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Scott Kazmir is sharp, Jason Bulger has a scare

Starter throws five shutout innings for Angels, but reliever leaves game after feeling tightness in shoulder.


OAKLAND — A shoulder injury to reliever Jason Bulger on the eve of the playoffs put a slight damper on a sharp outing by left-hander Scott Kazmir, who gave up three hits in five shutout innings in the Angels' 4-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday.

Bulger, who is 6-1 with a 3.56 earned-run average in 64 games, gave up a walk, a run-scoring triple to Eric Patterson and struck out two batters in the eighth inning before signaling to the bench that he felt tightness in the front of his shoulder.

He came out of the game.

"They didn't want to risk injury; it's more precautionary," said Bulger, who sat out a week and a half in late August and early September because of tightness in the back of his shoulder. "I'm not concerned. The good thing is I have a couple of days to rest up and get ready for Boston."

Bulger has been pitching in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

If his shoulder doesn't respond well over the next few days, Ervin Santana would assume more of a late-inning relief role, and Jose Arredondo would be added to the playoff roster.

"He felt a little twinge in the shoulder; he probably has a little tendinitis," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We'll evaluate it and see how he progresses. If it calms down, he should be OK for the playoffs. But it's certainly something the training staff will watch real closely."

Kazmir, who is expected to start Game 3 of the American League division series against the Red Sox in Fenway Park, was very encouraged by Saturday's start, in which he found the slider that had deserted him in recent games.

"For the most part, I threw a lot of good sliders today, especially against left-handers," said Kazmir, who is 2-2 with a 1.73 ERA in six starts for the Angels since his Aug. 28 trade from Tampa Bay. "I had a good feel for it."

Injury updates

Shortstop Erick Aybar, who sat out two games because of a bruised right hand, and second baseman Howie Kendrick, who sat out three games because of an infection below his right knee, each returned Saturday.

But utility infielder Maicer Izturis remained sidelined for a second consecutive day because of an injury to the outside of his left knee, suffered when he tripped over Texas first baseman Andruw Jones on Thursday in Anaheim.

Izturis, who starts at second base against right-handers and can also play shortstop and third base, could play in today's regular-season finale. Scioscia does not believe the injury will affect Izturis' availability in the playoffs.

Izturis, who is batting .300 with eight home runs and 65 runs batted in, sat out the playoffs last season because of a thumb injury.

The switch-hitter would have been an attractive option to replace the struggling Aybar or Kendrick.

"Not having him was tough," Scioscia said. "He can bring a lot to our lineup."

Aybar had three singles and scored twice Saturday. Kendrick was hitless in four at-bats and turned a double play.

Reserve corps

Utility man Robb Quinlan, who plays the corner infield and outfield spots, appeared to solidify a spot on the playoff roster with a sharp single in his only at-bat Friday night and a two-run single and a run-scoring double Saturday.

Whatever shot Brandon Wood had of snagging that final roster spot may have evaporated with three-strikeout games Thursday and Friday. Wood singled in the seventh inning Saturday -- and was picked off first base by reliever Brad Ziegler.

Wood is a better athlete with more power than Quinlan, but Quinlan showed this weekend why he could be more valuable as a reserve in a short series -- the veteran can give the Angels a quality at-bat after not playing for long periods.

"He might go a couple of weeks without an at-bat, but he has the ability to go out there and put the barrel on the ball," Scioscia said. "He would have more playing time [on other teams], but that's the role he has here, and he's done a terrific job."

Red Sox relieved

Boston had a little shortstop scare of its own Friday when Alex Gonzalez, who has solidified the defense since his Aug. 14 trade from Cincinnati, was hit on the right wrist by a 93-mph Kerry Wood fastball.

Initial X-rays were inconclusive, and there was a fear that a line on the scan was a hairline fracture. But X-rays Saturday morning were negative, and Gonzalez is expected to be ready for the division series.

Short hops

Right fielder Bobby Abreu became the fifth player in history to have five seasons with 100 runs batted in and 30 stolen bases. The others -- Honus Wagner (seven times), Hugh Duffy and Barry Bonds (six times) and Ty Cobb (five times) are all Hall of Fame members. . . . Gary Matthews Jr. had a run-scoring double in the fourth inning Saturday.


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