Big step for Escalona with first bullpen session

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- When left-handed reliever Sergio Escalona finished throwing his first bullpen session of the spring Wednesday, he flashed a huge smile and received handshakes and hugs from the staff and some players.

It was a huge step in Escalona's recovery from Tommy John surgery, which cost him the entire 2012 season.

"That is one step right now to just keep going to the goal," he said. "I say, 'Thank God.' That's everything I have to say. I was patient, I was working for this day and, like I said, it's one step at a time. I can't get overexcited and just try to do everything to my best. I'm excited and really happy for today and just need to prepare for the second one."

Escalona, who was 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 49 appearances in 2011, tore his ulnar collateral ligament last spring and underwent surgery in March. He was also dealing with a left hamstring strain suffered running on the field last Friday.

"My hamstring was OK today," Escalona said. "I didn't feel anything at all. I'll try to push it in the second bullpen harder and get prepared for the first game."