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Angels' relievers look sharp in opening victory

Scot Shields and Jose Arredondo retire the side in order in a 12-3 win over the White Sox. Mike Napoli and Hank Conger spark offense.

February 26, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

TEMPE, ARIZ. — This was unlike many of Scot Shields' spring training debuts, a clean one-two-three inning that was among the highlights of the Angels' 12-3 Cactus League-opening victory over the Chicago White Sox Wednesday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

"You're used to seeing two or three balls go back to the screen, huh?" Shields said. "I felt good."

Shields doesn't normally pick up a baseball until spring training begins, but the veteran right-hander began playing catch a month before this camp in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.

"It got me ready to go 100% by the time I got here," said Shields, who will leave the Angels on Sunday to join the Team USA camp. "That's kind of where I need to be, in mid-season form pretty quick."

Shields pitched for the U.S. in the first WBC in 2006, giving up no runs and one hit in 3 1/3 innings. This spring, he will be part of a strong U.S. relief corps that includes closers Joe Nathan, Brad Ziegler, Brian Fuentes, B.J. Ryan and Jonathan Broxton.

"Take a look at the bullpen," Shields said. "I'm like, how am I going to get any work?"

Another WBC-bound reliever, Dominican right-hander Jose Arredondo, also looked sharp Wednesday, striking out two of three in a scoreless fifth.

"They've been aggressive in all their workouts," Manager Mike Scioscia said of Shields and Arredondo. "It's where they need to be, and they're there. Their velocity was good, their motions looked smooth, and they threw some good off-speed pitches."

The Angels, who had 12 hits, took a 3-2 lead in the third on a run-scoring double by Hainley Statia and Mike Napoli's two-run double to left-center.

Peter Bourjos' RBI groundout and Hank Conger's RBI single scored two runs in the seventh, and Conger, the 2006 first-round pick, keyed a four-run eighth with a two-run single.

"It was a good day in the batter's box," Scioscia said. "We were all pleasantly surprised at the quality of at-bats for a first spring training game."

Injury updates

Right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, recovering from October surgery on his right knee, has begun what Scioscia calls a "controlled running program," to go with his agility drills and pool work.

He has been throwing and taking batting practice daily -- he hit on the field for the first time in a week Wednesday -- and is on course to begin exhibition play in mid-March.

"It's really baby steps," Scioscia said. "He should have no problem getting ready for the season."

Outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., who had surgery on his left knee in October, is participating in full workouts with no limitations and hopes to play in the team's intrasquad game Tuesday. Barring a setback, he should be ready for the season opener.

Pitcher Jered Weaver, slowed by shoulder tightness, is scheduled to throw off a mound today for the first time this spring.

Absentee pitcher

Fuentes remained in Merced on Wednesday to tend to a family matter, and Scioscia was unsure when the veteran left-hander would return to camp.

Fuentes is scheduled to join the U.S. WBC team this weekend, but his participation in the event could be in jeopardy.

"Right now, he plans on pitching," Scioscia said, "but certainly, if this becomes prolonged, I'm sure some other things might come into the decision-making."

Passing grade

Bobby Abreu, making the transition from right field to left, got an early test, catching two fly balls in the first. Though both plays were routine, the conditions -- the sun is directly in the left fielder's eyes -- made them challenging.

"Believe me, center field and left field here are extremely difficult to play," Scioscia said. "It's a high sky, there's usually a little wind, and the ball carries. It's tough to pick up the flight of the ball with that glare."


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