Postponement brings Lackey back into the mix

John Lackey is the top pitching free agent

John Lackey is the top pitching free agent this year and the Mets might be a strong contender for his services. (Credit: Getty Images)

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There were some mixed feelings in the Angels' clubhouse about last night's rainout. But no mixed feelings about what it does for the visitors and their pitching availability. Because now John Lackey, the starter in Games 1 and 5, is back in the mix, either as a Game 6 reliever or the Game 7 starter, the best-case scenario for the Angels.

"I would think maybe [the rainout does] a little more for us, because we get John back," closer Brian Fuentes said. "They have CC [Sabathia] going [in a Game 7], but he was going to pitch regardless. I don't think it changed anything for them. So I'd say it's a little more in our favor."

Lackey came in from a workout to find his locker surrounded by reporters who wanted to know if the 2002 World Series Game 7 starter and winner was relishing a chance to start Game 7. "We're getting too far ahead of ourselves, fellas," he said. "We need to get a win [tonight] and I'll be available [tonight]. That's all I know about right now."

He has started twice on three days' rest, pitching five shutout innings in 2005 after getting bombed in 41/3 innings in 2004.

Lackey, who had a heated exchange with manager Mike Scioscia when he was lifted in the seventh inning of Game 5 Thursday night, was asked if he'd press Scioscia to take the ball for Game 6. "Joe [Saunders] did just fine last time," Lackey said.

Saunders, who allowed two runs in seven innings in the cold and damp of Game 2 at the Stadium, will get the start Sunday night. And he kind of wished it still was cold and damp. "I'd rather have it 20 degrees colder, no question about it," he said. "I like cold weather."

Despite having to wind down from what he called his usual game-day anxiety, Saunders was another Angel who liked the extra day off. The pitchers liked it. The position players? Not so much.

"It's not good because both teams are eager to get out there and play," Chone Figgins said.

As for adding Lackey to the mix, Figgins didn't think it mattered much for a potential Game 7. "We have to win Game 6 before we can worry about that," he said. "It doesn't matter who we start that game, anyway. I'm pretty sure everyone will be available [Sunday]."

"Our focus is not on Game 7," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. "It'll be all hands on deck [Sunday night]."

Scioscia said Jered Weaver, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning in Game 5 after a poor start in Game 3, would have been available in the bullpen again last night and will be again Sunday night. Game 4 starter Scott Kazmir also will be there.

That could alleviate Scioscia's desire to use Lackey, even though the big righthander is the Angels' best pitcher. If they can piece together a win or pull away early, then Lackey will loom even larger.

"Now," Fuentes said, "we've got to win Game 6."

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