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Joel Pineiro can’t get things to sink in

Maybe it was the dry Arizona air, or maybe he was a little amped up for his first exhibition start in 10 days, but Joel Pineiro lost that sinking feeling in two of the three innings he pitched for the Angels on Sunday.

The sinker-ball specialist, scratched from last Tuesday’s start because of some emergency dental work, gave up two runs and four hits in the first inning and a two-run home run to Kevin Millar in the third inning of an 8-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

“Sometimes you feel too strong, you overthrow, and the ball flattens out,” Pineiro said. “If you get too powerful, you start getting the ball up. Maybe that was the case today … but the biggest thing for me is getting ahead in the count. I went 3-and-0 to the first hitter of the game. When I get ahead, it turns everything around.”

It’s still too early in the spring to be concerned with results, but Pineiro, who gave up four runs and seven hits, did not like the way he gave up Millar’s homer after the Angels scored six runs on six hits, including Kendry Morales’ solo homer, in the second.

“I’m not going to lie — I don’t want to give up those runs when your team gets you a lead,” Pineiro said. “You get big run support, you’ve got to throw a shut-down inning. That’s something that, mentally, you have to get prepared for. So I was a little disappointed about that.”

Green light

Michael Ryan has been impressive in his bid for a reserve outfield job, hitting .429 (six for 14) with six runs batted in and making several diving catches, and he was given a chance to further his candidacy in the ninth inning Sunday.

With runners on first and third and two outs, Manager Mike Scioscia gave Ryan a green light on a 3-and-0 pitch from reliever Thomas Diamond, but Ryan flied to right field, ending the game.

“We’re looking for a guy who has enough confidence to get a good pitch to hit, put a good swing on it and give us a chance to win the game or tie it up, and he did,” Scioscia said. “He’s had a terrific camp, worked some good at-bats, and he just missed that last one.”

Relief effort

Hard-throwing relievers Kevin Jepsen and Fernando Rodney, who were eased slowly into workouts this spring, are scheduled to make their exhibition debuts today against the Dodgers.

Jepsen emerged last season as a late-inning force but experienced shoulder tendinitis in September. Rodney, the former Detroit Tigers closer who signed a two-year, $11-million deal with the Angels this winter, has been slowed by sore shins.

Grounded

Shortstop Erick Aybar (forearm stiffness) was unable to play the field for the fourth straight day Sunday. Asked about his sore arm Wednesday, Aybar said he thought he would play the next day.

But Scioscia said Aybar is not experiencing anything beyond normal spring soreness.

“If this was a regular-season game he would play,” Scioscia said, “but there is no sense in pushing it at this stage.”

Short hops

Outfielder Reggie Willits left Sunday’s game after two innings because of a strained right hamstring. “It doesn’t look like a full-blown pull, but hamstrings can be tricky sometimes,” Scioscia said. “We’ll evaluate him day to day. It shouldn’t sideline him for too long.” … Right fielder Bobby Abreu was scratched from Sunday’s game because of tightness in his side.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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