's figured it out," said one of them. "Just nasty."

• The Marlins remain confident that they'll bust out. Miami had seven hits and nine total bases in the first two games, but even if the Marlins aren't a dynamic offensive team -- and their home park won't help -- they really won't be at a major disadvantage in their own division. Last year, NL East teams ranked 12th, 13th, 22nd, 23rd and 24th among 30 teams in runs scored, with the injury-plagued Mets leading the division. Since the Phillies' Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are out with injuries, and in light of the various issues with other teams, it looks to be a division of strong pitching and run-starved offenses.

• I was lucky enough to see six teams in three days, and of all the stuff we saw, what jumped out the most was how good the Cardinals look. They killed the Brewers on Friday, as Derrick Goold writes.

Dings and dents

1. Jose Contreras had a shaky rehab outing, writes Bob Brookover.

2. A.J. Burnett seems to be making a lot of progress in his rehab.

3. Clayton Kershaw figures he'll be good to go on Tuesday, after a flu crushed him on Opening Day.

4. Scott Baker is going to get a second opinion on his elbow, writes Joe Christensen.

5. Chipper Jones had a positive step in his rehab.

6. Andrew Bailey jinxed himself.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Pirates will keep their approach on Opening Day.

2. Even Pete Rose is talking about the Joey Votto contract.

3. The Mariners ranked 18th in payroll.

4. The Rockies view Dexter Fowler as a work in progress, and if he doesn't hit, they won't be afraid to turn to Tyler Colvin, Troy Renck writes within this piece.

5. Pablo Sandoval is the Giants' emergency catcher.

6. Clues from the first day of the season point to Hector Santiago being the White Sox closer.

From ESPN Stats & Information, by the numbers:

4 -- Ryan Braun is the fourth reigning NL MVP in the past 25 seasons to go hitless on Opening Day .

8 -- Career Opening Day home runs for Adam Dunn (tied with Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr. for most all time).

13 -- Todd Helton has hit safely in 13 straight Opening Day games, the longest current streak.

27 -- Mariano Rivera's consecutive saves versus Rays before Friday.

78 -- Runs scored Friday (8.7 runs per game). In the previous 10 games this season, 47 runs were scored (4.7 runs per game)

Friday's games

1. The Rangers got a jump-start from Ian Kinsler and Colby Lewis. From ESPN Stats & Info, how Lewis beat the White Sox:

A. Threw 32 sliders, getting six of his nine strikeouts with that pitch.

B. Went out of the strike zone with 19 two-strike pitches; the White Sox went 1-for-9 with eight strikeouts in at-bats ending with two strikes out of the strike zone.

C. Kept the White Sox on base when they got to scoring position. Chicago went 0-for-6 with five strikeouts in at-bats with runners in scoring position.

2. The Rays got big hits from Carlos Pena and got good work from their bullpen.

From Elias: Friday marked the first time the Yankees lost an Opening Day game in which they blew a ninth-inning lead since 1934, when they blew a 5-4 lead and lost to the Philadelphia Athletics 6-5.

The Yankees had their guts ripped out. The Rays created memories at the Yankees' expense, writes Joel Sherman.

3. The Mariners got their bats going, writes Geoff Baker.

4. The D-Backs figured out Tim Lincecum, again. Chris Young hit in the No. 2 spot, and it paid off, writes Nick Piecoro.

5. Eric Young's speed helped the Rockies, writes Troy Renck.

6. Chad Billingsley was The Man for the Dodgers.

7. Oakland lost, but Yoenis Cespedes clubbed a long home run, and is putting on a show, as John Shea writes.

Friday's longest home runs:

Yoenis Cespedes -- 462 feet (first in majors this season)

Adam Dunn -- 449 (2nd)

Carlos Pena -- 431 (6th)

George Kottaras -- 425 (7th)

Paul Goldschmidt -- 419 (8th)

8. Lincecum's season started with a crooked number, as Henry Schulman writes.

9. Cory Luebke had a tough day, as Bill Center writes. The good vibes of spring have dissipated, writes Dan Hayes.

10. The Brewers had a really bad first day.

11. There were problems for Carl Pavano in the first inning.

12. The White Sox racked up 13 strikeouts -- not the good kind.

13. The Astros kicked the ball around.

14. Jake Arrieta was The Man for the Orioles. Nick Markakis' opposite-field homer is a really good sign.

Other stuff

• There is sad news about Bob Uecker's son.

• In a poll, zero percent of Cubs fans expect to make the playoffs.

• The Jays' playoff hopes rest with their rotation, writes Robert MacLeod.

John Lott goes back over the Jays' incredible season opener.

Doug Fister prepares for every start the same way.

Matt Garza pitches with an emotional edge.

• The D-Backs' organization is in great shape, writes Paola Boivin.

James Shields had some struggles in his first start of the year.

Gaby Sanchez is looking for a full year of success, writes Clark Spencer.

• Opening day revealed the best and the worst of the Nationals' expectations, writes Adam Kilgore.

Shelley Duncan hopes to take advantage of his opportunity.

• The Indians will need a strong bullpen to cover for a weak offense, writes Bill Lubinger.

• Ozzie Guillen says getting drunk is his postgame routine.

Hundreds of counterfeit tickets are believed to have been sold before the Reds' game.

• Headed to Texas; we'll have the White Sox and Rangers on "Sunday Night Baseball."

And today will be better than yesterday.