Halos' setup unit close to game action
Shields, Jepsen throwing in 'pen; Rodney not far behind
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The wheels are starting to turn for the back end of the bullpen.
Expected to form the setup unit in front of closer Brian Fuentes, Scot Shields, Fernando Rodney and Kevin Jepsen are making positive moves toward getting on a mound in game conditions.
Shields, rebounding from left knee surgery last June, is throwing 20-pitch bullpen sessions alongside Jepsen, who arrived in camp with some shoulder tenderness and has been brought along gradually.
Rodney, kept off the mound by soreness in both shins, has been throwing long toss and is expected to begin throwing off a mound in a matter of days, manager Mike Scioscia said.
"Rodney's getting examined today, hopefully with the possibility of a good report so he can get off a mound within the next week," Scioscia said before Thursday's Cactus League opener against the White Sox at Tempe Diablo Stadium. "The sooner the better. He's feeling good. We just want to make sure everything's good."
Shields "should be in games within a week," Scioscia said, adding that Jepsen is on the same program. "They're throwing full bullpens, 20 pitches."
The club plans to go into the season with Fuentes as the only left-handed reliever, but Scioscia doesn't appear concerned.
"We have some power arms down there who can get the job done," he said.
In addition to Rodney, Shields and Jepsen, Jason Bulger and Brian Stokes loom as potential late-inning relievers with Matt Palmer an all-purpose craftsman, capable of starting or relieving.
Bulger, a stalwart in 64 relief appearances in 2009, was especially effective against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .196 batting average in 107 at-bats.
That was even better than Fuentes' .239 batting average yielded against lefty hitters in 71 at-bats.
Scioscia feels the club has a collection of southpaw relievers in the organization a year or more away from making contributions in Anaheim.
"We have some relievers who are going to be on our depth chart as we move through the season," he said.
The club announced on Thursday that it had agreed to terms on 2010 contracts with infielder Brandon Wood, Bulger, Jepsen, Stokes, Palmer and reliever Rafael Rodriguez. Reliever Rich Thompson had his contract renewed.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.