PALM SPRINGS — On Feb. 21, minutes before he left for spring training, Manager Gene Mauch was asked about the Angels ability to compete in the American League West.
"In their best possible condition," he said, "I don't have a worry about it.
"Of course, I can't imagine how comfortable I'd feel if I knew we had a quality left-handed relief pitcher."
Now, two weeks before the season's start, Mauch seems to have found his No. 1 spring priority, the left-handed relief pitcher.
His name is Patrick Brian Clements, who went to UCLA for three years and would be making the jump from Waterbury of the Double-A Eastern League, the same route taken by Ron Romanick last spring.
Asked Monday if he would have any qualms about opening the season with Clements, Mauch said:
"I'd be tickled to death. He's the one thing we've been looking for all spring."
Clements, 23, had just pitched a flawless ninth inning in the Angels' 2-1 loss to Seattle.
He got right-handed hitter Dave Valle on a grounder to the mound, then struck out two other right-handed hitters, John Moses and Harold Reynolds.
"I was hoping we'd tie it," Mauch said, alluding to the bottom of the ninth. "I wanted to see Clements pitch another inning.
"I like what I've seen. I like the way he goes about it. He has confidence in his stuff and doesn't hide it.
"A lot of young pitchers are afraid to challenge hitters, afraid they're going to get knocked around. His attitude is, 'Here I come.' "
Clements has made five appearances, allowing two runs and three hits in seven innings. The impressive statistics are these: seven strikeouts and no walks.
"We know his stuff is good enough and we're finding out about his competitiveness. I keep putting him out there to see how he handles it, and he does.
"Lach (pitching coach Marcel Lachemann) looked over at me when Clements was out there today as if to say, 'Nobody's this good.' "
Selected by the Angels on the fourth round of the 1983 June draft, Clements was signed out of UCLA and assigned to Peoria, where he went 4-7 as a starter. He moved to the bullpen at Waterbury, liked it for reasons he can't explain, and was 4-2 with 9 saves and a 2.69 earned-run average.
Clements said Monday he came to the 1985 camp thinking he might get a look because of the club's desire to find a left-handed reliever and the fact that Ken Angulo, who has already been reassigned to the minor league base in Mesa, seemed to be the only other candidate.
"As a non-roster player who has never been to a major league camp before," Clements said, "it's hard for me to tell how things are going.
"I'm happy to get the opportunity because it will help me from an experience standpoint, but I'm trying not to be too optimistic.
"I know that my lack of experience may be a consideration and that they still may trade (for a left-handed relief pitcher). I try to tell myself not to be disappointed if it happens."
"There's some names out there," General Manager Mike Port said, "but none excite me.
"None has done a better job than Pat Clements has this spring."
Of the Pat Clements development, Manager Gene Mauch said: "We might take two left-handed pitchers out of his camp. Wouldn't that be something?" . . . The reference was to Bob Kipper, 18-8 at Class-A Redwood last year and unscored on in eight exhibition innings. Would Mauch consider using the 20-year-old Kipper in relief: "I don't think that's where his future is, but I might not be reluctant to do it if I knew it was only for a year." . . . Kipper might also stay as a starter, depending on the physical status of Ken Forsch and the trade status of Tommy John . . . Said pitching coach Marcel Lachemann: "We're down now to two weeks. We'll have to make some important decisions in the next four or five days." . . . Staying Alive: Craig Swan, working without a contract in his comeback from a pair of 1984 operations to free a trapped nerve in his right biceps, allowed one run in five innings Monday and has given up just two runs in 12 innings . . .