Baseball player Albert Pujols wears an Angels cap after he is introduced by the Los Angeles Angels during a news conference at Angels Stadium in Anaheim

Running down the rosters: Los Angeles Angels

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Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be projecting 25-man rosters for each of the 30 teams. I’m starting today with the Angels.

The winter’s biggest spenders, the Angels are now again poised to threaten a Rangers team that appeared to be in pretty good position to set up its own little mini-dynasty in the AL West. Texas still has more depth and minor league talent to play with, but the Angels have the better rotation and now arguably the game’s best hitter anchoring the lineup.

Rotation
Jered Weaver – R
Dan Haren – R
C.J. Wilson – L
Ervin Santana – R
Jerome Williams – R

Bullpen
Jordan Walden – R
Scott Downs – L
Hisanori Takahashi – L
LaTroy Hawkins – R
Rich Thompson – R
Bobby Cassevah – R
Trevor Bell – R

SP next in line: Garrett Richards (R), Bell, Brad Mills (L), Eric Hurley (R)
RP next in line: Kevin Jepsen (R), Michael Kohn (R), Francisco Rodriguez (R)

The Angels would still like to add one more reliever, probably Luis Ayala. Scott Linebrink is another possible fit. It’s disappointing that they haven’t picked up any quality rotation insurance. Mills, who was acquired from the Jays for Jeff Mathis, doesn’t really qualify. Their big four starters have stayed remarkably healthy lately, but there’s always the chance one will go down, and Williams is far from a sure thing in the fifth spot.

Lineup
SS Erick Aybar – R
2B Howie Kendrick – R
1B Albert Pujols – R
DH Kendrys Morales – S
RF Torii Hunter – R
LF Vernon Wells – R
3B Alberto Callaspo – S
C Chris Iannetta – R
CF Peter Bourjos – R

Bench
C Bobby Wilson – R
1B-3B Mark Trumbo – R
INF Maicer Izturis – S
OF Bobby Abreu – L

Next in line: C Hank Conger (S), INF Alexi Amarista (L), INF Andrew Romine (S), OF Mike Trout (R), OF Ryan Langerhans (L)

Obviously, that projection hinges on both Morales (ankle) and Trumbo (foot) being healthy for Opening Day. Morales’ status is still very much in doubt. If Morales starts off on the DL, then Abreu and Trumbo figure to platoon in the DH spot, opening up a place for Langerhans on the bench.

If Morales does prove healthy, then there’s the chance the Angels will send Trumbo down with the idea of playing him at third regularly. He’ll get reps at the hot corner this spring, but it’s doubtful that he’ll manage to overtake Callaspo or Izturis on the depth chart there right away.

It’s clear that the Angels expect to start Trout off in the minors. Perhaps that would change if he swims circles around Wells this spring, but I doubt it.

There will be a battle between Wilson and Conger for the backup catcher gig. Since Iannetta figures to play plenty, the Angels will probably send Conger down and let him start in Triple-A. I’m pretty sure Conger would be able to help while catching twice a week and DHing another once or twice, but the Angels won’t have that kind of playing time open for him.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.