PHOENIX — For Mike Witt, it's been clear sailing since Juan Castillo.
On March 9, Castillo, a 25-year-old infielder with a slim shot of making the Milwaukee Brewers' roster, hit a run-scoring single against Witt. It could be remembered as one of the highlights of the spring.
That single not only accounted for the only run Witt has allowed in three starts, but it marked the last time anyone has hit safely off the Angels' No. 1 starter. Since Castillo, Witt has fashioned the equivalent of a no-hitter--recording 27 outs without yielding a hit.
Witt retired the last three batters he faced after that single and has since made two more four-inning appearances.
Tuesday, Witt pitched the first four innings of a 4-2 Angel loss to the Oakland A's. He walked three and struck out three, lowering his spring earned-run average to 0.82.
That is especially impressive when one considers the balance--or imbalance--of the Angel pitching staff. The Angels entered Tuesday's game with a team ERA of 5.40. Opponents were outhitting the Angels, .308 to .293.
You don't need any further explanation why the Angels, despite averaging six runs a game, are 3-9 in Arizona.
Witt has been an anomaly in this Angel camp, but don't ask Manager Gene Mauch why.
"I don't dissect him," Mauch said. "I want to keep him. I wouldn't be surprised if he's that way all his life. Some guys come to camp to work themselves into shape and get shelled around. I don't think Mike Witt will ever be like that."
Witt shrugs off talk about his early effectiveness.
"I'm not putting too much emphasis on this," Witt said. "Maybe the hitters are behind the pitchers at this point. I'm just hitting spots right now."
Witt offered a scouting report on himself:
"The curveball is pretty much there, but I'm not satisfied with the location of my fastball. My velocity has been fairly decent, but I'm not really happy where I'm spotting the ball."
He also complained of some stiffness in his upper right arm, which is why he didn't come out to pitch a fifth inning.
"Because I'm not throwing like I should be, I'm stiff in places I shouldn't be," Witt said.
Mauch called it a typical condition of spring training.
"He's worked three straight times on three days' rest," Mauch said. "If he had four days' rest, we would've let him go five.
"We'll rest him four days before his next start."
Mauch made his first roster cuts after Tuesday's game and will bring a squad of 33 players to Palm Springs after the Angels break camp here Thursday.
Those staying here to begin minor league camp are pitchers Colin Charland, Terry Clark, Mike Fetters, Miguel Garcia, Bryan Harvey, Jack Lazorko, David Martinez, Marty Reed and Bill Vanderwel; catchers Stan Cliburn and Mike Knapp, infielders Bill Merrifield and James Randall, and outfielders Dante Bichette and Reggie Montgomery.
Angel Notes The Angels allowed only two hits to Oakland, but one was a grand slam by Carney Lansford and the other was a triple by Mike Davis. That was enough for victory for the A's, who limited the Angels to three hits. Todd Fischer (0-2) was the losing pitcher. He replaced Mike Witt in the fifth inning and loaded the bases by walking Alfredo Griffin and Davis and hitting Dwayne Murphy with a pitch. Lansford then followed with his drive over the left-field fence. Said Manager Gene Mauch: "The Angels won this game. Edmonton lost it." . . . Dick Schofield accounted for both Angel runs. He had a run-scoring triple in the fifth inning and a leadoff home run in the eighth. Wally Joyner's single was the only other Angel hit. . . . Chuck Finley had his best game of the spring, allowing one hit and striking out three in two innings. Mike Cook pitched a perfect eighth inning, striking out two.
In the B game, Dante Bichette homered and Reggie Montgomery had a run-scoring double as the Angels edged the A's, 5-4. . . . In the April 10 edition of Baseball America magazine, Devon White, Willie Fraser and Lee Stevens are ranked among the best big-league prospects at their respective positions. White is rated fourth among outfielders--behind Kansas City's Bo Jackson, Toronto's Sil Campusano and Boston's Ellis Burks. Fraser is ranked 13th among right-handed starting pitchers and Stevens, who batted .281 at Salem in 1986, is third among first basemen. Baseball America lists the Angels' farm system as the sixth best in baseball.