Seeking fifth spot, Williams to start Monday
Veteran righty had been sidelined by left hamstring strain
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Barring a setback, Jerome Williams' first appearance in a Cactus League game will come Monday against the Rockies. And that's relevant with regard to the Angels' fifth-starter competition for a couple of reasons.
1. That appearance, manager Mike Scioscia confirmed Thursday, will be a start, not a relief appearance behind the young Garrett Richards, who has been getting a leg up on nailing down the final rotation spot while Williams has been sidelined by a left hamstring strain for nearly three weeks.
2. Starting that game means Williams would be lined up to take the ball four times before the Angels need a starting pitcher for the first time on April 15 -- and four is the minimum number of outings Scioscia previously said Williams needed in order to be ready.
So, the timeline seems to be working in Williams' favor right now.
But the journeyman right-hander can't afford any more hiccups.
"It's out there for him if he progresses at the pace he can," Scioscia said of the No. 5 spot in his rotation. "He's probably going to get to three [innings] and 45 [pitches] on Monday because he's ready for it. We'll see."
Williams threw a 60-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday -- his first since sustaining the injury during a rundown drill on March 2 -- and was slated to throw another one Thursday in anticipation for his first start.
As he said Thursday morning, and has continued to stress throughout the spring, "My arm isn't the problem." After going 4-0 with a 3.68 ERA down the stretch last year, Williams had a stint in the Venezuelan winter league and was throwing bullpens at the Tempe Diablo Stadium complex as early as January.
Now, he says, his left leg feels equally healthy and his sights are set on making that April 15 start at Yankee Stadium -- because it would mean the former first-rounder opens up a season in the Majors for the first time since 2007, and because of what that would signify.
"It would show that I never really gave up," Williams said. "Some guys would give up. I never gave up and stuck with it."
Weaver not bothered by rough outing
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels ace and likely Opening Day starter Jered Weaver was roughed up by the Royals on Thursday, giving up four runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.
But Weaver is one of baseball's best pitchers and has very little to prove in Spring Training.
"That's going to happen in spring," said Weaver, who also struck out four and walked one. "These numbers don't show up in the back of a baseball card."
Weaver, who has a 5.84 ERA in 12 1/3 innings, spent most of Thursday's game working on a fastball command that has been absent for him this spring. In his next start, he'll begin integrating some offspeed pitches.
"The results weren't there," Weaver said, "but it was a step in the right direction."
Amarista's determination, patience paying off
TEMPE, Ariz. -- At the age of 16, Angels Minor League utility man Alexi Amarista decided he was done with baseball.
He was so tired of scouts telling him he had all the tools but was too short to play, so -- after being turned down again and again -- Amarista began playing amateur softball in his native Venezuela, just for recreation.
"It was always the same thing," Amarista, generously listed at 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, said in Spanish. "I just started thinking, 'If everyone's telling me the same thing, what am I supposed to do?' So I just stepped away."
Four months into his new phase, though, Amarista finally caught a break via a phone call from Angels scout Denny Suarez, who expressed a desire to give Amarista a tryout regardless of whatever vertical shortcomings he possessed.
Ever since then, Amarista -- now a do-everything sparkplug who has shined for the Angels this spring -- has never looked back.
"It was a process to get here with this height," Amarista said. "There were a lot of scouts that felt like I had the skills, but just not the height. But Anaheim gave me a chance, and thankfully I had some good years [in the Minors] and I'm here now."
Since signing out of Venezuela in 2007, Amarista has hit .314 with a .373 on-base percentage while playing five different positions -- shortstop, second base and all three outfield spots -- in five seasons in the Minors. Last year, Amarista got his first big league call-up to fill in for an injured Maicer Izturis, a utility infielder who's a free agent after this season who Amarista may one day replace on a more consistent basis.
This spring, his third at Angels camp, Amarista has batted .355 (11-for-31) with two homers and eight RBIs.
"I have to wait for my chance and do the job," said Amarista, who batted .154 in 23 Major League games last year and will probably start the season in Triple-A. "Just leave everything that happened in the past in the past and just take advantage of any opportunities the team would give me."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.