The agent for demoted right-hander Ramon Ortiz accused the Angels of giving some pitchers preferential treatment over his client and said Thursday that if Ortiz isn't returned to the rotation "in the very near future" he will ask to be traded.
"If the Angels don't see him as a starter, then it's time to move on," said Pat Roache, Ortiz's Boston-based agent. "He wants to stay in Anaheim, he loves the people there, but he's a starting pitcher. He doesn't want to become accustomed to the bullpen. He's had tremendous success as a starter."
Ortiz opened the season in the rotation, going 1-3 with a 9.28 earned-run average in five starts. He allowed 40 hits, 10 walks and hit one batter in 21 1/3 innings, an average of 2.4 baserunners an inning.
After Aaron Sele, making a spot start for injured Kelvim Escobar, threw five shutout innings in Minnesota on May 1, the veteran right-hander remained in the rotation and Ortiz was bumped to the bullpen, where he has gone 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA in seven appearances.
Sele has been outstanding, going 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA in six starts, justifying Manager Mike Scioscia's decision to promote him.
But right-hander John Lackey has struggled in his last four starts, going 0-3 with a 9.12 ERA and allowing 35 hits, 11 walks and three hit batters in 20 2/3 innings, an average of about 2.4 baserunners an inning.
And Roache wants to know why Lackey remains in the rotation when the numbers from his last four starts are so similar to Ortiz's first five starts.
"It just seems to me that some of the pitchers have been given preferential treatment to work through their struggles while remaining in the starting rotation, while Ramon, a 44-game winner over the past three years, has not been given the same opportunity," Roache said. "He feels he's pitched well enough to get back into the rotation, and he doesn't understand why he's not being given that opportunity."
Scioscia, though, said Ortiz wasn't graded so much on his first five starts this season as he was on his last 20 or so starts, dating to last season. Ortiz was 11-6 with a 4.41 ERA in the first half of 2003 but 5-7 with a 6.52 ERA after the All-Star break.
Lackey had a 2.65 ERA in five September starts last season, and this year had three of his best starts -- allowing four earned runs in 22 2/3 innings against Detroit, Minnesota and Tampa Bay from April 27 to May 7 -- right around the time Scioscia had to decide whose rotation spot Sele would take.
"This was not a knee-jerk reaction," Scioscia said. "When you look at Lackey's last 25 starts, it's a different picture. He was terrific last September. His last few starts haven't gone too well, but overall, John has been a more productive pitcher. That doesn't mean it's going to stay that way."
Scioscia added that he "wasn't contemplating any changes" in the rotation right now, "but when you have guys like Ramon, Kevin Gregg and Scot Shields, you do have some options if you need them."
The move to the bullpen hasn't hurt Ortiz, who has used the down time to regain command of his slider. And with closer Troy Percival slowed by inflammation in his elbow, Ortiz may prove even more valuable in relief. He threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings to gain the win against Boston on Wednesday night.
Ortiz, in the final year of a three-year contract that pays him $3.1 million this season and includes a $5.5-million team option for 2005, is getting impatient.
"I'm throwing the ball well, I want the opportunity to go back into the rotation," Ortiz said. "If not, I want to go somewhere else because I'm a starting pitcher. I know I'm good. Mike said if I go to the bullpen and do well, I'd be back in the rotation. I'm doing exactly what they wanted."
General Manager Bill Stoneman, who spoke this week with Roache, declined to respond to Roache's preferential treatment charge.
"Whatever we talked about is between him and me, and if he wants to talk publicly, that's not going to cause me to want to talk publicly," Stoneman said. "This is a team game, we have a good team, and a good team atmosphere. To start making individual concerns public at this point in time really doesn't serve anyone's purpose."