Angels manager Mike Scioscia was enthused as his pitcher, sensing that Escobar -- an 18-game winner last season and co-ace with John Lackey -- is on a faster track than anyone could have imagined a month or so ago.
"We're excited about where he is, seeing the ball come out of his hand the way it did," Scioscia said. "He got a little fatigued at the end, but he had good velocity, good arm speed.
"He's going to pitch for us this year -- no question about that. I don't think it's going to take long. He could come quickly."
Escobar's next step depends on how he responds in the next few days. The Angels, Scioscia added, will continue to "get him stretched out as a starter now." Escobar feels he can do that, but he also is holding the door open to coming back as a reliever in order to build the stamina required to start.
"I think I'm close to pitching in a [Minor League rehab] game, maybe two innings," Escobar said. "I threw two [simulated] innings today, 15 pitches [each time]. I threw 30 [pitches] before, from the mound, and eight warmups before each inning. So I threw a lot of pitches today.
"Right now, I feel like I can throw two innings. Today, I felt like I was throwing 100 percent, with good effort. They want to get me ready to be a starter, get to the point where I throw 100 pitches. I've got a lot of work to do, but I feel great."
Extensive physical training, trimming his weight by about 10 pounds, has paid off in a washboard stomach and excellent endurance.
"Getting Eskie back would be great," Napoli said. "He's not just a great pitcher, he's a great guy. He keeps everyone loose with his sense of humor. It was a good day, seeing him back out there. And he was bringing it."
Willits estimated that Escobar was throwing comfortably in the low 90s -- not far from his mid-90s when he's in peak form. Napoli concurred.
"I'd say he was setting it right about 90, 91," Willits said. "His changeup was also coming out of his hand good, and he had good arm speed. First time up, he punched me out on a 3-2 changeup. Next at-bat, I looked fastball early and swung.
"It's exciting. He's a real good guy. He really looked good."