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Full speed ahead for Kelvim Escobar

Escobar's fastball tops out at 96 mph in a triple-A game, another indication the right-hander is ahead of schedule in his recovery from shoulder surgery.

March 24, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

TEMPE, ARIZ. — Kelvim Escobar's first pitch Monday popped loudly into the mitt of catcher Bobby Wilson, registering 95 mph and dropping jaws among the few dozen young players behind the backstop.

"It's like the whole minor league complex was watching me," Escobar said. "It gets you excited."

Escobar's fastball topped out at 96 mph in a triple-A game against the Chicago Cubs, another indication the right-hander is ahead of schedule in his recovery from shoulder surgery.

Escobar, who missed all of 2008 and hadn't pitched since his minor league rehabilitation stint was cut short last June, faced seven batters, giving up two hits, striking out one and walking one.

He threw 34 pitches, 18 for strikes. His fastball was consistently clocked from 94 to 96 mph, and he mixed in several nice split-fingered fastballs and changeups.

"Oh man, I feel good," Escobar said. "I knew I had good velocity, but I never thought I'd be throwing 96."

Escobar, who went 18-7 with a 3.40 earned-run average in 2007, will probably be put on a regular five-day schedule. He hopes to bump his workload by 15 pitches each start. Barring a setback, he could return to the Angels rotation by the end of April.

"I've tested my arm many times this spring, and it feels fine," Escobar said. "Now, I'm going to focus on mechanics and making good pitches."

Cactus coolers

Erick Aybar and Robb Quinlan hit two-run home runs, Jeff Mathis had a solo shot, his fourth homer of the spring, and Torii Hunter hit a two-run triple to lead the Angels to a 10-4 exhibition victory over the Dodgers at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Dustin Moseley, who appears a lock for the fourth spot in the Angels' rotation, gave up four runs -- three earned -- and eight hits in six innings, striking out three and walking one, as the Angels improved their Cactus League-best record to 18-4.

The right-hander needed only eight pitches -- seven strikes -- to retire Manny Ramirez three times, striking out the Dodgers' slugger looking in the first and fifth innings and inducing a double-play grounder in the third.

"I made every pitch to him in those three at-bats," said Moseley, who threw 89 pitches. "He either didn't see the pitches, thought they were balls, or maybe he was taking, trying to get his timing down."

Transition game

Bobby Abreu returned to camp after a three-week stint with Venezuela's World Baseball Classic team and began a two-week crash course on left field, a position the longtime right fielder has played in only 16 big league games over 12 years.

"I have to switch my mind back to left field," said Abreu, who started alongside Hunter, an eight-time Gold Glove Award-winning center fielder, on Monday.

"We're going to have conversations every day -- I'll see how far he can go, he'll see how far I can go.

"He's the captain of the outfield. He'll tell me if he wants me to play back or shallow, toward the line or toward the gap. It definitely helps that he can cover a lot of ground."

Short hops

Angels closer Brian Fuentes also pitched in a triple-A game Monday, giving up two runs and four hits in 1 2/3 innings, striking out two and hitting a batter. The left-hander threw 30 pitches, 20 for strikes, and his fastball was 88-89 mph. . . . Ervin Santana, sidelined by a sprained elbow ligament, has extended his long-toss program to 105 feet, but he still isn't throwing aggressively enough for the Angels to get a good read on his recovery.


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