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03/31/08 7:45 PM ET

O'Day, oh Opening Day!

Angels pitcher, long shot to make the team, is still around

MINNEAPOLIS -- The words he'd dreamed about were delivered by Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher on Saturday in Anaheim.

"Butch called me into the office and said, `We want to let you know you're on the team -- you're going to be with us,' " pitcher Darren O'Day said, having made the remarkable climb to the big time after two seasons in the Minor Leagues. "That's when my head started spinning. It's really going to happen."

He was getting ready to pull on uniform No. 53 in Angels red at the Metrodome, where the Angels would kick off defense of their American League West title against the Twins on Monday.

His head actually had been spinning long before he got the formal word from Butcher that he'd made the 11-man pitching staff along with fellow relievers Rich Thompson and Jason Bulger, with Scot Shields and Chris Bootcheck opening the season on the 15-day disabled list.

"It's really amazing, everything that's happened this spring," said O'Day, who emerged from non-roster invitee to the guy who kept retiring Major League hitters with a sidewinding delivery pumping strikes with sinkers, sliders and changeups.

Shields (forearm stiffness) is eligible to return on Saturday and might be back in his setup role by the end of the weekend, if all goes well in a simulated game on Tuesday at the Metrodome and in a rehab appearance or two at Class A Rancho Cucamonga.

For one of the three new men on the staff, the ride might be a short one. But they're enjoying it while it lasts, drawing Major League salaries and living the life.

For O'Day's family, the opportunity was too good to pass up. His mother and father made the trip from Florida, and more family members have come to snowy Minneapolis from Chicago to see the 25-year-old former medical student from the University of Florida turn this baseball dream into a reality.

"I'm still kind of walking around in a daze, but it's all about pitching now," O'Day said. "Obviously, we've got two veterans waiting to get healthy. I feel they're going to put the best pitchers out there, and I want to show them I belong here."

O'Day, like all student-athletes at Florida, was given a black suit as a graduation gift. Opting for the uncertainty of baseball over a career in medicine, for now, O'Day finally had his mother pull the suit out of his closet back home in Jacksonville when he was told he'd be heading to Anaheim from Arizona with the club for the final three exhibition games.

"I've worn suits before, but this is the first time I've worn this one," O'Day said, grinning. "I hope I can wear it on some more plane rides."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.