CHICAGO -- The side work he's been doing with pitching coach Mike Butcher apparently has Fernando Rodney back on track, feeling more like the weapon he was in Detroit in 2009 when he saved 37 games in 38 attempts and early last season when he rolled through five near perfect save opportunities before wildness surfaced.
"Absolutely [he has a] comfort level with his mechanics," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Rodney, who has put together two strong outings after a discouraging start to the season that cost him, at least temporarily, the closer's role. "I think he feels very comfortable with how he's throwing the ball."
Since walking three hitters and giving up two earned runs while getting only one out against the Royals on April 3, Rodney has been virtually flawless in four appearances. He has walked one man and allowed one hit and no runs in 4 1/3 innings, striking out three and picking up a save against Toronto.
"He's experimented with some things, gotten into a good, compact delivery that's worked for him," Scioscia said. "He was in it last year at the beginning of the season. At times it's gotten away from him. He understands where he's got to be."
It's a big season for Rodney, who is in the final year of a two-year deal.
Halos know meaning of Jackie Robinson Day
CHICAGO -- Their road grays were hanging in their lockers, all with No. 42 on the back in honor of Jackie Robinson, the legend who changed baseball and society alongside Branch Rickey in Brooklyn in 1947.
As the Angels waited on word about whether they'd be able to play the White Sox on a cold, wet Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field, several players reflected on the meaning of the man who broke the color barrier with his will, skill, patience and wisdom.
"When I came into the game," said Jered Weaver, off to a blazing start at 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA, "I knew about Jackie Robinson, but I didn't realize how truly great he was and how much impact he had on baseball and the world. Over time, I've realized how special he was.
"I've watched old film of him, and he really got after it. You could see his passion for the game."
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"That's interesting," he said. "First thing, I wouldn't want to walk him, because that was a triple, right? I'd probably pound fastballs inside. It looks like he liked to get those arms extended. It would've been fun, a great challenge, for sure.
"I think it's great we honor him every year like this. We need to keep people aware of who he was and what he did."
Torii Hunter has Robinson on his personal Mount Rushmore of athletic heroes.
"I never got to meet Jackie Robinson personally, but I got to know all about him mainly through the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City," Hunter said. "I've gone there many, many times, and do some promotional work for them now. When Buck O'Neil was there at the museum, he'd tell me all about the players from his time.
"He told me stories about Jackie, the way he played the game and person he was, and what sticks out is his toughness -- and that he was also a great football player and basketball player. To handle everything he went through, [he] had to be incredibly tough, mentally and physically. I owe everything I have to Jackie Robinson. If he didn't have the strength to go through what he did, and just walked away, who knows what would have happened?
"He was a great man, not only for what he did for baseball but for society in breaking down so many barriers. We also have to remember all the others who came along with him like Larry Doby and Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella -- and, of course, Satchel Paige, who might have been the greatest pitcher of all time."
Struggling Kazmir working with old tutor
CHICAGO -- Scott Kazmir is starting his rehab from lower back soreness by going back to his roots. He has returned to Houston and reconnected with an unnamed individual "he's worked with in his past," according to Angels manager Mike Scioscia, in search of whatever has been missing during his struggles last season and in his first start this year.
"It's good to hear some [feedback] from different sources," Scioscia said, adding that Kazmir was going over "some video on some mechanical issues. This guy's known him since high school, somebody he's been working with for a long time.
"He has a better understanding now than at times last year. It's an opportunity to get some information and work with it. Physically, he's feeling better."
When Kazmir's back heals, he'll resume throwing and probably have a Minor League rehab outing or two before rejoining the Angels' staff.
Joel Pineiro, also on the disabled list with tightness in his right shoulder blade, threw a bullpen session on Friday in Arizona.
Something's got to give with Angels catchers
CHICAGO -- Hank Conger was in the Angels' lineup with Jered Weaver on the mound on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field under threatening skies.
Conger, Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson essentially have been sharing the catching job. All have done solid work, but keeping three receivers might not be possible when Erick Aybar, Joel Pineiro, Scott Kazmir and Kendrys Morales all come off the disabled list in the days ahead. Relievers Kevin Jepsen and Michael Kohn also figure to return from Triple-A Salt Lake.
Scioscia is high on Conger, a switch-hitter who took a .286 average into the game, and said he wouldn't remain on the roster as a primary pinch-hitter and third catcher. Conger needs to play, according to Scioscia, and it remains to be seen if that will be in the Majors or back in the Pacific Coast League.
"I don't think right now he is the third catcher," Scioscia said. "Right now, I think there's a role for Hank. It is tough to work in three guys. A lot of depth can be found on our roster. It's definitely going to force some decisions. A lot of things can happen."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.