But now that the dust has settled, the Angels offseason trade of shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox for starter Jon Garland has looked like a stroke of genius by general manager Tony Reagins.
The Angels immediately needed the depth in their rotation after Lackey was sidelined until mid-May with a strained triceps and Escobar, who won 18 games in 2007, suffered what would become a season-ending shoulder injury.
Garland has fit right in with the Angels. He has proven to be an effective innings eater as the 6-foot-6 right-hander is 13-8 with a 4.52 ERA over 183 1/3 innings pitched. And he's pitched at least six innings in 23 of his 29 starts while averaging 6 1/3 per outing.
"I think us acquiring Garland, our people didn't get enough credit for that," Lackey said.
Garland will make his 30th start of the season on Saturday against Ryan Feierabend and the Mariners -- a team many thought would compete against the Angels for the American League West crown.
But the Mariners have faltered while the Angels clinched the division on Wednesday.
The Mariners have struggled largely because their starting rotation has let them down this season, including their big offseason acquisition of Erik Bedard, who finished fifth in the AL Cy Young Award voting last season with the Orioles.
Bedard has been a huge disappointment for Seattle as the lefty is just 6-4 with a 3.67 ERA in 15 starts with the last one coming on July 4 because of tightness in his left shoulder.
It was a risky trade for the Mariners as Bedard had never pitched more than 200 innings in his career and made more than 30 starts only once in his career.
Meanwhile, Garland will be making at least 30 starts for his seventh consecutive season and is on pace to reach the 200-inning mark for the fifth straight season.
"As far as track records go, Bedard is not even close," Lackey said. "Stuff-wise, you have to give it to Bedard, obviously."
But the Angels' trade for Garland would not have made sense if they didn't think that Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar could pick up the slack in Cabrera's absence.
The two have played admirably this season as they've combined to bat .273 with six home runs and 73 RBIs while Cabrera has the exact same batting average of .273 with seven homers and 54 RBIs with the White Sox.
"They've played great," Lackey said. "It worked out well as one was hurt, the other was playing good."
But like Lackey pointed out, injuries have hurt both players this season. A thumb injury in mid-August derailed Izturis for the rest of the season and Aybar hasn't played since Aug. 27 because of a hamstring strain. But he is expected back sometime next week.
Since Aybar's injury, however, Brandon Wood has been a capable replacement as he is batting .333 with three homers and seven RBIs in 13 games since Aug. 30.
LAA: RHP Jon Garland (13-8, 4.52 ERA)
It looked like it could be a long night for Garland, who struggled in the first inning against the Yankees on Monday. He allowed a run on three hits and a walk in the opening frame but settled down after that as he allowed just three hits and no runs over his next six innings. In all, Garland threw seven innings, allowing one run on six hits while striking out four and walking two. Garland is 7-3 with a 3.35 ERA in 13 career starts against the Mariners.
SEA: LHP Ryan Feierabend (1-2, 5.53 ERA)
Pitching on two hours' notice worked remarkably well for the rookie left-hander, who was an emergency starter for right-hander Carlos Silva last Sunday against the Yankees and surrendered just two runs over seven innings. Both runs came via solo home runs. Feierabend relies on moving the ball around, and he's not afraid to challenge the hitters inside. He faced the Angels twice last season and was the losing pitcher in both games, allowing 16 hits and nine earned runs in 9 2/3 innings.
Jason Lezak, who anchored the final leg for the United States' 4x100-meter freestyle relay team that won the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, threw out the first pitch before Friday's game. Lezak helped the U.S. earn gold in one of the most incredible comebacks in Olympic relay history as he broke the record for the fastest relay split ever to defeat the favored French. Lezak, who attended nearby Irvine High School, was given a standing ovation by the crowd at Angel Stadium. ... Torii Hunter and Mark Teixeira will be featured in Major League Baseball's postseason ad campaign titled "There's Only One October." ... The Double-A Arkansas Travelers took a 2-1 lead in the Texas League Championship Series with a 10-3 victory over the Frisco RoughRiders on Friday night. Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday.
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Official game notes
KLAA 830, KWKW 1330 (Español)
Sunday: Angels (Ervin Santana, 15-6, 3.36) vs. Mariners (Felix Hernandez, 9-10, 3.41), 12:35 p.m. PT
Tuesday: Angels (John Lackey, 11-3, 3.25) at Athletics (Sean Gallagher, 4-6, 5.01), 7:05 p.m. PT