ANAHEIM // Joe Saunders was a satisfied patient indeed. "I never had a cortisone shot before," he said. "That's obviously the wonder drug." Saunders was a new man on the mound on Wednesday, a new man with his old fastball. After four months of nagging discomfort and two weeks of rest and rehabilitation, Saunders resembled his All-Star self once again, pitching five solid innings in the Los Angeles Angels 4-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
"It was nice to be able to throw the ball without any hint of tightness or anything like that," Saunders said. "Knock on wood." Torii Hunter hit his first home run in eight weeks, Brian Fuentes recorded his first save in eight days, and the Angels remained the only club in the major leagues not to lose four consecutive games this season. But the star was Saunders, in his first start since owning up to shoulder soreness and ending up on the disabled list.
In the two weeks since then, the Angels' medical staff treated his pitching shoulder with electrical stimulation, massage and cortisone shots. And, after he fired fastballs at up to 94 miles per hour, he second-guessed himself for pitching through the soreness. "I should have maybe done this a lot earlier, say in spring training," Saunders said. "It's my fault. You live and you learn. "Next year, if it happens - hopefully it doesn't - I'll speak up earlier and take care of it earlier."
Saunders won 17 games and made the All-Star team last season, emerging as an anchor of the Angels' rotation. He started this season just fine, and his ERA rose from 2.66 to above 5.00. After he stopped pitching, and as his shoulder healed, he recovered the ability to fully extend his arm, and with it another 2-3 mph on his fastball. "It's all about creating angle with your pitches," he said. "I couldn't do that."
His fastball registered a consistent 90-92 mph all afternoon. "This is certainly the most consistent velocity we've seen all year from Joe," the manager Mike Scioscia said. Meanwhile, American League East table-toppers the New York Yankees were comfortable 9-2 winners against Texas Rangers while Boston stayed six games adrift of the Yankees with a 3-2 win over Chicago White Sox.
* With agencies