Lackey does a number on Seattle

Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- In the Emerald City, John Lackey has turned into the Wizard of O’s. The Angels’ right-hander has made three starts against the Mariners this season, all of them in Safeco Field, and has not given up a run in 24 innings, his latest gem Monday night’s seven-hit shutout, which he threw while suffering from strep throat-like symptoms.

“It’s just a coincidence,” Lackey said of his success against Seattle. “They beat me up a little bit last year. They probably had the most success against me.”

Indeed, Lackey was 1-2 with an 8.44 earned-run average in five starts against Seattle last season and began 2007 with a 6-8 record and 4.86 ERA against the Mariners. But his current dominance of the Angels’ American League West rival may be more than coincidence.


“I’ve added one or two things since last year,” said Lackey, who has given up 18 hits to Seattle this season, all singles. “I’m throwing more two-seam [sinking] fastballs, and I’ve been varying my breaking ball more. I can throw it big and slow or hard and tight.”

Lackey, who is on antibiotics, looked a little worn down Tuesday, his voice was hoarse, and his throat was still sore, “but my body feels better,” he said. Was it difficult pitching with a cough, a fever and difficulty swallowing?

“Nah, I’ve got way more issues than my throat,” Lackey said. “It’s almost September, and when you make every start, something’s going to hurt. Nobody is full strength this time of year. Once I got out there, I didn’t think about it.”

Give the Angels’ athletic trainers an assist. They sprayed a mixture of cough medicine and a numbing agent in Lackey’s throat between innings.

“They sprayed some stuff in my throat, and I couldn’t feel it,” said Lackey, who expected to make his next start. “I couldn’t taste my food afterward, though.”

With Monday night’s 6-0 victory, Lackey improved to 16-8 with a 3.18 ERA, keeping him in line for a possible 20-win season, Cy Young Award consideration and virtually even with teammate Kelvim Escobar (15-6, 2.77).


“We definitely have a friendly competition,” Lackey said. “We were joking around on the training table at the end of spring training that we could each win 20 games. It’s been fun.”

First baseman Casey Kotchman, sidelined since Thursday because of a sprained left middle finger and bruised right thumb, took several rounds of early batting practice and was cleared by doctors to play. He did not start Tuesday night but could return to the lineup today.

Third baseman Chone Figgins, out since Aug. 22 because of a bruised left wrist, took ground balls again but was unable to swing a bat, making him highly doubtful for the rest of this week.

Catcher Mike Napoli, on the disabled list since July 28 because of a strained right hamstring, ran from first to third several times “at about 60-70%” and felt no pain, and he caught two bullpen workouts. He hopes to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment by this weekend.

Manager Mike Scioscia said outfielder Juan Rivera, who is batting .231 in 10 games for triple-A Salt Lake after sitting out the entire season because of a broken leg, will join the Angels this weekend, when rosters can be expanded.