Told last week that the fourth spot in the Angels' rotation was his, Joe Grahe enjoyed his best outing of the spring Monday, holding the San Diego Padres hitless for 5 1/3 innings and pitching seven strong innings in a 3-0 defeat at Palm Springs.

Grahe gave up two runs and four hits, inducing the Padres to ground out or pop up without having to throw many pitches.

"I know I'm throwing the ball well when guys are first-pitch hacking," he said. "They don't want to get deep into the count. When I get the movement I want on my fastball, I can get away with a first-pitch fastball. If you work quick, you have less time to worry about making mistake pitches."

Monday's game marked the 18th consecutive time opponents have scored first, and the Angels proved unable to overcome that for the 11th time. They produced six singles and one extra-base hit, a two-out double by Junior Felix in the eighth inning, off three Padre pitchers.

Catcher John Orton, who has a sore shoulder, probably will open the season on the disabled list. He is throwing lightly and hitting at the Angels' minor league camp in Mesa, Ariz., but Manager Buck Rodgers said the results at the plate have been "just so-so."

Rodgers also said he hasn't picked his opening-day catcher, adding that the decision depends on Lance Parrish's performances in the remaining spring games. Parrish is hitting .121.

The club's decision to suspend negotiations on a long-term contract for Jim Abbott was made against the urging of Whitey Herzog, senior vice president.

"My recommendation was to get all of our keepers signed, and he's a keeper," Herzog said. "My theory is the longer you wait, the more it will cost, and it sure will cost a lot more to sign him later. . . . I'm sure the numbers on Abbott will be $8 million, $9 million higher than they were in January, but ownership has the right to make decisions on the financial parts."

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