NEW YORK -- For Kelvim Escobar, an 18-game winner in 2007 who won't throw a pitch in 2008, surgery here on Tuesday to repair a tear in his right labrum was just what the doctor ordered.

"It's a relief, mentally," Escobar said, seated in the visitors' dugout at venerable Yankee Stadium on Friday night, his right arm in a sling. "I feel good. Now I know I have to focus on one thing, and that's my rehab. I'll put everything into it and dedicate myself to getting back on the mound next season."

The early timetable, according to manager Mike Scioscia, has Escobar returning to action in nine to 12 months, which would have him back on the Angels' pitching staff before the All-Star break next season.

"It's a long rehab," said general manager Tony Reagins, on hand to inspect the impressive outfit management has assembled for a run deep into October. "The surgery went well, as good as could be expected. If he gets after his rehab program, he could be back in that time frame. He's a valuable member of our club."

Escobar, who will be entering the final year of his contract in 2008, said he's expected to have the sling protecting his shoulder "for the next three or four weeks," adding, "I'm not going to be able to do much for the first two or three months. I'll get together soon [with the medical staff] and start making a plan.

"I think it could be earlier [than nine to 12 months]. I have to be careful -- with a shoulder, it takes time to heal. But I have good work habits, and that's going to help me, I think. I don't want to rush, but I feel it can be earlier than a year. It all depends on how my arm is going to respond to rehab."

Escobar, who will conduct his rehab in Southern California before returning home to Venezuela for the winter, applauds the performance of the starting rotation in his absence.

"Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders both have been great," he said. "John Lackey, [Jered] Weaver and [Jon] Garland, they've done a great job, too."

Only Garland is unsigned for next season.

Asked if he has it in his mind to return to the rotation, Escboar said it's "too soon to start thinking about that. Right now," he said, "I'm just thinking about my rehab. We'll see where we are when that time comes.

"Once I get my health back, I will be very happy to be back in the game. It's a game I love, and I really miss being out there. I really love this team, and whatever they need me to do, I'll do it. The team comes first."

Escobar has experience in every conceivable pitching role, from long relief to setting up to closing as well as starting.

With fellow Venezuelan Francisco Rodriguez's future uncertain beyond this season, Escobar could be a candidate to inherit that role should K-Rod depart. But that's not likely, given that Escobar won't return until the season is well underway.

"I talk to [Rodriguez] about pitching, not about that," Escobar said. "I tell him to keep doing what he's doing, and everything will work out. I know it's hard, as a human being, not knowing what's going to happen. But he's going to be fine no matter what. He's shown what he's capable of doing."