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Angels Shake Up the Rotation

Baseball: Rookie Lackey promoted despite only one major league game. Schoeneweis moves to the bullpen.

June 29, 2002|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Angels, opting for an unproven rookie over proven inconsistency, demoted starter Scott Schoeneweis to the bullpen Friday and replaced him in the rotation with John Lackey.

"I don't have a leg to stand on, really," Schoeneweis said. "There's no argument."

Schoeneweis, 28, in his third season in the Angel rotation, is 6-6 with a 5.38 earned-run average. He never has posted a winning record or an ERA below 5.00.

Lackey, 23, made his major league debut Monday, shrugging off a 433-foot home run by Alex Rodriguez in the first inning and holding the Texas Rangers to three runs over seven innings. Schoeneweis pitched the next night, giving up three home runs in 4 2/3 innings. He started the fifth inning with a 4-2 lead but walked four in the inning, and the Rangers scored eight runs.

While the move does not preclude Schoeneweis from returning to the rotation, the Angels believe he might be better suited to the bullpen. The Angels, searching for another left-handed reliever to accompany Dennis Cook, would like to see Schoeneweis prosper in that role.

"I want to do what I can to help the team get to the playoffs," he said. "If I can be more valuable in the bullpen right now, that's what I'll do."

Statistics suggest Schoeneweis could do well there. Opposing left-handers hit .242 off him this season and .249 in the previous three; right-handers hit .284 this season and .291 in the previous three. This season, opponents are hitting .232 off him in the first inning, .261 in the first three innings and .276 overall.

"If Scott rises to the occasion, he can be an impact guy in that role," General Manager Bill Stoneman said.

"He has the durability and strength to throw 130 pitches in a major league game and the ability and resiliency to pitch every day," pitching coach Bud Black said. "There aren't too many pitchers with that combination. Who's to say what's going to happen in one or two weeks? He might be back starting again, but he might do so well we might not want to move him."

The Angels cleared roster space for Lackey by putting reliever Al Levine on the disabled list. They remain interested in trading for pitching help, particularly bullpen help.

For now, the starting rotation of a team in a pennant race includes a pitcher with one major league game to his credit. Lackey had won his last eight decisions at Salt Lake, with an 8-2 record and 2.70 ERA.

"If you trust a pitcher has the makeup to pitch beyond his experience and give him the opportunity, he can surprise you," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We think John is a special guy as far as makeup. Hopefully, that will translate into a guy that can come out and pitch like he did in Texas."

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