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ANGELS NOTEBOOK: WEAVER INSPIRES SAUNDERS.

Byline: DOUG PADILLA Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- It would have been perfect symmetry if Joe Saunders was actually taking the mound tonight in place of his Salt Lake roommate, Jered Weaver.

Saunders instead will take the place of Kelvim Escobar and use Weaver for inspiration. The left-hander, who started two games for the Angels last season, will make his 2006 debut tonight.

``We had a little friendly competition (at Salt Lake),'' Saunders said. ``Whatever he did, I tried to match. Whatever I did, he tried to match. I think that was good for me.''

Saunders was 10-3 with a 2.51 ERA in 19 starts at Salt Lake. Weaver was 6-1 in his 11 starts there with a 1.99 ERA.

With Weaver and Escobar both having to skip starts because of tendinitis, Saunders got his opening. Weaver, who is expected to return to the mound this weekend at Kansas City, will be watching intently.

``He is a great pitcher and it was just a matter of time before he was going to get his opportunity to get up here,'' Weaver said. ``The chips kind of fell into place. He showed he could do it last year when he came up. But he's got good stuff, a great changeup, good fastball command and I think he should be fine.''

More Weaver: Weaver does not expect to miss more than one start because of his biceps tendinitis and likely will take the mound Saturday at Kansas City. He played long toss Sunday from 90 feet and extended that to 120 feet Monday. He will have another long-toss session today.

``There was still (soreness) lingering but it's definitely gotten better,'' Weaver said.

He expects to advance to a seven- to eight-minute bullpen session Wednesday or Thursday.

Escobar recovering, too: Escobar also continues to feel lingering soreness in connection with his right elbow tendinitis but said he would have had no problem pitching tonight if he wasn't on the disabled list.

Escobar wants to have two bullpen sessions before returning to the mound, likely Sunday at Kansas City.

Escobar had surgery last June 29 to remove a bone chip and shave down a bone spur and was told his current soreness was to be expected with the amount of innings he has pitched in a little over a year.

``I haven't stopped playing catch, and I pitched a lot last year when I came back,'' he said.

``I pitched in Venezuela a little bit and spring training and the world classic. Now I already have 100 innings. I'm going to feel it a little bit but eventually it should go away.''
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 18, 2006
Words:437
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