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Reliever Prinz Is Acquired in Trade

Times Staff Writer

That competition between right-hander Chris Bootcheck and left-hander Jake Woods for the sixth Angel bullpen spot will have no winner.

Tuesday, the Angels traded reserve catcher Wil Nieves to the New York Yankees for reliever Bret Prinz, a hard-throwing right-hander whose experience makes him a prohibitive favorite to edge out Bootcheck and Woods.

“We don’t name our team until we name our team, but he has a great shot,” General Manager Bill Stoneman said of Prinz, who in 2001 was considered Arizona’s closer of the future. “He’s been a major league pitcher for a while. I see him as part of the bullpen.”

Prinz, who has a lively 95-mph fastball and slider, was expendable because he was out of minor league options and had virtually no chance of making a Yankee staff that has 12 pitchers on major league contracts. The Yankees acquired Prinz on July 29, 2003, as part of the deal that sent outfielder Raul Mondesi to Arizona.

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Prinz, 27, spent last season shuttling between triple-A Columbus and New York, going 1-0 with a 5.08 earned-run average in 26 games for the Yankees. He missed much of 2003 because of a groin injury. In his first big league season, Prinz went 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA and nine saves in 46 games for the Diamondbacks in 2001.

“He has a terrific arm,” Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Bill saw a chance to help our organizational depth and to allow two young guys to develop in triple A.”

Woods went 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA in 12 1/3 spring innings, but he has never pitched in the big leagues and has been a starter for four minor league seasons.

Bootcheck has a 3.38 ERA in 13 1/3 spring innings after giving up two runs and four hits, including Emil Brown’s two-run homer, in Tuesday’s 10-9 exhibition loss to the Kansas City Royals. He has a month of big league experience but, like Woods, has been a starter for four minor league seasons.

In his last spring outing, against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, Prinz’s fastball hit 96 mph, and he struck out the side. With the Angels carrying three catchers -- Bengie Molina, Jose Molina and Josh Paul -- and top prospect Jeff Mathis slotted at triple-A Salt Lake, the 27-year-old Nieves was expendable. *

Dallas McPherson, appearing in a big league exhibition for the first time since March 3, had a triple, a double and two runs batted in as the Angel designated hitter, but it’s still doubtful the third baseman will recover from a herniated disk in time to start Tuesday’s season opener.

“It’s good to see him drive the ball, but he needs at-bats, he needs to build up stamina, and he needs to work things out defensively,” Scioscia said. “He needs playing time, and I don’t know if we can get him enough to start the season.”

Paul Byrd was in line to pitch, but with the Angel right-hander scheduled to start the fourth game of the regular season against the Royals on April 8, Scioscia had Byrd pitch in a triple-A game against Milwaukee. Byrd allowed four runs -- one earned -- and five hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out eight and walking two. He threw 95 pitches.

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