Mathis pleased with test swings for wrist
Angels make no predictions about when catcher will return
ANAHEIM -- Catcher Jeff Mathis, making bat-on-baseball contact for the first time since fracturing his right wrist on April 19, called Wednesday's activity a "big step" in the direction of returning to the Angels' active roster.
"This was the first time I swung off the tee, and I'm very happy with what went on," Mathis said. "I took dry swings the last two days, to get a feel for the bat, the motion, the swing. There was still a little soreness in the wrist. So, hitting balls off the tee and not having any problems with the wrist, that's a big step for me."
"I hate to put a timetable on [returning]. You know me: I want to play. Today made me feel a lot better about where I'm going. I've still got to get my strength back in the wrist and hand, but throwing feels good. I threw today to all the bases.
"Gradually, I want to work my way into soft toss, then batting practice, and hopefully go somewhere and get this thing rolling. I hope in a week to 10 days to be in a game somewhere."
The Angels are making no projections, not wanting to rush the process and have Mathis take a backward step or two. He was hitting .324 in 10 games with a .500 slugging percentage and catching at an All-Star level when he went to the disabled list. Mike Napoli has caught fire in his good buddy's absence.
"I don't need to force it," Mathis said. "Nap is having some fun, and Bobby [Wilson] is solid, too. But I really want to get back out there."
Shorter swing helps Napoli go deep
ANAHEIM -- Catcher Mike Napoli's recent power surge -- homers in four of his past five games, a career-high seven bombs in a month, a .743 slugging percentage since April 29 -- can be attributed to making his stroke more compact.
That is the judgment of Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who has been evaluating Napoli's stroke and approach intently since the big man from South Florida began launching homers as a rookie in 2006.
"At times Mike gets a little long with his swing," Scioscia said. "His early struggles forced him to kind of shorten up a little bit. By shortening up, he's getting a clean, crisp path to the ball. He doesn't need that [long swing] with his power.
"He's in a real good comfort level. Part of it is he's got his hands in a good position. With Mike swinging like he can ahead of the guys behind him, our lineup gets deeper."
Napoli, with 10 hits and five homers in his past 26 at-bats, is batting .324 in May after bottoming out at .167 in April. Sciosica, intent on keeping the lineup deep in the bottom third, kept the scalding-hot catcher in the No. 7 spot in Wednesday's series finale against Toronto right-hander Brandon Morrow.
Rivera takes day off for knee to heal
ANAHEIM -- Left fielder Juan Rivera was not in the Angels' lineup for Wednesday's twilight affair with the Blue Jays, getting an extra day to recover from a bruised left knee.
"Rivera fouled a ball off the inside of his knee [Tuesday night]," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, replacing him with Michael Ryan against Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow. "He's a little sore. He's able to play, but we'll give him a day."
With a day off Thursday, Rivera will have two full days for the knee to heal before the Mariners arrive for a weekend series starting Friday night.
Rivera, who hit .287 last year with 25 homers and 88 RBIs, is batting .235 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 42 games. Ryan is 2-for-14 (.143) since being summoned from Triple-A Salt Lake, where he was tearing up the Pacific Coast League. Ryan gives the Angels another left-handed bat against the right-hander Morrow, formerly with Seattle.
ANAHEIM -- Silver Slugger and nine-time Gold Glover Torii Hunter was back in center field on Wednesday, batting fourth, after attending the high school graduation of son Cameron. ... It was a hot Toronto crew that Ervin Santana and the Angels cooled off Tuesday night to even the series. The Jays are tied for third in May for the American League's best winning percentage at .625 and lead the Majors in homers for the month with 44, the most they've ever hit in May. They are within reach of their highest total of blasts in any month: 48 in June 2000. ... The Jays have won eight of the past 12 season series against the Angels. ... Bobby Abreu is hitting .309 at Angel Stadium compared with .230 on the road. Howard Kendrick (.333 vs. .182) and Hideki Matsui (.277 vs. .178) have also hit significantly better at home. ... Seattle will send its two best starters out against the Angels this weekend. Cliff Lee works Friday night's series opener against Scott Kazmir in a duel of lefties, with Felix Hernandez engaging Joe Saunders in Sunday's finale. Ian Snell is matched against Angels ace Jered Weaver on Saturday, a 1:10 p.m. PT start for FOX. ... What happened to the resilient comeback kids of recent seasons? The Angels are the only team in the Majors without a win when trailing in the sixth inning or later. They're 0-21. ... In spite of their inconsistent bullpen work, the Angels are 19-1 when they lead after eight innings. ... Defense matters: The Angels are 9-17 when they commit one error or more. ... Minor League spotlight: Cory Aldridge, who opened a lot of eyes with a brilliant spring, continues to crush the ball for Triple-A Salt Lake. Aldridge homered and had another hit in an 8-2 loss to Iowa on Tuesday. He has 37 RBIs in 40 games this season, with seven in the past eight games.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.