NEW YORK -- Peter Bourjos spent a lot of Spring Training voluntarily taking pitches he'd normally swing at, which must've been frustrating for the speedy Angels center fielder. The hope was that it would serve a long-term purpose -- better strike-zone recognition.
Early on, it seems to be working out.
Bourjos went 1-for-3 while once again hitting in the No. 9 spot on Friday, and he's now batting .300 through the first week of the season. In his last three games, Bourjos is 4-for-9 with two extra-base hits -- including an inside-the-park home run at Target Field on Wednesday.
Bourjos, who has a high strikeout rate to begin with, raised some eyebrows this spring by striking out 17 times in 23 games. But he professes there was meaning behind it, hoping he may one day have the strike-zone recognition he needs to be a reliable leadoff hitter.
"Early in the counts, usually during the season, I'm more aggressive," Bourjos said. "This spring, I just told myself to not be so aggressive, take some pitches, track and try to get a better eye out there."
Downs avoids DL, but Halos add an arm
NEW YORK -- Lefty Scott Downs, a critical cog in the Angels' struggling bullpen, is expected to avoid a trip to the disabled list despite getting spiked in the right ankle on Thursday.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who revealed the news prior to Friday's series-opening 5-0 loss to the Yankees in the Bronx, doesn't know when Downs will be available to pitch, but postgame X-rays on Thursday and an MRI exam in New York on Friday revealed no structural damage or ligament damage, making him day to day.
For now, at least.
"The initial prognosis of a bruise, or a contusion, was correct," Dipoto said. "I know he left yesterday's game on crutches and was on them again this morning, but right now, it's viewed as day to day."
Downs injured his ankle at Target Field in Thursday's seventh inning, when Twins center fielder Denard Span stepped on it while crossing the bag for what ended up being the tying run. Downs iced the ankle constantly, was off crutches by Friday morning and described the injury as just a stretching of the capsule that sits on top his ankle.
He hopes to test it on Saturday.
"It's still sore," said Downs, who has posted a 2.17 ERA while averaging 64 appearances per season over the last five years. "It's going to be sore for a while. It's just about what I can tolerate."
With Downs ailing, the Angels called up right-hander David Carpenter from Triple-A Salt Lake while optioning utility man Alexi Amarista. Carpenter, who relies on a sinker-slider combination, was selected by the Angels in the ninth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and spent the previous three seasons in their system, posting a 0.57 ERA in 44 appearances for Class A Advanced Inland Empire and Double-A Arkansas in 2011.
On Friday, the 24-year-old made his Major League debut, giving up just one hit in a scoreless eighth inning.
"I always thought about what kind of emotions I'd feel once I get that call -- cry, scream -- and when it finally happened, it was just pure shock, actually," Carpenter said of his first callup prior to the game. "I just kind of sat there with an expressionless face."
Few outside options as Angels sort out 'pen
NEW YORK -- Six games into the season, the Angels are suddenly scrambling with their bullpen -- a unit that has blown leads in back-to-back games, gave up seven runs in two innings on Thursday and currently has one of its most important members, Scott Downs, day to day with a right ankle injury.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto will continue to "search under every rock" for outside bullpen help, but, as he said: "There isn't a surplus of available high-quality Major League relievers."
"There's 30 teams out there, and I'm pretty certain that 30 of them are not particularly satisfied with the depth of their pitching staff," Dipoto said. "The next team that utters the phrase, 'We have a perfect bullpen,' will be the first."
Right now, the Angels are far from that.
Downs was told that his ankle, which was spiked by Twins center fielder Denard Span on Thursday, wouldn't require a stint on the disabled list, but the reliever is still very sore and probably won't pitch in this weekend's series at Yankee Stadium.
Right-hander Bobby Cassevah, out with right shoulder inflammation, is still on a Minor League rehab assignment, and another righty, Michael Kohn, is done for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
"It's all certainly eaten into our depth," Dipoto said. "These are questions we're going to have to answer as we move forward. But it can't be answered in 12 hours."
Problem is, there are hardly any options remaining in free agency -- "Not that I'm currently looking at," Dipoto said -- and no team is necessarily looking to part ways with relief pitching this early in the season.
For now, the Angels will mostly have to get by with whatever they have on the active roster and in their system, which means veteran arms like LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen -- both 39 years old -- may have to take on a greater workloads than originally expected.
But closer Jordan Walden, who didn't have a save chance in the first six games and had made only one appearance entering Friday, believes the relief corps can stay afloat -- at least until Downs gets back.
"Our bullpen's good," Walden attests. "Yesterday, it was a little shaky, but you're going to have those, especially with Downs going down in the middle of that inning. It puts pressure on us, but I think we're going to be fine. We have a deep starting rotation that's going to go deeper into these games. With the new addition of [David Carpenter, who was called up Friday,] we're going to be fine."
With Friday's 5-0 loss to the Yankees, the Angels moved to 12-31 on Friday the 13th, which represents the worst record all time on that bad-luck day, according to Stats LLC.
Ervin Santana gave up six runs over five innings on Friday and is now winless in his last seven starts against the Yankees, dating back to September 2008. He's 0-5 with a 6.49 ERA in that span.
Albert Pujols' seven-game homerless streak to start this season is the second longest of his career. With the Cardinals in 2008, he didn't hit his first homer until his ninth game.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.