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ANGELS FYI

Joe Saunders wants to be Angels' opening-day starter

The pitcher says he's ready and that it would be a thrill and an honor, but Manager Mike Scioscia wasn't ready to commit publicly to Saunders.

April 03, 2009|Kevin Baxter

Left-hander Joe Saunders, a 17-game winner last season, threw 40 pitches in the bullpen Thursday and declared himself ready to take the ball in Monday's season opener.

Only problem is, Manager Mike Scioscia doesn't appear ready to hand it to him yet. At least not publicly.

"We're in the process of doing that," Scioscia said Thursday when asked whether he had selected an opening day starter.

Barring a major surprise between now and Monday, however, the choice will be Saunders. And it's not an assignment he'll be taking lightly.

"It would be awesome," he said. "If it happens, it would be a huge thrill, a huge honor. . . . It would mean that the team has the confidence in me to take the job opening day . . . and get us off to a good start."

A year ago, Saunders was battling for the final spot in the Angels' rotation. But before his first full big league season was over, he had become an All-Star and a father for the first time.

"That year's going to be tough to beat," he said. "Getting the opportunity that I did and having the success that I did. I've got to do the same, if not more, this year."

Next cut will be deeper

Scioscia played 13 seasons at Dodger Stadium, but apparently he never became familiar with the runway between the clubhouse and the dugout on the visitors' side.

"Not every nook and cranny, I guess," said Scioscia, who sliced open his right index while walking up the hallway before Thursday's exhibition with the Dodgers.

But that was the only cut Scioscia was involved in Thursday, leaving the Angels with 35 players on their roster, 10 over the regular-season limit with three days left until their opener.

Scioscia said he expected to start the season with 13 pitchers, leaving room on the bench for a backup catcher and only three other position players, likely to be infielders Maicer Izturis and Robb Quinlan and outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.

Emotions on his sleeve

The Angels wore black diamond-shaped patches inscribed with the word "Preston" on their right sleeves for the first time Thursday, a tribute to former coach and special assistant Preston Gomez, who died in January.

Gomez's death was especially tough on pitcher Jose Arredondo, who may never have made it to the majors if Gomez had not challenged and counseled the once hot-tempered reliever last spring.

"He helped me a lot. In everything," Arredondo said in Spanish. "He was like a dad to me."

Arredondo led major league relievers with 10 wins and posted a 1.62 earned-run average in 52 games as a rookie last season.

Short hops

Closer Brian Fuentes, who has had a rough spring, posting a 9.53 ERA in six games, retired the Dodgers in order in the seventh inning, throwing only eight pitches, six for strikes. . . . Right-hander John Lackey, sidelined since March 23, was examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who confirmed an earlier diagnosis of forearm stiffness made by team physician Lewis Yocum. Lackey, who had hoped to begin playing catch this week, isn't expected to begin throwing until Monday. "When he gets medically cleared to start throwing, we'll be able to evaluate where he is," Scioscia said.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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