Justin Speier bids a gracious farewell


A day after being handed his unconditional release, reliever Justin Speier returned to Angel Stadium on Wednesday to publicly express his gratitude to the team’s owner and former general manager.

“I want to thank Arte Moreno and Bill Stoneman for signing me . . . giving me an opportunity to pitch for the Angels,” he said. “It’s been a glorious, glorious experience and I’ve built a lot of relationships along the way.”

Speier, who became a free agent after two stellar years with the Toronto Blue Jays, signed a four-year contract with the Angels in November 2006 worth $18 million. But he struggled through much of the last two seasons, going 2-8 with a 5.03 earned-run average in 2008 and posting a 5.18 ERA in 40 innings this season.


Despite that, he said he wasn’t expecting to be let go.

“It was a surprise. It’s always a surprise,” said Speier, who has been traded four times and claimed off waivers twice in a 10-year major league career. “You never really expect these things and you really can’t expect these things. This is just another one of those situations that you don’t expect or plan for.

“You have to roll with the punches. I’m going to roll with the punches on this one and we’ll see what happens next.”

Although the Angels are responsible for the approximately $6.5 million remaining on Speier’s contract, by the weekend the pitcher will be free to sign with any club that wants him.

“I know that there’s a lot of life in my heart and my arm,” said Speier, 35. “It just hurts a little bit because I felt like I could have helped this team win here.”

Foul mood

Kendry Morales had made great strides as a hitter this season, and he might have had the Angels’ best at-bat of the season in the seventh inning Wednesday.

With the bases loaded and one out, Morales battled Randy Choate through a 12-pitch at-bat, fouling off nine pitches before singling in a run

“I’ve never had an at-bat like that,” said Morales, whose RBI gave him a league-leading 15 for the month. “That many pitches? That many fouls? No.

“I just wanted to make contact. And it went in our favor.”

Counting out Kelvim

Manager Mike Scioscia said Dr. Lewis Yocum, the team’s medical director, continues to monitor Kelvim Escobar’s progress in rehabbing his right shoulder, although the Angels are not counting on the pitcher to return this season.

“With every passing day, obviously it’s less and less [of a] chance,” Scioscia said.

“The shoulder’s just not responding.”

Escobar, 33, won 18 games in 2007 but tore a labrum in his shoulder the following spring and has pitched only five innings in the major leagues since. Escobar is making $9.5 million this season and will become a free agent this fall.

Short hops

Maicer Izturis was unavailable for anything other than pinch-running duties Wednesday after taking a David Price fastball off his right elbow in the fourth inning Tuesday. He is expected to be ready to play Friday when the Angels open a 10-game trip in Baltimore. . . . Vladimir Guerrero’s 13-game hitting streak came to an end when he went 0 for 3 with a walk Wednesday.