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James Remains a Major Concern

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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.


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