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Greinke debut successful, pitching still in flux

The addition of Zack Greinke strengthens the Angels' rotation, but the pitching staff is still in flux.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As debuts go, Zack Greinke's wasn't bad.

 

The Angels' new starting pitcher put his team in position to win, which is virtually all you can ask. He pitched deep into the game, survived a few potential trouble spots and gave every indication he's going to be exactly what the Angels are hoping for as they approach the final two months of the regular season.

 

But the ending was far from perfect. And now the Angels go on the road for 10 games against teams that could undoubtedly affect their immediate future.

 

The Angels believe they have a pitching staff that can take them far now that Greinke has been added in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. But they aren't exactly settled, not with seven starters on the roster and five spots available in the rotation.

 

Manager Mike Scioscia keeps saying things will get sorted out, and maybe they will. But until then, the Angels are a curious group of starters and relievers, even with Greinke now on their side.

 

He pitched seven innings and gave up two runs, but the Angels were shut out for the second game in a row and lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 2-0. Greinke throws a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup, and he was happy with everything except his fastball command.

 

But it's been a whirlwind last few days with the trade, the relocation, meeting new teammates and getting re-acclimated to the American League after spending a season and a half in Milwaukee. Greinke is quiet and introspective, so you know there was a lot for him to absorb.

 

"Everything kind of happened pretty fast -- traveling, meeting a bunch of people, day game," he said. "If it's a night game it's easier to (adjust), but an early game, meeting the catcher, a lot of stuff going on. Things are happening fast, but once you get on the mound, it's the same stuff."

 

And it went pretty well except for a slider that Matt Joyce hit into right field for a run-scoring single in the sixth inning and a wild pitch he threw that allowed another run to score in the seventh.

 

"He showed great poise out there," Scioscia said. "It's just unfortunate that he pitched with his back against the wall for most of the afternoon."

 

Greinke's postgame assessment: "I made a lot of good pitches but some bad ones too. I could do better."

 

The Angels are banking on it, especially since their pitching staff is in a state of flux. Right-hander Ervin Santana pitches Monday against the first-place but wobbly Texas Rangers, and his performance could determine what choices the Angels make with their rotation.

 

They sent left-hander Hisanori Takahashi to the minors instead of rookie Garrett Richards when they put Greinke on their roster, which didn't make sense. Richards' future is as a starter, whether he's with the Angels or with Triple-A Salt Lake, and right now, the team has seven starters: Greinke, Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Dan Haren, Santana, Richards and Jerome Williams.

 

"There are some things that are hopefully going to settle here and we'll make some decisions," Scioscia said before the game. "But we definitely need coverage as a starter and the length (Richards) gives right now. We'll see where our rotation goes in the next week."

 

The Angels clearly want to see if Santana has worked out his delivery problems in the bullpen. If he has, it will be evident during his start against the Rangers, which will be limited to 15 outs. If he hasn't, Santana could be demoted to the bullpen, or -- a less likely possibility -- they can find someone willing to trade for him in exchange for pitching prospects.

 

Richards isn't sure what his role will be, saying, "I have no clue. You probably know more than I do."

 

There is also some question whether Haren's back problems are resurfacing. He's pitched twice since coming off the DL with a stiff back, but it's possible he's having issues again.

 

"I think there's some stiffness you would expect from a guy that's thrown almost 100 pitches, but I don't think it's out of the ordinary," Scioscia said. "Hopefully he'll be ready for his next start."

 

If he isn't, Richards would be a fallback to start Wednesday against the Rangers. But for now, Richards is in limbo -- not a reliever unless Santana is knocked out early at Texas and not a scheduled starter.

 

Another issue is the offense. The Angels were without leadoff hitter Mike Trout, who suffered a left knee bruise Saturday night when he hit the wall in center field chasing a home run by Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist. Right fielder Torii Hunter sat out until the ninth when he pinch hit.

 

The Angels were left with a lineup that included Kendrys Morales (1 for 15) and Vernon Wells, hitless in seven at-bats since being activated from the DL. The team mustered just four hits against four pitchers and had nine hits over the weekend.

 

That's not a lineup the Angels want to take to Texas, Chicago and Oakland, where they'll need to go at least 5-5 or risk sliding farther into third place.