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Kids key rally in opener

March 02, 2007|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, ARIZ. — They're not exactly household names -- Sean Rodriguez, Nick Gorneault, Mike Eylward, Hainley Statia -- but they left quite an impression on the few Angels fans who braved chilly temperatures until the end of Thursday's Cactus League opener against Kansas City.

After reliever Matt Hensley was tagged for four runs in the top of the ninth inning, the Angels rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth for a 7-6 victory over the Royals, Statia knocking in the winning run with a sacrifice fly to right field.

Rodriguez (double) and Gorneault (single) sparked the rally off left-hander Wayne Franklin. Rodriguez scored on an error, Eylward hit a score-tying, RBI single to left, and Erick Aybar, who tripled and scored in the sixth, advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt. Robb Quinlan was walked intentionally to load the bases for Statia.

"It was good to see us battle back," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Some of these kids from double A came through with good at-bats, they played the game right."

Catching on

Jeff Mathis, who is hoping to re-establish himself as a front-line catcher after his rookie-season washout of 2006, made two outstanding defensive plays.

In the sixth inning, with Paul Phillips at first, a Chris Resop pitch bounced in the dirt in front of the plate. Phillips took off for second, but Mathis pounced on the ball and nailed Phillips with a perfect off-balance throw.

In the seventh, another Resop pitch bounced to the side of the plate. Shane Costa tried to advance from first, and Mathis fired a strike to second.

Arms race

Bartolo Colon (rotator-cuff tear) could throw off a mound before Jered Weaver (biceps tendinitis). Colon extended his long-toss session to about 160 feet, and Weaver threw at about 130 feet. Scioscia said once the pitchers stretch to about 180 feet, they'll be ready for the mound.

"Two weeks ago, I would have said no way," Scioscia said. "Right now, the way Bart is progressing ... it's probably not likely, but as good as Bart feels, you start to see some light at the end of the tunnel when he'll get on the mound."

Lackey questionable

Pitcher John Lackey is questionable for Saturday's start against Colorado after missing practice because of a non-baseball related illness, believed to be strep throat. ... Ervin Santana looked sharp, throwing two hitless innings, striking out two.

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