At 6-0, Saunders doesn't want to get ahead of himself

Times Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Joe Saunders is off to one of the fastest starts in Angels history. But the left-hander, who takes a 6-0 season mark and 21-8 lifetime record to the mound tonight, isn't letting history distract him.

"I'm not worried about streaks or anything like that," he said Friday. "I'm just worrying about going out there and putting a 'W' up for my team."

John Candelaria, who went 22-7 in 1985-87, is the only pitcher with more wins or a better winning percentage than Saunders through his first 40 starts as an Angel. And with Saunders and teammate Ervin Santana both 6-0 heading into their weekend starts, they've accomplished something only seven other pairs of teammates have done in the last 88 years.

That Saunders, who came to spring training hoping for a spot in the rotation, is now anchoring it is partly the result of a winter workout program with pitching coach Mike Butcher, Saunders' neighbor in Chandler, Ariz.

"It's nice to see your hard work paying off," Saunders said. "It's nice to know that when you do put a little bit of extra work in, you get something to show for it.

"[But] it's only early May. We've got a long time to go. We're not really focused on what streak we're on or whatever. We just want to win. That's what we're worried about."


John Lackey threw 88 pitches in a six-inning simulated game at the Angels' minor league camp in Tempe, Ariz., Friday, and if the right-hander feels no pain from his strained triceps today, Manager Mike Scioscia said he'll make his season debut next week against the Chicago White Sox.

"The workout was what we were looking for. Moving forward and how he comes out [of it], we'll see," said Scioscia, who probably will start Lackey on Wednesday or Thursday.

A 19-game winner last season, Lackey went on the disabled list March 21. After a month of rest and rehab, he made three minor league starts for the Angels' Class-A affiliate in Rancho Cucamonga -- giving up four runs but striking out 11 in nine innings -- before Friday's workout.

Kelvim Escobar, the Angels' other injured starter, is throwing at 75 feet without pain but there is no timetable for his return. Escobar has a slight tear in his right shoulder.


With eight Angels from Florida, the stands at Tropicana Field were awash in red Friday as more than 200 friends and relatives came out to cheer the visiting team.

The loudest reaction was for reliever Darren O'Day, who was serenaded during pregame warmups by three friends from his college days at the University of Florida. The trio showed up wearing flesh-colored visors beneath their chins and carrying pink backpacks.

"He's such a nice guy. He's still really popular in Gainesville," said one of the friends, Tim Casey, who explained that the visors mocked O'Day's ample chin while the backpacks were a reference to the pink candy bag teammate Darren Oliver makes the rookie carry to the bullpen each night.

"We had him on our radio show a couple of weeks ago and we asked him, 'Isn't that embarrassing?' " said Casey, host of a sports talk show in central Florida who has been promoting a Darren O'Day tailgate party before tonight's game. "He goes, 'You kidding? It means I made it. If I'm getting hazed by Darren Oliver, it means I made it to the major leagues. I'm wearing that [backpack] like a badge of honor.' "


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