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Pineiro makes sense for Angels

1/21/2010

Tossing $16 million to a pitcher with a career American League ERA of 4.50 might sound like a risky play until you consider the Angels' in-house alternatives to Joel Pineiro, whom they are on the verge of signing to a two-year deal.

The lead candidate to fill out the Angels' rotation would have been a 30-year old who just finished his rookie season. With all due respect to Matt Palmer, who did yeoman's work in a variety of roles last year, Pineiro looks like an upgrade.

The Angels got enough of a taste of what they could expect from youngsters Anthony Ortega, Sean O'Sullivan and Trevor Bell and it didn't exactly leave them with a fresh, minty taste in their mouths. Their best long-term pitching prospect, left-hander Trevor Reckling, doesn't turn 21 until May.

Instead of a gamble, Wednesday's move by general manager Tony Reagins -- who was unavailable for comment -- looks like the equivalent of playing the chalk.

The Angels have spent most of the winter watching their division rivals improving and seemingly getting too close for comfort. Their best defense to a rapidly shrinking talent gap could be veteran savvy. All five Angels starters are now proven veterans.

Pineiro, who is only five months older than Palmer, fits somewhere in the back end of the Angels' five-man rotation. With Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir to eat up innings, the Angels didn't need a big-name free agent.

What they needed was a stopgap, something like a bridge from John Lackey to Reckling.

When the Angels last saw Pineiro, with the Seattle Mariners a few years ago, he appeared to be on a slow ride to obsolescence. Working with St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan seems to have done him some good, as has pitching to National League hitters.

History hasn't proven kind to pitchers returning to the American League, but if Pineiro can even come close to the 214 innings he pitched last season, the Angels won't have to worry about buyer's remorse.

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.