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Angels pitcher Ervin Santana skips winter ball to focus on health

February 17, 2010 |  2:19 pm

Ervin TEMPE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Ervin Santana, who struggled because of an elbow sprain for most of 2009, said his arm feels "very, very good" after skipping winter ball in his native Dominican Republic.

Santana, who reported to spring training with Angels pitchers and catchers Wednesday and will begin workouts Thursday, emerged as a potential staff ace in 2008, going 16-7 with a 3.49 earned run average in 32 starts.

But after signing a four-year, $30-million deal last spring, he missed the first six weeks of 2009 because of the elbow sprain and struggled to regain his velocity and command for the first four months of a season in which he finished 8-8 with a 5.10 ERA in 23 games.

Santana, who, when sound, mixes a 96-mph fastball with a curve and change-up, finished strong, going 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA over the final two months, and he is confident he will carry that momentum into 2010.

"I think I can, no question," Santana said when asked if he can regain his 2008 form. "I know I'm a good pitcher. My only problem last year was injuries. It happens."

Santana, 27, has used winter ball as a tuneup for spring training, but he opted for strength training, catch and a few bullpen sessions this winter. He will be on regular schedule with the other pitchers this spring, meaning he will throw off a mound very early in camp.

"It was my choice -- I wanted to rest my arm," Santana said. "I want to get back to being healthy, and right now, I feel great."

-- Mike DiGiovanna

Photo: Ervin Santana. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times