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Escobar lifts Angels' spirits with session

Escobar lifts spirits with session

ANAHEIM -- When the Angels talked about their exceptional depth over the winter, they didn't anticipate finding so much of it occupying the disabled list in April.

Kelvim Escobar, one of seven Angels on the DL, was in good spirits late Saturday afternoon. He'd broken a nice sweat, and it felt very good indeed.

The veteran right-hander finally got back on a mound, throwing a bullpen session during the Angels' batting practice for the first time since April 3, when he unleashed a few too many 95-mph bullets for his own good in San Diego's PETCO Park.

"My shoulder's been feeling much better," Escobar said. "Today was good, to get back on the mound. It's very important, a first step.

"I've been throwing some breaking balls on flat ground, but it was all fastballs today, nice and easy. I'm not going to push it this time. If I feel anything, I'm backing off."

The earliest Escobar can return is June 4. He's the only Angel on the 60-day DL, having undergone right shoulder surgery July 29.

"With Kelvim, we were so excited," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It was almost too good to be true -- and it turned out to be that way.

"He was a month-and-half past where everybody anticipated, passing every test. Eventually, his body said, `Hey, you're going too fast.' Fortunately, the setback he had was minor. He'll get back and starting moving forward with his program."

A timetable for Escobar is not in place, but the plan is to get him back in the rotation when he's ready in order to fully exploit his uncommon variety of pitches and ability to go deep into games.

Escobar missed the entire 2008 season after a brilliant '07, during which he notched a career-high 18 wins against seven losses over 30 starts. At 33, the Venezuelan is one of the most popular athletes on the team, a man whose presence means a great deal even on days when he's not pitching.

"Eskie's one of the best guys I've ever played with," outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. said. "And his stuff is nasty. Getting him back will be huge for this team. There aren't many guys in his class."

Escobar, who admittedly felt an internal pressure to get back quickly with both John Lackey and Ervin Santana sidelined, vowed not to push it like he did again.

"No rushing it this time -- for sure," Escobar said. "I'm going to be careful."

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

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