Of all the horrendous pitching performances Sunday--and there were plenty in the Angels’ 18-2 exhibition loss to the San Diego Padres in Tempe Diablo Stadium--an ineffective one-third-of-an-inning stint by reliever Mike James concerned Manager Marcel Lachemann the most.
With closer Lee Smith’s status uncertain because of off-season knee surgery and reliever Bryan Harvey unable to start the season, the Angels are counting on James to make the transition from middle reliever to possible set-up man for Troy Percival.
But James has been inconsistent this spring, allowing 12 hits and six earned runs in seven innings for a 7.71 earned run average.
The right-hander relieved starter Chuck Finley in the fifth inning with two outs and a runner on first and gave up a single to Rico Rossy and a two-run double to Brian Johnson.
“I’m very disappointed in James--he’s gonna have to kick it up a gear,” Lachemann said. “He has a good sinker but has gotten a lot of balls up, and a lot of his pitches have been flat. We have alternatives, but he’s an important part of the bullpen; he’s got to get things ironed out.”
Smith took a significant step in his recovery Sunday, throwing 10 minutes of batting practice and showing virtually no ill effects from a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee.
If he can handle defensive drills today, Smith could pitch as early as Wednesday, Lachemann said.
Lachemann seems more concerned with Smith’s mobility than his pitching ability. But, as Smith said, “I’ve never been too fleet of foot, so there may not be much of a difference [in my fielding].”
If Smith isn’t ready to open the season, he said he would prefer to remain in Arizona for extended spring training rather than accept a minor league rehabilitation assignment. “That A-ball stuff and I don’t go together very well,” Smith said.
Reserve infielder Damion Easley, who hasn’t played the field because of a shoulder injury, was sent to the team’s minor league camp in Mesa on Sunday so he could get more at-bats as a designated hitter in exhibition games.