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Ervin Santana won't mind seeing postseason from the bullpen

Angels' pitcher has done well as a reliever. His postseason starts? Not so good. 'We have to win first before we're thinking about the playoffs,' he says.

September 22, 2009|Ben Bolch

Ervin Santana might not just be giving the politically correct answer when the Angels starter says he would be fine pitching out of the bullpen in the playoffs. Of his four career postseason appearances, half have come in relief -- the better half.

Santana memorably replaced an injured Bartolo Colon in the second inning of Game 5 of the 2005 American League division series and pitched 5 1/3 plucky innings to help the Angels advance to the next round. He also pitched two scoreless innings of relief against the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 division series.

His postseason starts have been abysmal. The Chicago White Sox scored six runs in 4 1/3 innings against the right-hander in Game 4 of the 2005 AL Championship Series, and Boston scored five runs against him in 5 1/3 innings last year in Game 2 of the division series.

With John Lackey, Jered Weaver and Scott Kazmir expected to be locks for the Angels' postseason rotation, Santana is likely battling Joe Saunders for the final rotation spot.

"I don't think about it," said Santana, who is scheduled to start against the New York Yankees tonight at Angel Stadium. "I don't make the decision. They do."

But doesn't he have a preference?

"No," he said. "I don't really care."

Santana, whose season has been marred by elbow problems, has pitched seven strong innings in each of his last two starts. But he stressed that he was trying to pitch well to help his team reach the playoffs, not to secure a spot in the postseason rotation.

"I just do my thing every time, do my job," he said. "I do it because I have to do it. . . . We have to win first before we're thinking about the playoffs."

How 'bout them Giants

Lackey played host to about 10 teammates in his suite at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday for the Dallas Cowboys' first regular-season game in their new $1.2-billion facility.

Reserve outfielder Reggie Willits and backup catcher Bobby Wilson received invitations in part because they were fans of the New York Giants, the Cowboys' opponent. Willits named his son Eli after Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

"He was cool about it," Willits said of rooting for the Giants in the presence of Lackey, a lifelong Cowboys fan. "They gave us a hard time, but it was all in fun."

The group had to leave the game early to make its flight back to Southern California. Lackey and Willits were in a cab when the Giants kicked the game-winning field goal. "I just quietly went, 'Yeah,' " Willits said.

Lackey said he and a father's friend purchased a 20-year lease on the suite.

Short hops

With his batting average having dipped to .188 this month in the wake of a four-for-29 slide, Kendry Morales did not start Monday against the Yankees. Manager Mike Scioscia said Morales was not being selective enough and "trying to do some things to some pitches that nobody but maybe Vlad can do," referring to Vladimir Guerrero. Morales pinch-hit in the seventh inning and homered. . . . Reliever Kevin Jepsen, who had pitched on six of the previous nine days, was unavailable. . . . Scioscia said he spoke with Juan Rivera about admiring his eighth-inning drive to left-center field and breaking into a home-run trot before realizing the ball did not clear the wall. Rivera ended up with a run-scoring double. "He admitted that he messed up," Scioscia said. . . . The Angels have won at least 90 games seven times in the last nine seasons.

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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