"Now I know why Percy's been throwing," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said through a grin before Thursday night's opener of the annual Freeway Series with the Dodgers. "He'll throw out the first pitch -- and probably want to throw the last one too. That's Percy."
Employed by the Angels as a special assignment pitching instructor, Percival always wanted the ball with the game on the line -- and he delivered strikes with remarkable consistency and a passion that made him a fan favorite.
"I'm very proud to be a part of this organization," Percival said. "This club has always embraced me and my family. I'm honored to retire as an Angel."
Appearing in 605 games for the Angels and Detroit Tigers, Percival retires with 324 career saves, tying him with the Mets' Billy Wagner for 11th on the all-time list.
All but eight of those 324 saves came while he wore an Angels uniform, with many of his best memories coming during the magical 2002 ride to the World Series championship.
He got the final out in each of the Angels' three series-clinching victories, against the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and San Francisco Giants, tying a postseason record with seven saves in as many opportunities.
His career high for saves in a season came in 1998, when he produced 42, but his finest overall season was 2002. He was 4-1 with 40 saves and a 1.92 ERA.
"Troy Percival has been an integral part of the success and tradition of Angels baseball for many years," said Bill Stoneman, Angels vice president and general manager. "It is very appropriate that he retires as an Angel."
Percival spent the entire 2006 season on the disabled list with the Tigers after sustaining a serious injury to his right forearm in July 2005 while pitching for Detroit.
A four-time All-Star who was a catcher at UC Riverside before getting transformed into a pitcher, Percival, his wife, Michelle, and their children, Cole and Avery, live in Riverside.
Aybar's status unclear:
After a superb spring, Erick Aybar was expected to fill Maicer Izturis' all-purpose infield role with Izturis moving to third base in Chone Figgins' absence. But an untimely foot ailment has clouded the picture for Aybar and the club.
Aybar, who sprained the side of his left foot running the bases on Wednesday against Oakland, had some swelling on Thursday and is day-to-day, Scioscia said.
"We don't know yet if he'll be ready on Monday," the manager said. "You're always concerned. Erick's a tough kid. We'll see how it is."
Brandon Wood, expected to open the season at Triple-A Salt Lake, is with the big club for the Freeway Series that opened on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium. Wood, a natural shortstop, spent the spring playing third base in an effort to open another door to the big time.
Showing no ill effects from a back spasm that flared up in his final Cactus League start, Kelvim Escobar cut loose on almost 100 pitches in a Minor League game on Thursday in Arizona and is set to go in the second game of the season Tuesday night against the Rangers, Scioscia said.
"He felt great afterward," Scioscia said. "He could have pitched here tonight against the Dodgers, but we wanted him in a controlled environment, like we did with John Lackey yesterday."
Lackey is fully stretched out for his start in the opener.
Jered Weaver and Bartolo Colon both threw what Scioscia called "great" bullpen sessions on Thursday in Arizona and remain on schedule. Weaver is pointing toward an April 16 start in Boston, Colon not long after that.
Ervin Santana makes his final spring start on Friday night at Dodger Stadium in preparation for his assignment on Wednesday afternoon in Anaheim against Texas.
Southpaw Joe Saunders will work on Saturday night in Anaheim against the Dodgers, getting ready for his Thursday night start in the opener of a four-game series vs. Oakland.