PHOENIX — Coming on the heels of Ervin Santana's elbow injury, it has to be somewhat discouraging for the Angels to hear that pitcher Joe Saunders is feeling some residual effects from the shoulder tightness that slowed him earlier this spring.
But after giving up two runs -- one earned -- and four hits in three innings of a 5-4 exhibition loss to Oakland on Monday, Saunders, who went 17-7 with a 3.41 earned-run average last season, said his shoulder problems are not serious.
"As long as it doesn't hurt to where you can't throw -- that's another issue," Saunders said. "But it's just a little tightness. It's a matter of getting treatment and pitching through it. The more I throw, I'll work out the kinks."
As uneven as Saunders looked Monday -- "His ball was flat, his sinker up a bit," Manager Mike Scioscia said -- he still needed only 30 pitches to complete three innings. He threw another 15 in the bullpen to bring his pitch count to 45.
"The fastball command still isn't there, the arm speed still isn't there," Saunders said. "I've just got to keep long-tossing to get my arm strength where it should be."
With Santana out until at least mid-April because of a sprained ligament in his pitching elbow, the Angels will need the rest of their rotation to perform -- and remain healthy.
"Last year [John] Lackey wasn't ready, so me and Ervin took it upon ourselves to help the team get off to a good start," Saunders said.
"One guy goes down, others have to step up."
No WBC for Fuentes
The U.S. team will advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic without Angels closer Brian Fuentes, who backed out of the event -- for good -- because of tightness in his back.
Fuentes, who pitched for the U.S. in the 2006 WBC, missed the first round to tend to a family matter and was planning to join the team for the second round until he began experiencing discomfort in the middle of his back after his last exhibition appearance.
"I wish I could be out there with them, but I'm not going to be able to go," said Fuentes, who was replaced on the WBC roster by Pittsburgh left-hander Josh Grabow.
"They have their bullpen under control, so I'm going to take it slow. . . . I don't want to push it and set myself back."
Fuentes played catch Monday for the first time since giving up three runs and three hits in one inning against the South African WBC team Wednesday. He was not sure when he would return to game action.
Help not wanted
The Angels, convinced Santana's injury won't sideline the All-Star right-hander for a significant amount of time, have no immediate plans to pursue outside pitching help.
There has been speculation the team could rekindle trade talks with San Diego about ace Jake Peavy or pursue a free agent such as Pedro Martinez or Paul Byrd.
"We don't need to look outside for help unless some things become unmanageable, not just with Ervin but with any starter," Scioscia said. "With some young kids throwing well, with [Kelvim] Escobar on the horizon, I see depth emerging."
Dustin Moseley, Shane Loux and Nick Adenhart are battling for the final two rotation spots, a competition that could soon include Anthony Ortega, who is recovering from a sore forearm.
No platoon at first
Utility player Robb Quinlan, whose best position is first base, is a career .305 hitter against left-handers, but it appears switch-hitting Kendry Morales will still get the bulk of the playing time at first.
Morales hit .346 with 39 home runs in 853 minor league at-bats from the left side and .299 with 15 homers in 334 at-bats from the right side. He is hitting .364 overall this spring.
"I don't anticipate [a platoon] right now, but we can adjust as we go," Scioscia said. "The reports we get from the minor leagues is that [Morales] has made tons of improvement from both sides."