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ANGELS FYI

Darren Oliver keeps going strong

Left-handed reliever, 38, thought about retiring after last season but reconsidered and is a bright spot in the Angels' unsteady bullpen.

May 18, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

ARLINGTON, TEXAS — And to think, Darren Oliver briefly considered retiring after last season.

Not only has Oliver shown he has plenty left in the tank, the way the 38-year-old left-hander has been pitching, he looks as if he could play another two or three years in the big leagues.

In a bullpen filled with inconsistent and underachieving relievers, Oliver has been a rock, with a 1.10 earned-run average in nine games. He has 13 strikeouts and three walks in 16 1/3 innings and has limited opponents to a .228 batting average.

In Thursday's 12-inning win over Boston, Oliver, who is hardly overpowering but mixes a nice breaking ball with his well-placed fastballs and cut-fastballs, struck out five in two scoreless innings.

"My wife was the only one who didn't want to see that," Oliver said. "I thought that was pretty funny."

Oliver's kids, Brock and Maxwell, are 10 and 8, and Oliver's wife, Melissa, wanted Darren home after last season. It didn't seem too much to ask. Wasn't 21 years of professional baseball, including 14 years in the big leagues, enough?

Problem was, Oliver was 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 54 games last season, hardly an indication he was slipping, and when the Angels offered him $3.655 million to return this season, well, what's one more year in the big leagues, right?

"I'm just going with the flow," said Oliver, who has not given up a run in 8 2/3 innings of six appearances since coming off the disabled list May 5. "I feel good. I'm going out there and throwing strikes, giving myself a chance."

And the Angels, too. It's no coincidence some of the bullpen's biggest struggles came in late April and early May, when Oliver was sidelined because of a strained left triceps. Dating to last season, 31 of his 37 relief outings have been scoreless.

"D.O. was the unsung hero of the bullpen last year, and we've seen what a big piece of the bullpen he is this year," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "When he wasn't there, we felt it."

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Finished business

Jered Weaver on Sunday posted his second complete game in three starts but wound up with the loss after giving up three runs and six hits in eight innings, striking out seven and walking three.

The right-hander had given up two runs and seven hits in 16 innings of his previous two starts, and Sunday, after giving up a one-out single to Michael Young in the first inning, he retired the next 14 batters.

"Everything felt good today, I located my pitches, and [catcher Jeff] Mathis and I worked well together," Weaver said. "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you've got to tip your cap to the other pitching staff."

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Back in the saddle

John Lackey won't have to wait long to redeem himself for Saturday's abbreviated start against Texas, when he was ejected after throwing his first pitch of the game behind Ian Kinsler's head and his second pitch into the ribs of the Rangers' leadoff batter.

The Angels' ace, who sat out the first six weeks of the season because of a forearm strain, will start tonight in Seattle. The rest of the rotation -- Matt Palmer, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders -- will be pushed back a day.

"I definitely want to get back out there," Lackey said. "I want to pitch, man. It's been a while. I know it's my job, but it's fun, too. I like it."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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ANGELS TONIGHT

AT SEATTLE

Where: Safeco Field.

When: 7.

On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 980, 1330.

Pitchers: John Lackey vs. Jarrod Washburn; Matt Palmer (4-0, 3.38) vs. Felix Hernandez (4-2, 3.53) Tuesday, 7 p.m.; Ervin Santana (0-0, 5.40) vs. Chris Jakubauskas (2-4, 7.13) Wednesday, 7 p.m.; Joe Saunders (5-2, 3.59) vs. TBA, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Update: Lackey, ejected from Saturday's game after making only two pitches against Texas, played catch Sunday and said tonight "should feel like a normal start," even though he went through his normal pregame routine Saturday. Lackey has a 10-8 record and 3.90 earned-run average against Seattle but did not face the Mariners last season. Seattle spent most of April in first place, but before Sunday the Mariners were 9-18 since a season-high six-game winning streak (April 9-15) and lost 10 of 12 games. After blowing two save opportunities last week in Texas, hard-throwing right-hander Brandon Morrow was demoted from the closer role. Washburn is 5-6 record with a 4.62 ERA in 12 starts against his former team.

-- Mike DiGiovanna

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