TEMPE, Ariz. — Manager Mike Scioscia took measures Saturday to clear up a misunderstanding between him and pitcher Ervin Santana, who, as of Saturday morning, was under the impression the Angels had denied him permission to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
"They want me to be focused on the Angels," said Santana, a 23-year-old right-hander who was 12-8 with a 4.65 earned-run average as a rookie last season. "They told me [Friday] they don't want me to pitch in the Classic."
Scioscia said he and pitching coach Bud Black met with Santana on Friday to guide him about his WBC decision, not discourage him from playing.
Though some, most notably Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, have voiced strong opposition to the WBC for fear of injuries, teams are not allowed to bar healthy players from participating.
"We didn't tell him not to go," Scioscia said. "In our conversations with him, we talked about the importance of this camp. But it would be an honor for him to pitch for the Dominican, and if he was picked, we would support that. It's solely his decision."
Scioscia repeated that message to Santana during Saturday's workout.
"He said if I want to pitch [in the WBC], go pitch," Santana said. "I'm going to have to think about it."
Dominican Manager Manny Acta will finalize his 30-man roster in early March, but with injuries threatening the availability of Angel ace Bartolo Colon and Met right-hander Pedro Martinez, there is a strong chance Acta will call on Santana, who was on the Dominican's provisional 60-man roster.
Kelvim Escobar's WBC status, already tenuous because he is returning from an injury-plagued 2005, will hinge on whether Venezuela can assure the right-hander he will be used as a starter, not a reliever.
With Johan Santana, Freddy Garcia, Gustavo Chacin, Victor Zambrano and Carlos Zambrano available to start, Escobar might best serve Venezuela as a reliever, much as he did when he moved to the bullpen for the Angels in September.
But Escobar is returning to the rotation this spring, and he's concerned that moving to a WBC bullpen for much of March could stunt his progress as a starter and prevent him from building the stamina required to throw at least 90 pitches in his first regular-season game.
"It's going to depend on how I feel the next two weeks," Escobar said. "If I'm not ready to start, I'm not going to go. I'm not going to go as a reliever."
Colon, who spent the winter rehabilitating a slight tear in the back of his shoulder and has thrown two moderate bullpen sessions in camp, said he remained 100% committed to pitching in the WBC despite the Angels' concerns.
"It's a little difficult dealing with two sides," Colon said through an interpreter. "I understand the situation with the team, but I also take a lot of pride in competing for my country."
Colon, who won the American League Cy Young Award after going 21-8 with a 3.48 earned-run average last season, said he has experienced no ill effects from his injury. Of course, he hasn't come close to airing out his fastball yet.
"I don't feel anything," Colon said. "I'm not thinking about it. I'm trying to block it out."