- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
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ANAHEIM -- Left-hander Scott Kazmir's extended spring training looks to be coming to a close. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Saturday that Kazmir is on track to take back his spot in the starting rotation Thursday in New York against the Yankees after throwing 6 1/3 innings in a rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday night.
"He came out really strong and he feels good today," Scioscia said before the Angels played the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night. "He'll throw a bullpen in a couple of days and depending on that, he should be OK to start in New York."
Kazmir was slowed by a strained right hamstring during spring training and the Angels elected to have him make a minor league start before rejoining the starting rotation, rather than rush him to be ready for Opening Day.
"His last 10 pitches were all over 90 miles an hour so he maintained his velocity," Scioscia said. "He showed a real good change-up, the slider wasn't as consistent as we've seen it, but he had plenty on it to be able to pitch and do well."
On the list of what has ailed and derailed the Angels (1-4) through the first five games of the season, quality starting pitching is right up near the top. Only Jered Weaver and Joel Pineiro have turned in what would be considered quality starts of at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs given up.
Matt Palmer, who filled in as the fifth starter while Kazmir was out, gave up seven runs -- five of which were earned -- in seven innings Friday night in a 10-4 loss to the A's.
It's not clear whether Palmer will be sent to the bullpen when Kazmir returns, or if he'll be optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake City.
"If Kaz comes back he's going into the rotation and obviously we'll either slot Matty into our bullpen or look to do something else," Scioscia said. "But Matty pitched really well for us last year and I think right now we feel like there's going to be a spot for him on the staff.
"It's not easy to do [going from starting to relieving], but you do what you have to do. I think Matty is well suited for it. It's what makes him a valuable member of our staff because he does have that versatility."
Wood sits again
No, Brandon Wood has not lost his job as the Angels' starting third baseman. It may look that way after he was given a second day off in three games Saturday, but Scioscia said he just wanted to give his slugging third baseman a chance to "take half a step back and let some air out" after his awful 1-for-16 start to the season.
"Brandon is going to play tommorrow [which] will be five out of seven [games]," Scioscia said, deflecting the idea Wood might be losing his starting job to Maicer Izturis.
"I think there's a lot of things going on with Brandon. He's not in a rhythm, but why? Is it because he's trying too hard or he's addressing the wrong issues? I think Brandon needs to get simple, I think he needs to get back to simple concepts of playing the game.
"I think he's been trying to do too many things in the batter's box right now. But he'll be fine. This is what you call experience. This is why guys play. You figure out what you do to make it work. Any young player coming into the major leagues goes through that transition."
Napoli scheduled to catch Sunday
Speaking of good young sluggers sitting out, Scioscia said catcher Mike Napoli will start Sunday's series' finale against the A's after starting only once in the first week of the season.
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
24mAdam Lewis, Special to ESPN.com