ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia has basically decided who will claim the last two bullpen spots, but he'll wait to see how things play out before making an announcement.
What he will say is his bullpen concerns have eased a bit over the last few days.
Angels relievers have posted a 7.20 ERA in 31 games this spring, by far the highest in baseball (the Giants are 29th at 5.87). On Wednesday, general manager Jerry Dipoto, who prioritized the 'pen in the offseason, acted aggressively to address some depth issues by acquiring three relievers in a span of six hours -- Elvin Ramirez for cash from the Mets, Dane De La Rosa for Steven Geltz from the Rays and former Dodger Mark Lowe as a free agent.
Lately, though, Scioscia has seen some positive signs from his most important arms.
Sean Burnett has given up one run on three hits in his last three appearances over a span of six days. Ernesto Frieri is coming off what Scioscia said was his best outing, notching a save with a clean ninth inning against the Rangers on Wednesday. Kevin Jepsen also had a scoreless inning that day, and Jerome Williams showed some improvement while giving up two runs and striking out six in 3 2/3 innings. Scott Downs, meanwhile, had a 1-2-3 eighth inning on Thursday - four days after giving up three runs and getting two outs.
Garrett Richards, who has posted a 1.62 ERA in 16 2/3 innings this spring, is a no-brainer for a spot in the 'pen.
The last one, open because Ryan Madson will start the season on the disabled list, is down to lefty specialist Mitch Stetter (three runs in three innings this spring), sinkerballer David Carpenter (four runs in last three innings) and Lowe, a heavy favorite who gave up a run on two hits in Thursday's seventh inning.
"We've had some guys that have maybe stubbed their toe a little bit this week that are vying for spots," Scioscia said, "but the depth is there and I think we're going to be looking at some things these next three days to see what gives us the best look."
Star-laden Angels, Dodgers drawing national attention
ANAHEIM -- They employ six of the 25 richest players in baseball, are already slated to play in a combined 27 national TV games this season -- a number that will presumably increase -- and boast rosters littered with star power.
For a while, West Coast teams were dominated on the national landscape by the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies.
The Angels and Dodgers, playing the first of three exhibition games leading up to the regular season on Saturday, head into the season with fat payrolls and high expectations on the heels of lucrative local television deals.
The Angels are fresh off adding Josh Hamilton to a roster that already boasted Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Jered Weaver, and will start the 2013 season with a payroll that exceeds $150 million for a second straight year. The Dodgers signed Zack Greinke, who joins the likes of Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Clayton Kershaw, sending their payroll to a record $210-plus million.
"With what we're doing and what Texas has done and what the Dodgers are doing and what Oakland did last year, a lot of the teams out West are getting a little bit more attention the last couple years," said Weaver, born and raised in Southern California. "It's cool, to get some of the bigger games and more [time] on SportsCenter. It's a little bit of a change for the teams on the West Coast, but we don't want to take all of [the attention]. We'll leave it to those guys on the East Coast, too."
The exhibition Freeway Series means little, of course. The starters are fine-tuning for the regular season, both managers are making final cuts and the crowds are relatively sparse. But the Angels and Dodgers will once again meet four times during the regular season, at Dodger Stadium on May 27 and 28 and at Angel Stadium May 29 and 30.
And those longing for a World Series matchup between these clubs have a lot to hang their hopes on heading into 2013.
"I think it's good for baseball in general when you see this kind of talent in one city, and a major city also," Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly said. "It's nice to see the L.A. market rich in baseball tradition, with two teams that are kind of setting the bar, in a sense."
Madson to travel with team, continue rehab on road
ANAHEIM -- It's not just that Ryan Madson hasn't pitched in a year; it's that he hasn't really been part of a team in that stretch, either. Madson spent the 2012 season mostly in isolation, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery throughout the summer while the Reds played out their schedule.
He wants to be with the Angels when they open their season on the road next week, even if he won't be closing out any of those games.
"I want to be part of the team," Madson said. "If we win all three games, I want to be there. If we lose all three games, I want to be there. I want to experience the full season. That's a big thing for me."
Madson will get that chance.
The 32-year-old right-hander is far enough along in his rehab that the Angels want to closely monitor it. Madson will be with the Angels in Cincinnati, home to the team he never pitched for, then travel with his teammates to Texas the ensuing weekend.
"He's purely now in baseball activities," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're going to have our physical therapist with us, we're going to have our trainers with us and our pitching coach, so it makes most sense for him to get the work he needs under their eyes right now."
Madson continues to heighten the intensity of his bullpen sessions, slowly mixing in his offspeed pitches until he's simulating game action. In Tempe, Ariz., on Wednesday morning, he threw 40 pitches, mixed in changeups for the first time and "let it go" on his last few pitches.
It felt like the first bullpen session of a normal, fully healthy Spring Training, Madson said. And though it brought plenty of next-day soreness, Madson felt good enough to play catch on Thursday and plans to get off the mound again on Saturday.
The Angels are unsure of how many bullpen sessions he'll need before getting into games, but he throws about three or four in a normal spring. Madson still needs to mix in cutters, get a feel for all his pitches, go at 100 percent intensity, bounce back and repeat that a few times.
A late April or early May return to the Majors is quite possible, but the Angels continue to go day by day.
"There's a lot of hurdles he has to pass," Scioscia said. "Any one can set you back or reach a plateau, and you can fly by two or three with a great outing and rebounding well. It's just tough to quantify what the last stage of his rehab is going to be, which I think is normal in the rehab process."
• C.J. Wilson made his last spring start in a game against the Giants' Triple-A affiliate on Thursday, giving up three runs on eight hits while walking none, striking out seven and getting a few plate appearances in 6 1/3 innings. Wilson threw 89 pitches (58 strikes) and lines up make his regular-season debut against the Reds on Wednesday. The lefty took a comebacker off his calf, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it's nothing serious.
• Albert Pujols is "up for" playing first base in all three Freeway Series exhibition games against the Dodgers, Scioscia said. The Angels' skipper said Pujols' mobility at first base had been contingent on the plantar fasciitis on his left foot, not his surgically repaired right knee, and the slugger has all but moved past that.
• Reliever Chad Cordero's season will begin at Class A Inland Empire. The 31-year-old right-hander, who racked up 113 saves with the Nationals from 2005-07 but hasn't pitched in almost two years, was hit-and-miss in Cactus League play, giving up 12 runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.