With opening day drawing closer, spring training has entered that strange phase where bad is good and failure is actually success.
Consider C.J. Wilson's outing for the Angels in Sunday's 3-2 win over San Francisco. The left-hander went 4 1/3 innings, struggled with his control and grooved a pair of pitches that the Giants' Matt Duffy and Justin Maxwell hit out for solo home runs.
"This was definitely the worst one," Wilson said when asked to rank his spring performances.
But given the time of the year, that actually makes it one of his best. Because the focus now is on preparation, not results.
"Having to deal with adversity, guys on base, stuff like that, I think it's good," said Wilson, who walked four. "It's more realistic."
Maybe the best stat of the day for Wilson was 64, the number of pitches he threw. Because after missing one Cactus League start because of a sore left knee and another because of illness, Wilson's workload had fallen behind the rest of the Angels rotation. But Sunday's effort leaves him in line to throw about 80 pitches his next time out, about where the Angels want him to be at this point in the spring.
"Stuff-wise he looked all right," pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "He threw some really good changeups. We'll go the next step with him, pitching [with] his regular rest next time around."
Wilson threw nearly two dozen bullpen sessions during the winter and came to camp ahead of where he normally is at the start of spring training. So missing two turns in the rotation and having to pitch in simulated games hasn't really slowed down his physical progress. But mentally and mechanically he's still trying to catch up.
He still needs to practice pitching out of the stretch, for example, something he got to do Sunday since he set the side down in order just once.
"I have a lot to work on in two days in my bullpen, I guess," said Wilson, who admitted he had trouble making adjustments on the mound Sunday.
"I'd really like to be able to throw a breaking ball when I'm behind in the count for strikes. That's the next evolution of where I'm at, develop-wise, for the spring."
Joyce on the mend
Outfielder Matt Joyce, who hasn't played in a week, is expected to test his tender right hamstring by running the bases Monday and could be back in the lineup by the middle of the week.
Joyce, 30, acquired in a winter trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, has dealt with tightness in his right quadriceps and right side, one reason he has had just 16 Cactus League at-bats. But with spring training winding down, Joyce said Sunday he wasn't worried about being ready by opening day.
"For me, it's more so about the teammates, it's being out there with the guys," said Joyce, who has been hitting in the cages and in minor league games. "That's the only thing that I really get bothered with. I hate seeing the guys go out there and kind of look at me like 'you're not playing again today?'"
Joyce, a left-handed hitter, was expected to get most of his at-bats this season as a designated hitter. But the uncertain status of Josh Hamilton, who underwent shoulder surgery and also faces a drug suspension, now puts him in a platoon situation with right-handed-swinging Collin Cowgill in left field. Which is fine with Joyce.
"It's weird to just go out there and hit," said Joyce, who played 94 games in the outfield and 36 as a DH last year. "I've always really taken a lot of pride in playing good defense and being part of the game on both sides of the ball."