Power shifts to American League

NL pitchers can breathe a bit easier

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Tim Lincecum thought about the seismic shifts of baseball’s off-season, the ones that saw Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder migrate to the American League.

The Los Angeles Angels made arguably the biggest move of the off-season, signing slugger Albert Pujols (center) away from St. Louis. The Angels also added ace starter C.J. Wilson (33), who had been with Texas.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Los Angeles Angels made arguably the biggest move of the off-season, signing slugger Albert Pujols (center) away from St. Louis. The Angels also added ace starter C.J. Wilson (33), who had been with Texas.

“I think it’s great,” San Francisco’s two-time Cy Young Award winner joked. “I won’t have to pitch to them anymore.”

Just 106 days after the surprising St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series, baseball returns this week when pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

There’s been a whole lot of change since the Texas Rangers’ David Murphy flied out to Allen Craig for the final out of the seven-game Series thriller.

Tony La Russa is gone. Bobby Valentine is back.

And no switch was bigger than Pujols’ decision to split St. Louis for a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Add Fielder’s move from Milwaukee for a $214 million, nine-year deal with Detroit, and the lives of AL pitchers just got 75 homers and 219 RBI tougher.

“You have offenses that are going to let you know if your pitching is not up to par,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “There’s certainly been a sway to some extraordinarily deep lineups in the American League.”

The 14 AL teams have spent $776.8 million on major league contracts for players who became free agents after the World Series and the NL’s 16 clubs have committed $597.3 million. That NL lineup might look a lot less fearsome heading into the All-Star Game in Kansas City on July 10.

And despite a 71-91 record last year, even the Royals are hopeful before the first pitch has been thrown — even with the AL’s new additions.

“They make it more exciting and more challenging for all of us,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “I’m a fan, too, and like watching them play. It’s exciting.”

Seattle, which had its pitchers and catchers report Saturday, is first to open because the Mariners start the season in Tokyo with a two-game series against Oakland on March 28-29.

“We have to make decisions a little bit earlier because we have to have a club together when we go there, and then you come back and read just and then have a week of spring training for everyone to get their bearings back,” Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said.

The Athletics opted not to use the extra week.

Atlanta pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 19.


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