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ANGEL REPORT

All Schoeneweis Seeks Is Chance

February 24, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Angels afforded Scott Schoeneweis three years to develop into a consistent starting pitcher, but he failed to do so. They moved him to the bullpen last June, and he pitched brilliantly. So why would the Angels consider returning him to the rotation this year?

With Aaron Sele expected to miss at least the first month of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery, Schoeneweis and Mickey Callaway are the top contenders to fill Sele's spot in the rotation.

Callaway, promoted from triple A when Sele was put on the disabled list last year, went 2-1 with a 4.19 earned-run average in six starts. Schoeneweis went 6-6 with a 5.38 ERA in 15 starts last season; he is 23-27 with a 5.28 ERA in 74 major league starts.

"His record as a starter isn't great, but he's had flashes of brilliance," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "His confidence is high, and I think he'll be better this go-round if that's the direction we go in."

Pitching coach Bud Black said the Angels would consider Schoeneweis because of his experience in that role, ability to pitch deep into games and preference to start. Schoeneweis appeared to have found his niche in the bullpen last year, posting a 1.96 ERA over the final two months of the season, but Black said finding a starter to get 15 to 21 outs every fifth day would take priority over finding a left-handed reliever who might get four to six outs every five days.

Over the winter, Schoeneweis asked the Angels to trade him to a team that would use him as a starter. General Manager Bill Stoneman rejected the request.

Schoeneweis said he expects to start the season in the bullpen but appreciates the chance to compete for the spot in the rotation.

"I'm glad to at least have that door not shut," he said. "Whether it's to appease me or not, I still want that opportunity. Whether the opportunity is there, whether this is just a contingency plan, I don't know."

Callaway, who is out of options, could make the team as a reliever if Schoeneweis starts the season in the rotation. Matt Wise, also out of options, is a third choice to replace Sele and also a candidate for middle relief.

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The Angels have selected Jarrod Washburn as their opening day starter for the second consecutive season, and he hopes to get the Angels -- and himself -- off to a better start. Washburn gave up four runs in the first inning of last year's opener, a 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

"My goal is not to improve just on opening day but to improve on my start to the season in general," he said. "It would be better to start the season well and extend that instead of starting in a hole."

He went 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in his first three starts last season, then did not lose again until July. In 2000, he went 0-3 with a 7.56 ERA in April, then lost once in the next three months.

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The Angels held their collective breath for a few moments Sunday when 2002 rookie star Francisco Rodriguez was hit by a line drive while pitching batting practice.

The ball hit him below the right hip. Rodriguez walked off the sting and then, after a visit from trainers, resumed pitching. The Angels do not mandate pitchers throw batting practice from behind a protective screen; Rodriguez said he does not use one because "it's not comfortable."

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