PHOENIX -- It would seem tempting for the Angels, given Ervin Santana's track record, to slot the right-hander in the fifth spot in the rotation.
That way, Santana would avoid a season-opening, four-game series at Minnesota and make his first two starts of 2008 in Angel Stadium against Texas and Cleveland.
Santana, remember, went 1-10 with an 8.38 earned-run average on the road and 6-4 with a 3.27 ERA at home in 2007, a season in which he was so erratic he was demoted to triple A in July for a month. In his career, the 25-year-old is 10-21 with a 7.14 ERA on the road and 25-9 with a 3.14 ERA at home.
But Manager Mike Scioscia scoffed at the idea of holding Santana out of that first series in Minnesota.
Santana, who looked sharp in Wednesday's 6-1 exhibition win over Oakland, giving up one hit, striking out five and walking three in six shutout innings, is aligned to start the fourth game in the Metrodome. And that, apparently, is where he'll stay.
"Ervin's challenge isn't the color of the uniform," Scioscia said. "It's to get his stuff where it needs to be and his hip turn and mechanics together. When he does that, he can pitch anywhere."
Santana, who entered Wednesday with a 7.90 spring ERA, looked dominant against the A's, getting ahead with his fastball and throwing his breaking ball and changeup for strikes. He retired the side in order four times and threw 93 pitches.
"You can feel the difference," Santana said of his mechanics. "Everything was smooth. I had the same arm speed for every pitch."
The key, of course, is to repeat that delivery.
"Experience is the great teacher -- hopefully, his struggles last year won't go for naught," Scioscia said. "He got into some bad habits. He has cleaned them up, and hopefully he can stay consistent."
Off the mat
The Angels broke open Wednesday's game on Vladimir Guerrero's grand slam off reliever Keith Foulke in the seventh.
Foulke had knocked down Guerrero with a pitch near the slugger's head, and Guerrero lined the next pitch, a changeup that was ankle-high and outside, over the left-field wall for his third homer of the spring.
"He's something else," Scioscia said.
Gary Matthews Jr., making his first start of the spring in center field, had four singles, a run and an RBI, Howie Kendrick doubled twice, and shortstop Erick Aybar made several fine defensive plays.
Reliever Chris Bootcheck, out since early March because of a rib-cage strain, has been long-tossing at 120 feet and is expected to begin throwing off a mound late next week.
Though Garret Anderson was scratched Friday and Sunday because of a tight left thigh and a sore right knee, he said the injuries were "no cause for concern. If it was the regular season, I would have played." Anderson played left field Wednesday.
John Lackey is barely a week into his rehabilitation from a triceps strain, an injury that will sideline the ace until about mid-May, but feels like he's making progress.
"I'm feeling better," Lackey said. "I can brush my teeth with my right hand; I couldn't do that a few days ago."
The A's considered following Boston's lead and boycotting Wednesday's game. But when the Red Sox resolved their dispute over coaches' pay for their trip to Japan to play Oakland, the A's went forward with the game and traveled to Tokyo on Wednesday night.
Scioscia admired the Red Sox for voting to not play or go to Japan after learning coaches would not get the same $40,000 appearance fee players will get.
"If a team struggles and loses enough, the manager and coaches bear the brunt of it," Scioscia said. "So when you have opportunities like this, certainly, the coaches should be included."
Relievers Scot Shields and Justin Speier each threw two innings in a triple-A game against San Francisco, with mixed results.
Speier gave up one unearned run and one hit, struck out one and walked none. Shields gave up two earned runs and four hits, struck out one and walked one.
Angels vs. San Francisco
Today, 1 p.m. PDT
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