ANAHEIM -- Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, out since early May because of right wrist surgery and then a forearm strain, was activated prior to Saturday's game against the Rays and will return to the starting lineup to catch newcomer Zack Greinke on Sunday.
To clear a spot, catcher John Hester, with options remaining because he was signed to a Minor League contract, was sent back to Triple-A Salt Lake. Bobby Wilson, without options, will go back to being the backup after Saturday's start.
"Anytime you can come out of it healthy and strong, it's always a positive," Iannetta said, fresh off a stint in Salt Lake. "I'm ready and I'm excited to be back."
Iannetta has another reason to be excited: The rotation he gets to work with is now even better, with Greinke now being the fifth All-Star -- alongside Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana -- in the starting staff.
Iannetta has faced Greinke several times in the past.
"It's a really tough at-bat," he said. "He doesn't give you many pitches to hit, and if he does give you a pitch to hit, it's still not ideal. It's a really good breaking ball in the strike zone."
Acquired from the Rockies in exchange for Tyler Chatwood in November, Iannetta was forced to undergo wrist surgery on May 11, then suffered a right forearm strain while trying to come back too fast around mid-June. But now, after going through a throwing progression and completing a six-game Minor League rehab assignment, Iannetta's arm feels fully healthy again.
The Angels will look to him to improve a position that has helped give up the second-most stolen bases in the Majors and ranks 12th in the American League in OPS.
"Chris brought some things to the offensive side that I think we missed," said manager Mike Scioscia, who credited Wilson and Hester for how well they've worked with the pitching staff in his absence. "Bobby started to swing the bat a little better, but Chris brought some on-base percentage and the ability to drive the ball."
Santana draws another start, on Monday vs. Rangers
ANAHEIM -- Despite the acquisition of Zack Greinke and the presence of Garrett Richards, struggling starter Ervin Santana will maintain his spot in the Angels' rotation.
For now, at least.
Santana will start the series opener against the Rangers on Monday, sandwiched between Greinke's Angels debut on Sunday and Jered Weaver's turn on Tuesday. To clear a spot for Greinke on the active roster, the Angels optioned veteran Hisanori Takahashi to Triple-A Salt Lake, though manager Mike Scioscia doesn't expect him to stay down there very long.
The move temporarily leaves the Angels with only one lefty in the bullpen (Scott Downs), but gives them a stretched-out starter on the roster while they, as Scioscia said, "evaluate some things" in the next few days. Had Richards been sent down, they would've had to wait at least 10 days to bring him back up.
"We'll get some clarity here in the next couple of days," Scioscia said, clearly referring at least partly to Santana. "We just need to keep those starters around right now."
Santana has struggled to a 6.00 ERA, has given up 23 homers in 19 starts and, seven days ago, gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings to the same Rangers team he'll face on Monday, this time in Arlington.
In hopes of allowing him to be more aggressive early in the game, Scioscia will be sticking to his 15-out limit with Santana.
It could be his last chance to stay in the rotation.
"Ervin's a guy that needs to go out and pitch," the Angels' skipper said. "We've already pushed him back. He's throwing bullpens. He needs to go out and pitch."
On DL, Aybar already noticing improvement in toe
ANAHEIM -- Angels shortstop Erick Aybar, placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday with a fractured right big toe, says he's "feeling better every day" and expects to return around the time he's eligible to, on Aug. 6
Time will tell, of course, but Aybar did some light throwing on Saturday and is now without a walking boot. He still doesn't know when he'll get back to swinging the bat or running, though. Aybar tried to run early on Friday, but it was just too soon.
"Let's see how it goes," he said in Spanish on Saturday. "I know I feel better today than yesterday, so that's good. Hopefully next week I'll feel even better and can come back soon after."
Maicer Izturis will be the starting shortstop while Aybar is out, with Andrew Romine able to serve as a backup at shortstop, third base and second base.
"We're comfortable with the fact that it's going to be a shorter-term thing as opposed to something that might be prolonged," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You never know how this thing sets up as you get into next week and he starts getting into more baseball activities, but we're very pleased with where he is now."
Vernon Wells made his first start since returning from the disabled list on Saturday, playing left field against Rays lefty starter Matt Moore and going 0-for-4 in a 3-0 loss. While Wells was on the DL, it was Peter Bourjos who usually started against lefties.
Asked how he expects to juggle the playing time between Wells and Bourjos when a lefty starts, Scioscia remained coy, saying: "There are going to be a lot of guys who are going to be fighting for at-bats, and Peter's situation hasn't changed drastically from where it was before. He'll get his looks."
Jordan Walden (strained right biceps) played catch on Saturday.
Asked about how Dan Haren came out of his start against the Rays on Friday, when he gave up one run in six-plus innings of an eventual win, Scioscia said the right-hander was stiff but called it "the normal stiffness" after a start. Haren is slated to start Wednesday in Texas.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.