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Category: Vernon Wells

Angels draw a crowd in center field

Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter have spent nearly their entire careers in center field, combining to win 12 Gold Glove awards. So it wasn't really a surprise that when the two ran onto the field together for the first time Monday, they wound up in center field again, flanking Peter Bourjos.

"I turned around and I was like, 'Hey, what's going on?' " said Bourjos, who was listed on the lineup card as the center fielder.

The two veterans told him they weren't ready to give up their position, so Bourjos volunteered to move to right before his teammates told him they were only joking.  That outfield alignment probably won't be funny to Angels opponents this season.

 '"For us, as a group, our job is make our pitchers happy," Wells said. "Any ball goes in the air, any ball that goes in the gap, it’s  a matter of not letting balls get to the wall. Cutting balls off as much as we can. Just keeping baserunners from taking extra bases.

"If we can do that –- which we’re very capable of doing –- we’re going to take a lot of pressure off our pitching staff."

Said Joel Pineiro, Monday's starting pitcher: "Having that speed out there, it's like having three center fielders."

But for Wells, who spent his entire 12-year big-league career in Toronto before being traded to the Angels this winter, there is still one more hurdle to clear.

"Once the season comes, I hope I don’t run to the wrong dugout," he said. "I probably will."

-- Kevin Baxter in Tempe, Ariz.

Testing the Angels in the outfield

One of the biggest concerns the Angels had heading into spring training was how their outfield trio of Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter would mesh on defense.They'll get a bit of an answer Monday when the three play together for the first time in an exhibition game with the Oakland Athletics.

Hunter and Wells are Gold Glove centerfielders; the talented Bourjos has yet to play a full season in the majors. Hunter moved to right field when Bourjos was called up from the minor leagues in August, but Wells, acquired in a winter trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, has played left field just once as a big-leaguer -- during last year's All-Star game in Anaheim.

"The biggest component is going to be the relationship between Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos," Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Torii's fine in right with Peter. They got the wraps off a little bit last year. At the very best, this outfield is going to do all the things that are important to teams winning games. Not just making the diving catch or robbing home runs or making spectacular plays. Just making more plays routine.

"You want these guys to get out there a lot because it's going to show up a lot the more they're out there on the defensive side. Trying to get them together playing as one unit is going to take some time but it's something we should be able to accomplish this spring."

With Wells, Hunter and designated hitter Bobby Abreu making their spring debuts, Monday's starting lineup was close to the one the Angels are projected to use most of the season. The only regular missing was first baseman Kendry Morales, who is still rehabbing the ankle he broke in May.

Monday's starting lineup:

3B -- Maicer Izturis

DH -- Bobby Abreu

RF -- Torii Hunter

LF -- Vernon Wells

2B -- Howie Kendrick

SS -- Erick Aybar

1B -- Mark Trumbo

C -- Jeff Mathis

CF -- Peter Bourjos

P -- Joel Pineiro

 

-- Kevin Baxter in Tempe, Ariz.

 

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