10/18/11 3:05 PM ET
Halos pulling for former teammates in Series
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
"You want the American League team to win," Angels catcher Bobby Wilson said by phone from his Florida home. "At the same time, you just spent a season battling the Rangers, so it's kind of hard to start rooting for the guys who have the opportunity you wanted so bad."
There are, however, personal exceptions.
If Wilson and his teammates, runners-up in the American League West to the two-time AL champion Rangers, find it impossible to be Texas fans against the Cardinals, it doesn't necessarily mean they'll be cheering for St. Louis.
Wilson and the Angels have a few old buddies in Texas they would love to see deliver handsomely in the Fall Classic.
Catcher Mike Napoli, one of the brightest stars of the postseason, and reliever Darren Oliver are vital components in Texas manager Ron Washington's scheme.
Another ex-Angel -- reliever Darren O'Day -- was a valued bullpen arm for two years before hip and shoulder issues limited him to 16 appearances this season. The side-armer has been inactive for the postseason, visible only by virtue of his impressive beard.
While Wilson and Napoli have a bond that wears well, the Angels' backup catcher sees Oliver and O'Day as high-character individuals who have earned respect.
"I want to see Nap do well, knowing how much he struggled with injuries his last two years with us," Wilson said. "I've known Nap since 2003. He's a great guy. We were in meetings together, sat on the bench together, planned for games together. We went to dinner with each other, hung out. We were good friends.
"He's had his struggles, going back to that shoulder [surgery] after the '08 season. To see him now, playing Gold Glove defense and crushing the ball, it has to make you feel good. Nap showed me the way things are done, along with Sosh [manager Mike Scioscia] and Jeff [Mathis]. Catchers are a close-knit group on our team.
"As for D.O., he was the glue in our bullpen. You don't find much better guys than him. He was that veteran all the young guys looked up to, such a professional. I admired the way he went about his business. Darren, too. He's been a big part of their team the last few years."
Oliver was the Angels' bullpen anchor for three seasons before taking free agency home to Texas, where he has excelled the past two seasons. He has appeared in a total of 125 regular-season games for the Rangers with earned run averages of 2.48 and 2.29.
O'Day made the 2008 Angels pitching staff as a long shot out of Spring Training and appeared in 30 games. Exposed to the Rule 5 Draft, he was snapped up by the Mets and then claimed off waivers by the Rangers after the Mets released him. He made 136 appearances in 2009 and 2010 in Texas with ERAs of 1.94 and 2.03, respectively.
Wilson knows Napoli must feel vindicated by his high-level play defensively in the postseason. His reputation with the glove deteriorated in Anaheim in his final two seasons.
"Nap's made plays in almost every game that have factored in the outcome," Wilson said. "He probably didn't catch enough games to get Gold Glove consideration this year, but he should be a contender next year.
"It kind of all boils down to Scioscia. Where would Nap be right now if it wasn't for Scioscia pushing him and teaching him? We all learned how to play the position from him, and we all owe a lot to Sosh."
While keeping close tabs on Napoli and Oliver in the postseason, Wilson has had another motivation in camping out in front of his flatscreen.
"I'm scouting," he said. "I'm watching the games to see how they're getting guys out. I saw how well [Detroit's Doug] Fister did against Texas throwing strikes in certain zones. They're such a good hitting team, you have to look for anything that can help you get them out."
Wilson didn't need to come up with a scouting report on old buddy Napoli. He knows how it reads: Handle with care.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.