I called the Angels and – this is absolutely true – somebody answered the phone. Honest to Gene Autry. There are people there actually breathing. Capable of verbal communication. Presumably, capable of action. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa AnitaAnd then the off-season came and they lost two starting pitchers, their starting catcher and their mostly starting center fielder. Fear not; they added some journeyman relievers and a backup third baseman. Kinda gets you all tingling for the start of the baseball season, eh? It’s about as easy to understand as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with a fat lip. While the Dodgers have been in the news almost daily – what with hiring and firing of managers and general managers, acquiring former Giants and Red Sox and trying to acquire an NFL team – the Angels have gone the church-mouse routine. The only time they’ve been in the news is to fight for calling their Anaheim team a Los Angeles team. What if they lifted the Orange Curtain and nobody was there? Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said it is not inertia at work, but simple, practical logic. You’d never know it by the Angels’ exciting off-season. Guess it’s tough to make winter moves while hibernating. When we last saw the Angels, they were getting schooled by the Chicago White Sox. Their lack of offense and lack of depth became striking. The free-agent class is already spent, but it’s not like it was ever all that exciting. Actually, it was about as stirring as Phyllis Diller in a thong. “What we determined at the end of the season was we’d go after an impact free agent, and there weren’t really that many there,” Stoneman said. “We did go after one guy and didn’t get him. “We decided at that point that rather than to get somebody that had a name but who wouldn’t necessarily impact the club the way we wanted, that we had some very young talented players … we wanted to give a full opportunity to win a spot and be productive here.” The Angels went after free agent Paul Konerko, reportedly offering the White Sox first baseman $60 million. He remained in Chicago and the Angels went to Plan B. Are you ready for starters Casey Kotchman, Dallas McPherson and Jeff Mathis? The Angels have one of the most highly regarded farm systems in baseball, but it’s one thing to have outstanding potential and another to be a proven major-league star. “Every veteran player whose name is known all over North America at some point was given an opportunity to play in the major leagues,” Stoneman said. “Nobody knew them before they got their opportunity.” Considering previous off-seasons were spent signing veterans Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon and Orlando Cabrera, making way for a bunch of kids sounds like a dramatic change in philosophy. “The fact that we had so many young, very talented players who are now ready to emerge to the major leagues really led us to the decision that we shouldn’t block their way,” he said. Mathis, who will either share time with Jose Molina or win the starting catching position outright, and McPherson showed power in the minors. Kotchman has been a big-time prospect for years. Playing Kotchman means moving Darin Erstad back to center. Playing McPherson means the leadoff sensation has to become a DH, or the two could switch. Jarrod Washburn and Paul Byrd signed for riches elsewhere, but the emergence of Ervin Santana to complement John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Colon leaves the Angels with a strong starting five. The bullpen remains outstanding, and there is actually a left-hander sighting (J.C. Romero). Spring training is just more than a month away and a trade could still happen to bring in a major bat, but right now the 2006 Angels look complete. Anybody locate a No. 5 hitter in there? By the team’s standards, it has been one quiet off-season. By any team’s standards, it’s been quiet. “I don’t make moves for marketing reasons,” Stoneman said. “A winning club on the field and a winning organization is really what we want.” The Angels will certainly be competitive. They were last year when they advanced to the American League Championship Series. But that only proved to reveal their shortcomings. That’s led to a surprising off-season focused on the promise of youth, not proven commodities. [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!