Escobar: Second rehab start a success

The only thing separating Kelvim Escobar from the Angels’ pitching staff is the 60-day disabled list. That was the right-hander’s pronouncement after throwing six near-perfect innings Wednesday night in his second rehabilitation start for Rancho Cucamonga.

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Lackey tossed after two pitches

John Lackey’s season debut with the Angels lasted all of two pitches to Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, as he was ejected after hitting Ian Kinsler in the ribs with a pitch. The hit-by-pitch came after Lackey’s first pitch sailed behind Kinsler’s back.

Mike Scioscia is currently arguing his case to no avail. Shane Loux to enter in relief.

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Is Matt Palmer (4-0) real?

A lot of people have been waiting for Matt Palmer to crack. It looked like it was finally going to happen Wednesday night. I mean, how does a 30-year-old career minor league pitcher go unscathed for a month in the majors? If you’re good enough to start the season 4-0 with a 3.37 ERA, you usually get discovered before your 30th birthday.

The first-inning home run Jason Bay hit off him was absolutely hammered. It was one of those that you weren’t wondering if it was out, just how far. It took a great play by Erick Aybar to get Palmer out of a rocky second inning in which the Red Sox added two more runs to Bay’s two-run homer.

After toiling in the San Francisco Giants minor league system for seven years, Palmer was admittedly already heaping pressure on himself to deliver in this opportunity with the Angels. Add to that the return of two-all star pitchers and it was an obvious time for Palmer to cave. Before the game Angels manager Mike Scioscia even left it open for Shane Loux to return to the rotation the next time around and you can bet he wasn’t going to take anybody’s spot but Palmer’s.

After dropping himself into a 4-0 hole, Palmer was untouchable. He retired 19 in a row, 22 of his last 23. After Bay’s third-inning single was negated by an inning-ending double play, not a single Red Sock (is that the singular of Sox?) reached base.

Palmer pitched his first career complete game and the Angels won 8-4.

After the game Scioscia had some interesting insight on Palmer’s rise to prominance. First of all he thought Palmer only started two games for the Giants last season – his first and only major-league starts – because San Francisco “has the best young arms in the major leagues.” Secondly, he thought Palmer didn’t have the type of stuff that’s going to wow scouts. But he quickly followed that up with the fact that Palmer proved he could win in the minor leagues.

Four starts in the big leagues. Four wins.

At this rate, Palmer may not just be keeping a spot in the rotation warm for Kelvim Escobar.

“He spent seven years in the minor leagues” Torii Hunter said. “but he’s up here now, fulfilling his dream, pitching his butt off.”

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Santana, Lackey to go Thursday, Saturday

Yet to throw a pitch for the Angels this season, Ervin Santana and John Lackey are officially set to return from the disabled list to the Angels starting rotation.

Santana will test a sprained right elbow against major league hitters for the first time when he starts today’s series finale against the Boston Red Sox and Lackey (strained right forearm) will start Saturday at the Texas Rangers.

Opening-day starter Joe Saunders, originally scheduled to start Thursday, will instead face the Rangers on Friday, a move Angels manager Mike Scioscia preferred for multiple reasons.

“Just trying to get some length in between (Santana and Lackey) in case it takes them a while to stretch into their length,” Scioscia said. “It serves two purposes because it gives Joe an extra day plus it helps separate two guys who maybe you wouldn’t want to have to throw the extra 10 or 12 pitches.”

After two minor-league rehabilitation starts each, neither Santana, who went 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA last season, nor Lackey, who was 12-5 with a 3.75 ERA in 2008, will be on a strict pitch count. Scioscia estimates the two will be able to throw up to 100 pitches.

“They’re going to have enough pitches to pitch deep into a game,” he said, “but they’re certainly not going to get to the 105-, 110-pitch range this next outing but they could grow into that.”

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Rotation shuffle

Ervin Santana and John Lackey will be activated from the disabled list this week, throwing the starting rotation into flux. Matt Palmer will start today against Tim Wakefield as scheduled before Santana makes his 2009 debut Thursday afternoon against Brad Penny.

Joe Saunders, originally scheduled to pitch Thursday, will take the mound in the opener of the series at Texas Friday before Lackey makes his debut Saturday.

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Rivera guns down Ellsbury at home

The Angels retained their 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning when leftfielder Juan Rivera threw a one-hop frozen rope home, nailing Jacoby Ellsbury’s attempt to try to tag up from first base.

Ellsbury led off the sixth with a single off Jered Weaver – who has given up only three hits thus far – and stole second before advancing to third on a tag up off a Julio Lugo fly ball to right. David Ortiz hit a slightly shallow fly ball to left, which Rivera caught and threw home to get Ellsbury on a bang-bang play.

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Hunter brushed back

Boston starter Justin Masterson’s three walks and one hit batter in the first two innings apparently didn’t move home plate umpire Jim Joyce, who gave Masterson and both clubs a warning after Masterson threw a pitch behind Torii Hunter to lead off the bottom of the third. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

It’s a 1-1 tie right now, with the Angels having left five runners on base during the first two innings. A Kendry Morales sacrifice fly brought in Maicer Izturis in the bottom of the first for the Angels, while J.D. Drew hit a solo homer in to straightaway center off Jered Weaver in the second.

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Callup bittersweet for Wilson

With starting pitcher Anthony Ortega sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake Sunday, the Angels brought up catcher Bobby Wilson from the Bees. Wilson, who made a cameo for the Angels last September, made his first appearance in the Angels clubhouse since the tragic death of pitcher Nick Adenhart, a good friend of his, on April 9.

Wilson made it a point to stop by Adenhart’s locker, which is as it was left after Adenhart’s last game the night of April 8. Stopping by his former roommate’s locker gave Wilson the perspective he needed.

“The way the locker looks is vintage Nick,” Wilson said. “That’s exactly how I would imagine he would have left it. (Going by the locker) was a hard thing to do, but I guess it gives a little more closure. Not complete closure, but I’m glad I saw it.”

Wilson, who keeps in regular contact with the Adenhart family, could very well be sent down later this week, when John Lackey and/or Ervin Santana are recalled from the disabled list. But that’s something that Wilson is at peace with, especially after the tragedy that befell his close friend.

“Ultimately, it’s just baseball and just a game,” Wilson said. “We are blessed to be playing in it and quite frankly, it’s supposed to be fun. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try hard or put all my effort out there, but it’s just a game.”

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Starting lineups

Lineups for tonight’s Red Sox-Angels game at Angel Stadium. Boston is without All-Star first baseman Kevin Youkilis for the seventh straight game with a tight lower left side and without American League MVP Dustin Pedroia at second. Pedroia left Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Rays with a strained groin.

In their place is Jeff Bailey, who is playing first and batting seventh, and Nick Green, who is playing second and batting ninth. Justin Masterson (2-2, 5.28 ERA) is starting for Boston against Jered Weaver (3-1, 2.66 ERA) – who is fifth in the AL in ERA and coming off his first career complete game against Toronto this past Thursday.

Boston lineup:

1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF
2. Julio Lugo SS
3. David Ortiz DH
4. Jason Bay LF
5. Mike Lowell 3B
6. J.D. Drew RF
7. Jeff Bailey 1B
8. Jason Varitek DH
9. Nick Green 2B

Angels lineup
1. Chone Figgins 3B
2. Maicer Izturis SS
3. Bobby Abreu RF
4. Torii Hunter CF
5. Kendry Morales 1B
6. Mike Napoli DH
7. Juan Rivera LF
8. Howie Kendrick 2B
9. Jeff Mathis C

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Escobar, Moseley updates

Starting pitcher Kelvin Escobar’s start in extended spring training Monday in Arizona reportedly went off without a hitch, as Escobar threw 45 pitches in the next step in recovering from right shoulder surgery.

“(Kelvim) threw very well,” Scioscia said. “Everything we’ve heard about it is good right now.”

While Escobar looks on track, for the time being, to come back early next month, Dustin Moseley suffered a setback. Moseley, out since April 18 with a tight right forearm, felt some pain in his neck after a throwing session and will be slowed down while that is addressed, according to Scioscia.

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