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'Big Four' making solid early pitch

Before Monday night’s Freeway Series game against the Dodgers, manager Mike Scioscia went into a spirited – if somewhat baffling – defense of using the ace of the American League champions as his No. 4 starter.

C.J. Wilson is slotted behind Ervin Santana in the Angels’ rotation, because ...

“We started him early [in the spring] to give us flexibility and versatility if something happened with one of the other guys,” Scioscia said. “We could move him up if we needed to.”

OK, but why not do that with Santana?

Scioscia went on and on before he finally landed on an explanation that made sense to the reporters standing around him.

“It gave us a way to get a good look to start the season. Once the season starts, there’s no one, two, three, four,” Scioscia said. “We’ve got four guys that are front-of-the-rotation guys and that’s how we’re going to look at it.”

Nothing that has happened this spring has given Scioscia or anyone else reason to doubt that stance.

The guy who will pitch opening night, Jered Weaver (2-2, 5.40 ERA), has, in fact, been the shakiest starter this spring. Wilson (3-0, 1.33), Dan Haren (3-0, 2.05) and Ervin Santana (1-0, 2.19) have been lights out.

Of course, in a week those numbers will be as relevant to you as your Mega Millions picks from last week, but there is qualitative evidence to back up the data.

"The swings that I've gotten from hitters, the looks that I've gotten from hitters, I feel confident my stuff's going to play early on in the season," Haren said. "I tend to start fast so, hopefully, that's going to continue."

Wilson has been tinkering as usual this spring, easing in a new changeup and dropping down sidearm, but not outthinking himself, as he’s prone to do. Santana has shown more focus than in some previous springs, zeroing in and refining his two best pitches rather than adding a third.

Weaver’s lack of success is easy enough to explain. He’s an extreme flyball pitcher who’s been working in dry, hot air. Arizona isn’t exactly where a guy like Weaver figures to be most effective.

Haren has been the most impressive Angels pitcher. After Monday’s spring finale, even one as labored as his 5 2/3-inning, 95-pitch spring finale, he has struck out 25 batters and walked two. He can remember both walks, one of which was to Ryan Braun and the other to Travis Hafner.

He’s still mad about them. Haren's goal is to walk fewer batters than starts in a season.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Haren said.

Yeah, the Angels rotation could be in pretty good shape.