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.


Escobar hit his 75-pitch allotment on the mark, allowing only an infield single when a hard-hit ground ball was bobbled near the outfield grass. He retired the other 18 Lancaster JetHawks he faced, eight via strikeout, and allowed just three balls to leave the infield.

“I’m going to make one more start,” he said, “but I’m ready to join the big club.”

The reason Escobar can’t is that his DL stint ends June 3, leaving at least a week of down time to keep his arm in shape. Escobar said he will start for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City next Monday with a 90-pitch limit.

If anything, he could use an opportunity to face stiffer competition and pitch out of the stretch. The right-hander was in the stretch for only three batters on Wednesday.

“It’s good when you have guys on base, but what can you do? Throw from the stretch on the side, I guess,” Escobar said.

Not that any of the 2,401 in attendance at the Epicenter noticed, but they didn’t see the same Escobar that last pitched for the Angels in 2007. For one, he wasn’t throwing any sliders — only two- and four-seam fastballs, split-fingered fastballs, changeups and curveballs. The slider is considered among the most strenuous pitches to throw, and Escobar likes his repertoire without it.

For another, his fastball started at 95 mph on the radar gun but was only clocking 92 by the sixth inning. For now at least, he doesn’t seem to mind.

“I can overpower and pitch at the same time,” said Escobar, who preferred to look at the bigger picture. Prior to having surgery last July to repair his torn labrum, a doctor gave Escobar a cautionary foreboding. “They said, ‘you might be able to pitch but your stuff might not be the same,’ ” he recalled. “If you look at my stuff, it’s never been better.”

By throwing six innings and leaving with a 6-0 lead, Escobar had a chance to earn his first Single-A victory since 1996, when he was a 20-year-old in the Blue Jays’ system. Instead, two Quakes relievers allowed six runs over the next two innings, allowing Lancaster to tie the game.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.
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