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Prinz Is Happy to Join Bullpen

Times Staff Writer

The interlocking “NY” on his cap and the constant media buzz surrounding the team would indicate Bret Prinz spent most of this spring with the New York Yankees, but the reliever never felt he was part of Manager Joe Torre’s club.

“Every time out there I was pitching for scouts,” said Prinz, who was traded to the Angels on Tuesday for catcher Wil Nieves. “It was real frustrating knowing that you walk into spring training from Day One and know all the spots are taken. They had 12 [pitchers] on major league contracts ... big contracts too.”

That made Prinz, who was out of minor league options and earns $342,000, expendable. Prinz knew he’d be traded or put on waivers, so he wasn’t surprised when the Angels, in need of bullpen help, acquired him.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Prinz, a hard-throwing right-hander. “This team has a chance to win it all.”

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Prinz, who was 1-0 with a 5.08 earned-run average in 28 1/3 innings for the Yankees last season, was so excited to join the Angels he was in the clubhouse by 8:30 a.m. Wednesday despite landing in Phoenix at about 2 a.m. He’s scheduled to pitch in the Angels’ Cactus League finale today against Milwaukee.

Prinz will provide another power arm in a bullpen of hard-throwing right-handers and ensures the Angels will open another season without a left-handed reliever.

But, like Francisco Rodriguez, Brendan Donnelly and Scot Shields, Prinz has had success against left-handers, limiting them to a .220 average the last three years. Prinz also can provide length out of the bullpen -- he had four appearances of two innings or more for the Yankees last season.

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While one door opened for Prinz, another slammed shut for Chris Bootcheck, who was reassigned to minor league camp, and Jake Woods, finalists for the last bullpen spot before Tuesday’s trade.

Bootcheck, relying in part on a new split-fingered fastball, had a 3.38 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, and Woods had a 1.46 ERA in 12 1/3 innings, but they lack experience, both in the big leagues and as relievers.

The Angels appeared to be warming to the idea of a left-hander in the bullpen, but they concluded Woods, who has pitched only 15 games in triple A, isn’t quite ready.

“When I came to camp, I didn’t think I had a shot,” Woods said, “but knowing I competed for a spot, it’s definitely been a successful spring.”

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Kelvim Escobar gave up one run and five hits in six innings, striking out five and walking one, in a 6-2 exhibition victory over San Francisco. Escobar, who threw 88 pitches, is scheduled to throw about 100 pitches in an intrasquad game at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Monday’s off day before the season opener.

The Angels had 14 hits, including three by struggling shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who raised his spring average to .208.

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The Angels, as expected, optioned Dallas McPherson to triple-A Salt Lake to give the third baseman more time to recover from a herniated disk in his lower back. He’s expected to return to the Angels about April 15.... With McPherson out, utility infielder Maicer Izturis appears to be a lock to make the team. The final roster spot would come down to infielder Lou Merloni and first baseman Casey Kotchman, who could provide a strong left-handed bat off the bench. But Manager Mike Scioscia said he would prefer “more coverage on defense than a left-handed bat.” ... The Angels agreed on a minor league contract with utility infielder Andy Fox, who was released by Minnesota on Sunday.

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The 4th District Court of Appeal has tentatively set April 7 as the day it will rule whether the Angels must remove “Los Angeles” from their name.

That schedule would enable the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to open the season under their new name, at the risk of losing it within 48 hours. The Angels play their opener Tuesday, facing the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium.

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The city of Anaheim wants the court to block the name change pending a November trial to decide whether the new name violates the stadium lease.

In Monday’s hearing, Presiding Justice David Sills indicated the court could withhold ruling until the two sides had discussed settlement, and 10 days between the hearing and ruling would provide time for those discussions. City attorneys had hoped for a ruling before the Angels and Dodgers play an exhibition game Friday at Angel Stadium.

The tentative ruling date was posted Wednesday on the court website.

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Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.


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