— In the Angels’ spring training clubhouse, four lockers situated near the same corner are occupied by the bulk of perhaps Major League Baseball’s finest starting pitching rotation.
But the Angels’ have a question mark beyond their fearsome foursome of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and C.J. Wilson: Who’s the fifth starter?
It has been a two-man race between Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards, who gave up six hits and three runs Saturday in the Angels’ 3-3 exhibition tie against the Chicago Cubs at Hohokam Stadium.
Richards threw six innings, striking out one and walking one, on the same afternoon Williams gave up three hits, one run and struck out five in four innings in a minor league game against the Cubs in Tempe.
“I feel good about this entire spring training,” said Richards, who has a 3-1 record and a 3.54 earned-run average in five starts. “I go out there to push the envelope, make the decision on them hard.”
Does Richards, who was optioned to triple-A Salt Lake after Saturday’s game, think he has done enough?
“You would like to think so, but that’s not my decision,” he said.
That decision can be delayed because the fifth spot doesn’t come open until April 15. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said before the game that he’ll wait to make a decision but that he likes both candidates.
Williams was the front-runner for the job entering camp based on his performance last season, when he posted a 4-0 record and a 3.68 ERA in 10 games after being called up on April 17.
“Jerome is obviously the more polished and more the finished product,” Scioscia said of the 30-year-old journeyman.
“Garrett is not the finished product, not near the finished product, but his stuff is more consistent, and it’s been bigger this spring,” Scioscia said. “He’s throwing the ball as well this spring as he ever has.”
Scioscia said a decision will be made soon where and when Richards, named the Angels’ third best prospect for 2012 by Baseball America, will pitch next.
Scioscia said Williams, who’s recovering from a left hamstring strain that sidelined him for three weeks, would probably make at least two more rehab starts, with increased inning and pitch counts in each one.
Bell sent down
The Angels trimmed their roster closer to the 25-player limit for opening day by optioning right-hander Trevor Bell to Salt Lake.
Although outfield prospect Jeremy Moore (hip surgery), reliever Michael Kohn (flexor strain) and reliever Bobby Cassevah (shoulder tear) are listed on the team’s spring training roster, none are expected to be active on opening day.
Let’s play nine
The Angels and Dodgers have agreed to play full nine-inning games, regardless of the score after eight-and-a-half innings, during each of their three exhibition meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
There will be no extra innings played in the games.