Spring training questions: Los Angeles Angels

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Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be looking at a few of the questions facing each team this spring.
1. Will Maicer Izturis beat out Howie Kendrick at second base or Brandon Wood at third base?
Izturis finished last season as the starting second baseman against right-handers, and the Angels made a commitment to him last month, giving him a three-year, $10 million deal that bought out his first two seasons of free agency. Still, that doesn’t necessarily make him a starter. Kendrick hit .358/.391/.558 in 165 at-bats during the second half of last season, and the 26-year-old is clearly worthy of another opportunity to play regularly. Wood is out of options, so it’s now or never for the former top prospect. Odds are that Izturis will end up with 400 at-bats, but the Angels should go ahead and try the guys with more upside first.
2. Can Brian Fuentes hold off newcomers Fernando Rodney and reemerge as a quality closer?
Fuentes led the majors with 48 saves last season, but he also blew seven chances, took five losses and posted his worst ERA (3.93) and WHIP (1.40) since 2004. After the All-Star break, he gave up 13 runs and posted a 12/15 K/BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings. Wanting to shore up the pen, the Angels gave Rodney a two-year, $11 million contract over the winter. Rodney had worse marks in ERA (4.40) and WHIP (1.47) than Fuentes last season, but he managed to convert 37 of his 38 save chances for the Tigers. If Fuentes gets off to a rough start at all, the Angels might want to have the two switch roles. Rodney is no better of a pitcher than Fuentes, but he may play better in the ninth. Plus, if Fuentes isn’t locked into the closer’s role, manager Mike Scioscia can do a better job of playing matchups with him.
3. With Chone Figgins gone to Seattle, will the Angels get quality OBPs from the top of the order?
The guess was that the first two spots in the order would be divided between Erick Aybar, Izturis and Kendrick this year. However, Scioscia is again talking about using Bobby Abreu there. It worked out very well last year — he scored 36 runs and drove in 40 in his 50 games as a No. 2 hitter — but Scioscia still preferred him batting third. As things stand now, the Angels could be looking at the following lineup:
SS Aybar
RF Abreu
CF Torii Hunter
DH Hideki Matsui
1B Kendry Morales
LF Juan Rivera
2B Kendrick
C Mike Napoli/Jeff Mathis
3B Wood
When Izturis starts against right-handers — something that figures to happen a lot — it’s possible he’ll lead off, with Aybar getting dropped to the ninth spot.
Hitting Abreu second clearly is the best strategy for the Angels. If Abreu bats third, that means either Morales or Matsui would hit sixth and there’s no reason for either to be down that low. The Angels will be just fine if they get a .350 OBP from Aybar and Izturis in the leadoff spot and then Abreu’s .370-.390. We’ll just have to wait and see if Scioscia sticks to the plan this time.

Fans allowed at NLCS, World Series in Texas

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Fans can take themselves out to the ball game for the first time this season during the NL Championship Series and World Series at new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Major League Baseball said Wednesday that about 11,500 tickets will be available for each game. That is about 28% of the 40,518-capacity, retractable-roof stadium of the Texas Rangers, which opened this year adjacent to old Globe Life Park, the team’s open-air home from 1994 through 2019.

The World Series is being played at a neutral site for the first time in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It will be played at one stadium for the first time since the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Browns at Sportsman’s Park in 1944.

Some of the seats will be included in presales for Texas Rangers season ticket holders on Friday and subscribers on Monday, and others are set aside for MLB and players.

Tickets are priced at $40-250 for the NLCS and $75-450 for the World Series, and 10,550 seats in the regular sections of the ballpark and 950 in suites will be sold in “pods” of four contiguous seats.

Each pod will be distanced by at least 6 feet and a checkerboard pattern will be used, with alternating rows of seats in the middle or rows and at the ends. Unsold seats will be tied back.

No seats will be sold in the first six rows within 20 feet of the field, dugouts or bullpen. Fans will not be allowed to the lowest level, which is reserved for MLB’s tier one personnel, such as players and managers.

Masks are mandatory for fans except while they are eating or drinking at their ticketed seats. Concessions and parking will be cashless, and the team’s concessionaire, Delaware North, is planning wrapped items.

The NLCS is scheduled on seven straight days from Oct. 12-18 and the World Series from Oct. 20-28, with traditional off days between Games 2 and 3 and Games 5 and 6, if the Series goes that far. The Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series all will be being played at neutral sites because of the coronavirus .pandemic.

MLB played the entire regular season without fans and also the first round of the playoffs with no fans. For the first time since spring training was interrupted on March 12, club employees and player families were allowed to attend games this week.

While Texas is allowing up to 50% capacity at venues, MLB did not anticipate having government permission for fans to attend postseason games at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles or Petco Park in San Diego, where AL playoff games are scheduled.

Globe Life Field has been the site of more than 50 graduations, but the Rangers played their home games in an empty ballpark.

The Rangers will recommend to MLB that the roof be kept open when possible, executive vice president of business operations Rob Matwick said, but the team understands it will be closed in the event of rain. Matwick said MLB made the decision not to sell seats for the Division Series.

Other than 1944, the only times the World Series was held at one site came in 1921 and 1922, when the New York Giants and Yankees both played home games at the Polo Grounds. Yankee Stadium opened in 1923.