California's baseball galaxy glitters, except on mound
What the California Angels don't really know for sure is if their off-season moves, and they made several major ones, even now add up to a division title in the American League West.
Those would include the trades or free-agent signings that brought the Angels slugger Reggie Jackson from the Yankees; infielders Doug DeCinces from the Orioles and Tim Foli from the Pirates; and catcher Bob Boone from the Phillies. All are expected to start, except Foli.
The problem is a suspect pitching staff that has only one stopper in right-hander Ken Forsch. And since you don't rush people's throwing arms in training camp, how good this staff will be probably won't be known until well into the regular season.
Expected to join Forsch on the firing line are Geoff Zahn, Bruce Kison, Angel Moreno, and Mike Witt, who posted a 3.21 earned-run average last year with the Angels as a rookie.
The pitching situation could change considerably, however, if General Manager Buzzie Bavasi is able to deal for another proven starter by opening day, plus a veteran left-handed reliever who could help Don Aase out of the bullpen.
Among those Bavasi reportedly would be willing to trade are infielders Butch Hobson and Freddie Patek; catchers Joe Ferguson and Ed Ott; catcher-outfielder Brian Downing; and outfielders Bobby Clark and Juan Beniquez. Several pitchers who don't figure to start probably also will be made available.
Basically the veteran talent on Manager Gene Mauch's squad has put itself into the Angels' regular lineup. In fact, if the opposition pitches a right-hander on opening day, Mauch with one exception can already give you his batting order.
It will consist of Rod Carew (1B); Rick Burleson (SS); Fred Lynn (CF); Reggie Jackson (RF); Don Baylor (DH); Bobby Grich (2B); Doug DeCinces (3B); and Bob Boone (C). Playing left field, and probably batting between DeCinces and Boone, will be rookie Tom Brunansky, a power hitter who batted .322 last year with Salt Lake City.
Brunansky, who started the 1981 season with the Angels but had trouble hitting breaking balls, is not only expected to make it but do well.
California also has another tremendous hitting prospect in 23-year-old Daryl Sconiers, who plays the same position as Carew. But even a .354 batting average last season at Salt Lake City, plus 13 homers and 74 runs batted in, probably won't save Daryl a trip back to the minors.
''Potentially we have an all-star at each of our infield and outfield positions, and our catching isn't bad either,'' Mauch explained. ''We're deep enough on the bench so that we can rest our regulars at any time and not get hurt, and in Tim Foli we've got someone who can play second, third base, or shortstop. In fact, it may be that I'll use Foli three or four times a week.
''I'd like to go into the regular season knowing ahead of time that our pitching is good enough to win a pennant,'' Gene continued. ''I think maybe it is. I expect Forsch and Aase to be as good as last year, and Witt, Moreno, Kison , and Zahn to be better.''
Even though Jackson and DeCinces got the big headlines when they signed California contracts, perhaps not enough has been said about Boone, who has a reputation for working well with pitchers. The fact that Bob didn't throw out many baserunners his last two years with the Phillies doesn't seem to bother Mauch.
''Whenever pitchers take a long time with their delivery to home plate, which has been a problem at Philadelphia, they are going to have trouble holding runners on base,'' Gene said. ''Before you criticize Boone too much, remember that in recent years the umpires took Steve Carlton's pickoff move away by suddenly calling balks on him. Also, Dick Ruthven has the kind of motion that encourages players to run on him.
''As far as our division race is concerned, Oakland, with all that pitching and with players like Tony Armas, Rickey Henderson and Dwayne Murphy, deserves to be favored. But if all my people play to their potential, then I don't think anyone around can handle us.''