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Ortiz Redeems Himself After Shaky Beginning

Times Staff Writer

There was the first inning, in which Ramon Ortiz gave up a solo home run to Hank Blalock and a grand slam to Kevin Mench, and there was the next 5 2/3 innings, in which the Angel right-hander gave up no runs and four hits and escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam by inducing a double-play grounder in the sixth.

Luckily for Ortiz, Manager Mike Scioscia, who will announce the five-man rotation today, said he would put more weight on the final 5 2/3 innings when evaluating Ortiz’s performance in the Angels’ 15-6 exhibition victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.

“Any time you have an outing where you bounce back like that, it’s a positive,” Scioscia said. “Even with the first inning, that was a good outing. There were a couple of miscues behind him, and he was able to stay in the game and make pitches. That’s an important part of being successful.”

The first three rotation spots are set with Bartolo Colon, Jarrod Washburn and Kelvim Escobar, and John Lackey appears to have the fourth spot sewn up despite his shaky spring (0-2, 9.53 earned-run average).

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The final spot will come down to Ortiz, who has given up 13 earned runs and 21 hits in 13 2/3 innings of his last three spring starts, and Aaron Sele, who has a 3.21 ERA in four spring games and has drawn trade interest from the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians.

Scioscia said Tuesday that, barring a trade, the odd man out of the rotation would go to the bullpen. Though one pitcher’s ego probably will be ruffled, the decision will provide insurance in case another starting pitcher is injured.

“These are arms you want to keep,” Scioscia said. “Without Brendan [Donnelly, the injured set-up man], some bullpen roles are changing, but even if Donnelly was here, the way these [starters] are throwing the ball, you would want to keep every good arm you have for that depth.”

Just like Ortiz, the Angel offense was not fazed by a 5-0 deficit in the first. The Angels got to left-hander Glendon Rusch for eight runs and nine hits in the second, an inning highlighted by Vladimir Guerrero’s three-run double and home runs by Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus.

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Yoshitaka Mizuo, the veteran reliever who signed with the Angels on Monday, made a good first impression Tuesday when the left-hander threw a 2 1/3-inning simulated game, giving up two hits, striking out one and walking one during a 29-pitch outing.

Mizuo, a 35-year-old who played 12 years in Japan, will open the season at triple-A Salt Lake, but he is expected to be called up by the Angels -- who don’t have a left-hander in their bullpen -- some time in April.

“He has to get his command down, but once he does, he will provide some depth,” Scioscia said.

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“He has a good delivery, nice arm action, and the ball comes out of his hand very well. He needs some game experience to get his command, so that will take some work.”

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Guerrero, the Angels’ new right fielder, was rated baseball’s fourth-best player, and Anderson, the Angel center fielder, was rated the 37th-best player in a new poll of 17 major league executives conducted by the Sporting News. New York Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez was rated the top player, San Francisco left fielder Barry Bonds was second, and St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols was third.


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