The Angels have a really good pitching rotation. Really, really good. However, it does have a glaring hole in the 5th starter's slot. This hole should be filled by any of 5 possible pitchers: Jerome Williams, Garrett Richards, Brad Mills, Eric Hurley or Trevor Bell.While Jerome Williams' 4-0 record and his 3.68 ERA last season might seem to have locked up the 5th starter spot for him, Scoscia has maintained that it is anybody's spot to be taken. "The thing about competition is there isn't any such thing as a front-runner," Scioscia said. "You've got to go out there and earn it every step of the way, and that's what we hope one of these five guys do to make our decisions easy." Scioscia's comments have only been strengthened by Williams' noticeable absence from Tempe this spring (an absence made more apparent through the extra popularity gained by this Pujols guy) due to a strained hamstring.
We know what Jerome Williams brought to the Halos last summer and hope for him to repeat it. It is time now to look at the other possible 5th starters and see what they might bring to the table, should their number be called. The following analysis is based mainly on this year's spring training. Though spring training is less than half over and it means nothing, each of the 4 possible starters (excluding Jerome) have now appeared in at least 3 games and are starting to make impressions. In addition, after Sunday's games there is only one more set of split squad games, which are the games that really give the opportunity for some of these guys to start (Richards and Mills have both started in each of the two split squad games so far).
Up first is the hometown and homegrown hero. Born in Riverside, California, Garrett Richards entered the 2009 draft where the Angels snagged him in the 1st round. Richards offers some major league experience, starting 3 lackluster games for the Halos last season, but his resume is built mainly on his minor league stats which are quite good and emphasize his ability to get batters out on strikes. This spring Richards has made that trait quite clear pitching in 3 appearances, totaling 9 IP while giving up 2 earned runs on 10 hits with 1 walk and striking out 7. His highlight real came on 3/16 when he pitched 4 scoreless innings, gave up 3 hits but struck out 6 batters. Garrett Richards is the youngest option for the 5th starter and also the most potential laden but he is still only 23 years olds.
Next up is Brad Mills the byproduct of Jerry Dipoto's de-Mathis fixation experiment. Brad Mills came up in the Blue Jays system after being drafted in 2007. A quality minor league career blossomed into a sub-par major league career spread between various stints from 2009 to 2011 during which he posted an ERA of 8.57 in 14 appearances. So far in Tempe, Mills has provided some very strong performances. In 3 appearances he has tallied 8 and 2/3rds scoreless innings while giving up only 3 hits and 2 walks with 7 strikeouts. Especially impressive was his performance on March 11th when he pitched 3 shutout innings and gave up only one hit while striking out 3. Unlike Richards, Mills is firmly in his prime and, in all likelihood, won't be more than a back end of the rotation pitcher. However, Mills is a southpaw which might work in his favor in the long run.
Eric Hurley is an intriguing option for the 5th spot in the rotation. A guy who got his first taste of big league action as a 22 year old in Texas, Hurley has had an up and down minor league career, posting a sub three ERA in AA while a 5.27 in AAA and 5.57 in his 5 starts as a pro in 2008. He missed the 2009 and 2010 seasons rehabbing after a surgery on his rotary cuff and pitched in 2011 again for Texas at the AAA level (posting near his career average with a 5.55 ERA). This spring has looked promising for Hurley but not as promising as Mills or Richards. In 4 appearances Hurley has pitched 8.1 innings while giving up 4 earned runs on 7 hits and 5 walks with 8 Ks. His best line so far was on March 11th when he pitched 3 no hit innings with 4 Ks. Overall I think Hurley is a longshot to even get an inning in the big leagues this season, but adding depth cannot hurt.
Trevor Bell has been on the Angels for quite a while and has gotten spot starts through the years so I am going to be incredibly brief in my discussion of him. So far this spring he has appeared in 3 games, pitching 5.1 innings while giving up 4 ERs on 8 hits and 3 walks to go along with 2 Ks. He has appeared entirely in relief and I think that it will stay that way once the season starts, limiting Bell's role to a spot starter and long relief innings eater.
Overall it's safe to say that in addition to Jerome Williams, Brad Mills and Garrett Richards have both separated themselves from the pack in the competition for the 5th starter spot. What happens in the second half of training and when Williams returns will likely determine which of those three gets the spot and where the other two go (bull pen? AAA? trade?)