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ANGELS SPRING REPORT

Angels' Kelvim Escobar expects daily dose of quality

Escobar says that once he and Ervin Santana rejoin the rotation, which could happen in May, the Angels will have the strongest, deepest pitching staff in the AL.

March 14, 2009|Bill Shaikin

TEMPE, ARIZ. — The Angels plan to open the season with pitchers Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar on the disabled list.

By May, when the Angels hope the duo has rejoined John Lackey, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver in the starting rotation, Escobar says the team will have the top staff in the American League.

"We're going to send a guy out every day that gives the team a chance to win," Escobar said. "A lot of times, in the big leagues, you have maybe two good guys, or three good guys, and then No. 4 and No. 5, you don't know.

"Here, you have a quality starter every game."

Escobar said the team with the next-best rotation is the New York Yankees, with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Chien-Ming Wang -- "That's like three No. 1 guys," Escobar said -- followed by Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain.

"I like our rotation better," Escobar said. "We're deeper. And our bullpen is better too."

The Angels' starters won 73 games last season, most in the league, and pitched 1,012 innings, second in the league. They posted a 4.14 earned-run average, ranking behind the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox.

The Blue Jays' rotation was dented when Burnett defected to the Yankees, but the Tampa Bay and Boston rotations could be better.

The Rays have Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine and probably rookie standout David Price. By July, the Red Sox could have Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield and John Smoltz or Brad Penny.

Slammin' Morales

Kendry Morales hit a grand slam Friday in the Angels' 8-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs, a towering shot that crashed against the scoreboard beyond right-center field.

"He has big power," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Whether it translates to 15, 20 or 30 home runs, it's impossible to say."

Morales, the replacement for Mark Teixeira at first base, hit .341 with 15 home runs in 78 games at triple-A Salt Lake last season. He hit .416 in 89 at-bats with runners in scoring position, a statistic the Angels monitor closely. Morales is projected to bat fifth, behind Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter.

"He's going to be up there with a lot of guys on base," Scioscia said. "It's going to be key for him, as far as what we need out of him on the offensive end."

In a pinch

Hunter is expected to sit out "a couple days" because of a "pinch" in his left shoulder, Scioscia said.

The outfielder said he could have played Friday if the game counted. He said the discomfort pops up every spring, as soon as he starts playing in games and swinging hard, a reminder of a high school football injury.

An option quarterback on the run, he got leveled and his shoulder popped out of place. Yet, Hunter said, he did not come out of the game so doctors could treat the shoulder.

"Popped it back into place and kept playing," he said. "I'm old school."

Short hops

Shortstop Erick Aybar, who had 14 walks last season, walked twice Friday and has four walks in six games this spring. "For his growth as a player, that has to happen in the regular season," Scioscia said. . . . Outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. (knee) could make his spring debut as soon as Sunday, and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero (knee) could follow within the next week. Scioscia said Guerrero would not be limited to designated hitter duty, either in camp or when the season starts. . . . Dustin Moseley, who is expected to start the season in the rotation, gave up two runs in four innings, striking out four. . . . The Angels sent pitchers David Herndon, Sean O'Sullivan and Jordan Walden to minor league camp.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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