Escobar fearful for career because of injury

Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Pitcher Kelvim Escobar, an 18-game winner for the Angels last season, revealed Wednesday that he has a tear in his shoulder, an injury that could require season-ending surgery and, possibly, end the veteran right-hander’s career.

“I’m concerned, I don’t know what’s going to happen ... I don’t even know if I’ll be able to pitch again,” said Escobar, 32, who is in the second year of a three-year, $28.5-million contract.

“I’m still young, but retirement has gotten into my head. It’s hard doing the rehab. You get frustrated. You want to get out there and play. And I know I’ve done everything I can to stay healthy. I work pretty hard, take care of my body. What else can I do?”

Escobar was shut down in mid-January because of an inflamed shoulder and did not pick up a ball for two months, spending that time rehabilitating the shoulder.


He began playing catch at a distance of 45 feet March 15, but after only three throwing sessions, the pain returned, and Escobar was shut down again over the weekend.

Escobar, who will join fellow starter John Lackey (triceps strain) on the disabled list to start the season, will resume his strengthening program and won’t throw for two or three weeks.

If he doesn’t improve by mid-April, Escobar said he would visit Dr. David Altchek, a New York City orthopedist and Mets team physician, to determine whether arthroscopic surgery was necessary.

“They would go in there and fix what I have,” Escobar said. “But if I do have surgery, it’s going to take 10 months” to recover.


Escobar felt strong and pain-free during his second month of rehabilitation but was disheartened by the fact he had to stop throwing after only three sessions.

“I’m going to be patient and do my exercises and see where I’m at in two weeks,” Escobar said. "[Surgery] is my last option. I’ll have done three months of exercises, and what else? What’s next? Keep doing exercises? For a full year?”

Several pitchers, including Mark Mulder and Bartolo Colon, have struggled to come back from similar shoulder injuries. Pedro Martinez has returned, but the full velocity of his fastball has not.

Another strike against Escobar: he was born without the supraspinatus, one of four rotator-cuff muscles in the back of his right shoulder.

“They’re not sure if I’d be able to come back after surgery because not having that muscle is not going to help me,” Escobar said. “It could be my career. I’m not going to lie to you guys.”

When the Angels thought Lackey and Escobar would miss about six weeks, General Manager Tony Reagins said he would fill the rotation voids in-house.

But with Escobar out indefinitely and long reliever Dustin Moseley probably moving to the rotation, the Angels might look to sign or trade for a starter or reliever from outside the organization.

Among the starters available are right-hander Claudio Vargas, released by Milwaukee, and left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, who was designated for assignment by Kansas City.


Possible trade targets include the Chicago Cubs’ Jon Lieber, Jason Marquis and Sean Marshall, Cleveland’s Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers, Oakland’s Joe Blanton, Texas’ Kameron Loe and Cincinnati’s Matt Belisle.

“We’re still confident that, in house, we have enough depth on the pitching side,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “The short-term answers are in-house. If we lose guys for longer, the answers might have to come from the outside, but we’re not at that point yet.”

Bring on the Twins

Jered Weaver tuned up for an expected opening-day start in Minnesota on Monday night by giving up one run and six hits in six innings of Wednesday’s 7-5 loss to the Cubs, striking out five and walking none.

Scioscia still hasn’t announced his rotation, but Weaver, who went 5-0 with a 1.37 earned-run average in 26 1/3 innings this spring, is aligned to pitch Monday on regular rest.

“If it’s me, it’s a tremendous honor,” Weaver said. “You always admire the No. 1 guys, and it’s an honor to have the Angels even think about me doing it. At the same time, it kind of stinks that our two horses are down. It’s a bummer it had to happen like this.”

Relief effort

Closer Francisco Rodriguez couldn’t complete his inning of work, giving up five earned runs and four hits and retiring only two batters in the seventh. ... Reliever Justin Speier had his string of consecutive spring batters retired ended at 17, when the right-hander gave up a single to Luis Figueroa in the eighth.