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Joe Saunders' arm: It's alive!

April 1, 2009 | 10:35 am

Saunders TEMPE, Ariz .-- That bout of spring training "dead arm" that had Manager Mike Scioscia concerned about probable opening-day starter Joe Saunders barely made it past the first round. Saunders said this morning that his arm "is back, it's alive, I feel the best I have all spring."

Saunders played long-toss on Tuesday and was stretched out by the training staff. He will throw an extended and aggressive bullpen workout Thursday afternoon in Dodger Stadium and is expected to start the season opener Monday night against Oakland in Angel Stadium.

Scioscia, as of this morning, still hadn't told Saunders he will start Monday. He's probably waiting to see how the left-hander throws Thursday, and Scioscia will get a first-hand look -- he will stand in the box with a bat to give Saunders a better feel of pitching to batters.

John Lackey, out because of a forearm strain, was originally scheduled to start opening day, and injured starters Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar would have probably gotten the opening-day nod over Saunders if they weren't opening the season on the disabled list.

"But if it happens, it will still be a great honor," Saunders said. "The pressure is going to be on to get off to a good start, and that's what I want to do. Get some outs and get us a win."

The Angels will close Cactus League play today against the Texas Rangers, with Angels right-hander Shane Loux opposing Rangers right-hander Doug Mathis.

First baseman Kendry Morales is in the lineup -- again - -but this time as a designated hitter. The switch-hitter, after playing 45 games of winter ball in the Dominican winter league, has played 24 games this spring and leads the team with 74 at-bats. The next closest Angel? Chone Figgins with 62 at-bats. Morales is batting .405 with three homers and 16 runs batted in.

The Angels lineup:

RF  Reggie Willits
SS  Erick Aybar
2B  Maicer Izturis
DH  Kendry Morales
C    Mike Napoli
LF  Robb Quinlan
3B  Brandon Wood
1B  Matt Brown
CF  Sean Rodriguez
P   Shane Loux

Also scheduled to pitch: Scot Shields and Jose Arredondo.

-- Mike DiGiovanna

Photo: Joe Saunders pitches against the Oakland Athletics in a spring training game March 9. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

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