Adenhart's poise impresses Scioscia
Young pitcher recovers from early trouble to turn in solid start
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Nick Adenhart was in trouble right out of the chute.
The Angels right-hander, trying to enhance his bid for a rotation role on Thursday at Goodyear Park, walked Jamey Carroll on four pitches, then fell behind Mark DeRosa, 2-0, before the Indians third baseman lined a single to left-center, sending Carroll to third.
This is where the new and improved Adenhart surfaced. Taking his time and taking control of his repertoire, Adenhart gathered himself, made good pitches to the heart of the order and escaped unscathed.
"I moved on to the next pitch with a clear mind, attacked the next hitter," Adenhart said.
Victor Martinez grounded to Chone Figgins at third for an out at home. Travis Hafner, the muscular cleanup man, went down swinging on a changeup. Shin-Soo Choo, who starred for Korea in the World Baseball Classic, popped out.
This is exactly how you want to respond to adversity if you're a young pitcher trying to carve out a rotation spot on a championship-caliber team.
Retiring six of the next seven men he faced, Adenhart went on to deliver six solid innings, with only one of the four runs he allowed earned because of errors by Kendry Morales at first and Gold Glover Torii Hunter in center, both on balls struck by Choo.
Adenhart struck out three, walked two men and allowed five hits. He's 2-0 with a 3.26 Cactus League ERA, making a strong case for a rotation turn.
"All I can control is what I do when I get between the lines," Adenhart said.
The 22-year-old Silver Springs, Md., native showed his athleticism in the sixth inning. With two runs in and a man on first, David Dellucci hit a slow roller between the mound and third for an apparent infield single. But Adenhart was on it in a heartbeat, wheeling and firing to first for the out. He was in the dugout a moment later, after retiring Ben Francisco on a fly ball.
"Nick is much different than he was even last Spring Training," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "What I like is he got out of sync with the first couple of hitters, made adjustments and got outs."
For Adenhart, as for most pitchers, tempo and rhythm are essential to success. There are times, Scioscia said, when Andenhart slows his tempo and it takes him out of sync.
"When he maintains his tempo," Scioscia said, "he's right where he needs to be. He's got a very good arm."
Adenhart, who has 13 strikeouts against four walks and 17 hits in 19 1/3 innings, is competing with Dustin Moseley and Shane Loux for two available rotation spots. A third slot conceivably could open if John Lackey's right forearm tightness doesn't come around in time for him to make his projected April 6 Opening Day assignment.
Asked if Adenhart is close to claiming a rotation spot, Scioscia respectfully deferred.
"He's certainly a candidate," Scioscia said. "We've got another week. It's more than the last week. It's not like they have a bad outing, they're out. Nick has shown us enough. Loux has shown us enough. Moseley has shown us enough.
"All they can do is continue to pitch well."
Following Adenhart to the mound, Brian Fuentes retired the side in order in the seventh on fly balls. The new closer is playing catch-up after missing some time -- he called it a "hiccup" -- due to back spasms. This was his fifth Cactus League appearance, and he's yielded five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings (9.64 ERA).
"I felt all right," Fuentes said. "I feel healthy. I just wish I wasn't behind [in the count] as much as I am. But I didn't walk anybody. That's positive. So I'm making progress. It's not midseason form or anything, but it's a positive step."
Fuentes said his focus has been on building arm strength, the first part of the springtime process. Next come fine-tuning and mechanics, with an emphasis on "establishing the fastball" in good spots.
Jason Bulger, trying to nail down a bullpen role, had an impressive inning, striking out two men while hitting one batter in a scoreless eighth. His ERA is 4.00 in eight Cactus appearances.
Ryan Brasier pitched the ninth inning and allowed his first earned run of the spring, bringing his ERA to 1.69 in four appearances.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.