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ANGELS NOTEBOOK: PITCHERS COMPETE FOR BULLPEN SPOT.

Byline: Gabe Lacques Staff Writer

PEORIA, Ariz. - The unlikely career opportunities that came knocking for Jake Woods and Chris Bootcheck are producing compelling competition as the Angels enter the final week of training camp.

Starting pitchers by trade, Woods and Bootcheck are waging a spirited battle for the last bullpen spot, a duel that heated up Thursday when Bootcheck tossed two scoreless innings in a 9-1 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Each have thrown 10 Cactus League innings; Woods has given up seven hits and one run, Bootcheck eight hits and no runs. Bootcheck has the pedigree of being a former No. 1 pick, and Woods gives the Angels a dimension they've lacked since 2002 - a full-time lefty in the bullpen.

``It's good competition,'' manager Mike Scioscia said, ``and we're going to have a better staff because of this competition.''

Woods watched on television when Jarrod Washburn was summoned from the bullpen and threw the pitch that David Ortiz hit over Fenway Park's Green Monster last October, ending the Angels' season. But Woods never figured he'd be the answer to their lefty-less bullpen quandary.

A few weeks into camp, he's starting to relish the notion. After four minor-league years spent as a starter, he could find himself in tight spots against the likes of Eric Chavez, Hank Blalock and Ichiro Suzuki.

``That would be great,'' he said. ``That's how you get good: facing big-league guys. Even if I fail, it shows me where I'm at.''

The Angels like how his big curveball and decent fastball could play against opposing lefties.

Bootcheck, a first-round pick in the 2000 draft, is 26 and at a career crossroads. So he swallowed his pride last fall and reported to instructional league, where, among players years his junior, he concentrated solely on developing a split-fingered fastball.

``I made up my mind I'd go in with a good attitude, and if I got hit, I got hit,'' said Bootcheck, whose ERA soared to 5.12 at Triple-A Salt Lake last year. ``It's a step backward from where I've pitched, but that's where the mental part comes in - taking a step back to go forward.''

--The Word: Paul Byrd has fulfilled his desire to make a good first impression on the Angels. Their new starter pitched six scoreless innings against the Padres and has a 2.25 ERA.

Gabe Lacques, (626) 962-8811

gabe.lacques(at)sgvn.com

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 25, 2005
Words:409
Previous Article:SOME ARE HOT, SOME ARE NOT.
Next Article:DODGERS NOTEBOOK: PEREZ PENCILED IN FOR 2ND GAME.


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