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Notes: Escobar says back not serious

Notes: Escobar says back not serious

TEMPE, Ariz. -- After a brief scare with his back Saturday, Angels starter Kelvim Escobar said he is still on schedule to pitch the second game of the regular season.

Manager Mike Scioscia apparently needs some convincing, suggesting it's no sure thing the right-hander will pitch against Texas on April 3.

Escobar was pulled in the third inning against Colorado with what initially was called a strain in the lower left side of his back.

"Everything is OK," Escobar said, having been examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum after returning to the clubhouse. "We were just being careful. It's like a back spasm. I felt it a little bit, and they said not to go on."

Scioscia was relieved to hear that it was nothing serious, adding that "he might not get the work he needs next week to start the season. We'll evaluate where he is.

"Every time it happens to a pitcher in that area, you're worried about a rib cage or oblique. That doesn't appear to be the case. Kelvim wanted to pitch [more], but it didn't make any sense."

Escobar admitted he was scared initially, coming after third baseman Chone Figgins was lost for five to six weeks with fractures in two fingers in his right hand.

"When I felt it, it was like wow, I thought I pulled it," Escobar said. "After you get through most of Spring Training, you don't want to get hurt with only a week left."

Escobar was rolling along in good shape when Rockies second baseman Kaz Matsui stroked a ground ball past the mound at Tempe Diablo Stadium with two outs in the third inning of an 11-1 Colorado victory.

"I was just trying to reach for that ground ball," Escobar said, "and it felt like a cramp in the lower back."

Escobar, who was scheduled to make about 90 pitches but got only halfway there, plans to make his final spring start Thursday at Dodger Stadium against the Dodgers with 100 pitches his target.

After a frustrating 2006 -- he pitched through elbow, knee and blister issues to work 189 1/3 innings, going 11-14 with a 3.61 ERA -- Escobar was working on his landing in his delivery to alleviate a mechanical flaw. He has had a solid spring, yielding four runs in 11 innings for a 3.27 ERA.

"My elbow's pain-free," Escobar said. "That's the best I've felt in two, three years."

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Gorneault makes case: Every at-bat is big when you're trying to make a club, and Nick Gorneault is making the most of his opportunities.

The hard-hitting outfielder from Springfield, Mass., cracked a solo homer Friday in Peoria against Seattle and went the other way Saturday with a line single, raising his Cactus League average to .414 (12-for-29).

Gorneault, 27, has been highly productive at Triple-A Salt Lake the past two seasons, driving in 186 runs in 237 games. He can provide right-handed muscle off the bench if the Angels choose to go in that direction.

Tommy Murphy, Reggie Willits and Curtis Pride also are in the hunt for possibly two outfield spots now that Figgins is DL-bound. Murphy and Willits are multitalented switch-hitters capable of playing all three outfield spots. Pride is a veteran left-handed bat and can play the corners, like Gorneault.

Colon delivers: Bartolo Colon threw to hitters again Saturday at camp, working in some sliders, and continues to make positive strides in his recovery from a tear in his rotator cuff last July.

"Bartolo had a terrific workout," Scioscia said. "He was better than last time, and he was good last time. The ball came out of his hand nicely in the last workout and this was even better. He's very close. He could get in a [camp] game next week.

"He's made a lot of progress in a short amount of time -- and feels good the next day. That's the important thing. He hasn't regressed from any workout. It's not just his shoulder; it's where his whole body is."

On a more accelerated program with his biceps tendinitis recovery, Jered Weaver will throw batting practice Sunday and is set to throw 45 pitches in a camp game Tuesday.

"Jered had a lights-out bullpen," Scioscia said.

Scot Shields threw 32 pitches and three scoreless innings in a camp game Friday, and Justin Speier worked one inning.

Second baseman Howie Kendrick, who has missed three days with tightness in his groin, hopes to play Sunday.

Up next: Ervin Santana, coming off his first rough start of the spring, tries to jump back on track Sunday when he faces the Cubs and southpaw Ted Lilly at Mesa. Santana had four excellent outings before the Padres reached him for six runs on nine hits (including two homers) in 5 1/3 innings. The 24-year-old right-hander is 0-2 with a 4.42 ERA after leading the staff last spring with four wins in seven starts.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }