Saunders back to his old self

Saunders back to his old self

SEATTLE -- The moment of relief for Joe Saunders arrived at 4 a.m. in a dark Seattle hotel room on Wednesday.

The Angels' All-Star southpaw passed a kidney stone that had been causing him pain and discomfort for five days, and in a heartbeat he felt better about everything in the immediate future -- including a projected start in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Red Sox or Rays.

"All I know is I feel much better," Saunders said.

He said he lost about eight pounds and is down to 219, and that he's looking forward to catching up on some good food after being restricted to liquids while waiting for the stone to pass.

"It's the lightest I've been in a long time," Saunders said. "I couldn't eat. Fluids were keeping me going. I had breakfast this morning. When you go through something like this, it gives you an appreciation for everyday things -- like being able to eat like a [normal] human being. I've got some eating to catch up on."

Saunders expects to be ready for a final regular-season tuneup on Sunday at home against the Rangers, with his ALDS start in Boston or Tampa Bay due the following Sunday.

"I feel strong right now," he said. "It's just a matter of putting weight on. I'll throw a bullpen tomorrow and the next day and pitch on Sunday. I'm going to take a little easier with running, weightlifting, stuff like that. But I'll be ready to go."

Manager Mike Scioscia said he expected Saunders to get through a bullpen session on Thursday, "a little touch and feel," and "get back in a game on Sunday."

Saunders said he was struck with a stabbing pain in his lower back while at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Friday. He'd thrown seven scoreless innings in a win at Oakland on Thursday night, moving his record to 16-7.

"I felt like somebody stabbed me in the back, punched me in the stomach and kicked me ... at the same time," Saunders said. "The pain was awful."

Taken to a hospital in Arlington, he was diagnosed with a calcium deposit in his kidney, alleviating initial concerns that it might be appendicitis.

"That would have been it for me," he said.

In a magical season for the man from Virginia -- he became a father for the first time a few days before appearing in Yankee Stadium in his first All-Star Game -- this bout with a kidney stone could have happened at a much worse time. Such as next week.

"Timing is everything," Joe Saunders said, grinning.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.