Escobar eyes July return

Escobar eyes July return

LOS ANGELES -- Angels right-hander Kelvim Escobar said Friday that his recovery from a labrum tear in his right shoulder has been "amazing" and that barring any setbacks, he could be back with the team after the All-Star break in July.

Escobar threw 32 pitches in an Arizona Summer League game on Wednesday and his fastball reached as high as 94 mph. Escobar said he was surprised by his command and that he feels good enough to pitch with the Angels right now.

"If everything goes well, I can be back after the All-Star break," Escobar said. "Right now, I could easily pitch as a reliever if they need me. I'm feeling pretty good and my velocity is great."

Escobar, who was diagnosed with a torn right labrum in late March, is slated to make another rehab start on Monday with Class A Rancho Cucamonga and will throw 45 pitches. He then will likely join Triple-A Salt Lake and increase his pitch count to 60 and then to 75.

From there, the Angels will either increase his pitch count to 90 or bring him up to the club as a reliever, depending on how his arm reacts and what the team's needs are at that point.

"We're talking right now if we want to get him to 90 or not," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We'll see what our needs are. I think four starts would be a good indication."

The one worry about Escobar's possible to return to the bullpen would be whether he can pitch on consecutive days. Escobar hasn't pitched on back-to-back days since April 2003 when he began the season as a reliever with Toronto.

"I just want to see how my arm rebounds and responds to see if I can pitch in back-to-back games," Escobar said. "But right now, we don't know."

Scioscia said even if Escobar can't pitch on consecutive days, the team will still have room for him in the bullpen, if that's where he ends up.

"I think back-to-back days would be something we'd look at very closely," Scioscia said. "We probably would not jump him into that. But with an arm like that you'd certainly want to use it and use it wisely. We would try to look at situations and matchups but if a guy can't pitch back-to-back games there'd still be a role for him."

Escobar, 32, won a career-high 18 games in 30 starts with the Angels last season. Even though he hasn't pitched out of the bullpen since 2005, he said that he doesn't have preference whether he starts or relieves this season.

"I'm just want to get healthy and come back and help the team any way that I can," Escobar said. "After the stuff that I went through, I just want to come back and be able to pitch. I'll be very happy."

Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.