SAN DIEGO — Kelvim Escobar faced a major league lineup for the first time in 18 months in the Angels' 6-5 exhibition win over the San Diego Padres on Friday. And though he looked impressive, touching 95 mph with his fastball while holding the Padres hitless over his final 2 2/3 innings, not everything went according to plan.
Take his fourth-inning at-bat, for instance, when Escobar drove in a run with a line-drive single to center.
"They didn't want me to swing the bat," Escobar said with a smile. "But I told them I wasn't going to swing hard."
On the mound, Escobar gave up two runs and three hits in the first inning, then allowed only two baserunners -- both of whom reached on errors -- the rest of the way. He threw 41 pitches in 3 1/3 innings.
"I felt strong tonight," said Escobar, whose return from shoulder surgery is two months ahead of schedule. "It's been a while for me. And to go out and throw strikes, it's amazing."
Angel Manager Mike Scioscia, hopeful Escobar could be back in the rotation by the end of the month, said the team would see how the pitcher's arm responds to Friday's outing before deciding whether to send Escobar out on a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
With Escobar, John Lackey and Ervin Santana set to start the season on the disabled list, the Angels will begin the year with a rotation short on experience but long on promise, featuring two pitchers who have never been on an opening-day roster and another who has only 20 big-league starts.
As expected, left-hander Joe Saunders, coming off an All-Star season in which he won 17 games, will start the opener against Oakland. He will be followed by Dustin Moseley, who has only seven major league wins; rookie Nick Adenhart; Jered Weaver, last season's opening-day starter; and Shane Loux, who has started seven regular-season games.
Weaver will make his final spring tuneup today in Arizona, where he is scheduled to throw at least seven innings and about 100 pitches. Adenhart will have an abbreviated workout today at Angel Stadium.
Although Lackey has set opening day as his deadline for getting a contract extension with the Angels done, General Manager Tony Reagins said the team would like to continue talking.
"We remain open," Reagins said. "We're not putting any time limit or timetable on it, whether it's spring training or during the season or after the season.
"To limit yourself is just not productive. You always have to keep every option open."
Lackey is reportedly looking for a five-year deal worth at least $80 million. He will make $9 million this season, after which he can become a free agent.
The Angels had a chance to check out hard-throwing right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the likely No. 1 pick in the June draft, when the San Diego State junior pitched against UC Davis in a prelude to Friday night's major league exhibition.
"He looked pretty good," Torii Hunter said of Strasburg, who scattered three hits and struck out six in six shutout innings, running his record to 6-0 with a 1.49 ERA. "I wanted to go see him live. Looks like he has a great arm. I wish the best for him."
Afterward, Strasburg, whose fastball has been clocked at 102 mph, returned the compliments. "It's great to watch those guys on TV too," he said with a smile.
The Angels will carry an extra pitcher in an effort to relieve the strain on their injury-riddled staff, but Scioscia corrected a mistake that appeared in this space Friday by saying that means the team will start the season with 12 pitchers, not 13, leaving room for 13 position players. The Angels are expected to make roster cuts after tonight's final exhibition game. . . . Mike Napoli, recovering from off-season surgery on his right shoulder, is scheduled to catch nine innings today in Arizona, after which the team will evaluate his status.