Angels pitcher Matt Palmer delivers a pitch against the Oakland Athletics… (Jake Roth / US Presswire )
Reporting from Phoenix
Scott Kazmir has done little to warrant a rotation spot, but Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Friday morning that the struggling left-hander, who has a 7.79 earned-run average, 23 hits allowed, 12 walks and 10 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings, will open the season in the rotation.
Then another option emerged Friday afternoon. Matt Palmer, slowed this month by bronchitis, had his best outing of the spring, allowing one run and four hits in six innings of the Angels' 10-3 exhibition victory over the Oakland Athletics.
Palmer was the journeyman right-hander who helped solidify the Angels rotation in the wake of Nick Adenhart's death, going 11-2 with a 3.93 ERA in 2009.
But a shoulder sprain sidelined him for almost three months of 2010, and he threw more innings at triple-A Salt Lake (46 1/3) than he did for the Angels (33 2/3).
Palmer, who had a 7.62 ERA in 13 spring innings before Friday, has spent most of March trying to regain his strength, but he looked sound against the A's, giving up only an Andy LaRoche homer in the fifth. Palmer struck out Ryan Sweeney with two on to end the inning.
"It only helps our depth when there's competition, and sure, there's competition," Scioscia said. "Matt had better command of his four-seam fastball and two-seam fastball, and he threw strikes. His stuff is legitimate. He just needs to get it into good zones."
The Angels have too much invested in Kazmir to give up on him this soon. They traded three players, including promising young infielder Sean Rodriguez, to Tampa Bay for Kazmir in 2009, and they owe him $14.5 million this season.
But Kazmir, who went 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA last season, won't have months to right himself.
Once left-hander Scott Downs (broken left big toe) returns to the bullpen in late-April, the Angels will have the option of moving left-handed reliever Hisanori Takahashi, who started 12 games for the New York Mets last season, to the rotation.
The Angels also were reportedly one of eight teams that scouted Doug Davis' throwing session in Arizona on Thursday. The 35-year-old lefty had a 7.51 ERA in eight starts for Milwaukee last season.
"He's tried a lot of things, but there hasn't been one simple adjustment he's been able to make that has brought consistency," Scioscia said of Kazmir. "We need it. He needs it. We're past the point of development. We need him to pitch the way he's capable of pitching."
Scioscia had an interesting response Friday when asked whether Kazmir had earned a rotation spot.
"Earned?" Scioscia said. "Define 'earned.'"
The manager was then asked whether Kazmir had pitched well enough to justify a rotation spot.
"Kaz has not pitched at a level we feel he can pitch to," Scioscia said. "There's some mild disappointment in that, but we think the upside is still there. We want to see where this goes in a regular-season game, see if he can put things together.
"Nobody is trying harder than Kaz. Though he's made strides, he's not where he can be and where we need him to be."
Outfielders Torii Hunter (tight right quadriceps) and Vernon Wells (tight left hamstring) will not play again until Monday night's exhibition game in Dodger Stadium. … Reserve outfielder Reggie Willits (left calf strain) ran the bases aggressively and served as designated hitter in a minor league game Friday. He could be ready for full baseball activity this weekend.