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Santana’s salary gets downsized

Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- The Angels offered Ervin Santana a slight raise. When he said no, they imposed a pay cut.

Santana, who did not pitch in Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, went 7-14 with a 5.76 earned-run average last season, and the Angels demoted him to the minor leagues for one month. He is not yet eligible for salary arbitration, meaning the Angels can pay him whatever they like above the $390,000 minimum.

The Angels generally make two offers to such players, warning them to accept the higher rate or be unilaterally renewed at the lower one. They are believed to have renewed Santana at about $420,000 after he rejected their offer of about $430,000.

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They paid him $425,000 last season.

General Manager Tony Reagins would not discuss specific figures but said he was not determined to cut Santana’s pay. Clubs rarely exercise their right to cut salaries for young players.

“If he had accepted our offer, his salary would have been in excess of what he made last year,” Reagins said.

Santana said he was not concerned about his salary and had left negotiations to his agent, Bean Stringfellow, who did not return messages Sunday. Santana will be eligible for arbitration next winter, so a good season this year could make him a millionaire next year.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Reagins said. “This spring, he’s been great. We think he’s going to have a good year.”

Catchers Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli, shortstop Erick Aybar, outfielder Reggie Willits and pitcher Joe Saunders each accepted his contract offer, and the Angels have signed all players on their 40-man roster.

Lackey update

John Lackey probably won’t pitch in a Cactus League game until the weekend, making it unlikely the Angels can start their ace on opening day.

The Angels pushed back Lackey’s scheduled bullpen session from Sunday until today, enabling him to play catch one more day before testing his sore elbow on a mound. He does not figure to pitch in an exhibition before Friday.

If he starts next weekend and has no setbacks, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Lackey could take “his first turn in the rotation.” That could come in the fourth game of the season -- the Angels’ home opener -- or in the fifth game.

Lackey said he would not fret over missing out on the honor of starting the opener.

“It doesn’t matter, man,” he said. “I’ll hopefully get ready for 33-35 starts. We’ve got too many good pitchers to worry about that. We have several guys who could do that just fine.”

Kelvim Escobar, the Angels’ No. 2 starter, will start the season on the disabled list because of a sore shoulder. Jered Weaver, Jon Garland, Saunders and Santana are expected to join Lackey in the initial rotation.

Hit the bench

Juan Rivera doubled and singled, scoring one of the Angels’ runs and driving in the other. Rivera, starting in right field on a day Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, Garret Anderson and Gary Matthews Jr. did not travel, appears destined for a spot on the bench despite hitting 23 home runs two seasons ago. He sat out much of last season after breaking his leg in winter ball. . . . Garland, acquired from the Chicago White Sox for shortstop Orlando Cabrera, pitched two scoreless innings in his Angels debut. . . . Reliever Chris Bootcheck left the game because of a strained abdominal muscle. . . . Napoli, who had been slowed by groin tightness, made his Cactus League debut. Mathis is scheduled to make his debut today.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com


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