Recent success, both on the team and individual levels, for locals in Major League Baseball has upped the ante.
As the season begins in earnest over the next three days — the official season opener between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners was played in Tokyo over a week ago — Glendale native Brandon McCarthy grapples with the expectations fostered by last year's career season as he assumes the role of leader of the Athletics' untested rotation. Former Glendale Community College standout Marco Estrada and the Milwaukee Brewers won a division title and went far in the playoffs and are under pressure to repeat even though they've since lost their best player.
And in San Francisco, the honeymoon of the Giants' historic 2010 World Series win has worn off and former Vaquero Freddy Sanchez and Co. must focus on making another run while their core remains intact.
The following are previews of each of the homegrown major leaguers who figure to see action this season.
PLACE AS A'S ACE
Last season, McCarthy had to win a spring training battle just to pin down the fifth spot in the Athletics' rotation.
After an outstanding year in his first season with the A's, in which he posted career-bests with nine wins, a 3.32 earned-run average, 123 strikeouts, 170 2/3 innings pitched and five complete games, McCarthy now finds himself at the top of the rotation and with expectations considerably higher.
So far, he's off to a great start, pitching seven strong innings with one earned run allowed on six hits in a no-decision in an Opening Day performance on March 28 against the Mariners.
Even if McCarthy, a right-hander, is able to duplicate last season's success and lead the A's pitching staff as expected, Oakland, which last made the postseason in 2006, still has its work cut out in trying to compete for a playoff berth in the American League West Division. The Texas Rangers have won the division two years in a row en route to back-to-back World Series appearances and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim bolstered their roster in the offseason with the acquisition of the free-agent class' best pitcher, CJ Wilson, and position player, three-time former National League MVP Albert Pujols, who's fresh off leading theSt. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title.
McCarthy is set to start the Athletics' home opener on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. PDT against the Mariners.
ESTRADA FITS IN
Estrada got his first playoff experience last year in the Milwaukee Brewers run that was halted just short of the World Series with a loss to the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.
The former Glendale Community College right-hander's true value to the team likely lies in what he can provide over the grind of the 162-game regular season. Estrada, who has started nine games in his four-year career, including seven last year, will begin the season in the bullpen. But with his capability of throwing multiple innings, he can provide long relief or a spot start if injury or fatigue hits the starting rotation.
Although they lost slugging first baseman Prince Fielder from the heart of the order, the Brewers are still pegged as a strong contender in the National League Central, which they won last season.
Estrada, who appeared in a career-high 43 games last season, went 2-2 this spring with a 3.71 ERA in eight appearances, including three games started.
The Brewers kick off their season by hosting the Cardinals at 1:10 p.m. PDT on Friday.
It's taken longer than expected for Sanchez' surgically repaired right labrum to heal following the surgery that ended his 2011 season on Aug. 2. As a result, the San Francisco Giants second baseman will miss the start of the season after being placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday retroactive to March 26.
Sanchez, who played for Glendale college, did play in five Cactus League games, but played only as a designated hitter and is yet to test his shoulder in the field.
"Freddy is starting to make progress," Manager Bruce Bochy told mlb.com on Tuesday. "He's getting more comfortable and starting to stretch it out. He got a cortisone shot a week or so ago and that seems to have really helped him."
San Francisco finished second in the National League West last season and did not make the playoffs one year removed form winning the World Series. The Giants are still thought to have the best pitching staff in the division and have made some upgrades in their offense to attempt to unseat the Arizona Diamondbacks.
A minor league rehab stint will be the next step for Sanchez in his return to the Giants lineup.
Emmanuel Burriss is expected to start at second base with Sanchez out.
San Francisco opens at Arizona at 4:10 p.m. PDT on Friday.
BELL BACK WITH
BEES FOR NOW
Former Crescenta Valley High standout Trevor Bell made his pitch for a spot in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's rotation during spring training, but was passed over for that role. Apparently there's no room in the Angels' bullpen for the right-hander, either, as Bell was optioned to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees on Saturday.
Bell began the previous season in Salt Lake and was shuttled back and forth between there and Anaheim, although he did log 34 1/3 total innings in relief over several stints in the big leagues.
This spring, Bell went 0-1 with a 3.72 ERA and five strikeouts to five walks in four appearances. He was solid in his only start, throwing 4 1/3 scoreless innings in a 6-5 win over the Rangers on March 25.
SLATEN CAN'T HANG
ON WITH BUCS
The left-handed relief specialist, who once played at Glendale college, signed a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates in December after severing ties with the Washington Nationals.
Given an opportunity to make the big league club in spring training, Slaten underwhelmed with an 0-1 record and 9.00 ERA over five innings of relief in six games and was reassigned to the club's minor league camp on March 24.
Slaten, who began his career with the Diamondbacks, spent most of last season on the disabled list because of left elbow ulnar neuritis.