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Angels morning briefing: Ali expected in camp, Jepsen OK, Willits return near

March 23, 2011 | 11:14 am

Ali_300  There was a sense of anticipation in the Angels' spring-training camp Wednesday morning as the team awaited a visit from former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who was scheduled to arrive in Tempe Diablo Stadium about 11:30 a.m.

Ali, a Phoenix-area resident, visited the Angels in Tempe a few springs ago, and it was a highlight for players, coaches, team employees and media members who had their pictures taken with the self-proclaimed "Greatest of All-Time."

In baseball-related news, reserve outfielder Reggie Willits, sidelined since March 13 because of a left calf strain, ran at full speed Tuesday and began running some curves on Wednesday.

He will remain in Arizona after the team breaks camp Saturday to play in minor league games, where he can maximize at-bats by leading off every inning. Willits will likely open the season on the disabled list, with Chris Pettit expected to take his roster spot to open the season.

Reliever Kevin Jepsen, scratched from Tuesday night's scheduled appearance because of tightness in his left hip, did some "dry drills" Wednesday morning in which he simulated his pitching motion, and Manager Mike Scioscia expects the right-hander to return to game action Thursday or Friday.

"I slipped a few times throwing, and I may have tweaked it, but I didn't feel anything pull, and I didn't hear anything pop," Jepsen said. "I never really felt any pain, just tightness. I hope to get back in there soon."

The Angels will play the defending World Series-champion San Francisco Giants Wednesday in Tempe Diablo Stadium, with Angels right-hander Ervin Santana opposing Matt Cain. Relievers Fernando Rodney and Hisanori Takahashi are also scheduled to pitch for the Angels.

The Angels lineup: SS Erick Aybar, 2B Howie Kendrick, DH Bobby Abreu, RF Torii Hunter, LF Vernon Wells, 3B Alberto Callaspo, 1B Mark Trumbo, C Jeff Mathis, CF Peter Bourjos.


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--Mike DiGiovanna in Tempe, Ariz.

Photo: Muhammad Ali. Credit: Sebastian Artz / Getty Images.