Top Prospects: Zach Borenstein, OF, LAA

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels prospect Zach Borenstein enters his first Major League Spring Training with a broken heart.

On the afternoon of Jan. 25, weeks before he would report to Tempe Diablo Stadium as the California League's 2013 MVP, Borenstein's younger sister, Katie, passed away due to a blood clot in her pulmonary artery.

Katie, a 20-year-old attending Illinois State University, died suddenly at her apartment near campus. Now, tattooed on the outfielder's left forearm are lyrics from a song his friend wrote about her:

I know heaven got the prettiest angel tonight

"It was a huge shock," Borenstein said Monday. "I'm still kind of shocked about it. It's never a good time for it, but it made it hard to practice and prepare and do all sorts of things. But it's good to be out here and kind of take my mind off it a little bit."

This was supposed to be a fun spring for Borenstein, 23, who's ranked 12th in the Angels' system. He's coming off a phenomenal season for Class A Inland Empire, which saw him bat .337 with 28 homers and 95 RBIs, and is looking to put himself on the Angels' depth chart at Double-A Arkansas in 2014.

Understandably, though, it's been hard to focus.

"When it happened, I couldn't eat food for four or five days, I didn't work out for 10 days, I didn't want to practice baseball," Borenstein said. "You just find that you don't really have a drive to do anything, really, just because it's so surreal. It was just hard to find passion in other things again. A week before we got here, I kind of had to force myself to start doing some things physically. So I was a little behind the ball, playing catch-up when I got here. But about a week has gone by, and I feel OK now. The environment here has helped a lot."

Trout extension won't need to wait until regular season

Trout has his sights set on big 2014 season

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It turns out the Angels don't have to wait until Opening Day for Mike Trout to put pen to paper on a long-term extension.

The Angels don't want the average annual value of Trout's potential new extension -- still under negotiation -- to affect their Collective Balance Tax (CBT) payroll until the 2015 season, which would keep the club from blowing past the $189 million luxury-tax threshold this year. But the Angels recently confirmed with Major League Baseball that they don't have to wait until after Opening Day to sign Trout for that to be the case.

As soon as Trout's compensation for 2014 is finalized, his average annual value on a long-term deal won't count against the CBT payroll until the following season.

The purpose for the change was to guard against teams going through an entire Spring Training without signing a deal because of wariness over the CBT, and then having a potential injury at camp derail that contract.

For Trout, 22, it eliminates an awkward scenario in which his deal is agreed upon early in spring and he can't talk about it for weeks.

The Angels are currently in the process of agreeing with their pre-arbitration, zero-to-three years service-time players, and a deal with Trout -- not eligible for salary arbitration until 2015 -- could get done soon. After that, he can sign an extension at any point. Nothing, however, is imminent -- despite a report Sunday from Yahoo! Sports that the Angels and Trout are working on a six-year, $150 million contract.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he isn't worried about the expectations of a large contract, or even the speculation surrounding it, affecting Trout on the field. 

"He hasn't flinched," Scioscia said Monday. "He's very grounded. He has everything sorted out the way a young player has to have everything sorted out with his priorities." 

Burnett targets mound work in coming weeks

LAA@CIN: Burnett fans Bruce to escape jam in eighth

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels reliever Sean Burnett, recovering from August surgery on his left forearm, has begun long-tossing to about 120 feet and hopes to throw off a mound by the end of next week.

A return by Opening Day on March 31 is still Burnett's target, and it's still a realistic one. But if it takes a little longer, that's OK, too.

The 31-year-old left-hander won't truly know how good he feels until he throws off a mound again.

"Obviously it all depends on how I feel each time, but since I got here, there's been no setbacks, no reason to even worry about it," Burnett said. "It's just that throwing program takes so long. There's no race. I'd love to be ready for Opening Day, that's my goal, but at the same time I'm not going to jeopardize going back on the [disabled list] after two days. We want longevity and to be able to go the whole year. But I should be ready to go and pretty close."

Conger doesn't see new rule affecting his play

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Rule 7.13, which essentially looks to eliminate cheap shots to catchers, was announced Monday. Under it, runners can't deviate from their direct path to home plate in order to make contact with the catcher, and catchers must give the runner a direct path if they don't have possession of the ball.

The rule -- in an experimental stage this year and reviewable by instant replay -- does not ban players from colliding with a catcher if the ball is already in the catcher's possession by the time the runner reaches home plate. But there is a gray area there, which should prompt both sides to err on the side of caution.

The Angels have joined most Major League organizations this spring in directing catchers toward a proper tag more than a block, and Angels catcher Hank Conger doesn't believe the new rule will change how he approaches close plays at the plate.

"I'm just going to get the ball and put a tag on it," Conger said. "Last year, I don't ever recall me taking away the plate early enough for the guy to crush me on the basepaths. I usually caught it, tagged, and my knees kind of came through with it. So, I'm just going to go ahead and put a tag."