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Escobar progresses well, feels ready for relief duty

June 28, 2008|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

The plan for Kelvim Escobar is to resume his minor league rehabilitation assignment Monday as a starter for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, but the right-hander said he felt so good Friday that he was already capable of pitching in relief for the Angels.

"Right now I could pitch as a reliever if they need me to," Escobar said, "because I've been feeling very good and my velocity has been great."

Escobar's fastball touched 95 mph Wednesday during an Arizona Summer League game in which he threw 45 pitches. He said he was pleasantly surprised with the command of his fastball because of the lengthy layoff necessitated by the torn shoulder he suffered in March.

"Everything's all pointing in the right direction," pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "He's feeling good, he's recovering well. He's had no setbacks. We'll just keep moving him forward."

Escobar is scheduled to throw 45 pitches again Monday and could progress to 60 pitches in his next start five days later.

The great debate

The Angels are still deliberating whether to bring Escobar back as a starter or a reliever, depending on their needs and how he progresses during his rehabilitation outings. Escobar says he has no preference.

"After the stuff that I went through, I just want to come back and pitch and I will be very, very happy," he said.

If the Angels decide to have Escobar pitch out of the bullpen, he would only need to build up to 75 pitches during a rehab start. He could do that in three or four outings, putting him on schedule to rejoin the Angels shortly after the All-Star break.

"Once he gets a minimum of 75 pitches, we'll see what our needs are, where Kelvim is and maybe decide if he's ready to join us there or if we want to keep going as a starter to get him to 90," Manager Mike Scioscia said.

Should Escobar return as a reliever, the Angels would closely monitor his workload and make sure he had built sufficient stamina before allowing him to pitch in consecutive games.

"That's one thing that we need to find out, how my arm rebounds after I pitch as a reliever, like pitching in back-to-back games," Escobar said. "Right now, we just don't know."

Figgins sidelined

Third baseman Chone Figgins was scratched from the lineup Friday night because of an infected knee that flared up upon the Angels' return to Southern California from their trip to Philadelphia and Washington.

Scioscia said the injury stemmed from an abrasion that formed during one of Figgins' slides during the team's East Coast swing. Figgins was administered antibiotics Thursday by team physician Craig Milhouse and will be reevaluated today. Robb Quinlan replaced Figgins at third base against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium and Erick Aybar took Figgins' spot atop the batting order.

Short hops

Infielder Maicer Izturis, recovering from a tight right hamstring, ran the bases and was available to pinch-hit or play as a late-inning defensive replacement. But Scioscia said Izturis probably wouldn't start for a few more days so that he could fully recover from the injury. . . . Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero returned to the lineup after missing most of the previous two games because of flu-like symptoms. His fourth-inning single on a slow roller to third base extended his hitting streak to 16 games. . . . Outfielder Juan Rivera is scheduled to rejoin the Angels today after spending three days in Miami attending to undisclosed family health issues.


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