Fans give Angels festive sendoff

Gear heads to Spring Training, along with high hopes

Fans give Angels festive sendoff

ANAHEIM -- The Angels celebrated "Moving Day" on Thursday, giving their Arizona-bound equipment truck a sendoff with a fan event that included autograph signing by past greats Chuck Finley and Garret Anderson plus current left-hander Tyler Skaggs.

Bats, balls and bubble gum were among the essentials shipped to Tempe Diablo Stadium, an eight-hour, 365-mile trip for the truck, Angels equipment manager Keith Tarter said. It will be his 23rd Spring Training with the club he first joined as a bat boy in 1991. He served as assistant equipment manager for 15 seasons before getting the top job in November 2009.

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"It's business as usual, except there's more work to do, and the hours are a lot longer" in Spring Training, Tarter said.

The most numerous item? Baseballs. Tarter said he orders 1,700 dozen each spring. That's 20,400 stitched spheroids.

Skaggs, 24, who missed all of last season after undergoing August 2014 Tommy John surgery, said he can't wait to start spinning some of those baseballs in Tempe.

"I've thrown five bullpens so far," said Skaggs, who resumed throwing last month, and already is up to 45-50 pitches. "Things are going really well."

The Angels have eight candidates for five starting rotation spots, and Skaggs said he knows he has work to do to regain his spot.

"I'm 17 months in [since surgery], and I'm going into it like any other Spring Training," he said, indicating he's more full-go than in rehab mode. "I know I still have to make the team, but I'm excited about this Spring Training."

The equipment truck the Angels dispatched "takes several hours to load, and three hours to unload, which we'll do this evening," Tarter said.

Included in the load, Tarter said, are two dozen bats for each position player on the 40-man roster, plus a dozen bats apiece for the non-roster invitees -- which include catcher Taylor Ward, the team's 2015 first-round pick.

There's plenty of heavy lifting, but because the Tempe complex is a year-round set-up, the Angels don't have to move their weights.

"We bring some treadmills, bikes and miscellaneous workout machines, but not the whole weight room," Tarter said.

He and visiting clubhouse manager Brian "Bubba" Harkins were assisted in the loading by Shane Demmitt, Kris Constanti, Angel Miranda, Eric Jimenez, T.J. Jara and Vince Willitt. That crew will also work the spring in Arizona ("Seven weeks, without a day off," Harkins said). Tim Peters and Cristian Barron also helped leading up to moving day.

Angels pitchers and catchers report Feb. 18, with their first workout the next day. The rest of the roster reports Feb. 23, with the first Cactus League game March 2 against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium.

Earl Bloom is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.