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Monday, March 26, 2012
Fifth starter update: Plot thickens

By Mark Saxon

Nothing eats up more ink this time of year and winds up mattering less in a few months than the competitions for fifth-starter and seventh-reliever jobs at camps across Arizona and Florida.

Last year, Scott Kazmir broke camp as the Angels' fifth starter. The year before, Brian Stokes and Matt Palmer both made the team. Heard from those guys lately?

But the Angels' two-way race between Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams feels a little more meaningful. For one, expectations for this rotation are sky high. For two, Richards is the team's top pitching prospect and Williams was the feel-good story of 2011.

Nothing that happened Monday cleared things up much for Mike Scioscia, Jerry Dipoto and staff. Richards pitched better than the line score (5 1/3 innings, 7 hits, 4 earned runs) of his start against the Colorado Rockies would indicate. Bobby Abreu and Alberto Callaspo made sloppy errors, prolonging innings and driving up the sweat factor for Richards, who has a 3.77 ERA and 3-1 record this spring.

Williams is making this thing interesting, closing fast. After a three-week hiatus caused by a strained hamstring, he made his spring debut and breezed through three scoreless innings in a Triple-A game against the Oakland A's.

At this point, it feels like an even race. By June, we'll all probably be laughing that we cared.