ANGELS : Springer Probably to Be Sent Down

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Angels, after a two-hour personnel meeting Saturday, decided that Russ Springer probably will open the season at triple-A Vancouver rather than in the Angel bullpen.

Although no official decision has been reached on Springer, who was acquired in the Jim Abbott trade, Angel executive Whitey Herzog said Springer will remain a starter.

"We've decided that he's going to start somewhere," Herzog said before the Angels' 8-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics. "We don't want him pitching out of the bullpen. It's that simple."

Despite possible further criticism of the Abbott trade if Springer and struggling reliever Jerry Nielsen are sent to the minors, Herzog said that such criticism will not be a consideration.

"I'm going to tell Buck, 'If you have to send them out, send them out. It doesn't make any difference to me,' " Herzog said.

"To be honest, the way they've pitched so far, they don't deserve to be on the team."

The Angels, who received an encouraging medical report on Julio Valera, are expected to go with a starting rotation of Mark Langston, Chuck Finley, Valera, Scott Sanderson and John Farrell.

Valera, who had not pitched since March 20 because of a tender elbow, was given clearance Saturday by Dr. Lewis Yocum to resume pitching. He played soft-toss in the outfield, and threw about 30 pain-free pitches off the mound.

"Everything's fine," Valera said. "I'm ready to go."

Valera will take today off, and be tested during a workout Monday.

Springer is scheduled to make two more spring-training starts, including today against the Colorado Rockies in a split-squad game. He has a 0-1 spring record and 9.24 earned-run average. He has yielded a team-high .362 batting average, allowing 28 batters to reach base in 12 2/3 innings.

Highly touted reliever Troy Percival and infielder Rod Correia were sent to the Angels' minor league camp, ensuring that Torey Lovullo will make the team as the utility infielder.

Percival will open the season at triple-A Vancouver but vows that his stay will be short.

"If I go out and pitch well," said Percival, who struggled with his control and had a 21.00 ERA, "I'll be back in two months, or maybe even a month. I definitely expect to be back.

"I think the expectations a lot of people had of me were unrealistic, considering I had eight weeks of double-A ball. I know I'm good enough to pitch here, but the way I was pitching wasn't good enough to pitch A-ball.

"I think everybody was expecting me to throw 97 m.p.h., and I tried to do that. I put too much pressure on myself, but that was my fault, and nobody else's."

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