While Joe Saunders was working 6 2/3 innings in Mesa, Ariz., against a Cubs Triple-A outfit, continuing the best spring of his career, Dustin Moseley was taking another positive stride in his bid to claim the No. 5 spot in the rotation in a 8-2 win over the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Moseley lasted five shutout innings, helped along by a sensational first-inning play by second baseman Howard Kendrick. With two on and one out, Kendrick back-handed Greg Norton's sharp grounder behind second and triggered a double play.
Moseley exhaled and pitched effectively the rest of the way, getting help again when first baseman Casey Kotchman made a leaping stab of Raul Ibanez's line drive to save a run in the third.
Retiring nine of the last 10 men he faced, Moseley was feeling good in the afterglow, his offseason ulnar nerve surgery receding deeper into the background.
"Coming off surgery, you wonder, `How am I going to be?'" Moseley said. "Going out today, I felt I commanded the ball better. The last two innings, I felt strong. I was really letting it go. And putting up zeros gave me confidence."
In his third spring start, Moseley reached his 70-pitch destination with some work in the bullpen after his five innings.
Saunders, meanwhile, delivered 89 pitches in 6 1/3 innings, giving up five runs (two earned) while walking three and striking out six.
"I'm right where I want to be," said the stylish lefty from Virginia who is 15-8 in 33 career starts. "For all purposes -- arm strength, being ready, performance-wise -- this is my best spring. In the past, I came in almost ready. This time I came in ready.
"My offseason goal was to make the rotation and get ready to pitch from day one. That was my goal, to get my body physically ready -- and I think I did that."
Manager Mike Scioscia applauded the work of both pitchers. Moseley, he said, "is on pace but still has some work to do. I like the way he maintained his stuff."
Moseley and Nick Adenhart are in contention for the fifth rotation spot created by the loss of ace John Lackey for at least a month with a strained right triceps.
"The ability to pick a Dustin Moseley or Nick Adenhart is depth a lot of organizations don't have to replace a John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar [shoulder inflammation]," Scioscia said.
Saunders will get the call on Friday night in San Diego, Scioscia indicated, with Moseley staying behind to pitch a camp game in Arizona.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less