03/04/12 6:00 PM ET
Angels eager to start Cactus League play
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
Opening Day is still a month away, so this may not be the beginning. But at least, as Angels manager Mike Scioscia said on Sunday, it's "a beginning."
"It's always great to get into that game environment," Scioscia said, "but we're not the finished product as a team. There's a lot of work ahead of us, and this is just the beginning to see where you might be."
For Angels fans, it's the beginning of what is one of the most anticipated seasons in franchise history.
For Scioscia, it's the beginning of a spring loaded with important decisions -- not really with regards to competitions for spots, but competitions for playing time.
Barring a trade, the Angels' skipper will spend the spring juggling at-bats for the likes of Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo, Bobby Abreu, Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis -- all impacted by the Albert Pujols signing in some way -- in hopes of getting a feel for how it'll all play out during the regular season.
Too much depth is never a bad problem to have, of course. And if you ask general manager Jerry Dipoto, nobody is better at sifting through that than Scioscia.
"He's the best in the business at that," Dipoto said. "He's done it remarkably well through the years. I mean even with guys on our roster -- Callaspo, Izturis, guys who to the naked eye look like repetitive players, and somehow it doesn't end up that way. It keeps players fresh, it puts them in good matchup situations, it gives you depth, interchangeable pieces -- options. It's what you need, options. Do I believe there's enough at-bats for the players here? Absolutely. And we've talked through various ways of how the players fit. Is it going to be a perfect scenario for every player on the roster? No, but that makes us just like 29 other teams."
The Angels will open up their Cactus League schedule with a 12:05 p.m. PT contest at the Athletics' facility in Phoenix on Monday, where C.J. Wilson will start and Pujols is expected to man first base.
The Angels will play their first home game of the spring on Tuesday against the White Sox, and will also host the Mariners, Padres, Giants, Indians (twice), Dodgers, Reds, Brewers, Royals (twice), Rangers (March 25), Rockies, D-backs and Cubs -- all of which will be televised on FOX Sports West or Prime Ticket.
The games on March 9 (Padres), 10 (Giants) 16 (Indians), 17 (Brewers), 25 (Rangers) and 30 (D-backs) are already sold out, and the ones on March 11 (Indians) and 12 (Dodgers) are near sellouts.
The fans are starting to get excited. The players, some of whom have been at the Tempe Diablo Stadium complex since early February, are starting to get antsy.
"I can't wait 'til tomorrow," center fielder Peter Bourjos said on Sunday. "It's been a long winter."
Williams dealing with his first hamstring injury
TEMPE, Ariz. -- In all his years in baseball, Jerome Williams had never suffered any sort of hamstring injury. But three steps into a rundown drill on Friday afternoon, he felt something pop in his left leg.
"It was weird to me," Williams said.
With a left hamstring strain that will keep him out of any rigorous activity for at least the next couple of weeks, questions surround Williams' status heading into 2012 -- one he was hoping would be his first extensive big league season since '05.
As Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "it's too early to answer" how this setback will impact Williams' standing for the fifth spot in the Angels' rotation. Two things are playing into Williams' favor, though: The Angels won't need a fifth starter until April 15, and considering he barely stopped throwing since the end of last year, it may not take Williams too long to get stretched out.
"My arm's going to catch up," the 30-year-old right-hander said. "I've been throwing so much that I think my arm is going to be fine."
Shortly after wrapping up last season -- one in which he posted a 4-0 record and a 3.68 ERA in 44 innings down the stretch -- Williams went to Venezuela to once again play winter ball, then took two weeks off, arrived at the Angels' Spring Training facility in January and, until Friday, had been throwing bullpens ever since.
Williams says his hamstring, which he'll just be icing for now, is "getting better and better each day."
"We have to treat this like I have to be ready for the season," Williams said. "I don't want this to be a nagging injury. I just want to be real solid, real 100 percent on it. We'll take the time we need to to make it 100 percent."
The Angels start their Cactus League schedule on Monday, at the Athletics' facility in nearby Phoenix, but when Williams will pitch in one is still a big unknown. And until he's back, Garrett Richards, Trevor Bell, Eric Hurley and Brad Mills -- the others in competition for that fifth spot -- will be getting a chance to prove themselves.
"We're hopeful that he'll still be in contention for that fifth-starter spot when it comes around, but we're not sure right now until this injury starts to progress," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hamstrings are funny, and hopefully it'll progress and get to where it needs to be."
Morales, Trumbo nearing final hurdles
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo, two recovering sluggers and two former first basemen, expect to run the bases next week, a step the Angels hope is the final one before getting them into Spring Training games.
Morales, who has missed the last 1 1/2 seasons with a broken left ankle, has already begun the process but isn't touching the bag or running in the dirt just yet. Instead, he's running from first to third, just outside the infield. One more week of that, and he could be game ready.
"He hasn't had any setbacks," manager Mike Scioscia said, "so hopefully we can keep that timeline."
Trumbo, who was nursing a stress fracture in his right foot but was recently cleared to progress toward full baseball activities, will begin running the bases at some point next week. But Scioscia isn't sure yet when he'll get in games.
"When his window is, it's tough to say," the Angels' skipper said. "He should progress to bases this week sometime, and then we can evaluate him from there."
Angels outright pitcher Carmona
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Ysmael Carmona was outrighted to Minor League camp on Sunday, after going unclaimed through waivers.
The move clears a spot on the Angels' 40-man roster, which could eventually be utilized for veteran reliever Jason Isringhausen, who was signed to a Minor League contract. Infielder Jorge Cantu, outfielder Ryan Langerhans and pitchers Eric Hurley and Francisco Rodriguez are also non-roster invitees.
Carmona, 27, missed all of last season with shoulder surgery and is still recovering.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.