Jerome Williams diagnosed with mild left hamstring strain

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UPDATE: Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports that Williams was diagnosed with a mild strain of his left hamstring.

It’s not clear when he’ll resume throwing, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia told Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com earlier today that Williams will still have plenty of time to get ready for the season, as the club won’t need a fifth starter for the first time until April 15 against the Yankees.

Friday, 9:30 PM: Jerome Williams enters spring training as the favorite for the Angels’ fifth starter job after posting a surprising 3.68 ERA and 28/15 K/BB ratio over 44 innings last season during his first stint in the big leagues since 2007. But his grip on an Opening Day roster spot may be in jeopardy after he strained his left hamstring during a defensive drill earlier today.

According to Mark DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, Williams will likely be sidelined for at least the next few days and is scheduled to be examined by team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum tomorrow.

The Angels can afford to take some chances with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana leading their rotation, but Williams is no sure thing to replicate his small sample of success last year. The 30-year-old right-hander likely has a battle on his hands even if he’s healthy, but right-handers Garrett Richards and Trevor Bell and left-hander Brad Mills would move up on the depth chart if he needs to miss significant time.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.