Shoe is on the other foot this time
Unlike last October, Halos healthy while Sox deal with injuries
ANAHEIM -- Led by Vladimir Guerrero, whose gait borders on gimpy even on good days, the Angels quite literally limped into their 2007 American League Division Series against the Red Sox.
Bothered by knee, shoulder and elbow issues, Guerrero was just one of the slew of Halos rendered helpless as Boston banged out a three-game sweep on the way to a second World Series title in four seasons.
"They were all messed up," Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said of the 2007 Angels.
The 2008 Angels, however, are as healthy as a team can reasonably expect to be after a 162-game grind. And as both teams worked out at Angel Stadium on Tuesday, the eve of their third ALDS meeting in five years, the relatively shaky health of some Red Sox stars created something of a role reversal for the first-round rematch.
"We're in the same spot this year that they were in last year," Ortiz said. "They're a different team. They've got everybody [healthy] this time. ... We have a lot of issues right now."
Perhaps the biggest of Boston's issues is the strained side muscle suffered by their ace, Josh Beckett, during a bullpen session Friday. The proven playoff hero has been pushed back from Game 1 to Game 3. Also of considerable concern are third baseman Mike Lowell's right hip and outfielder J.D. Drew's back.
All three did some on-field work Tuesday, and manager Terry Francona liked what he saw, so perhaps the Red Sox won't be as hamstrung as the hurting Halos were heading into last October.
"You can't use injuries as an excuse; that takes away from what the Red Sox did to win the World Series," Angels reliever Scot Shields said. "But we were missing some big guns."
The AL West champs weren't just missing some big guns. They were missing medium-sized guns, small guns, water pistols and peashooters.
They were a Major League MASH unit, with no Hawkeye, "Hot Lips" Houlihan or Hunnicut in sight.
John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, the Halos' Games 1 and 2 starters, respectively, had pitched through shoulder pain in the regular season's final month. Left fielder Garret Anderson battled blurred vision in Games 1 and 2 of the series before pulling himself from Game 3. First baseman Casey Kotchman fell ill during Game 2 and watched Game 3 from a hospital bed. Uber-utilityman Chone Figgins was dealing with a left wrist injury that led to offseason surgery.
Center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. wasn't even on the postseason roster, sidelined by a left bum knee.
The list of dinged-up Halos was as long as the faces in the home dugout when the Red Sox celebrated their sweep -- combined score: 19-4 -- on the Angel Stadium infield.
"Injuries are a part of professional sports; everyone has to deal with them," Figgins said. "But when you're missing some of your key guys -- guys in the hospital, guys who can't see -- it makes it very difficult to compete."
Perhaps buoyed by the sight of Beckett playing long toss, Lowell loping around the field and Drew drilling batting-practice fastballs, the Red Sox downplayed whatever disadvantage they might be at against the team with the best regular-season record in the game this year.
"I guess people could see it like that, and I can see why," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Boston's powerful pint-sized sparkplug. "Last year they had Vladdy banged up, Anderson -- some big-time players for them. And now they're healthy and we've got some guys banged up. But you've still got to go out and play the game.
"We've got a deep team, and we're confident in everyone we put out there. We've overcome injuries all season long."
"Even with the couple of injuries we have, we still have great players," echoed first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "We have plenty of guys capable of filling in."
The Red Sox have been plugging holes for much of the season. They lost Curt Schilling before the season started, Beckett and Lowell have been on the disabled list twice, Ortiz missed seven weeks with a left wrist injury, and Drew has played just twice since Aug. 17.
"Hey, man, you have to go with what you've got," Ortiz said. "We've been through this before, and here we are again."
Oh, the Red Sox also traded some guy named Manny. He was capably replaced by Jason Bay, but that doesn't change key component in the role-reversal theme.
Last year the scariest third- and fourth-place hitters on the planet were Ortiz and Ramirez. Now that designation is typically bestowed upon the Angels' Mark Teixeira, acquired at the Trade Deadline, and Guerrero.
"This year is going to be way different," said Halos closer Francisco Rodriguez. "We're totally healthy and our confidence is all the way up. Hopefully we can get some revenge."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.