If the left-hander doesn't improve by Thursday, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he is prepared to substitute Ervin Santana on his normal four days' rest and hold Saunders back for a start this weekend in Chicago against the White Sox.
"I'm not feeling good at all," Saunders said. "I felt OK flying here [on Monday], but yesterday something hit me. I don't know [about starting Thursday night]. Just have to wait and see."
Saunders and Santana are both off to blazing starts after coming to Spring Training with the belief that they'd be competing for the fifth starter's role. An opening was created when John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar both sustained arm ailments, and Saunders and Santana seized the opportunity to show their stuff.
Saunders is 7-1 with a 2.48 ERA in nine starts. He's tied with Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox for the league lead in wins and is fifth in ERA.
Santana is 6-1 with a 2.97 ERA in nine starts -- tied for third in wins and ninth in ERA.
The off-day on Monday gives Scioscia some room to maneuver. If Saunders is held back, he'd likely start on Saturday against the White Sox, with Jered Weaver pitching Friday night on a normal schedule and Lackey on his normal fifth day on Sunday.
"Saunders is a little under the weather," Scioscia said. "We'll see how he feels. If he can't go, Santana would be on normal rest."
Escobar, who hasn't pitched this season with a tear in his right labrum, has stretched out to 120 feet of long toss in Tempe, Ariz. The next step, Scioscia said, is flat ground, "going through your pitching motion." Escobar might join the club when it returns to Anaheim to be evaluated, the manager added.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.