PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Through what was a painstakingly long 24 days -- as he watched Garrett Richards compile starts, as the fifth-starter spot continued to slip by and as the sun began to set on Cactus League play -- Jerome Williams remained positive and upbeat. His arm, he'd say, was in good enough shape to make up for the time he was losing with a hamstring injury.
On Monday afternoon, in a back field at the Athletics' Minor League facility, Williams was finally able to prove that.
While making his spring debut in a Triple-A exhibition game, the 30-year-old right-hander hurled three shutout innings, giving up only a single and a walk, striking out four, shattering a couple bats and not allowing any hard-hit balls.
Angels assistant general manager Scott Servais said Williams, who had been out since March 2 with a left hamstring strain, is "probably a little bit farther ahead than I thought he would be."
"He's healthy, and that's the main thing," Servais said after watching Williams' outing. "Arm's fine, stuff's fine. He looked a lot better than I anticipated, especially with this being his first outing. He looks good. Very good."
And with that, the fifth-starter competition can truly begin.
Back at Tempe Diablo Stadium, Richards was nowhere near as sharp as he had been, giving up six runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings against the Rockies. It was a stat line that wasn't indicative of the performance, manager Mike Scioscia cautioned, and Richards -- who has a 3.73 ERA in 19 1/3 innings this spring, if you count his Minor League outing -- didn't particularly consider it a step back.
"I'm happy with my performance," Richards said. "I worked the ball in and out, threw the ball down in the zone and worked in all my pitches for strikes."
Williams also worked in all his pitches -- the fastball, two-seamer, cutter, curveball and changeup -- in a 41-pitch debut, which saw him strike out the side in the second inning and use only nine pitches to get through the third.
Sure, it came against Triple-A hitters. And, yes, Williams still needs to get stretched out and successfully make three more starts before the Angels can deem him their fifth starter on April 15 at Yankee Stadium.
But his leg wasn't an issue and his arm, as expected, was in shape.
"I am on track. It is a big relief for me," Williams said. "I'm happy that I'm back where, hopefully, I need to be, moving forward. Hopefully I'll be there at Yankee Stadium."
Trevor Bell and Brad Mills have also been mentioned for the fifth spot, but they seem like very unlikely candidates at this point. With Richards only 23 and without any Triple-A experience, and Williams out of options, the fifth-starter spot could just be a matter of Williams proving he's healthy.
Williams, whose next start will come in another Minor League game on Saturday, threw 170 1/3 innings in 2011 if you combine stints in independent ball, Triple-A and the Majors, then pitched in winter ball and began throwing bullpen sessions at the Angels' complex as early as January.
So, he wasn't particularly surprised that the ball looked so crisp coming out of his hand.
"I had that feel since winter ball," he said. "I still have the feel for it. Just locating is a key for me right now, keeping the ball down, especially with every pitch that I've got."
Angels send down infield prospect Romine
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels optioned infielder Andrew Romine to Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday, narrowing their list of potential candidates for the final bench spot to open the season.
Romine was in the mix to be on the big league roster in April, with manager Mike Scioscia likely to go with 14 position players until he needs a fifth starter on April 15. That list is down to corner infielder Jorge Cantu, outfielder Ryan Langerhans and the versatile Alexi Amarista -- unless the Angels go the unlikely route and carry three catchers.
Romine, who's primarily a shortstop but also has experience at third and second base, hit .190 (4-for-21) in 12 Cactus League games this spring. The 26-year-old switch-hitter has played 15 games with the Angels the last two years and hit .281 with four homers and 23 stolen bases in 103 games for the Salt Lake Bees last year.
"It's a not huge surprise," Romine said of being sent down. "Maicer Izturis is healthy, and they have [Kendrys] Morales and [Mark] Trumbo and [Albert] Pujols obviously in the infield, so we've got a lot of infielders that are back. I guess I'm just kind of ready to get down there, get some more at-bats and get ready for the season, and hopefully do what I can to get called back up here."
The Angels' spring roster, which began with 61 players, is down to 37.
Trout, Cassevah cleared to resume throwing
TEMPE, Ariz. -- A Sunday visit with the Angels' team orthopedist, Dr. Lewis Yocum, cleared reliever Bobby Cassevah and young outfielder Mike Trout to resume throwing.
Trout (shoulder tendinitis) threw for the first time on Monday morning and was scheduled to start as the designated hitter in a Minor League game, but could still be about two weeks away from appearing in his first spring game as an outfielder.
Cassevah (slight labrum tear) was slated for a 30-minute bullpen session, his first since a setback early last week caused him to temporarily shut it down. The 26-year-old right-hander, who posted a 2.72 ERA in 30 relief appearances for the Angels last year, plans to get in a simulated game in a few days and still hopes to avoid starting the season on the disabled list.
"I feel good," Cassevah said. "Those few days off, I think, really helped me."
Another reliever, right-hander Michael Kohn, is experiencing what manager Mike Scioscia called tenderness in his forearm and will be shut down for a couple of days. Kohn has hurled five scoreless Cactus League innings so far.
After making a couple of dazzling plays in the first inning, Angels shortstop Erick Aybar came out of Monday's game for the top of the fourth because of what manager Mike Scioscia described as a bent thumbnail. Scioscia called it "more of a nuisance than anything," and expects Aybar to play Tuesday against the Giants.
Kendrys Morales continued his hot spring against the Rockies, with three singles in four at-bats to make him 8-for-13 with a home run in Cactus League play. All three of those hits came from the right side -- a side that would be toughest on the switch-hitting Morales' recovering left ankle and a side he doesn't get to hit from as often. Morales will play in a Minor League game Tuesday while the Angels face the Giants in Scottsdale.
Jordan Walden pitched a perfect ninth inning in the Angels' 6-2 loss, and has given up just one hit in two outings since surrendering four runs against the Royals in one-third of an inning last week.
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.