It’s taken him a while, but Angels right-hander Jerome Williams finally made his pitch to be the team’s fifth starter.
On a minor league field in Phoenix, Williams worked three scoreless innings Monday against the Oakland A’s in a Triple-A game. It marked his spring debut after he was slowed by a strained left hamstring.
The No. 5 spot in the rotation figured to be his all along, but now Williams is locked in a battle with right-handed prospect Garrett Richards, who started for the Angels against the Colorado Rockies at Tempe, Ariz.
Richards has the early lead, but Williams will have a chance to come on quickly. He threw a carefree 41 pitches against the A’s, giving up one hit, walking one and striking out four. He’s scheduled to pitch again Saturday in another minor league game.
The Angels don’t need a fifth starter until April 15, when they visit the New York Yankees, so Williams, despite his lack of work so far, will have time to get his arm ready.
“He still has an opportunity to be in the mix for April 15,” manager Mike Scioscia told reporters before the Angels’ 6-2 loss to the Rockies. “He has to step up, not have any setbacks and pitch his game.”
So far, so good.
Meanwhile, Richards brought a 3-0 record and a 2.00 ERA in three starts into the game but hit several bumps. He was helped by double plays in the first and third innings, but he also walked three batters in 5 1/3 innings, threw two wild pitches and hit a batter. A dropped fly ball by left fielder Bobby Abreu led to two unearned runs in the fourth inning.
What about Bob? At some point this spring, the Angels will have to decide the best course of action to take with Abreu. He isn’t hitting and has expressed some dissatisfaction with his role.
Abreu got a chance to start in left field Monday because regular center fielder Peter Bourjos had the day off after playing nine innings Sunday. But Abreu’s dropped fly ball near the foul line in the fourth got the Rockies started on a two-run inning. Abreu has admitted that playing the corner outfield spots and designated hitter has made it tough for him to prepare for the season.
At the moment, Abreu is being squeezed out of a job. The outfield is set, and Kendrys Morales looks as if he’ll be ready to be the team’s everyday DH. He had three more hits Monday and is now batting .615, with eight hits in 13 at-bats.
Manager Mike Scioscia has promised that Abreu will get about 400 plate appearances this season, but Abreu recently expressed doubt to a Venezuelan newspaper, resulting in a closed-door meeting with Scioscia and general manager Jerry DiPoto. His $9 million salary and his age (38) make him difficult to move, and the Angels are reluctant to make any hard decisions until they know if Morales is fully healthy and able to play every day.
Abreu isn’t doing much to help his cause. He was hitless again in three at-bats and is batting .100 (4 for 40). In the end, he may play himself out of the lineup.
Wood fighting for a spot in Colorado Former Angels prospect Brandon Wood is in the Rockies camp as a non-roster invitee, and although he’s a longshot to make the club, he could be a versatile utility player at some point during the season.
Remember Wood? He was the Angels’ first-round draft pick in 2003 and took over at third base for Chone Figgins, but his career failed to take flight as the team had hoped. He hit .146, and in parts of five seasons in Anaheim never batted above .200.
Wood was designated for assignment last April and signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, hitting .220 in 99 games but also striking out 65 times in 236 at-bats. Now he’s trying to make Colorado’s roster. He played all four infield positions in one minor league game and has also played left field.
On Monday, Wood went 0-for-4 and struck out twice.