SEATTLE (AP) -John Lackey thinks it's time to shift gears on his drive back from a strained triceps that has delayed his season debut.
The Angels ace was strong while throwing 35 pitches - all fastballs - Thursday in Anaheim, Calif., in his first bullpen session since he hurt himself March 21. Lackey then played catch for a few minutes in the outfield Friday before his teammates took batting practice, and he is scheduled to throw another bullpen session of about 45 pitches on Sunday.
Manager Mike Scioscia said he is tentatively planning to get Lackey, who was 19-9 with an AL-leading 3.01 ERA last season, back in early May.
That's not fast enough for the competitive Lackey.
``I'm feeling good. Hoping to move it along a little bit,'' he said.
If all goes well, he may throw one or two more bullpens later next week - ``a full-out, full-gorilla bullpen,'' using all his pitches, Scioscia said. Then Lackey would throw some simulated games later this month before he goes out on a rehabilitation assignment in the minor leagues.
``The window we are looking at is the first or second week of May. There's light at the end of the tunnel, for sure,'' Scioscia said.
The Angels have come to depend on Lackey to be at his best when the games are biggest. So, yes, he would love to be starting this weekend during the team's first series against the Seattle Mariners, presumed to be Los Angeles' chief threat to its reign of the division.
Then again, the 29-year-old right-hander is entering his sixth full season in the major leagues. So he knows how early it is.
``Yeah, I'd like to be out there. I'd like to be out there every game,'' Lackey said. ``But it's too early to get too crazy about this.
``Fifty games - let's see where everyone is then. Hopefully, I will be there by then.''
Then he poked some fun at the Mariners, who went 6-13 against the Angels while finishing six games behind them last season. Last month, Seattle manager John McLaren declared he was sending a message by starting his regular lineup and ace Erik Bedard against Los Angeles for the rivals' first meeting in spring training that the Mariners won.
``If you feel you have to make a statement in spring training ... ,'' Lackey said, shrugging his shoulders and chuckling.
Lackey isn't the only top Angels pitcher missing. Closer Francisco Rodriguez was to test his sprained right ankle by throwing on flat ground before Friday's game after feeling pain on the final two pitches of his last outing on Monday. He said he was ready to return, but Scioscia wanted to see how Rodriguez felt after throwing Friday during pregame work before deciding if he would be available.
Starter Kelvim Escobar, an 18-game winner last season, remains out indefinitely with a labrum tear in his right shoulder. No decision has been made on rehab or surgery for him.

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