Santana on track for twin bill opener

Santana on track for twin bill opener

KANSAS CITY -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia will tell you that Ervin Santana isn't all the way back.

Even after holding the A's to one run on three hits in eight strong innings on Thursday, Scioscia says Santana still isn't the pitcher he was in 2008, when he went 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA in 32 starts.

And the Royals -- the team Santana faces on Tuesday -- know all about that Santana.

Santana threw a shutout against the Royals on May 5, 2008, his only shutout of the season. He allowed just four hits and struck out nine.

On Tuesday, Santana faces the Royals for the first time since that day. He'll take the mound opposite Royals right-hander Sidney Ponson at 2:10 p.m. PT, in the first game of a doubleheader, a game that was postponed on Monday because of rain.

Angels right-hander Sean O'Sullivan, who was scheduled to pitch on Monday, will face veteran lefty Bruce Chen in the second game.

"[Santana's] maybe not as quick as he was last year, as far as his velocity on his fastball," Scioscia said. "But his arm speed looks like it's improving."

Santana has made five starts since returning from a stay on the disabled list for a strained upper arm.

His start against Oakland was his most efficient of the season, bolstering the Angels' hopes that a completely healthy Santana will be an effective Santana.

Scioscia attributed some of Santana's struggles to a lack of command. He's given up six home runs in his past five starts.

"When you're aggressive with your fastball, and you're unable to get it in good spots, you're gonna hit some bats," Scioscia said.

Still, Santana has been mostly good in four road starts this season. His road ERA is just 2.89, compared to 11.95 in five starts at home.

The Angels are hoping Santana can maintain his road record on Tuesday, while continuing to look like that pitcher from 2008.

"His slider was much better last year," Scioscia said. "But his ability to put the fastball in the spots and move it in and out -- it's what he needs to do. In the games he's pitched well, he's done that."

Pitching matchup
Game 1

LAA: RHP Ervin Santana (2-5, 6.70 ERA)
Santana ended a personal three-game losing streak and claimed his first victory since June 5 in Detroit when he shut down the Athletics across eight strong innings in Oakland his last time out. Santana allowed only three hits while yielding one earned run (on Matt Holliday's homer), walking two and striking out four hitters. He worked in his breaking ball effectively with an improving fastball that still isn't where it was -- 94-96 mph -- during his 2008 All-Star campaign as he recovers from elbow and forearm issues. Against the Royals in his career he's 2-2, including a shutout last year.

KC: RHP Sidney Ponson (1-5, 7.27 ERA)
The Royals welcome back Ponson to the starting rotation against the Angels, more than two months after his last start. Ponson started the season in the rotation, but moved to the bullpen in May and went on the disabled list in June. Ponson has traditionally been an innings-eater, and manager Trey Hillman said he didn't think Ponson would have any after-effects from his early-season arm troubles. Hillman said the reports from Ponson's injury rehab starts at Triple-A Omaha were positive. 

Game 2

LAA: RHP Sean O'Sullivan (2-0, 3.80 ERA)
O'Sullivan has opened eyes in his four Major League starts, keeping his team in the game with toughness and resourcefulness. He has 15 strikeouts against only six walks in 23 2/3 innings. In his most recent appearance on July 4 at home against the Orioles, the burly right-hander surrendered four earned runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out two batters. The Angels are 4-0 in his starts. O'Sullivan is the fourth rookie starter the Angels have used this year. This is his first appearance against the Royals.

KC: LHP Bruce Chen (0-4, 6.86 ERA)
After four starts, Chen's first extended appearance in the Majors since 2006 has provided mixed results. The raw numbers don't look great, but Chen gave the Royals a chance to win in his first two starts, pitching at least six innings in both of them. His last two starts haven't yielded similar results; he lasted 4 2/3 innings and gave up seven runs against Detroit on July 7, and he surrendered three runs in three innings in his last start, on July 12 against Boston. Chen gives the Royals a left-hander in the rotation, but the team will certainly be looking for better production from Chen against the Angels.

Matt Palmer has recorded a 3.18 ERA in eight relief appearances this season -- four earned runs in 11 1/3 innings. Scioscia said Palmer could return to the rotation at some point, if the Angels believe he is their best option. "He has shown he can come out of the 'pen, and he's been throwing the ball well," Scioscia said. ... Bobby Abreu leads the American League with 39 RBIs since June 1. ... The Angels have hit 46 homers in their past 32 games after totaling just 44 homers in their first 58 games.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-W

On radio
• KLAA 830, KFWB, KWKW 1330 (Español)

Up next
• Wednesday: Angels (Joe Saunders, 8-6, 4.72) at Royals (Brian Bannister, 6-7, 3.66), 5:10 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Angels (Jered Weaver, 10-3, 3.48) vs. Twins (Scott Baker, 8-7, 5.10), 7:05 p.m. PT
• Friday: Angels (John Lackey, 5-4, 4.39) vs. Twins (Francisco Liriano, 4-9, 5.33), 7:05 p.m. PT

Rustin Dodd is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.