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03/15/08 7:50 PM ET

Adenhart could crack rotation

With Lackey out at least a month, Angels' staff has opening

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The loss of John Lackey with a strained right triceps has created an opening in the Angels' rotation that could be his, but young Nick Adenhart said it didn't impact his mindset as he went to work on D-backs hitters on Saturday.

"Of course, I understand what that means -- it opens up a spot," Adenhart said, having yielded a three-run homer to Jeff Salazar while striking out three across four innings at Tempe Diablo Stadium. A homer and triple by Matt Brown and a game-winning RBI single by Juan Rivera eventually settled a 5-4 decision by the Angels in 10 innings.

"From the beginning of camp," Adenhart added, "I felt I was competing for a job. And that hasn't changed.

"I'd like to think I have as much of a chance as anybody else ahead of me on the depth chart."

That depth chart is in flux at this point, with two weeks left for manager Mike Scioscia, general manager Tony Reagins and pitching coach Mike Butcher to establish who fits where.

With Adenhart, 21, experience is the lone drawback. He has made 65 professional appearances, all but one as a starter, in two full Minor League seasons and part of a third. There isn't a more physically talented pitcher in the organization than the 6-foot-3 right-hander from Williamsport, Md.

"If we feel he's ready," Scioscia said, "he's going to be a candidate. At times a young talent outplays experience. We've seen it with a lot of our young players.

"He has an incredible future. Where he is now is something we're going to pay attention to and talk about in coming weeks. We don't want to rush him -- Nick doesn't have the experience -- but his talent will allow him to play at this level."

A late replacement for Lackey, Adenhart struck out the first man he faced, Eric Byrnes, with a circle changeup, and used it again to good effect in striking out Trot Nixon and Stephen Drew.

"I felt great -- one mistake," Adenhart said, alluding to a first-pitch fastball that "caught a little too much of the plate" to Salazar following a pair of singles.

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Adenhart had worked four scoreless innings in his previous outing against the A's on Monday, allowing one hit while striking out three.

"He had better stuff today than any other outing in the spring," Scioscia said. "He got in the 60-pitch range, and that was good."

Adenhart is 28-15 with a 3.11 ERA in his two-plus Minor League seasons, striking out 320 hitters in 361 innings while walking 131.

"I've seen some success," Adenhart said. "It always seems things I do wrong are magnified."

In 12 2/3 Cactus League innings, Adenhart has yielded six earned runs on 15 hits for a 4.26 ERA. He has walked only one while striking out seven.

Nick Green, Adenhart's good friend and teammate with Double-A Arkansas in 2007, gets a start in Mesa, Ariz., on Sunday against the Cubs. Green also is contending for Lackey's starting role, with Dustin Moseley -- a quality spot starter in 2007 -- considered the early front-runner.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.