2013 Preview: The American League West

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For the past few days we’ve been previewing the 2013 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League West.

For the second straight year the Los Angeles Angels have signed the biggest slugger on the free agent market. This time, however, we feel like it’s going to finally work.  Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, and Mark Trumbo form a potent core. Jered Weaver is an ace. There may be some issues with the rest of the pitching staff, but we’re liking the Angels’ chances.

Not to sell the Rangers short. They’re sort of retrenching this year, transitioning off of Josh Hamilton and preparing to integrate youngsters Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt into the lineup either late this year or as 2014 kicks off, but they’re still an insanely talented team that, for whatever reason, people always want to sleep on until, once again, they’re in the playoffs.

How did the A’s do it last year? We have no idea. But they’re trying to do it again this year and, as always, the proceedings will be an exercise in plate-spinning, smoke, mirrors and unexpectedly good performances from guys everyone else gave up on at some point.

The Mariners are on the right track, but still a work in progress.

American League newcomers the Houston Astros will pop champagne corks if they don’t lose 100 games. And given how thoroughly they’ve torn down in order to rebuild, it will be an accomplishment worth celebrating if it does indeed come to pass.

Below are our team-by-team previews of the AL West, followed by our HBT Extra feature on the division. Enjoy!

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Clayton Kershaw could return on September 1

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Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw has been out since July 24 with a lower back strain. He’s slated to throw a three-inning simulated game in Pittsburgh on Monday, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Plunkett adds that if all goes well, the earliest Kershaw could return is August 31 against the Diamondbacks, but September 1 is more likely against the Padres.

Kershaw, 29, hit the disabled list on a pace to win his fourth Cy Young Award. He’s 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The Dodgers have managed just fine without Kershaw. The club is 19-4 since July 24. At 87-35, the Dodgers own baseball’s best record, well ahead of the second-best Astros at 76-48.

Ian Kinsler was fined for ripping umpires publicly. Brad Ausmus says it’s the largest fine he’s seen in 25 years.

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Last week, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler was ejected from a game against the Rangers after giving home plate umpire Angel Hernandez a look after a pitch was thrown outside for a ball. Kinsler was apparently unhappy with calls Hernandez had made earlier. Manager Brad Ausmus, too, was ejected.

After the game, Kinsler said that Hernandez “needs to find another job.” He added, “…he needs to stop ruining baseball games.”

Kinsler was fined by Major League Baseball for his remarks, Mlive’s Evan Woodbery reports. According to Ausmus, the fine levied on Kinsler was the largest one he’s seen in nearly 25 years in baseball. Kinsler said, “I said what I felt and what I thought. If they take offense to that, then that’s their problem.” Ausmus said, “To single out one player as a union is completely uncalled for.”

As Ashley noted on Saturday, the umpires wore white wristbands to protest “escalating attacks on umpires.” The umpires agreed to drop their protest on Sunday after commissioner Rob Manfred agreed to meet with the umpire union’s governing board, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reports.