Notes: Saunders encouraged by outing

Notes: Saunders encouraged by outing

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Numbers, like looks, can be deceiving. Consider Joe Saunders. The Angels' southpaw felt good and felt he threw well on Monday, his second outing since a bout of flexor tendon stiffness, but this is what he had to show for his efforts: seven runs, six earned, on eight hits in six innings.

"Physically, I felt fine -- elbow's good, shoulder's good," Saunders said following his exercise against the Cubs, who beat the Angels, 8-7, at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Monday. "My velocity's there, my changeup's good, the curveball is where it needs to be. I'm pretty excited to get a start."

That will come on April 5 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, where Saunders makes his season debut against Oakland.

Manager Mike Scioscia supported Saunders' version of the day's deceiving events. In a four-run third, Saunders was hurt by a pair of soft singles and a two-strike, two-run double by Derrek Lee landing inches fair in left field.

"Some of those hits were seeing-eye -- they probably had four broken-bat hits," Scioscia said. "You can't control that. He pitched inside well, had good stuff, his velocity was good. Joe really threw better than his line score. He made pitches all day long."

Saunders was 7-3 with a 4.71 ERA in 13 starts after getting summoned from Triple-A Salt Lake in mid July of last season. The Angels got rolling but found high gear too late to catch the A's, who were four games better than L.A. in seizing the American League West title.

"We finished off last season good," Saunders said. "We won a lot of games the last few months. I think we're jelling pretty good as a team. You can sense the chemistry, what we need to do. We're right where we need to be."

Saunders was 1-0 in two starts against the A's but claims he doesn't need a big early confrontation with the Angels' big rivals to stoke his fires as he settles into Bartolo Colon's rotation spot until the big man returns.

"It doesn't matter who I start against, I'm looking forward to doing my thing," Saunders said. "I try to give us a chance to win every time I pitch. It's all I can do."

Power outlets: Big boppers Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson looked ready for the season on Monday.

Guerrero launched a 3-2 pitch over the fence in left against Jason Marquis for his second spring homer, then lashed a single the opposite way next time up -- preceding Anderson's second homer of the spring, a bomb to center. Anderson had doubled in his first at-bat.

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Shea Hillenbrand made it a 6-for-10 day for the 3-4-5 hitters when he doubled and singled in three at-bats. Gary Matthews Jr. had a pair of singles and a walk, driving in three runs.

"These guys are ready for night baseball, no doubt about it," Scioscia said. "Vlad got jammed a little bit and hit it almost over those trees. We had a lot of positives. The only thing is defensively there were a couple of plays we didn't make. Guys are swinging the bats better."

Matthews, for the second day in a row, showed his superlative range with a running catch in right-center, robbing Cliff Floyd of extra bases.

Commitment to excellence: Scioscia continues to marvel at the work ethic of Howie Kendrick, who has made all the plays -- routine and spectacular -- at second base in tandem with partner Orlando Cabrera.

"This guy, in three years, has made as many strides as anybody I've been around," Scioscia said. "It's just hard work, that's what it comes down to."

Kendrick missed three days with tightness in his groin, returning on Sunday in Mesa to make several superlative plays while expertly executing a hit-and-run for a single. He's hitting .373 this spring with seven extra-base hits.

Morales on the fence: Kendry Morales, hitting .349 in Cactus League play after a big winter in the Dominican Republic, helped his cause with a two-run homer against the Cubs' Kerry Wood on Sunday and a line single on Monday. But the switch-hitting first baseman might have trouble cracking a crowd at first base.

"There are some things Kendry has to clean up," Scioscia said. "There are some windows early in the season, especially with Chone [Figgins] on the DL right now. So we'll put some guys into a picture to help us win games. There are opportunities. There is certainly going to be a chance that guys like Kendry or [Nick] Gorneault or [Tommy] Murphy or [Reggie] Willits, [Erick] Aybar, those guys, are going to make our team and have a chance to contribute."

Up next: Right-hander Dustin Moseley, hoping to nail down the fifth spot in the rotation until Jered Weaver returns, gets the start on Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Right-hander Gavin Floyd starts for Chicago.

Moseley, who was 1-0 with a 9.00 ERA in three appearances for the Angels last year, is 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA in 13 2/3 innings this spring. Long reliever Hector Carrasco also is a candidate for the spot behind Saunders with Weaver and Colon -- who will pitch in a camp game on Tuesday -- both starting the season on the disabled list.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.