Angels' Moseley clears major hurdle

Moseley clears major hurdle

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Dustin Moseley, a candidate to claim John Lackey's spot in the Angels' rotation to open the season, cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

For the first time since undergoing offseason surgery to alleviate pressure on his right ulnar nerve, Moseley released some internal pressure by cutting loose with his fastball against the Brewers.

In the big picture, this was the most significant part of his four innings of work in his second Cactus League start. Having yielded two runs on six hits and a walk in an 11-4 victory, the personable Moseley was all smiles in the afterglow.

"The last couple innings, I really started letting it go a little bit," he said. "I've kind of been guarding [it] a little bit for some reason. Nothing hurts, everything feels fine ...

"The last two innings [were] a real breakthrough in this camp for me. I was letting everything go. Yeah, it was just something mental. I started getting on some fastballs. There's nothing there, man."

Nothing -- as in no pain -- in this case meant everything to the 26-year-old right-hander.

"It's almost like if you really let it go," he said, "are you going to feel something like last year? Getting over that."

Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher told Moseley his velocity accelerated by 3 mph, into the 89-91 range, after he gained enough confidence to turn it loose.

"He broke through a big wall," Butcher said. "After the third inning, he left it all out there. When you have surgery, sometimes you have to break through a mental barrier -- it's not going to hurt anymore. That last inning was a big step for him, and it was nice to see ... very nice."

Manager Mike Scioscia was enthused by Moseley's 63-pitch effort, praising his command, velocity and arm speed.

"As the game went on, he got a lot stronger, no doubt about it," Scioscia said. "In the first inning it took him awhile to get his feet on the ground, but I liked the way his stuff picked up. The last three innings, he really finished strong."

Moseley had pitched three Cactus League innings and three innings in a camp game five days earlier. He's already looking forward to the next step in the process.

"Going into this next bullpen," Moseley said, "I can really let it go and locate the ball with maximum effort."

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Before moving into his designated middle-relief role in 2007, Moseley opened the season in a starting role and delivered two solid outings with Jered Weaver and Bartolo Colon on the disabled list.

Pressed into service as a starter on six other occasions, he finished 1-1 as a starter with a 4.20 ERA, going 40 2/3 innings in his eight starts.

As a long reliever, he was 3-2 with a 4.56 ERA in 26 appearances -- highlighted by one of the most important performances of the Angels' season on Aug. 26 when he shut out the Mariners in Seattle for 5 1/3 innings during a pivotal three-game sweep.

It is not in the nature of the Texarkana, Ark., native to make grandiose declarations, so he's not about to lobby for a starting role. Asked if he had a sense where he's headed -- rotation or back to the bullpen -- he acknowledged 21-year-old Nick Adenhart's excellent spring and fellow middle reliever Chris Bootcheck's oblique strain.

"That's a tough one, man," Moseley said. "With Adenhart throwing the ball like he has and everything, that's going to be their decision. From a team perspective, with Bootcheck down and not really having a long man, we'll see. I'm just doing what they ask of me."

According to Butcher, "there are a lot of ways to look at it. The middle of the bullpen is a crucial spot for us, and, obviously, the starting spot is big. They're both huge voids to fill."

Whatever awaits him, Moseley is confident he turned a vital corner on Tuesday.

"I'll get two more [spring outings]," he said. "Last year I stayed back and got six innings in during a camp game.

"I would be ready [to start]. My pitch count would be there. I asked for one more [inning] today, but they've got to have innings for the other guys."

Moseley had a rocky first inning, giving up two runs on four hits, the first two not hit crisply.

"Good pitches, balls find holes," Moseley said. "Then you give up a rocket [for an out] to third base.'

To accommodate Moseley in game conditions, Joe Saunders pitched a camp game in Tempe against a Triple-A team provided by the A's.

In five innings, Saunders gave up six hits and two earned runs, walking three hitters while striking out five. He threw 73 pitches, keeping him on schedule to open the season in good shape.

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