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Angels reliever Scot Shields has a solid inning

In his first game appearance since last May, right-hander gives up one hit against the White Sox and his knee feels good.

March 12, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — His first game-action pitch since last May 26 was lined sharply into right field for a single by Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski on Friday.

"A rude awakening," Angels reliever Scot Shields said.

The remainder of his outing might have been a wake-up call for the rest of the American League: Shields could be back.

The veteran setup man, who underwent season-ending surgery on his left knee last June, got Alexi Ramirez to ground to third, struck out Alex Rios and got Josh Kroeger to fly to center in the fifth inning of the Angels' 10-7 exhibition loss to the White Sox.

Though he bounced a few breaking balls in the dirt, seven of the 12 pitches Shields threw were strikes, and he hit 90 mph with his fastball.

"I made some good pitches, I made some bad pitches, but the knee felt good — for the first time out, I was pleased," said Shields, one of baseball's most durable and dependable relievers from 2004-2008. "I woke up this morning excited. I got the first one out of the way. Now it's time to fine-tune for the season."

Friday was a significant step for Shields, but the right-hander might have cleared a bigger hurdle earlier this month when, in his third bullpen session, he threw with 100% effort and no inhibitions.

"I wasn't thinking about my knee at all," Shields said. "That's when it kind of clicked. It was OK. It was something I was waiting for, to go out there and throw off the mound full bore, ready to go. Is it going to be good? Is it going to be bad? It turned out good."

Saunders too strong

Joe Saunders, whose scheduled exhibition debut was rained out Sunday, was roughed up in his first spring start, giving up four earned runs and five hits, four for extra bases, in 1 2/3 innings.

The left-hander gave up a double to Rios, a run-scoring triple to Josh Kroeger and a run-scoring double to Stefan Gartrell in the second inning before being pulled with two out.

"I feel awesome — my arm feels outstanding, my body feels good — now, it's a matter of executing pitches," said Saunders, who developed a knot in his shoulder last spring that affected him for the first four months of the season.

"My first time out, the adrenaline was flowing, and I was overthrowing. But I'm ecstatic with where I am now as opposed to where I was this time last year."

Short hops

Relievers Kevin Jepsen and Fernando Rodney each threw 19-pitch innings under simulated-game conditions Friday. Barring setback, the right-handers will begin pitching in exhibition games Sunday or Monday. … Erick Aybar has been unable to play shortstop for two days because of a sore elbow, but he could return to the lineup Saturday. … Joel Pineiro, who was scratched from Tuesday's start because of some emergency dental work, threw a 50-pitch bullpen workout Thursday and will be folded back into the rotation Sunday against the Cubs.

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