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ANGELS SPRING REPORT

Angels' John Lackey will be sidelined for a couple of weeks

Diagnosed with an elbow strain, the right-hander is frustrated that he will miss opening day.

March 29, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

TEMPE, ARIZ. — John Lackey has been diagnosed with an elbow strain that will sideline the Angels' ace "for a couple of weeks," the team's medical director said Saturday. The right-hander was given a cortisone shot to promote the healing process.

"It's difficult to quantify," Dr. Lewis Yocum said, when asked how severe the injury is. "It's frustrating for John. There's no good time for him to be sore. But it's better to be safe up front, at the beginning of a long season, than to push him to come back sooner."

Yocum, who was in town to examine the pitcher's MRI results, said there was no structural damage in the elbow, and that this injury is not related to the triceps tendinitis that sidelined Lackey for the first six weeks of the 2008 season.

"Last year it was the back of the elbow," Yocum said. "He has some inflammation back there, but the MRI showed that the triceps situation from last year has been resolved. . . . His elbow looks better than it did in last year's MRI, so we're encouraged in that regard."

Lackey was shut down after feeling tightness on the inside of his elbow during last Sunday's game against Kansas City. He tried to play catch Thursday but felt so much discomfort he was sent for an MRI exam.

He was placed on anti-inflammatory medication and will continue to strengthen his arm with exercise, but he probably won't try to play catch again until late this week. He will open the season on the disabled list.

"It could have been worse, I guess," Lackey said. "Obviously, it's frustrating that I'm not going to be ready for opening day, but I better take care of it now and be ready for the end."

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Giant steps

Kelvim Escobar took another significant step in his return from shoulder surgery Saturday, retiring the first 10 batters he faced before walking his final batter in a double-A game against San Francisco in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Escobar, in his second minor league start, threw 40 pitches, five short of his target, and did not allow a ball to be hit out of the infield. His fastball was clocked from 91 to 93 mph and touched 94 mph once. He struck out two.

"I felt good," Escobar said. "I think it was better today than the last time -- location was good, breaking stuff was better. I was more under control. I was focused more on hitting my spots."

Escobar's fastball hit 96 mph Monday, but he said his velocity was down Saturday because he tried to mix in more two-seam, sinking fastballs and breaking pitches.

With Lackey and Ervin Santana opening the season on the DL, the Angels don't want Escobar to feel pressured to rush back.

"He's on his own schedule, and it will not be accelerated," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "There's a progression you can't cheat. He has to get to 90 to 100 pitches and be able to repeat it."

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On the mend

Santana, out since early March because of a sprained elbow ligament, has extended his long-toss program to 150 feet and could begin throwing off a mound in a week or so, Yocum said. First, the right-hander must stretch his long-toss to 200 feet.

"He feels great -- we haven't seen any speed bump or setback so far," said Yocum, who examined Santana on Saturday. "The real test will be when he gets back on a mound.

"If he gets through this, keeps his strength up and maintains good mechanics, it shouldn't be a problem pitching the whole season with this."

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Thunder sticks

The Angels continued to club their way through the Cactus League, amassing 20 hits, including four each by Kendry Morales and Erick Aybar, in a 16-9 exhibition win over Seattle on Saturday.

Morales homered, Aybar hit a three-run triple, and Howie Kendrick and Torii Hunter also homered for the Angels, who have 83 runs and 101 hits, including 23 homers, in their last seven games. The Angels (22-5) set a franchise record for spring wins.

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Short hops

Dustin Moseley gave up six runs and 10 hits, including four homers, in seven innings of a triple-A game against San Francisco on Saturday. Moseley struck out three and walked one while throwing 88 pitches. . . . Mike Napoli led off five innings of the triple-A game and doubled twice against ace Tim Lincecum, who started for the Giants. . . . Vladimir Guerrero was held out Saturday because of conjunctivitis and hopes to return today. . . . Joe Saunders was scratched from today's start because of a stomach ailment. The left-hander will pitch in a minor league game Monday.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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