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Chatwood is fearless when on the mound

Chatwood is fearless when on the mound

Chatwood is fearless when on the mound
ANAHEIM -- Teammates know best. And they haven't stopped raving about young Tyler Chatwood.

"What do I like about Tyler?" Jered Weaver said, repeating a question. "He pitches with his fastball. He's aggressive. At a young age, he's fearless. I guess that's how they make them out here."

Nobody had to tell Weaver that Chatwood is one of three Southern California natives in the Angels' rotation. Chatwood is from Redlands, about an hour east of Angel Stadium. Weaver hails from Simi Valley, about 45 minutes north of the Angels' home yard. Dan Haren hails from Monterey Park and La Puente, about a half-hour from the corner of Katella and State College.

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"Pretty cool, you have to admit," Haren said, grinning. "Three SoCal guys in the rotation."

For the second time in six days, Chatwood, the kid from Riverside County, will pitch for the team from Orange County against the team from Los Angeles County. It's Chatwood against Hideki Kuroda on Friday night at Angel Stadium, the Angels taking on the Dodgers in the final installment of Interleague Play for this season.

On Saturday it'll be Weaver vs. Clayton Kershaw, the rematch of their wonderful showdown -- though a 3-2 Angels loss -- last Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

Chatwood, who figured to spend the season at Triple-A Salt Lake honing his skills at age 21, is making Scott Kazmir an afterthought.

Stepping boldly into the big time in Kazmir's No. 5 slot in the rotation, Chatwood has made a lot of noise while rarely opening his mouth.

"I guess I don't have a lot to say," he admitted through a shy smile. "Why would I? I haven't done that much yet."

Just say Chatwood is to quiet what Albert Pujols is to strong, and what Peter Bourjos is to fast.

"I know he's quiet around most people, but I enjoy talking to him," teammate Howard Kendrick said of Chatwood, who came from the same East Valley High School in Redlands that produced soccer star Landon Donovan.

"Tyler's a confident guy," Kendrick continued. "You can tell in his demeanor. He's definitely not intimidated by anything.

"At this stage, he's predominately a fastball pitcher. When he gets more confident with his breaking ball and changeup, I think he's going to be unbelievable. He spots that fastball in and out, and he's hitting that corner. He's got a chance to be something really special."

Chatwood keeps his answers brief and to the point. It fits with the way he pitches. He takes his sign, rocks into his delivery and lets it fly. He keeps his defenders in the game while doing everything he can to take the opposition out of it.

"He's learning to slow things down when he needs to," said catcher Hank Conger, another emerging Angels talent. "Tyler has come a long way in a short period of time. I think you really have to be impressed with what he's doing, coming in with no big league experience."

Built like Roy Oswalt, with a similar delivery and blend of offerings, Chatwood is 5-4 with a 3.64 ERA in 15 starts. His secondary numbers aren't overly impressive -- 86 hits, 45 walks, 48 strikeouts in 89 innings - but his work with runners on base, with the heat on, has been remarkable.

"He's a good athlete, and he's really competitive," closer Jordan Walden said of his buddy. "He's also a really good guy."

Chatwood is still relatively new to the art of pitching. He didn't take it up until his senior year of high school, having played third base, shortstop and center field. He was such a gifted athlete, and so adept with the bat, that he was considered a prospect at these positions -- and even one more.

"Some scouts thought that he could have been a catcher," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Chatwood's background as an infielder comes into play on balls hit in the vicinity of the mound. He's on them like a cat, unloading accurate throws from a variety of angles.

With the bat, he has two singles, two sacrifices and a groundout in his two games under National League rules. He beat the Mets in Queens, shutting them out across seven innings, and then held the Dodgers to one run in his victory last Saturday, also making it through seven innings.

In the two largest markets in America, in the space of seven days, he allowed one run across 14 innings while facing some of the game's hottest hitters, such as Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Matt Kemp.

"Tyler's not scared of anything," said Torii Hunter, the Angels' right fielder and clubhouse leader. "He comes right at guys. As a player, you love that. `Here's my best -- see what you can do with it.' Tyler's old school. He doesn't say much -- but his talent does."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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