Enthusiastic Escobar ahead of schedule
Angels righty pain-free, tosses 60 pitches in recovery from shoulder surgery
TEMPE, Ariz. -- In the afterglow of his longest, most demanding workout yet in his comeback from shoulder surgery, Angels right-hander Kelvim Escobar emerged from the back fields at Tempe Diablo Stadium beaming on Friday.
"I threw everything but sliders, 60 pitches -- four-seamers, two-seamers, splits, curveballs, changeups," Escobar said. "Everything felt good. It's almost too good, you know? When you think about it, I'm three months ahead of schedule."
"He threw a two-hit shutout," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, referring to the 60-pitch session. "Lights out. He was really impressive today."
Escobar is trying very hard, without much success, to temper his enthusiasm in his return from the right shoulder operation performed on July 29.
Nobody expected anything like this, a recovery so swift and so pain-free.
"I talk to other guys who have had labrum surgery," Escobar said, mentioning Freddy Garcia specifically, "and they say, `Be careful. Take your time.'
"I know that, but everyone is different. Mine is in the back of my shoulder, not the front, where other guys have had a lot of problems coming back. We are being careful with it. I'm throwing every third day, not every other day, and we've gone step by step. But I feel so good it's almost scary, man.
"I've had no pain, nothing. No more soreness in the shoulder. All the work I've put in my entire career is paying off now, I think."
Having passed yet another major hurdle, Escobar's next mission is to take the mound with a hitter at the plate. That figures to happen on Monday.
"That will feel good, to pitch to a hitter again," Escobar said. "It's been a long time [since October 2007]. I'm very excited to be where I am. After throwing batting practice a few times, I can think about pitching in a game."
Scioscia, a keen observer of Escobar's side sessions, said the big man from Venezuela appears to have the repertoire intact that made him an 18-game winner in 2007, before shoulder inflammation surfaced in September.
"Right now, if you just grade out his stuff, it's the same," Scioscia said. "Right now, his shoulder's as strong as it's been in years. The defect was fixed in there. It's going to be manageable.
"We're hoping for the same stuff and stamina [Escobar had in 2007]. The next challenge is going to be game adrenaline, how he handles that. Batting practice is next, to see a hitter or two from that perspective, whether he needs a power bullpen afterward.
"He's going to be on the mound in some form a couple of times before he's in a game. Where he is right now is certainly very encouraging for his long-range [prospects], where this thing needs to be."
Escobar could appear in a camp game facing Minor League hitters within 10 days before going to the mound in a Cactus League contest.
"We can roll him over into another inning easier that way," Scioscia said of the highly flexible intrasquad format. "We'll see how it goes."
There remains no timetable for Escobar's return to the Angels' rotation, but it is beginning to look as if he could be in midseason form before midseason -- a remarkable prospect given the early prognosis that a return by the All-Star break might be considered optimistic.
Escobar, who began his professional career in 1993 in the Blue Jays organization, is 101-90 with 59 saves in 410 Major League games, 201 as a starter. He has thrown 1,502 innings across 11 seasons.
"Maybe this is the start of my second career," said Escobar, who turns 33 on April 11. "I've pitched a lot of innings in my career, but I'm not an old guy. Maybe the time off will be good for me in the long run."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.