2/22/2013 4:30 P.M. ET
Angels to skip starting rotation members until March
Williams, Mills will start Saturday's split-squad Cactus openers
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jerome Williams (at home against the Cubs) and Brad Mills (in Scottsdale against the Giants) will start each of the split-squad games that will open the Angels' Cactus League schedule on Saturday.
Don't expect to see any of the five rotation members until March 1.
Jered Weaver won't start until next Friday's game against the Dodgers' split squad at Tempe Diablo Stadium. He'll be followed respectively by C.J. Wilson (in Maryvale against the Brewers), Joe Blanton (at home against the Cubs' split squad), Jason Vargas (in Phoenix against the A's) and Tommy Hanson (at home against the Reds).
Before that, it'll be Barry Enright starting on Sunday versus the A's, Garret Richards on Monday in Peoria against the Mariners, A.J. Schugel on Tuesday versus the D-backs' split squad and Nick Maronde on Wednesday vs. the Giants. Williams and Mills will then both pitch Thursday's game against the Dodgers in Glendale, before the normal rotation gets in the mix.
Starters figure to be at about two innings apiece the first time through. The extra week of camp, in response to the World Baseball Classic, has prompted manager Mike Scioscia to wait before getting in his starters and opt against playing any intrasquad games.
Asked if Weaver-Wilson-Blanton-Vargas-Hanson is how the rotation will line up during the regular season, Scioscia said: "I don't think we're looking quite to the season yet. I think we're looking to get through Spring Training and then see where people are at the end. We have some flexibility with the way [pitching coach Mike Butcher] has lined them up."
The Angels open the regular season with off days on Tuesday, April 2, and Monday, April 8, but Scioscia doesn't anticipate skipping a fifth starter the first turn through, like he did last season.
Williams figures to be the Angels' long reliever in 2013, while Enright and Mills -- if the latter clears waivers -- will be in the Triple-A rotation. Maronde, ranked second in the Angels' farm system by MLB.com, and Schugel, who is ranked 16th, could join them. Richards is a candidate for a bullpen spot.
Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo are expected to join Erick Aybar in games this first weekend.
Split-squad game not ideal start for Scioscia
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels have drawn the short straw when it comes to scheduling in 2013. On April 1 in Cincinnati, they'll have to open up the regular season under National League rules. And on Saturday, they'll start Cactus League play with a split-squad game, making it extra difficult considering the early start to Spring Training has made them extra cautious with their most important pitchers.
"It's not our preference," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Split squad the first day, it's absurd. That's the best word I can say."
The Angels have voiced their displeasure to Major League Baseball, but were told that with an odd number of teams in Arizona (15), somebody has to open up Spring Training with a split-squad game. It was just the Angels' turn in the rotation, so they'll host the Cubs and travel to Scottsdale to face the Giants on Saturday.
There are ways to avoid teams opening up with a split-squad game, though -- by having college teams play or by separating off-days to avoid one so early in camp. The latter, however, would mean some stadiums lose a day of ticket revenues.
If the Astros, now members of the American League West, move to Arizona, the problem would resolve itself.
"I guess they feel somebody has to do it," Scioscia said. "But honestly, if you need a game, you can push it back. I just don't see why we couldn't have done this four or five days into our Spring Training schedule as opposed to the first day. It just makes no sense. But we'll get through it. We'll play and we'll get through it."
Arizona has had an odd number of teams since the Dodgers moved from Vero Beach, Fla., starting in 2009. Last year, the D-backs opened with a split squad on March 3. In 2011, the Dodgers did it on Feb. 26.
The split squad represents problems for the Angels because none of the five members of their rotation will appear in games until March 1 and Minor League camp started less than a week ago, forcing them to scramble to find bodies to fill out two games.
Scioscia is part of Bud Selig's Special Committee for On-Field Matters, but they have no jurisdiction in this area.
"Any way you have to work around a split squad is worth exploring, because a split squad on the first day is difficult to navigate around," the Angels' skipper said. "I understand the numbers and the components and all of that, but I would think we can find a way to work our way around it."
Madson unsure if he'll pitch in March games
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ryan Madson can't exactly pinpoint a timetable for when he can finally progress past throwing off flat ground, navigate through a collection of bullpen sessions and actually start appearing in games again.
For help, he conjures his memory.
"A smart athletic trainer once told me that for every day you're off, it takes that many days [to get back]," Madson said Friday morning, shortly after throwing from 60 feet for about 10 minutes and feeling good.
"I had three weeks off. So it'll probably take three weeks to get back to where I was at."
After his fourth bullpen session of the offseason on Feb. 1, the Angels shut down Madson's recovery from Tommy John surgery because of uncommon elbow soreness. This past Monday, after a clean MRI, he started throwing off flat ground again.
Eighteen days from then -- the exact amount of time he was shut down for -- would have Madson back on the mound by March 8, by his estimation. Then he'd have to start the process of building himself up for games, which may or may not be enough time to get into Spring Training games before Opening Day on April 1.
"That'd be great, but it's not certain," said Madson, all but guaranteed to start the season on the disabled list.
Asked for his confidence level that Madson could appear in Cactus League games before the schedule dries out, manager Mike Scioscia said: "The fact that he's throwing is a plus, but his throwing progression hasn't gotten to a point where he's given us any kind of indication yet. It's going to take a little bit of time. But he's still at 60 feet. You have to get out to at least 150, 180 feet before you could feel good about where your arm is. It's a progression."
• Lefty reliever Mitch Stetter, signed to a Minor League deal this offseason, is recovering from a bulging disk in his lower back, which flared up during a bullpen session just before the start of Spring Training. Stetter, who went on the Minor League disabled list because of back problems down the stretch last season, played light catch on Friday and is taking it slow.
The 32-year-old lefty appeared in 132 games for the Brewers from 2007-11, posting a 4.08 ERA, and notched a 2.67 ERA in 30 1/3 innings in their farm system in 2012. Stetter is an outside candidate for one of the Angels' final bullpen spots.
• Reliever Fernando Cabrera (Puerto Rico) and Minor League first baseman Efren Navarro (Mexico) will join Erick Aybar (Dominican Republic) in playing in the World Baseball Classic. The 31-year-old Cabrera, who posted a 4.10 ERA in 57 games for the Mets' Triple-A affiliate last year, was signed to a Minor League deal this offseason. Navarro has been in the Angels' system the last six years.
• First base prospect C.J. Cron, who drove in 123 runs at Class A Inland Empire before having shoulder surgery on Aug. 29, is doing everything but throwing in Minor League camp. Cron, ranked third in the Angels' system by MLB.com, is targeting being ready by the time Double-A Arkansas opens up its 2013 schedule.
• The Angels previously signed former first-round Draft pick Ben Fritz to a Minor League contract, though he didn't obtain a Spring Training invite. Fritz, a right-handed starter taken 30th overall by the A's in 2002, has been pitching in independent ball the last few years and general manager Jerry Dipoto said he's hitting 94 mph.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.