LOS ANGELES -- Jered Weaver completed an aggressive bullpen session at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, setting himself up to likely pitch in a simulated game on Friday and return to the Angels' rotation at some point next week.
Whether that comes in a three-game series against the Giants from Monday to Wednesday or the weekend set against the Dodgers that follows remains to be seen. But Weaver, who exited his May 28 start against the Yankees in the first inning, hasn't experienced any back pain for a while and continues to progress quickly.
The Angels have some flexibility with off-days on back-to-back Thursdays, giving manager Mike Scioscia the freedom to skip one of his starters, shuffle the order or basically insert Weaver at his convenience. Weaver's return could also present a tough decision, with the young Garrett Richards impressing and the tenured Ervin Santana struggling.
"You want to make sure that he's at a certain point," Scioscia said of Weaver, "and that's what we'll focus on through the weekend."
Weaver threw 30 pitches off the front part of the mound on Monday, representing the first time he's progressed off flat ground, then followed that up by throwing 55 pitches from the rubber, where he mixed in all his pitches and let loose on a few toward the end.
"It felt really good," said Weaver, who went 6-1 with a 2.61 ERA through his first 11 starts. "Everything just feels normal."
When Trout, Pujols click, Angels tough to stop
LOS ANGELES -- Success in this game, skipper Mike Scioscia will quickly tell you, requires a lot more than two players. But there's no doubt the Angels' offense is dangerous if Mike Trout (young, dynamic leadoff hitter) and Albert Pujols (tenured, transcendent middle-of-the-order bat) are clicking at the same time.
And finally, that's what's taking place.
Trout hasn't stopped impressing since his late-April callup, batting .354 with six homers and 15 stolen bases, continually building momentum for the American League Rookie of the Year Award and perhaps even a trip to the All-Star Game. Pujols, meanwhile, has finally looked like the hitter he's always been, batting .375 with six homers and 19 RBIs during a 19-game stretch that has seen his batting average go from .211 to .260.
Since the start of May, Pujols has driven in 33 runs, which is tied for fourth in the Majors. Twelve of those times -- including the game-winning run, with two outs in the ninth inning on Monday night -- Trout has scored.
"I tell you one thing, Albert has seen a lot in this game, but his eyes light up at some of the things Mike does," Scioscia said. "He appreciates what Mike is doing."
Pujols spoke glowingly about Trout late Monday night -- about his athleticism, aggressiveness, grit, humility and plate discipline.
But he stopped short of making a comparison.
"He's too young to compare with anybody," Pujols said. "Right now, he's just Mike Trout, and he's just playing the game the right way, playing the game hard. You ask him that, and he's going to tell you that. I'm really excited that my next 10 years, I'm going to spend it here with him, [Mark] Trumbo and Peter [Bourjos]. Those guys are going to keep me young."
Conger hopes his play will prove he belongs
LOS ANGELES -- Hank Conger's most recent stint with the Angels probably won't last much longer.
Backup catcher Bobby Wilson, whom Conger replaced when Wilson went on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion last Tuesday, will play in a rehab game for Class A Inland Empire on Wednesday and expects to be activated by Friday. And starter Chris Iannetta, recovering from wrist surgery since May 11, expects to start his rehab assignment very soon and could return late next week.
A big portion of Conger's 2012 season has already been lost to a right elbow strain, which put him on the Minor League disabled list for a little more than a month. The remainder of it, which will mostly come in Triple-A Salt Lake, will be big for the 24-year-old, who's in his seventh year with the organization and is still looking to prove he can be an everyday catcher in the big leagues, as projected.
"It is big," said Conger, who has been called up for three straight years and started his 60th Major League game on Tuesday. "Even last year, I thought to myself the same thing -- I have to constantly try to prove that I can play every day. But right now, at this point, I feel that my catching has been getting better and just try not to worry about that. If I just worry about trying to get better, both offensively and defensively, things will work out in the end."
Few have ever questioned Conger's hitting -- he sports a career .299/.361/.468 slash line in the Minors -- but they have questioned his defense, particularly his throwing. Conger, though, feels he made big strides in that department during Spring Training and doesn't believe his previously injured elbow will stop him from continuing that progression the rest of this season, wherever that comes.
"At this point, I can't constantly beat myself over the head saying, 'I need to constantly prove this, I need to constantly prove that,' over and over every day," Conger said. "Right now, I feel like I'm in a good place."
Halos fortify 'pen with Pauley, option Calhoun
LOS ANGELES -- In need of an extra reliever after their bullpen accounted for 11 innings over the last three games, the Angels went to 13 pitchers Tuesday by calling up right-hander David Pauley.
Outfielder Kole Calhoun was optioned back to Triple-A Salt Lake to create room on the active roster and Vernon Wells (thumb surgery) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to open a spot on the 40-man.
"We have some guys [in the bullpen] that have thrown a lot, and the Colorado series took a lot of innings out of our bullpen," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We just need some coverage down there, and also, Kole needs to play. So, it served a couple of purposes."
Calhoun, a 24-year-old left-handed hitter who can play all three outfield spots, went 3-for-12 and appeared in eight games during his first big league callup.
Pauley, signed to a Minor League contract in Spring Training, was charged with five earned runs in 9 1/3 innings through four relief appearances with the Angels this season, before being designated for assignment, clearing waivers and being outrighted back to the Minors in late May.
The 28-year-old Pauley has posted a 1.76 ERA in 30 2/3 innings in the Pacific Coast League.
The Dodgers honored former catcher and current Angels skipper Mike Scioscia with his own bobblehead night on Tuesday. The club also played a pregame video tribute and recorded a message from his former manager, Tommy Lasorda, who's recovering from a heart attack.
"I don't know why they picked me," Scioscia said of the bobblehead, "but it's a cool thing."
With his third-inning single on Tuesday, Albert Pujols became one of eight active players with 4,000 career total bases, joining Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Todd Helton.
By being the winning pitcher on Monday night, veteran Angels reliever Jason Isringhausen became just the 15th pitcher in Major League history to compile 50-plus wins and 300-plus saves in a career.
"It means I've been around a while," the 39-year-old quipped. "Nah, but it's a good accomplishment. I'm happy about it."
Ryan Langerhans, out since separating his right shoulder on May 20, has been throwing and hitting off a tee. He plans to take batting practice on the field on Friday and Saturday and should return shortly after that. He'll probably be optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake when healthy.
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.