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Healthy Escalona eager to compete for bullpen spot

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- One of the pitchers in the thick of the battle for a spot in the bullpen this season is left-hander Sergio Escalona, who had a solid season for Houston in 2011 before missing all of last year following Tommy John surgery.

Escalona, who was 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 49 appearances in '11, tore his ulnar collateral ligament last spring and underwent surgery in March. He comes to camp this year with no restrictions and excited about the strides he's made.

"I feel 200 percent," he said with a smile. "It was a long time to prepare for this day and I feel great. I feel like my conditioning is back, everything is back. Hopefully everything is working."

Escalona has even thrown two light bullpen sessions already and has had no setbacks. He spent most of last year rehabbing in Florida before going to his native Venezuela late in the year to work out with a professional team.

"My goal was to be ready for Spring Training," he said. "I don't have any restrictions. I'm ready to go, seriously. I feel good. I feel better than before. I know it's just nine months from the surgery, but I think I'll be healthy and strong and focused on doing my job."

Read More: Houston Astros, Sergio Escalona