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ANGELS FYI

Angels might be able to find pitching help

They could turn to the independent Atlantic League, which began play last week.

April 26, 2009|Kevin Baxter

The season isn't even three weeks old, yet the Angels have already used eight starting pitchers -- including one who had never appeared in a big league game before Thursday.

And that has left the organization stretched uncomfortably thin at a key position.

"We've gone as deep as we can right now with what we have," Manager Mike Scioscia said.

So the question becomes, where do they get more? The team appears unlikely to make a trade and management doesn't believe the big-name free agents still on the market -- namely Pedro Martinez and Paul Byrd -- can get up to game speed fast enough to help them.

"Even guys who throw all winter and come into spring training need a solid three, four weeks," Scioscia said.

That leaves the independent Atlantic League, which began play last week. The eight-team league has a reputation for rebuilding careers once thought over, with Jose Lima and Brendan Donnelly among the alumni who have gone on to pitch successfully in the majors after a stint there.

Already this spring Ryan Drese, who once won 14 games for the Texas Rangers, has shown he might be worth a look, pitching five shutout innings in his season debut.

"There are some good pitchers that don't have jobs that have major league experience," Scioscia said. "I guarantee you . . . every team sends scouts.

"A lot of pitchers have gone to independent leagues, gotten exposure, gotten a second look and have really taken advantage of it. And I think everything's primed this year, when you look at pitching around the league, for that to happen again."

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Rehab report

Scioscia said John Lackey (strained forearm) looked good in a two-inning outing Saturday, throwing about 30 pitches against minor leaguers at the Angels' spring training complex in Arizona.

Ervin Santana (sprained elbow) had a similar outing Friday and if neither experiences a setback, Scioscia said they will both pitch one more time in extended spring training before being sent out on rehabilitation assignments with Rancho Cucamonga, the Angels' affiliate in the Class-A California League.

"I would think before we get to June 1, we're going to get both those guys back in our rotation," Scioscia said. "How much before, I don't know."

Kelvim Escobar (shoulder surgery) also made a significant step forward in his rehab, throwing 20 pain-free pitches off the mound in the Angels' bullpen. He said how his arm feels today will determine the next step in his comeback.

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Etc.

The Angels signed slugger Bobby Abreu to provide middle-of-the-lineup punch and he has delivered, entering Saturday leading the team in batting (.349) and on-base percentage (.408). But the 35-year-old has shown he can still run a bit too, starting the game with a major league-best eight stolen bases in as many tries. "He's a very intelligent baseball player," Scioscia said. "He's been in this league long enough, and he knows a lot of the guys. He understands some of their tendencies on maybe their pitch selection and when he can get a jump and go. And he still runs very well." Abreu has stolen at least 20 bases in each of the last 10 seasons, the longest current streak in the majors. . . . . The Angels designated reliever Daniel Davidson for assignment and recalled reliever Fernando Rodriguez from triple-A Salt Lake.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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