Purgatory Online

Monday, May 10, 2004

I don't think there's an Angels fan on the planet who knows quite what to think right now. I sure don't.

Jose Guillen became the latest Angel to fall in battle yesterday, spraining his knee and ankle while sliding into second base. Meanwhile, Brendan Donnelly pulled himself out of a rehab appearance after experiencing elbow pain. These injuries, of course, come the day after Darin Erstad wrecked his hamstring - again - which has put him on the DL with an expected return date of "later rather than sooner." And Garret Anderson remains sidelined with some kind of mystery ailment to his back, while Tim Salmon, also on the DL, is working his way towards returning to the lineup sometime after the team returns from their impending New York - Baltimore swing. In the history of this snakebit franchise, 2004 is shaping up as one of the most star-crossed, in terms of injuries; already nearly every starter has been on the DL, limited to part-time status, or otherwise significantly whopped with the injury stick.

All of which, of course, Angels fans are used to. But the weird thing is that they keep on winning. The Angels finished their first 7-0 homestand ever yesterday, which, coming on the heels of a 7-2 road trip, makes them 14 for their last 16 and still proud owners of the best record in baseball.

The Angels called up their best prospect, Casey Kotchman, to replace Erstad yesterday, and he looked relatively good at the plate. No hits, but a sacrifice fly and some hard-hit balls; I was frankly somewhat surprised that he was called up, but now that he's with the big club he should get a chance to play nearly every day. It will, of course, present an interesting dilemma for the Angels if Erstad nears readiness in a couple of months only to find Kotchman putting up better numbers than Erstad has.

In fact, up until Jose Guillen went down, it seemed as if the Angels were adding by subtraction to some extent. Salmon's absence spares the team from his usual early-season funk, and Erstad, so long as he's not going to play center, is fairly easily replacable in the lineup. Garret Anderson is missed, surely, but considering the number of great hitters in the lineup, doing without GA has been more of an inconvenience than a crippling blow.

Take Guillen out of the mix, however, and things start to get a bit wobbly. Guillen had been otherworldly at the plate over the last couple of weeks, hitting six home runs since April 23 and hitting .484/.556/.903 in May. The word is that Guillen was limping but upbeat as he left the clubhouse, and thought he might not even miss a game, since today is an off day. That seems unlikely, but at this point even keeping him off the DL at all would be a victory.

Ultimately, I think the Angels actually have a chance to emerge from this a stronger team. Just as Eckstein's injury opened the way for Chone Figgins to become a productive member of the lineup, even after Eckstein's return (and who knew that Figgins was a terrific defensive third baseman? Anyone?), Erstad and Guillen's injuries should allow Scioscia to evaluate Kotchman and Quinlan.

On a related note, I'm beginning to worry a bit about Troy Glaus; his DH role seems to be taking on something of a permanent cast to it, or at least a "until Tim Salmon returns" cast. I guess I can understand that, but I also think it would be interesting to put Glaus back at third, move Figgins to center, and let Jose Molina take the DH spot for a few games. Hopefully Glaus's continued DH'ing is more from an overabundance of caution than anything else, but with this team...