Seeking fifth spot, Williams to start Monday

Seeking fifth spot, Williams to start Monday

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Barring a setback, Jerome Williams' first appearance in a Cactus League game will come Monday against the Rockies. And that's relevant with regard to the Angels' fifth-starter competition for a couple of reasons.

1. That appearance, manager Mike Scioscia confirmed Thursday, will be a start, not a relief appearance behind the young Garrett Richards, who has been getting a leg up on nailing down the final rotation spot while Williams has been sidelined by a left hamstring strain for nearly three weeks.

2. Starting that game means Williams would be lined up to take the ball four times before the Angels need a starting pitcher for the first time on April 15 -- and four is the minimum number of outings Scioscia previously said Williams needed in order to be ready.

So, the timeline seems to be working in Williams' favor right now.

But the journeyman right-hander can't afford any more hiccups.

"It's out there for him if he progresses at the pace he can," Scioscia said of the No. 5 spot in his rotation. "He's probably going to get to three [innings] and 45 [pitches] on Monday because he's ready for it. We'll see."

Williams threw a 60-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday -- his first since sustaining the injury during a rundown drill on March 2 -- and was slated to throw another one Thursday in anticipation for his first start.

As he said Thursday morning, and has continued to stress throughout the spring, "My arm isn't the problem." After going 4-0 with a 3.68 ERA down the stretch last year, Williams had a stint in the Venezuelan winter league and was throwing bullpens at the Tempe Diablo Stadium complex as early as January.

Now, he says, his left leg feels equally healthy and his sights are set on making that April 15 start at Yankee Stadium -- because it would mean the former first-rounder opens up a season in the Majors for the first time since 2007, and because of what that would signify.

"It would show that I never really gave up," Williams said. "Some guys would give up. I never gave up and stuck with it."