03/09/12 8:48 PM EST
Takahashi a versatile bullpen cog
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
The Angels have two solid lefties in their bullpen, but neither is really what you would call a specialist. And with Scott Downs -- who has put up a 2.17 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP over the last five years -- entrenched in the back end, Takahashi can expect more two-inning performances during the regular season.
"Taka is going to give us more length than Scott, and Scott is going to be in our back end," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It does help you to mix and match a little bit earlier, but Taka, I think when his role comes up, he's going to be pitching to lefties and righties."
Scioscia wouldn't go so far as to call Takahashi a long reliever -- "He's valuable in holding leads, too," he added -- but the 36-year-old from Japan will once again help bridge the gap to the back end if a starter doesn't go deep.
Last year, while posting a 3.44 ERA in 61 games, Takahashi had 21 outings of more than one inning. Eight of them were of two-plus frames, and five of those came in June.
"I don't know about my role right now, because those kind of things Mike Scioscia and the coaches will decide," Takahashi said through a translator. "Whenever they want me up on the mound, I will try my best and get people out. That's all I can do."
Injured Williams still has time to be fifth starter
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The way manager Mike Scioscia sees it, Jerome Williams will need a minimum of four starts in order to open up the season as the Angels' fifth starter.
If you factor in the normal number of off-days, and figure that the Angels will need a fifth starter for the first time on April 15, that would mean Williams needs to appear in his first game by March 26 - 17 days from now.
Scioscia wants Williams, whose strained left hamstring will keep him out of rigorous activity for at least another week, to be able to crank it up to the 80- to 90-pitch range before potentially sliding into the rotation.
If all goes according to plan, the 30-year-old would likely open the season on the 15-day disabled list, then continue pitching on a Minor League rehab assignment before being activated for the April 15 game at Yankee Stadium.
"There's a definite line where he's going to have to pitch in a game," said Scioscia, who also has Garrett Richards, Brad Mills, Trevor Bell and Eric Hurley vying to be the fifth starter. "We're not near it yet. I definitely think there's going to be time for him still to be a candidate for our fifth. ... If this thing lingers a long time, you have to adjust."
Mark Trumbo (right foot) is "close" to getting in a game, Scioscia said. Trumbo took live fungos from bench coach Rob Picciolo prior to Friday's game against the Padres, fielding several slow rollers and balls to his left. A couple of days ago, Trumbo, making the switch from first base to third, had pinpointed Saturday as the day he figures to get into full game mode.
Kendrys Morales (left ankle) ran on the infield dirt without bases, and Scioscia said he got a "really good report on him." The next step will be for him to push off actual bases.
Prospect Mike Trout, who has lost about 10 pounds with an illness, is feeling better, but Scioscia said "it'll still going to be a number of days" before the outfielder makes his spring debut.
"I don't think we're talking too much time," Scioscia added, "but he's got to get through some good workouts."
Reliever Bobby Cassevah, who was behind in his throwing program coming into camp, is expected to throw off the mound "in the next couple of days," Scioscia said, adding that "it shouldn't impact where he should be by the end of spring." It's still not known when he'll get in a game.
Infielder Maicer Izturis, who has played in only one Cactus League game, is dealing with some stiffness in his legs and is slated to return to action in a couple of days.
Aybar making early bid to hit leadoff
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The sample size is still quite small, but Erick Aybar seems to be warming up to that leadoff spot this spring, going 4-for-8 with two walks and three runs scored in three starts as the Angels' table setter.
Last year, Aybar spent 55 games as the Angels' leadoff hitter while backup infielder Maicer Izturis led the team with 89 games at that spot. The biggest thing potentially keeping Aybar from a full-time leadoff role: some pretty drastic platoon splits in 2011.
Last year, the switch-hitting Aybar batted .308 with a .466 slugging percentage in 128 games against right-handers, but only .216 with a .324 slugging percentage in 81 games against lefties.
This year, manager Mike Scioscia is weighing the possibility of center fielder Peter Bourjos -- a right-handed hitter who bats better against lefties and led off 17 games last year -- being a platoon mate at the top.
But, apparently, he's weighing a lot of other options, too.
"There's a lot of different combinations that we can look at," Scioscia said. "If we have to mix and match up top we will. If someone like Erick and [potential No. 2 hitter] Howie [Kendrick] really start to get a foothold on setting the table and doing those things, that would be a very, very attractive option for us.
"Let's see where we are. We have a lot of options. ... We don't need our leadoff guy yet, do we?"
Albert Pujols played his fourth Spring Training game in five days on Friday, finishing 2-for-2 with a double and an RBI in the Angels' 6-3 loss to the Padres. Pujols is now 5-for-9 with three doubles, two RBIs, two runs and two walks.
Asked if Pujols will stick in the No. 3 spot, Scioscia said: "Unless something really strange develops in the spring. ... I think we'll work around Albert in the 3 spot, and we should have guys that are 9-1-2 that are hopefully feeding him enough."
Ervin Santana gave up one run on one hit and a walk while striking out three in two innings during his spring debut on Friday. The most important thing: Santana mixed in plenty of changeups.
"It's been a developing pitch for his whole career," Scioscia said. "Last year at times he had some good changeups and using it in situations where he pitched well. But I think as his career goes on, it's going to really give him some balance to be able to change speeds a little bit better."
Veteran relievers Downs and LaTroy Hawkins will get into their first Cactus League game by Monday.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.