04/01/12 8:00 PM ET
Williams-Richards fifth-starter battle continues
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels right-hander Jerome Williams got through his second spring start just fine on Saturday, giving up one run on three hits while throwing 44 pitches and striking out five through four innings. "I feel fine, just going out there and throwing, getting stretched out," Williams said Sunday morning. "Probably two more [starts], and then I'll be ready. I'll be ready on the 15th." The question is whether the Angels will need him to be. It's a question that probably won't have an answer until Williams and Garrett Richards -- the two distinctly different right-handers vying for the final spot of the Angels' dynamic rotation -- make two more Minor League starts. Richards gave up two earned runs in six frames to the Cubs on Saturday, finishing his Cactus League stint with a 3.54 ERA in 20 1/3 innings. After the game, the 23-year-old was optioned to Triple-A -- a level he hasn't seen during his development -- and will start there Thursday and April 10. Williams, who's out of options, will pitch for Class A Inland Empire on Thursday and probably April 10, in hopes of being called up for the April 15 start at Yankee Stadium -- a place he's never pitched. Williams, who spent most of the spring recovering from a sprained left hamstring, is still on track. But he can't afford any hiccups. "His timeline is a little bit tight," manager Mike Scioscia said, "but he will be at 75 pitches next outing, 90 pitches next outing with full five days' rest, and should have enough to carry into a game if he's throwing the ball the way he can."
Weaver awaits word on Opening Day fate
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's probably the worst-kept secret in baseball that Jered Weaver, coming off a season that saw him finish second in American League Cy Young Award voting, will get the nod on Opening Day. It's about as certain as Los Angeles rush-hour traffic.But for some reason -- perhaps superstition -- manager Mike Scioscia has yet to make a formal announcement. "I haven't heard yet," Weaver said after his last spring start on Sunday, when asked if his next one will come Friday night against the Royals at Angel Stadium. "I don't know if you guys can do the math or not, but ... I'll wait 'til I get word from [Scioscia]." Weaver, who's expected to head one of the finest rotations in baseball this season, gave up three runs on eight hits and two walks in six innings to the Cubs on Sunday, giving him a 5.40 ERA in 18 1/3 Cactus League innings. Weaver rolled through the first five innings, but faced nine batters and gave up three runs in the sixth. Scioscia didn't feel it had anything to do with the fatigue of not having pitched deep into games as much just yet. "He was working on some things and trying to fine-tune his mechanics before the start of the season," Scioscia said. "He's ready. He's pitched well."
Kendrys' recovery nears long-sought end
TEMPE, Ariz. -- For the Angels who didn't return to Southern California a day early, Sunday was getaway day -- a day when they arrived with roll-away luggage in hand to finally, after six weeks in the Arizona heat, head back home.For Kendrys Morales, there was even more significance. Morales has been rehabbing in Arizona basically non-stop for 11 months, minus a 12-day trip to Miami and the occasional weekend in Anaheim to visit his teammates as they made their way through the 2011 season without him. On Sunday, Morales finally said goodbye to Arizona -- a state that witnessed his long, eventually successful return from a broken left ankle after last year's setback. "Last year, I didn't feel so good," Morales said Sunday in Spanish. "My ankle wasn't responding the way I would've wanted it to. One day I could play, then there was four or five days when I couldn't play. Not this year. This year was totally different. From the time I got to Spring Training, I just kept feeling better and better each day." Last spring, Morales had one day of pain-free running but never progressed much further than that, prompting a second left-ankle surgery the following May. The Angels then moved through the offseason and early part of spring cautiously optimistic about Morales bouncing back, being their designated hitter and becoming an option to bat cleanup behind new first baseman Albert Pujols. Then Morales exceeded every expectation, progressing toward full-speed running and finding his timing at the plate rather quickly. Despite going 0-for-3 with a couple of strikeouts against the Cubs on Sunday, Morales' Cactus League stint ended with a .435 batting average (10-for-23) and two homers (one from each side of the plate) in seven games. There aren't many -- though manager Mike Scioscia claims he was one -- who expected his timing to be where it is at this point. "Not this fast," Morales said. "But I did hit a lot [in the offseason], and things went really well. I just have to keep doing what I've been doing." Now, for the first time since seeing him shatter his leg after a walk-off grand slam on May 29, 2010, Angels fans will see Morales walk up to the batter's box during the opener of a three-game exhibition series against the Dodgers. Morales is expected to be the DH at Angel Stadium on Monday, then will pinch-hit when the series shifts to National League rules at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Royals have two lefties in the opening weekend series -- with Bruce Chen in Game 1 and Jonathan Sanchez in Game 3 -- so the switch-hitting Morales will probably hit lower in the lineup on Friday and get the day off Sunday. No question, Scioscia is excited about where Morales is. But he also realizes there's a lot left to prove. "Look, Kendrys is not the finished product yet," Scioscia cautioned. "He has the challenge of the season in front of him."
In 15 home games at Tempe Diablo Stadium this spring, the Angels had 10 sellouts and drew a franchise record 130,126 fans. The previous record was 118,191, set in 2008. When Pujols departed Arizona on Saturday, he ranked first in the Cactus League in home runs (six) and slugging percentage (.870), second in RBIs (17), third in total bases (47) and fifth in batting average (.407). Bobby Cassevah (labrum tear) has thrown three bullpen sessions since being shut down and is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Tuesday at Class A Inland Empire. The 26-year-old right-hander is confident he can return to the Angels' bullpen around April 11, the first day he'd be eligible to come off the disabled list. "I think that sounds about right," Cassevah said. "Once I get the sim game under my belt, then we're talking about Thursday getting in a game. Maybe two games will be good."
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.