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Arm trouble stops Shields

March 23, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- Just what the Angels need, another pitching injury.

A team that will open the season without starters John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar and long reliever Chris Bootcheck is now in jeopardy of losing setup man Scot Shields, who has been shut down for a couple of days because of tightness in his forearm.

Neither Shields nor Manager Mike Scioscia believes the injury, which flared up after Shields threw two innings in a triple-A game Wednesday, is serious, but the right-hander said it's in an area he hasn't had inflammation before.

And considering Shields didn't pitch until March 13 because of a sore shoulder and has been erratic in the four innings he has logged this spring, there has to be some concern Shields might not be ready for the March 31 season opener at Minnesota.

"We're looking at a tight timeline, but as of right now, we're still confident he'll be ready," Scioscia said. "This time of spring, when things crop up, it heightens your awareness to make sure it's calmed down and you take care of it."

Even if Shields, who was examined Saturday by Dr. Lewis Yocum, is sound by the opener, will he be effective?

In three exhibition games, two big league and one minor league, Shields has given up six earned runs and eight hits in four innings, walked three and struck out one. He walked the first batter on four pitches in each appearance.

Shields, whose second-half struggles (7.36 earned-run average) led to a demotion from his setup role last August, has not been in sync mechanically, and with his latest setback, he may have only one or two more spring games to iron out the kinks in his delivery.

Shields insists he will be ready for the opener.

"If this was the regular season, I would have pitched with it," he said. "I know it's going to sound like a broken record, but I'll be ready on the 31st."

Relief effort

Even if Shields opens with the Angels, he might not be the setup man. Justin Speier pitched a one-two-three seventh Saturday and has retired all 15 batters he has faced in exhibition play, giving the Angels an attractive late-inning option if Shields struggles.

Speier missed 2 1/2 months last season because of an intestinal infection, and though he returned in mid-July, he lost about 10 pounds and never seemed to regain the full velocity of his fastball. The right-hander looks strong this spring.

"It's good to see Justin get his game together," Scioscia said, "but we're going to need all our relievers."

On track

When Dodgers Manager Joe Torre opted to have pitchers hit Saturday, Scioscia had Jon Garland pitch in a minor league game, so the Angels could better control the right-hander's ascent to the 90-pitch range. Had Torre used a designated hitter, Garland would have pitched against the Dodgers.

Garland threw seven shutout innings against Oakland's triple-A team, giving up seven hits, striking out eight and walking none. He was so efficient he threw only 79 pitches but threw an additional 10 pitches in the bullpen afterward.


Closer Francisco Rodriguez made his first multiple-inning appearance of the spring, throwing a scoreless fourth and fifth against the Dodgers. . . . Vladimir Guerrero continues to progress in his recovery from a sore right knee, but he did not take batting practice Saturday.


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