Notes: Escobar eyes quick return
Pitcher had injury trouble from the beginning of camp
LOS ANGELES -- Based on how Kelvim Escobar reported to camp this spring, his current setback falls in line with expectations.A strained right elbow has forced the Angels starter to open the season on the 15-day disabled list with the move retroactive to March 31, the day after his last spring appearance. Escobar got a slow start in the desert as he worked through a tight right shoulder. He didn't throw until Feb. 27 and did not make his first spring start until March 15. Escobar progressed from that point and did not have any further pain or soreness in his shoulder, but manager Mike Scioscia believes this latest setback is related to his delayed spring. "It's really nothing out of the ordinary other than normal Spring Training soreness," Scioscia said. "If Kelvim would have had a normal spring, he would have absorbed this." Escobar said he already feels better after shutting it down for the last few days and does not believe his stint on the DL will extend beyond the minimum. He is eligible to come off April 15 when the Angels face the A's in Oakland, which coincides with Escobar's turn in the rotation. If that is the case, he'll miss only one start. "I think it is the best move for now," Escobar said. "Make sure everything is 100 percent when I start pitching." In 1996, when he was in the Blue Jays organization, Escobar had surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow and in 1998, he spent some time on the DL with elbow inflammation. This time, Escobar said he woke up with soreness in his elbow, but that has since subsided and he feels confident that he'll recover quickly. "It's a minor setback because I felt good in my three games in Spring Training," Escobar said. Scioscia said they are in "calm-down mode" for the next couple of days, after which they will reevaluate and determine when Escobar can resume throwing. "It's a matter of days, not weeks," Scioscia said. Moving up: Kevin Gregg has been bumped out of the bullpen and into the rotation to take Escobar's No. 5 slot. The right-hander started two games this spring, posting a 1-0 mark with a 2.00 ERA in a total of six appearances. Gregg tossed about 45 pitches in his last outing and will pitch in the intrasquad game at Rancho Cucamonga on Monday where he will increase his pitch count to about 65-70. Scioscia feels that will be enough for Gregg to handle the 80-85 pitches necessary to go at least five innings when he faces the Royals in the regular season Saturday. Gregg went 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three outings as a starter in 2003. He was 5-2 with a 4.21 ERA last season in 55 appearances for the Angels, all in relief.
"I think Paul did today what he's done all spring," Scioscia said. "He changes speeds and hits his spots. We need him to pitch like that in 30-plus starts this season."
Two of the three hits Byrd allowed were solo homers, but he was unaffected afterward.
"I gave up a few home runs today. I wanted to make sure before the season starts that the fastball out over the plate is still a bad pitch," Byrd joked. "You never know when this game might change."
High praise: The Angels led the American League last season with the fewest errors, edging Oakland and Toronto by one, 91-90.Some new faces have been added to the defense. Newcomers include center fielder Steve Finley and shortstop Orlando Cabrera. At third will be a combo of Robb Quinlan and Dallas McPherson, when the rookie returns from a herniated disk, while Chone Figgins will fill in at second until Adam Kennedy returns. Gone are David Eckstein, Jose Guillen and Troy Glaus, but Scioscia believes this team is an upgrade in the field. "I think we're better defensively, but maybe not as much projected power," Scioscia said. "We set up better at a number of positions." On deck: The Angels will play an intrasquad game at Rancho Cucamonga on Monday in preparation for Tuesday's season opener against the Rangers. Right-hander Bartolo Colon gets the Opening Day start at 7:05 p.m. PT against Texas right-hander Ryan Drese.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.