Sometimes those supposedly meaningless spring training statistics do provide an indication of what's to come.
Matt Palmer compiled a 12.10 earned-run average in Cactus League play, and there were stretches Friday night when the Angels right-hander appeared in need of further work in extended spring training.
The Oakland Athletics rocked Palmer for seven runs on the way to a 10-4 victory at Angel Stadium, pinning an unsightly loss on a pitcher who had been one of the Angels' most pleasant surprises of 2009.
After going 9-1 with a 4.66 ERA in 13 starts last season, Palmer has a 9.00 ERA as a starter in 2010. That figure would have reached double digits had two of the runs he gave up in five-plus innings not been unearned.
Palmer had plenty of accomplices in the Angels' fourth consecutive loss. The Angels committed three errors, their bullpen imploded for a second consecutive game and their offense continued to sag as they fell to 1-4 for the first time since 1992.
"We played four crappy games in every aspect," said an unusually irritated Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, whose team has already matched its longest losing streak from last season. "We could have played a triple-A team these last couple of nights and lost."
Palmer's struggles were easily the most disconcerting development. He needed 25 pitches just to get out of a three-run first inning that featured run-scoring hits by Daric Barton and Kurt Suzuki.
The Angels appeared to have a play at the plate on Barton when he tried to score from second base on Kevin Kouzmanoff's single through the left side of the infield. Left fielder Juan Rivera's throw home beat Barton, but the ball bounced past catcher Jeff Mathis on an in-between hop and Rivera was charged with an error.
An inning later, Torii Hunter contributed to the A's fourth run when he failed to prevent Rajai Davis from turning a two-out single up the middle into a double. Davis scored when Barton followed with a double.
Hideki Matsui homered on the first pitch he saw in the second inning from Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez (1-0), who gave up two runs in six innings. Maicer Izturis, playing shortstop so that Erick Aybar could take a day off, drove in the Angels' second run with a fifth-inning single and Rivera added a solo homer in the ninth.
Any chances of a late-inning comeback fizzled in the seventh when Angels reliever Jason Bulger yielded a three-run homer to Cliff Pennington. After opening the season with 11 consecutive scoreless innings, Angels relievers have given up 10 runs in their last six innings.
"We're struggling," Palmer said. "We're not putting up runs and the starting pitchers are not going 7-8 innings like last year."
Palmer (0-1) had made only three appearances in the major leagues before last season, when injuries to starters and the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart created a prolonged opportunity.
Friday marked the one-year anniversary of Adenhart's death, and it could been Palmer's last start with the Angels for a while. He could be demoted to triple-A Salt Lake or folded into the bullpen if Scott Kazmir rejoins the rotation as expected Thursday against the New York Yankees.