Results tagged ‘ John Lackey ’

Willits forced to sit one out

Center fielder Reggie Willits was a late scratch for Monday’s Cactus League game against the Rockies in Tucson with tightness in the adductor muscle in his left leg. There was no immediate word on the severity.

Willits was on base in all three of his at-bats on Sunday with a single and two walks. He was replaced in center field by Terry Evans, with Adam Pavkovich inserted in right field.

Jeff Mathis got the Angels rolling with a solo homer against lefty Franklin Morales. A single by Kendry Morales and Brandon Wood’s RBI double handed John Lackey a 2-0 first-inning lead, and he shut down the rockies in the bottom half of the inning with solid command in his first outing of the spring. 

Walden shows right stuff

Jordan Walden, looking very much like a young John Lackey, delivered two impressive innings in his Cactus League debut. The 6-foot-5 flamethrower from Texas ended both innings with strikeouts, leaving runners stranded, and finished with three K’s.

The Athletics collected a pair of hits — Eric Chavez’s single through the middle in the first, Chris Carter’s opposite-field double leading off the second — but Walden buckled down when he needed outs. He caught dangerous Jack Cust looking at a third strike to end the first and Rob Bowen went down swinging to finish the second.

With a pitcher as young as Walden, who turned 21 in November, his response to adversity often determines how swiftly he advances through the system. Walden’s stuff is premium: 95-96 mph heat that he holds into the sixth and seventh innings, complemented by developing off-speed stuff. With one out and Carter on third, Walden got Cliff Pennington to roll over on a grounder to Kendry Morales at first, and he shot down Carter at the plate. That was a location pitch, not a bullet, that got Walden out of trouble — a very good sign in his development.

Walden worked at two Class A levels last season, striking  out 141 hitters in 156 1/3 innings at Cedar Rapids and Rancho Cucamonga. This guy could be on the fast track to Anaheim if he continues his development this season.     

Great news from Escobar

It’s a little early to be getting excited, of course, but it’s hard not to feel ecstatic if you’re a Kelvim Escobar fan — as is the case of every player who shares the Angels clubhouse with him.

The big man from Venezuela threw off a mound without pain, 25 fastballs, on Friday, and just as uplifting was his report on Saturday that he had no pain upon waking. He was thrilled with his range of motion and was able to do his long-toss program without discomfort.

Escobar admits he was worried at this time last year that his career might be over, that the early reports about labrum surgery made him “crazy,” as he put it. But he had the surgery in June, went through the recovery process, the rehab, came to camp encouraged — and now is throwing pain-free fastballs from 55 feet.

If his progress continues and he returns to form, this will be the equivalent of acquiring a top-shelf free-agent starter in the class of a healthy Ben Sheets or Derek Lowe. Before the shoulder flared up in September 2007, Escobar was in the Cy Young Award conversation along with John Lackey.

The club will be careful with him, making sure he doesn’t feel too good too soon and overdo it. But if this Escobar is anything close to the Kelvim of 2007, the Angels could have the best rotation in baseball.     

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