NEW YORK -- John Lackey, riding on the heels of Ervin Santana, threw effectively enough for three innings in extended spring training in Arizona on Thursday to satisfy the Angels that he is ready, like Santana, to take the next step toward a return to the team's rotation.
"Where they are now," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said on Thursday night, "they can pitch early next week in Triple-A -- probably Monday for Santana, Tuesday for Lackey."
With high Class A Rancho Cucamonga on the road, the club has decided that its two right-handed All-Stars can get their work done against Pacific Coast League hitters pitching for Salt Lake.
Lackey, recovering from a strained right forearm, threw "in the 45-pitch range and felt really strong," according to pitching coach Mike Butcher, who spoke with the 2007 American League ERA king by phone.
"The next stage is to get him in Triple-A, in the 60-pitch range," Scioscia said, the same plan designed for Santana in his return from a sprained right elbow. "They're going to need a minimum of two, probably three more [outings each]. We'll evaluate them.
"It's going to hinge on how they come out [physically], where their pitch count is. And a big thing is how they finish their last 12 to 15 pitches. If a guy is laboring, it tells you something about where he is."
The Angels are hoping to have Lackey and Santana back in the rotation in mid-to-late May.
Less clear is the path of Kelvim Escobar in his recovery from shoulder surgery performed last July 29.
"Eskie's getting more aggressive in his bullpens," Scioscia said. "He's making a little progress. The big question with Kelvim is where he's going to be in a couple of weeks. There's a process he needs to go through. As far as throwing pitches in the bullpen, he feels great."
Escobar had a setback with irritation in the front of his shoulder after hitting 95-96 mph on the radar gun in San Diego in an April 3 preseason game against the Padres.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.