Los Angeles Angels: Bobby Abreu
LOS ANGELES -- The Angels continued their yearly romp through the National League, beating the Dodgers 3-2 Monday night in the opening game of the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium. If the Angels win one more game in the next two nights, they will have won 11 of their last 12 series against the NL and 10 of their last 13 games against the Dodgers.
Tropical fish. Mike Trout's at-bats now are generating the kind of excitement the Angels thought they would see when Albert Pujols came to the plate. Trout continues to tear up both leagues during this torrid month-plus. He has 15 hits in his last 29 at-bats with 12 runs and six stolen bases. Trout figures to qualify for the batting race within the next two weeks and, by the time he does, he just might be leading it. He also might lead the league in steals by then. He's tied with Jason Kipnis for the lead right now. Pretty good for a 20-year old, right?
Albert delivers. Not too long ago, it would have been automatic. Open base with two outs late in a tie game. You walk Albert Pujols, right? But Pujols has struggled much of this season and Mark Trumbo is emerging as a force batting behind him, so the Dodgers pitched to Pujols. He didn't exactly kill Kenley Jansen's pitch, but he cracked his bat and hit a sinking liner to left-center field for a single to drive in Trout with the winning run.
Sticking around. The way things were going for Garrett Richards for a while, it looked like he might be in for a short night, the kind that can tax a bullpen. Instead, he kept the wheels from flying off, pitching around five walks to get through five innings before getting lifted for a pinch hitter. He showed good stuff, with a lively 96 mph fastball and looks, at this point like a far better rotation option than Ervin Santana. The Angels will have to choose between them when Jered Weaver returns next week.
Sloppy start. When the game started, it almost looked like the Angels weren't ready. Richards walked the leadoff guy. He tried to pick off Elian Herrera, who had doubled, and threw to center field, where Trout promptly overran it for the second error on the play. The Dodgers got off to a quick 2-0 lead thanks to the Angels. Had they played a little more crisply early, this game might not have dragged on all night.
Abreu's "hard feelings." Why all the stories going into this series about how Bobby Abreu isn't mad at the Angels for releasing him? They are paying him $9 million to play baseball -- for another team, where he has a better opportunity. What were they going to do, keep the 37-year old on the bench so Trout could continue to tear up Triple-A and leave them without a spark? Please.
Pace of play. If you're going to play for nearly four hours, you should get at least 14 innings in or score at least 20 runs, shouldn't you? Somehow, these teams managed to stretch a 3-2 regulation game over three hours and 59 minutes. How? Combination of Sam Holbrook's puny strike zone, hitters working counts and pitchers taking plenty of time between pitches.
This team's outfield has gone from having a glut of available players to being devoid of healthy, present bodies. Vernon Wells is out 8-10 weeks after thumb surgery. Torii Hunter remains on the restricted list while he deals with sexual-assault charges against his son, Darius, back in Texas. Bobby Abreu is batting .341 for the Dodgers.
And, at least for the moment, the rapid attrition seems to be roughly Reason No. 94 to worry about this team. It's miles behind Albert Pujols' slump, furlongs back of the bullpen's struggles and probably even stuck behind the Chris Iannetta injury and the lack of catching depth.
In fact, is it wrong to suggest this could actually help this team win some more games in the next few weeks? Bourjos is the best defensive outfielder in the organization, Trumbo's bat the most dangerous on the team for now and Trout perhaps a burgeoning superstar. Angels fans have been clamoring for this look since spring training and it's hard to fault them. If anything, it's the veterans who have held the Angels back, not the young players.
In 640 at-bats as an Angel, Wells is batting .223 with a .255 on-base percentage and 78 RBIs. Trout figures to be just as steady in the outfield and his performance the past three weeks suggest he's a massive upgrade offensively. Before Hunter left, he was doing his usual thing, producing steadily at the plate, playing Gold Glove-caliber outfield and holding the clubhouse together. But Trumbo has far more power, an equally strong arm and -- you have to say it -- won't have as much off-field stuff to worry about.
The center-field situation isn't quite as easy to shrug off, because Bourjos (.203) hasn't produced much with his bat. But over the same sample-size as Wells', all of Bourjos' offensive numbers are better, aside from power, and he can make nearly as much impact on the defensive side as Erick Aybar, another struggling hitter, can make from the shortstop position.
Time will tell how long this trio stays together -- and manager Mike Scioscia told reporters in San Diego he expects Hunter back by the end of the weekend -- but for now, it may be the most interesting thing this team has going for it. And, besides, who doesn't like a glimpse into the future?
Friday, it was general manager Jerry Dipoto who had seen enough.
In conjunction with manager Mike Scioscia, Dipoto made two bold moves, acting more quickly -- but no less decisively -- than you would have expected after a start this absurdly bad.
The bombshell came after Friday's 3-2 loss in Cleveland, the team's second walk-off defeat in a row, when the Angels promoted speedy outfield prospect Mike Trout and bid goodbye to veteran Bobby Abreu, swallowing more than $8 million in the process.
Before that, the Angels shuffled a couple of key roles in the bullpen, swapping youngster Jordan Walden for veteran lefty Scott Downs at closer. We still don't know how that will work out, because other members of the Angels' bullpen blew yet another game before their roles arose.
We'll begin to learn Saturday how the bolder move plays out. Last year, the Angels waited until June to swallow a bitter, multi-million-dollar pill, releasing pitcher Scott Kazmir after getting virtually nothing for the $12 million it paid him.
The fact they waited only three weeks to part with Abreu tells you a little something about expectation levels around this team.
You rarely see shake-ups of this magnitude in April, but you rarely see teams with this kind of talent play this poorly for this long.
Was Abreu the reason the Angels couldn't get on base or move a runner to save their lives? After just 24 at-bats, he had virtually nothing to do with it. Angels fans have long since turned on Abreu, but let's not forget, he was a good -- borderline great -- player and was one of the few Angels willing to take a walk for years. Will Trout resurrect this team's hopes all by himself? This team had better hope the 20-year-old doesn't think that's his role.
The Angels were so upset at Albert Pujols' slump, they released one player and demoted another.
But sometimes the journey from 1,000 games back -- or, at least, it feels like it -- begins with a single step.
Add up the Kazmir and Abreu moves and former general manager Tony Reagins effectively burned more than $20 million of Arte Moreno's money in less than a year, but Moreno has no one but himself to blame. It was his decision four years ago to go with a two-party system in which he and manager Mike Scioscia shared power while the GM, Reagins, served largely as a figurehead.
Dipoto didn't create this situation, but he's charged with cleaning it up. The task might prove more difficult than he originally thought.
Bad Albert. It's hard to imagine Albert Pujols can struggle this badly much longer. April is traditionally his worst month and, last year, he batted .245 with seven home runs before May 1 and .311 with 30 home runs thereafter.
Pujols is the kind of hitter who breaks out of slumps in spectacular ways. Advance scouts will tell you they are hesitant to note that he is in a slump because, as soon as they do, Pujols will pick up eight hits and three home runs in a three-game series against their team.
The law of averages suggests he's due. When you play a six-month season, you have to respect the law of averages.
Deuces wild. With two wild cards, you're never really out of it. The Angels may be an absurd 8 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers already, but they're only four games out of a wild card berth. And, frankly, does anyone believe there is another possible wild card team in the AL West or even the AL Central?
The Angels need to keep an eye on the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays as much -- or more -- than on Texas. Those teams could be their biggest competition for a playoff berth. The hunch here is that, if the Angels don't qualify for a wild-card spot, the East will snatch up both. That would be a bit silly, wouldn't it? Three playoff teams from one five-team division.
Action/reaction. For now, the front office is taking a wait-and-see approach, but May tends to bring more action.
Why? Many people view the 100 at-bat threshold as the first time you can begin to make reliable evaluations of how a hitter's season will go. If one of the Angels outfielders is still struggling in a week or so, don't be surprised to see the Angels call up top prospect Mike Trout, who is -- by the way -- hitting .419 after 19 games at Triple-A Salt Lake.
The later things get, the more likely it is the Angels would be willing to take a financial hit and release a veteran player such as Bobby Abreu and the more likely it is the bad teams (eg., Kansas City, Oakland) would be willing to trade off veterans for prospects.
In short, if the Angels players don't figure this thing out soon, expect general manager Jerry Dipoto to spring into action.
The ace right-hander tossed his ninth career complete game, striking out five to earn his third win of the season.
The Angels won consecutive games for the first time this year.
Turnaround. The Angels batted around in the fifth inning, chasing Orioles right-hander Jake Arrieta after mustering just one hit through four. Torii Hunter led off the five-run fifth with a sharp liner to center, which seemed to affect Arrieta's confidence in attacking the strike zone. Kendrys Morales capped the scoring with an RBI single to left field.
Half perfection. On a day when Chicago White Sox pitcher Philip Humber hurled the 21st perfect game in major league history, Weaver had Angel fans thinking -- or at least dreaming -- that they might see the same. Weaver was flawless through the first four innings but Adam Jones beat out a slow grounder to work-in-progress third baseman Mark Trumbo.
Patience. At the forefront of the Angels' five-run outburst in the fifth were walks by Maicer Izturis, Peter Bourjos and Albert Pujols. They recognized that Arrieta lost his groove and didn't force the issue. It was a good sign given that the Angels were the third-worst team in all of baseball at drawing walks heading into Saturday.
Lone mistake. Maybe it was a lapse in concentration after his bid for perfection was snapped on Jones' infield single, but Weaver probably wishes he could have the 3-and-0 pitch to Matt Wieters back. Wieters cranked a knee-high fastball into the right field pavilion for his fifth homer of the season, putting the O's on top 2-0.
Slow starters. After Aybar led off the first with a single, Arrieta retired the next 12 batters in a row. Not all that surprising given that Angels starters had combined to go 1-for-15 in their career against the right-hander.
Wastefulness. Once again the Angels struggled to put an opponent away. They had an opportunity in the fifth but Trumbo stranded three runners with a weak bouncer to the mound. They had another chance in the eighth after Izturis and Chris Iannetta led off with hits but three consecutive infield pop outs didn't get it done.
The stress level around this well-paid team is on the rise after a 4-8 start.
For the first time, manager Mike Scioscia told his players to stick around for a postgame meeting after a 6-0 loss to the Oakland A's on Wednesday, so he could -- in his words -- "bounce a couple things" off them. After watching former Angel Bartolo Colon pitch with no apparent fear to a lineup that was supposed to scare pitchers witless, Scioscia wanted to deliver a message.
He wouldn't say what that message was, but in comments to the media afterward, the term "grind it out," arose about 15 times. The Angels have scored three runs or fewer five times already, just part of the dysfunction that has dragged a team with $151 million payroll to a brutally slow start. The Angels have played 12 games and they're already six games out.
"The bottom line is, no matter what it is, you keep grinding," Scioscia said. "Two outs, nobody on, you just keep pushing it and and pushing it. Right now, it seems like we're a team trying to search for that offensive chemistry and that identity and we have to find it, because mental toughness is going to be an asset this year.
"We just need to get in that mode."
Colon threw 38 straight strikes before one went just a little bit low to Bobby Abreu in the eighth inning. The veteran seemed to sense that the Angels' lineup is filled with players trying to do too much and he used their aggressiveness against them.
Albert Pujols, who signed a 10-year, $240 million contract to come to Anaheim in December, was 1-for-4 with a single and still hasn't homered, though one ball reached the warning track in center field.
At this point, he fits right in.
Wednesday shouldn't provide much fodder for the movement, because Trumbo was benched not because of his shaky defense at third base, but because he showed up at Angel Stadium with flu-like symptoms. In an interview on ESPNLA's Mason and Ireland show, Scioscia indicated Trumbo would start at designated hitter Thursday against Oakland A's left-hander Tommy Milone.
General manager Jerry Dipoto is aware he has a glut of players looking for playing time, but not finding it an easy situation to resolve. For one thing, the trade market really hasn't shaped up as teams wait until the standings shift out before making impact moves.
"We will find ways to get Mark his at-bats. Third base is obviously still a work in progress," Dipoto said. "We knew there would be a plate appearance pinch for a couple of guys and Mark is one of them."
Here are the lineups for Wednesday, with manager Mike Scioscia giving slumping Erick Aybar (0-for-15) a day off and trying Bobby Abreu at the leadoff spot for the first time since 2010:
Jemile Weeks 2B
Cliff Pennington SS
Josh Reddick RF
Yoenis Cespedes CF
Seth Smith DH
Jonny Gomes LF
Daric Barton 1B
Kurt Suzuki C
Eric Sogard 3B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Albert Pujols 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Torii Hunter RF
Vernon Wells CF
Maicer Izturis SS
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Bobby Wilson C
Hard-nosed play. Erick Aybar is far from an intimidating figure at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, but that doesn't mean he isn't tough. He plays the game with an old-school edge that is among his most important intangible assets. The Angels never would have scored two first-inning runs if their shortstop hadn't gone well out of the base path to take out Alexi Casilla and prevent Albert Pujols' grounder from being a routine, inning-ending double play.
The tightrope. Typically, walking four batters is the recipe for a rough outing, but Wilson was able to overcome some shaky command, largely thanks to groundballs, one of his fortes. Of the 21 outs he recorded, 14 were on the ground -- including two double plays. Wilson has never had the most pinpoint command, but his stuff looks crisp and he's pitching with confidence.
Veteran's day. Just when it looked like there was no role for Bobby Abreu, the 37-year old is carving out one for himself. He has started half the Angels' games so far and, suddenly, he's playing like it's 2009 again. Abreu was on base twice, including on a key double in the first inning, drove in a run and scored one. As bad as Vernon Wells has looked, Abreu seems capable of eking out some playing time for himself in left field.
Not quite there. The Angels' best player hasn't quite looked comfortable in the batter's box and, considering Albert Pujols struggled early last year, that's worth noting. Pujols seemed to be trying to pull some outside pitches and the result was a bunch of groundballs to the third baseman. He was 0-for-4 and is batting .214 on the young season.
Chemistry experiment. The Angels still haven't found a consistent offensive chemistry, judging by the fact pedestrian right-hander Nick Blackburn retired 15 consecutive batters at one point. A lot of the damage came from the lower half of the lineup, specifically catcher Chris Iannetta's two-run double.
Wells situation. Not to pick on Wells, but he has five strikeouts in his first 14 at-bats and reportedly met with manager Mike Scioscia briefly before the game. He didn't play every day by the end of 2011 and, unless he starts producing, his playing time likely will be more sporadic.
ANAHEIM -- Dan Haren set a shaky early tone and the Angels couldn't sustain the momentum from Friday's late-rallying win as they lost 6-3 to the Kansas City Royals on Saturday afternoon. It was a lackluster effort in all phases.
Kendrys Morales took 22 months off from baseball, then picked up right where he left off. At least, that's what it has looked like in spring training and in these first couple of games. Morales is 5-for-7 so far. He's also running fairly well, at least by his lumbering standards, though he made a base-running blunder in the seventh inning. He tagged up on Torii Hunter's bloop liner to right and failed to score from third when it fell in.
Albert Pujols hasn't quite looked locked in for these first two games (he's 1-for-7), but at least he got over one early hump. He picked up his first hit, a rocket over the left fielder's head for a double. Pujols slid in safely to second base, got up and clapped his hands together briskly. The Angels bartered a couple of autographs and a few tickets for the ball. That hit had to ease a little bit of the pressure of moving to a new team and signing a record contract.
For the first few weeks of a season, relievers jostle for roles. The Angels figure to have a fluid bullpen for a while, aside from the fact that Jordan Walden will close and Scott Downs will set up. On Saturday, two veterans made an early case for more prominent work. Hisanori Takahashi and Jason Isringhausen, pitching in borderline mop-up duty, combined for 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
Jered Weaver struggled in spring training and dominated on opening night. Haren dominated in spring training and ... yeah, it was not a good day for the Angels' No. 2 starter. Haren gave up 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings, including home runs to the Royals' best young hitters, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Haren was 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA and 25 strikeouts in Arizona. Weaver was 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA.
Bobby Wilson has secured a job in the major leagues despite a .206 lifetime average largely because he does the little things well. On Saturday, some of the finer points got away from the Angels' backup catcher. He was picked off first base by catcher Humberto Quintero -- where was he going? -- in the third inning. He also threw a ball into left field for an error that ushered in a Kansas City run in the eighth.
Base running is supposed to be a strength for this team, but it hasn't been so far. The Angels made a couple of blunders Friday and a few more Saturday. In addition to Wilson's gaffe, Pujols ran through Dino Ebel's stop sign rounding third and was out at the plate on a close play. Morales, perhaps rusty from the long layoff, should have known tagging up would have done him no good with strong-armed Jeff Francoeur in right field for Kansas City.
That seems like a stretch, but the disgruntled outfielder figures to get a few Saturday against Kansas City Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar. Manager Mike Scioscia went to his most left-handed look, putting Abreu in left field, moving Vernon Wells to center field and sitting Peter Bourjos, the only Angel with more than one hit Friday night.
Switch hitter Alberto Callaspo was to start at third, putting Mark Trumbo on the bench.
Getting Abreu into games could prove thorny. Bourjos is the Angels' best defensive player and Trumbo might be the team's second most-powerful hitter.
"As we move into the season, we'll see what the flow will be. Some guys had leg injuries last year -- Peter with his hamstring and Torii [Hunter] with his quad, that maybe could have been prevented with more time off," Scioscia said. "I'm not calling this a day off for Peter, it's the second game, but it's a combination of that and trying to get some left-handed bats in the lineup."
Lefties have hit .288 off Hochevar in his career, righties .253.
Also, Scioscia said he's targeting about 10 to 12 games for Albert Pujols to be at DH. If he plays 12 games there, it would match the number of games he's DHed in his career.
Here are Saturday's lineups:
Alex Gordon LF
Lorenzo Cain CF
Eric Hosmer 1B
Billy Butler DH
Jeff Francoeur RF
Yuniesky Betancourt 2B
Mike Moustakas 3B
Humberto Quintero C
Alcides Escobar SS
Erick Aybar SS
Howie Kendrick 2B
Albert Pujols 1B
Kendrys Morales DH
Torii Hunter RF
Bobby Abreu LF
Vernon Wells CF
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Bobby Wilson C
In an effort to boost his on-base percentage, Bourjos was trying to get into deeper counts and taking pitches. It actually led to his most persistent bugaboo coming back: strikeouts. For a guy with blazing speed, not making contact is wasting your primary asset.
Bourjos is batting .305 this spring, but he also has struck out 17 times, easily the most on the team. His offensive surge last season came when he cut down his swing and reduced his strikeouts, from 79 before the All-Star break to 45 after it. Bourjos said the problem this spring hasn't been his swing, but his approach.
"I'm prone to strikeouts, so for me getting deeper in counts isn't really good for me," Bourjos said. "I need my at-bats to be more consistent, so I'm working on attacking the ball a little bit earlier."
Meanwhile, Bobby Abreu admitted the relentless speculation about his future has begun to wear on him. The Angels have twice -- at least -- engineered deals to move Abreu that fell through. He's left with virtually no role now that the outfield is set and Kendrys Morales is healthy again.
"This is totally, totally different from the last 15 spring trainings for me," Abreu said. "You don't know what's going to happen. You have to go out and get yourself ready, but the last 15 years I've known I was going to play right field every day. This year it's different. I'm fighting for a spot."
The revolving door only goes one way in that regard.
And it makes you wonder how much longer this situation with Bobby Abreu can linger. Abreu has twice groused to Spanish-language reporters about a role that seems to be shrinking by the day. The Angels have twice come close to trading the 14-year veteran. Deals reportedly fell through with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians.
With Opening Day just a few days away, the Angels might be discussing the possibility of simply releasing Abreu, 38, but that's an expensive proposition. He's earning $9 million guaranteed. Abreu batted .115 in 52 Cactus League at-bats and his roster spot might be better employed going to Jorge Cantu or Alexi Amarista.
Scioscia insisted Abreu's situation hasn't caused any negative energy in the Angels' clubhouse with excitement otherwise building for Friday night. The Angels promised Abreu 400 at-bats when he showed up in late February, but that was before the rapid improvement of injured slugger Kendrys Morales, who will be the Angels' primary designated hitter.
"He's going to get at-bats as we outlined before," Scioscia said Monday. "Obviously, after that it comes down to production. I think Bobby is very, very confident his game is in him and he can bring parts we need."
Wilson got through six innings, giving up five hits that included a long Ryan Roberts home run and two runs. Wilson's next start figures to be truncated and will be his last this spring, putting him on target to open the season as the Angels' No. 4 starter against the Minnesota Twins.
Still no explanation from Mike Scioscia about why he slotted Wilson at No. 4 ahead of Ervin Santana, but it could relate to the fact the Twins hit .249 against left-handed pitching last year. The Kansas City Royals, the Angels' opponent in the opening series, were fifth in the AL with a .269 average against lefties.
* Two developments will adversely affect some of the players scrambling for the final spots on the roster. The Angels have not yet traded Bobby Abreu and they added reliever Jason Isringhausen to the 40-man roster and promised him a spot on the team come Opening Day.
Abreu occupies just one roster spot, but the Isringhausen move was a double blow to guys like Jorge Cantu, in camp on a minor-league deal. The Angels' 40-man roster is now at the limit, meaning to add Cantu means the Angels would have to subtract somebody else. That person could well turn out to be Abreu, of course, as the Angels figure to continue to look at trades and might simply decide to release Abreu, who has no apparent role.
* The demotion of Mike Trout surprised nobody who has been around the team this spring, including Trout. The question now becomes how much his lengthy absence due to an illness will affect his season at Triple-A and, perhaps, prolong his rise to the major leagues.
Trout lost somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds and, according to reports, has only put on about 10 since the illness. He still isn't playing outfield due to a stiff right shoulder. It's been a frustrating spring for a promising young player.
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
In Abreu's case, it shows us how pride and overwhelming ego can blind successful people to their own limitations. How can he not see that he's no longer the Angels' best option at designated hitter, that his slowing bat and the return of Kendrys Morales have changed the landscape? How is he not grateful to this team for allowing his $9 million option to vest last season, the fateful decision that created this mess?
Does he actually think the Angels should give him 400 at-bats at the expense of Morales and Mark Trumbo, two young guys capable of hitting 35 or more home runs? In Morales' last healthy season, he hit 34 home runs. In Abreu's last season, he hit eight. Even his walks have declined in three straight seasons, as pitchers no longer seem to fear him.
He couldn't have looked much worse this spring, with four hits in 40 at-bats and his circus act during Monday's game, in which he dropped a routine fly ball that made life more difficult for young pitcher Garrett Richards.
Abreu has been talking since before camp began. It flared up again over the weekend after general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia called him into the office again over some comments he made to the Venezuelan newspaper El Lider in Deportes. Here is what Abreu said:
"I've learned not to have much confidence in these people, but I hope they live up to what they told me. How long am I going to have to continue proving to people what I am and what I'm able to do?"
And what about the Angels, who seem at times to be allergic to telling the truth? Why do they continue to play out this farce about Abreu having an appreciable role? Anybody who can add to 10 knows there's nowhere for Abreu to play now that Morales clearly is healthy again and the Angels have at least four outfielders who are better options. They don't owe Abreu anything other than his salary, but do they really need to insult their fans and sully his legacy by pretending everything's hunky-dory?
Do they expect the American League to give them a special dispensation to dole out 1,200 at-bats to their designated hitters this season? That's the only scenario -- other than two injuries -- in which Abreu gets 400 at-bats.
It's amazing how often a very good -- or even great -- player's career ends badly. If Abreu's career stopped today, he'd have 2,384 career hits and rank in the top 25 on the all-time doubles list. He's not that far from knocking on the door at Cooperstown.
There's got to be a better way to choreograph this departure, even if just for appearances' sake.
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.