ARLINGTON -- A workhorse out of the bullpen last season as one of the most valuable arms on the Angels' staff, Jason Bulger has been idled by a right shoulder strain since June 11.
There were setbacks after attempts to stretch out and throw bullpen sessions, causing Bulger to shut it down, but he's back with the club throwing long toss and hopes to be able to pass a few bullpen tests and get back in competition soon.
"Today was a good day," Bulger said, having thrown long toss at 150 feet on Thursday at Rangers Ballpark. "I didn't come back well from my last bullpen, which was disappointing. I thought I was one day away from a rehab assignment. We let it re-set, and the good thing is it's coming back stronger than before. If I feel good after a couple more days of long toss, I'll jump on the mound and see how that goes."
Fellow reliever Brian Stokes, out since May 10 with right shoulder fatigue, also is on the comeback trail. The hard-throwing right-hander threw a bullpen session on Thursday and was hopeful he'd be on track for a rehab assignment soon.
Angels' Callaspo, Izturis carbon copies
ARLINGTON -- Bobby Abreu was raving about Maicer Izturis on Thursday, how his return to the Angels' lineup after missing 27 games with a left forearm strain had given them a lift in New York, where Izturis homered and drove in three runs in helping power a win over the Yankees on Tuesday night.
"The guy can hit," Abreu said. "He can rake. With runners in scoring position, he handles it very well. He's calm. He's good. He's one of the keys for our lineup, against a righty or a lefty. He can do a lot of things."
The Angels apparently like Izturis so much, they went and got another one just like him.
Alberto Callaspo, a Venezuela native like Izturis and Abreu, was acquired on Thursday, several hours before the Rangers' Cliff Lee and Jered Weaver were set to hook up in a duel of aces in an American League West showdown.
"He's got a lot of versatility, much like Izzy," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, leaving the impression that he wouldn't mind having Callaspo at third base on a fairly regular basis, now and in the future.
Callaspo, 27 and signed originally by the Angels in 2001, is a switch-hitter, like Izturis, who can play shortstop and second base as well as third. He is expected to join the Angels on Friday and be in the lineup against lefty C.J. Wilson.
Callaspo is hitting .275 this season with a .308 on-base percentage and .410 slugging percentage. Callaspo had a breakout season in 2009, playing 155 games and batting .300 with a .356 on-base percentage and .457 slugging mark.
Izturis, 29, put together almost identical numbers last season in 114 games: .300 BA, .359 OBP, .434 slugging. Izturis is a .277 career hitter, Callaspo .283.
Both players are 5-foot-8, but Callaspo is heavier and more durable. One area where they are not close is with runners in scoring position. Callaspo is a career .271 hitter with a .750 OPS (on base plus slugging) in those situations, .226, .687 with two away and runners in scoring position. Izturis, by contrast, consistently has delivered: .327 BA, .877 OPS with runners in scoring position, .292, .815 with two away.
With Callaspo going to the top of the depth chart at third, Izturis drops to second, followed by Kevin Frandsen and Brandon Wood. Wood also plays shortstop and first, while Frandsen can handle all four infield spots.
Abreu upbeat about Angels' recent play
ARLINGTON -- Angels right fielder Bobby Abreu likes the way the Angels are starting to come around offensively, having pounded out 29 hits and 16 runs in 18 innings at Yankee Stadium en route to their four-game showdown with the Rangers starting Thursday night.
"We're starting to produce, be the way we are," Abreu said. "We're aggressive. We showed we can hit, score some runs, against the Yankees, and that's a good feeling -- especially coming here for four big games. We're chasing these guys, and we need to score to catch them."
When you've played as long as Abreu has, you don't take slumps too seriously. He hasn't performed to his standards this season -- hitting .259 with .352 on-base and .411 slugging marks -- but he leaves the impression that those numbers will be rising soon, when it counts.
"I'm hitting the ball hard, but right at somebody," he said. "All you can do is make contact, hit the ball hard. You can't control anything else. As long as I hit the ball hard, I'm OK."
With Sean O'Sullivan going to Kansas City along with lefty Will Smith in the Alberto Callaspo deal, the Angels need a starter for Sunday's series finale. It's likely to be Trevor Bell, who arrived in New York from Triple-A Salt Lake along with O'Sullivan and pitched the ninth inning of O'Sullivan's 10-2 win on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. ... Bell, who had been relieving for the Angels earlier in the season, stretched out to 83 pitches in his third start at Salt Lake and said he'd be able to throw 100 pitches next time out if necessary. He hopes it is necessary. Bell, 23, made his Major League debut as a starter against Tampa Bay last August and went 5 1/3 innings, yielding four earned runs in a victory. He claimed his first win next time out at Cleveland, holding the Indians to three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, throwing 109 pitches. ... The Rangers' 55-40 record through 95 games matched the club record, reached most recently in 2004. ... Former Angel superstar Vladimir Guerrero has the best home run-to-strikeout ratio among all sluggers in the Majors with 20 homers and 33 K's coming into the series.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.