Matt Palmer had not started a game in nearly a month, and it showed.
The Angels right-hander labored in the early going of his spot start Saturday at Angel Stadium, needing 59 pitches to get through the first three innings and surrendering a two-run home run to Jason Kubel that gave the Minnesota Twins an early lead.
"I was fighting it," said Palmer, who had made his last eight appearances as a reliever.
Fortunately for Palmer, he retired eight of the next nine batters and survived five innings of an 11-5 victory in which the Angels continued to provide him with ample run support; they have averaged 7.3 runs in Palmer's starts.
"They're not just doing it for me," Palmer said, "they're doing it for everybody."
Palmer (8-1) gave up four hits and two runs during an outing that threatened to go awry in the first inning. Consecutive walks with two out caused the crowd to stir, and pitching coach Mike Butcher came sprinting out of the dugout when Palmer reached a 3-and-0 count on Michael Cuddyer. But Palmer got Cuddyer to pop out to first baseman Kendry Morales in foul territory.
Palmer also escaped a two-on, two-out jam in the second and recorded a one-two-three fifth inning after the Angels had erupted for nine runs in their half of the fourth.
"That was the biggest thing for me," Palmer said. "That's what I was thinking in the dugout -- I know my pitch count's high, I've battled all day long, I've got to give my team a zero."
He did, keeping himself in the running for the next time the Angels need a fifth starter, Aug. 8 against Texas.
"I think under the circumstances of not being as stretched out as he was when he was in the rotation, that's a great effort," Manager Mike Scioscia said.
There was no easing Bobby Mosebach into the major leagues.
The first two batters the Angels reliever faced in his big league debut were Twins sluggers Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Mosebach retired Mauer on a popup to shortstop Erick Aybar for the first out of the ninth inning, but Morneau singled past a diving Morales.
When Kubel singled up the middle, closer Brian Fuentes began to warm up.
But Mosebach finished off the Twins by getting Cuddyer to hit a soft popup to Aybar and retiring Brian Buscher on a groundout.
"That was an important inning for us," Scioscia said. "He got the ball in the zone and let his stuff play and got us through the inning."
Chone Figgins' three stolen bases gave him 31, making him the only active player to reach 30 steals in each of the last six seasons. . . . Torii Hunter is slightly ahead of Vladimir Guerrero in his bid to return from an injury, said Scioscia, who added that Hunter's target date of playing a week from now might be "a little aggressive." Neither player is expected to require a minor league rehabilitation assignment before returning. . . . Scioscia, on Internet reports that the Angels may be interested in Tampa Bay pitcher Scott Kazmir, who is 4-6 with a 6.69 earned-run average: "His name has not come up in our circles right now." . . . A spectator sprinted onto the field in the top of the seventh inning and was tackled by security personnel before being led away in handcuffs.
When: 12:30 p.m.
Where: Angel Stadium.
On the air: TV: Channel 13. Radio: 830, 1330.
Pitchers: Ervin Santana vs. Anthony Swarzak.
Update: For the Angels to complete a four-game sweep of the Twins, Santana must overcome the struggles he has endured this season at Angel Stadium, where he is 0-3 with an 11.95 earned-run average. Santana has won his last two starts, both on the road. Swarzak did not receive a decision despite pitching seven strong innings in his last outing, a 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Monday in which he gave up four hits and two runs. The home team has won all six games in the Twins-Angels series this season.
-- Ben Bolch