The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are a victory away from winning baseball's first season-opening Interleague series, and they'll send left-hander C.J. Wilson to the mound Wednesday with a chance to open the season 2-0.
Cincinnati counters with Mat Latos, who -- like Wilson -- is starting the second year with his current club.
In December 2011, Wilson signed with the Angels for five years and $77.5 million. Just nine days later, Latos was traded from San Diego to the Reds in exchange for four players.
Wilson's first season as an Angel ended poorly, as his ERA ballooned from 2.36 to 3.83 in the second half of the season. Once the season ended, Wilson underwent surgery to have bone spurs removed from his pitching arm.
Still he won 13 games for the Halos and racked up more than 200 innings.
"If last year's my down year, in a nine-year cycle, and it's the worst year I have, perspective-wise, I think a lot of pitchers would take those results," Wilson said. "Not me. I'm not happy with that."
As for Latos, he said he feels much looser this season -- a result settling into the Reds' clubhouse. In the offseason, the right hander set the goal of improving his changeup. During the spring, he worked with special assistant to the general manager Mario Soto, a former Reds ace.
"I think the changeup is going to be a really good pitch for me, especially at Great American Ball Park," Latos said during Spring Training. "[Soto] opens the door and sheds light on things that I didn't really understand, and I now understand. I'm able to throw it for strikes. I'm able to throw it behind in the count. I'm able to throw it first pitch or deep in the count."
Monday's opener marked the debut of the Angels' "big three" of Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. The trio combined to go 1-for-14 with three walks in the Halos' 3-1, 13-inning victory.
"It's a great ballclub, looking at the lineup and the pitching staff," said Hamilton, who signed with the Angels during the offseason. "But the cool thing is knowing that when you get on a team like this, everybody knows what their role is on the team.
"They know they don't have to step outside that role, and they know that if they don't get the job done, the guy behind them can get the job done. He's going to pick up the slack."
Angels: Eyeing a fast start
Following a 6-14 start to the 2012 campaign, the Angels are all too aware just how important a fast start is.
"I think that definitely had a huge outcome on our season," outfielder Mark Trumbo said. "I mean, we were fighting an uphill battle for quite a while, and then when it's all said and done, we missed it by a couple of games. Even by going .500 the first month, we would've gotten where we wanted to be, at least as far as making the playoffs."
Following their series against the Reds, the Angels head to Texas for a showdown with the division-rival Rangers.
Reds: Ludwick dislocates right shoulder
Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick was removed from Monday's opener against the Angels with a dislocated right shoulder. The Reds officially placed Ludwick on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday after he had morning surgery to repair a torn labrum in the shoulder.
Ludwick sustained the injury in the bottom of the third inning, when he dove headfirst into third base and landed awkwardly.
On Monday, the Reds used Chris Heisey as a replacement for Ludwick, who posted a .275/.346/.531 slash line last season.
• Joey Votto's 18 career home runs during April are the fewest he has hit in any month, but his .320 batting average is the second highest.
• The Reds have never won a series against the Angels, as the Halos took two of three when the two clubs met in 2002 and '07.
• Although he went 0-for-4 on Monday, Albert Pujols is hitting .350 against the Reds in his career, with 46 homers and a 1.071 OPS.