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Pen is mightier than the rotation

By Mark Bodenrader, MLB Contributing Editor

Angels team report

(Sports Network) - Many have given the Angels a minute chance at repeating as champions this season because of one glaring weakness -- starting pitching. Anaheim has done little to disprove that theory to this point.

Outside of Ramon Ortiz, who is 4-2 after winning his last two starts, it has been a struggle for Anaheim's starters, who have posted a combined mark of 6-10, excluding Ortiz.

Ace Jarrod Washburn is just 2-3 on the year with a 4.29 ERA through six starts, and has as many walks as he does strikeouts (12). Unfortunately, his ERA is the best among Anaheim's regular starters. Ortiz follows at 4.38, while Mickey Callaway (6.04), Kevin Appier (7.36) and John Lackey (7.76) all have bloated ERA's.

Appier is on the DL with a forearm injury and has been replaced temporarily by Scot Shields. Fortunately, Aaron Sele is expected to rejoin the staff this week after being out of action since last August because of shoulder problems.

But the Angels have been able to hover around .500 thanks to one of the best bullpens in baseball.

"We are fortunate that we haven't lost more games," Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia said. "And there are reasons for that. Our bullpen has done everything you could ask a bullpen to do."

Set-up man Brendan Donnelly has been the standout so far, as he has yet to allow a run this season in 17 innings of relief, spanning 13 appearances. He's also surrendered just five hits and seven walks, while striking out 15.

Ben Weber has permitted only one run in 16 1/3 innings of work for a 0.55 ERA over 12 games this year.

Prior to moving into the starting rotation last week for the injured Appier, Shields had given up only one earned run in seven appearances. Then in his first start of the season, Shields allowed just one run over 5 1/3 innings in a victory over Boston Saturday. Overall, the righthander is 1-0 in 2003 with a 0.77 ERA.

Closer Troy Percival has made good on all three of his save opportunities this season and has a 3.38 ERA in eight appearances.

"Our pen is awesome," Weber said. "Period."

Anaheim's lineup hasn't been too shabby lately either. The team is batting .291 this season, which is second-best in the American League behind the New York Yankees' .295 average. The Angels are also fifth in the AL in runs scored (140).

Despite a schedule that featured such foes as Seattle, Boston, Oakland, the Yankees and Texas, the Angels finished April with a 13-14 mark, winning four of their last six.


Rightfielder Tim Salmon is currently riding a career-best 18-game hitting streak. He's batting .342 during the stretch and has also collected 14 RBI.


Eric Owens, who is filling in for the injured Darin Erstad (hamstring) in center field, has gone just 2-for-12 over his last five games.


After completing their series at Jacobs Field, the Angels head to Toronto for a three-game series with the Blue Jays. Anaheim then returns home for another three-game set with Cleveland.

05/01 15:19:29 ET

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