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Bittner, Dunn Show Promise

Times Staff Writer

The Angels won’t be able to render a final judgment for years on the July trade that sent Scott Schoeneweis to the Chicago White Sox for since-departed Gary Glover and pitching prospects Tim Bittner and Scott Dunn, but the early returns are encouraging.

Bittner was assigned to minor league camp Monday after going 1-0 this spring with a 7.50 earned-run average in only six innings, yet the left-hander had a fantastic finish last season at Class A Rancho Cucamonga and projects as an impact starter once he reaches the majors.

Dunn, more of a power pitcher eventually expected to contribute out of the bullpen, has shown flashes of potential this spring by striking out seven and walking none in 4 1/3 innings.

“They both look like they’ve got pretty good futures,” General Manager Bill Stoneman said. “We were really happy when we were able to get both of them included in that deal.”

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Dunn, 25, is about a year further along in his development than Bittner, who was 5-0 last season with a 0.28 ERA for the Quakes in six starts.

The 23-year-old Bittner, whose arsenal includes a fastball, slider and changeup, struck out 28 and walked 14 in 32 2/3 innings and is expected to open the season at double-A Arkansas.

“He pitched as well at Rancho as you can, period,” Stoneman said.

Dunn pitched five shutout innings with Arkansas last season before being promoted to triple-A Salt Lake, where he was 0-0 with an 11.54 ERA in six games. He had spent most of the season with the double-A Birmingham Barons, for whom he was 9-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 47 games. He struck out 82 and walked 26 in 61 2/3 innings.

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Dunn, who throws a fastball, curveball and changeup, said he was working on keeping his pitches in the lower portion of the strike zone.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to get up in the zone and that leads to bad things, so my main focus is trying to throw strikes,” said Dunn, expected to return this season to Salt Lake.

Neither Schoeneweis nor Glover had particularly memorable second halves last season after switching teams.

Schoeneweis was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 26 innings, and Glover, now with the Chicago Cubs, was 1-0 with a 5.00 ERA in 27 innings.

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A thinner Jose Molina and a rejuvenated Josh Paul, battling for the backup catcher spot, have impressed Manager Mike Scioscia in the absence of two-time Gold Glove award winner Bengie Molina, who has sat out the last 10 days because of soreness in his lower body.

Scioscia said Jose Molina has played “probably the best baseball in his life” after losing about 20 pounds in the off-season. Molina, who singled and walked twice Monday during the Angels’ 2-1 loss to the San Diego Padres at Peoria Stadium, is hitting .428 this spring with two home runs and two runs batted in.

Paul, a backup catcher with the Chicago White Sox from 1999-2003, has excelled this spring with the Angels, hitting .400 and displaying solid defensive skills in eight games.

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Bengie Molina has resumed catching drills and is expected to be back in the lineup in a couple of days.

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John Lackey needed only 46 pitches to complete five scoreless innings against the Padres and said he has built on the strides he made at the end of last season.... Lackey and Bobby Jenks had combined on a three-hit shutout through eight innings before Jake Woods surrendered the tying and go-ahead runs in the ninth.... Jose Guillen sat out a second consecutive game because of a strained rib cage muscle but is expected to return today.... Tim Salmon sat out his second game in three days because of cold symptoms.... The Angels assigned 10 players to minor league camp: pitchers Eric Cyr, Rich Fischer, Woods and Bittner; catchers Jared Abruzzo and Ryan Budde; infielders Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo; and outfielders Tommy Murphy and Nick Gorneault.


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