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Lackey still hopes to start opener

Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. -- John Lackey might start on opening day after all.

The Angels’ ace made his spring debut Monday in a 5-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics, then said he considered himself strong enough and sound enough to start the opener.

“It’s definitely an honor. It’s something I want to do,” he said. “I’m not going to risk being healthy at the end [of the season] for that. . . . I don’t think it’s an issue now. I think I’ll be fine regardless.”

He had been slowed by a sore elbow, and Manager Mike Scioscia had said he would not consider Lackey for the opener because he would not be able to make the five spring starts necessary to build his pitch count to 100.

However, Scioscia left open the possibility Lackey could work up to 90 pitches in four spring starts and up to 100 on opening day.

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“The probability is, he will not be the opening-day starter,” Scioscia said. “There certainly is a possibility. We’re going to let this thing play out.”

The Angels targeted Lackey for 30 pitches in two innings Monday; he made 32 in 1 2/3 innings. He faced eight batters and retired four, giving up one run, two hits and two walks.

Job hunting

Jeff Weaver is unemployed, three weeks before the start of the season. The former Dodgers and Angels pitcher won the game that clinched the 2006 World Series championship for the St. Louis Cardinals, but he is 15-27 with a 5.96 earned-run average the last two seasons.

The Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals have expressed interest, said his younger brother, Angels pitcher Jered Weaver. Jeff’s recent numbers might not sparkle, but he averages 190 innings a season with a career ERA of 4.72, in many years enough for a job offer if not a lucrative contract.

Jeff is 31 and is not retiring, Jered said.

“He wants to get four or five more years in,” Jered said. “He’s working out and trying to wait it out, just trying to get ready.”

The pitcher from Oz

If kids in Southern California aspire to be Vladimir Guerrero or Kobe Bryant, kids in Australia aspire to be Ian Thorpe or Ricky Ponting. Thorpe recently retired as one of the best swimmers in history; Ponting is the captain of the national cricket team.

Rich Thompson grew up in Sydney, playing every sport he could before deciding baseball offered him the brightest future. He signed with the Angels for $50,000, and six years later he has a fastball clocked in the mid-90s and a shot at the lone bullpen vacancy.

That fastball developed as he filled out his 6-foot-1 frame. The Angels signed him as a lean 17-year-old and shipped him to their minor league complex in Arizona, where he saw wonders he had never seen.

“My first day of camp, Derrick Turnbow shows up, and he’s throwing 100 mph,” Thompson said. “I’d never seen 100. I’d never even seen 93. I was just a little Aussie kid. It was an eye-opening experience.”

Around the horn

Nick Adenhart pitched four scoreless innings for the victory. Torii Hunter had two hits -- he’s batting .611 -- and Casey Kotchman drove in two runs. . . . Reliever Scot Shields, who had been slowed by a sore shoulder, said he was “100% ready to go” after a bullpen workout. He was expected to make his Cactus League debut in a day or two, with opening day not in question.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com


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