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.
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.
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.”
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.”