Three weeks ago, Angel Manager Terry Collins was standing in the outfield during batting practice, trying to persuade right-hander Jason Dickson that his demotion to the bullpen should not be viewed as, well, a demotion.
Collins' managerial spin: This is an opportunity to take a step back, regain your aggressive approach and concentrate on the things you did so well while earning a spot on the All-Star team as a rookie last year.
A couple of strong relief outings and Jack McDowell's aching right elbow provided Dickson with the chance to take the mound immediately after the national anthem again and he made the most of his first start since May 16, giving up five hits in 7 1/3 innings of the Angels' 5-0 victory over Colorado in front of 39,621 at Edison Field Friday night.
Cecil Fielder, who hit two bases-empty homers that sailed a combined total of 824 feet, led an Angel offense that produced baserunners in every inning except the first two. But Dickson's return to form was more than enough to celebrate for a team that has two of its starters on the disabled list.
"I wasn't happy about going to the bullpen, but it did help me get back to the basics," Dickson said. "The bullpen makes you pitch with your fastball first and that definitely helped me tonight. I went back to being aggressive and not trying to make the perfect pitch."
Dickson was certainly challenging the Colorado batters Friday night. He did not walk a batter until the fourth inning and the Rockies got some pitches they could drive. Vinny Castilla, who has 22 homers and has homered five times in the last eight games, sent Damon Mashore crashing into the right-field wall in his first two at-bats and Ellis Burks hit a similar warning-track rocket in the fourth.
But Dickson kept dodging the bullets. Dave Hollins saved a run in the first inning with a diving stab of Dante Bichette's shot down the third-base line. Dickson stranded Mike Lansing, who had reached third with one out on a single, stolen base and a groundout in the third. And he probably would pitched into the ninth inning if Curtis Goodwin's double-play ball in the eighth had not bounced crazily off the mound and spun away from shortstop Gary DiSarcina.
"That was the guy we saw a whole lot of last year," Collins said. "He used all his pitches, moved it around and went after guys. I think the time in the bullpen relieved some of the pressure on him, let him relax a little bit and regain the feel for what he did so well last year."
After Neifi Perez walked and Goodwin reached on DiSarcina's error, Dickson struck out Dante Bichette before giving way to left-hander Greg Cadaret, who struck out 1997 National League most-valuable-player Larry Walker. Collins then summoned right-hander Rich DeLucia to pitch to Castilla.
Craig Shipley, who got a start in left field because Darin Erstad had the night off, had just moved to third base after Erstad pinch-hit for Dave Hollins. Shipley immediately got a chance to show his defensive prowess as an infielder, turning Castilla's shot toward the hole into an inning-ending force play.
Colorado starter Bobby Jones didn't have much trouble with the top of the Angel lineup--Justin Baughman, Hollins, Jim Edmonds and Tim Salmon did not get a hit off him--but the second half of the order caused problems. Shipley and DiSarcina both doubled to left in the third. Shipley scored on DiSarcina's hit and DiSarcina scored on a wild pitch after stealing third.
Fielder's first homer gave the Angels a 3-0 lead in the sixth and they added a run in the seventh when Mashore walked, took second when DiSarcina beat out a chopper to second and scored on Baughman's double to left-center.
Fielder's monster homer in the eighth--a 435-foot bomb into the fake rock formation in center--provided the Angels' final margin of victory.