OAKLAND -- The two Angels relievers on the 15-day disabled list both took steps forward in their rehab on Monday.
Right-hander Jordan Walden, who had been long tossing, threw his first bullpen session since landing on the DL on July 15 with a strained right biceps and neck soreness.
"He feels very strong," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Had a terrific 'pen. He'll have to repeat it on Wednesday, and then we'll make the determination on if he's ready to go out there and pitch."
Scioscia said that Walden would probably have to make at least two rehab appearances, but just how much time he'd have to spend on a rehab stint would depend on how he responds after each outing.
Scott Downs is in a different situation, much further behind than Walden. The left-hander began throwing from flat ground on Monday for the first time since going on the DL with a left shoulder strain nine days ago.
Both pitchers' returns are still a ways off, especially Downs', but they can't come soon enough. The team's bullpen is in rough shape because of both their absences and overuse in the last few games.
That's shown in the relievers' performance during the current road trip. In seven games so far, the bullpen has given up 23 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings.
Scioscia laments MLB's denial of protest
OAKLAND -- The Angels received word on Monday that the league had denied their formal protest stemming from a play in Friday's loss to the White Sox, but that didn't mean that manager Mike Scioscia had changed his position on the issue.
Scioscia reiterated before Monday's game against the Athletics that he felt strongly that Paul Konerko was in the throwing lane of catcher Chris Iannetta when he tried to throw Konerko out at first base after a bases-loaded grounder. Thus, Scioscia thinks Konerko should've been called for interference.
Iannetta's throw pulled first baseman Albert Pujols off the bag, Konerko was ruled safe and the Angels went on to lose 8-6, a result upheld by MLB's Monday ruling. The umpires believed that the fact that Iannetta's throw was wild meant the positioning of Konerko was irrelevant. Executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre emphasized that in his decision, according to Scioscia.
"The league gave weight to the fact of still having the judgment of umpires be part of the play," Scioscia said. "I see some of the things they're saying, but I also feel strongly in the stances we took on it."
In explaining his stance, the Los Angeles skipper made the analogy of a driver veering off the road and crashing his car due to a trashcan being in the middle of the road -- the insurance company may not cover the damage, but it's not the fault of the driver that the trashcan was there.
"In my opinion, there's no way from a fixed point at home plate to first base, and a lane that a catcher has to throw a ball, that a runner who is a solid three feet inside the line on the grass can possibly not impair the ability of a catcher to make that throw," Scioscia said. "It's just physically impossible to say that it does not impair that.
"But, still, the judgment of the umpire's the second part of that equation, and we'll obviously live with it."
Aybar returns after minimum stint on DL
OAKLAND -- Erick Aybar is good to go.
The shortstop's fractured right big toe was feeling good enough after an early workout on Monday for the team to activate him from the 15-day disabled list on the first day he was eligible to be reinstated. He was in the Angels' lineup and batting eighth for their series opener against the A's.
"I feel good," said Aybar after his first DL experience had ended. "Everybody looks good here, everybody's hitting, pitching good, too. When we play together, we're good. We got everybody together."
Offense hasn't been the Angels' real problem of late, as they have lost four of their last five games, and Aybar (.257) probably wouldn't provide a big boost in that area anyway. Still, the team is happy to have its everyday shortstop back.
"We're very comfortable with the fact that he'll be out there, and hopefully in our lineup from now the rest of the way," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
To make room for Aybar on the roster, the team optioned infielder Andrew Romine to Triple-A Salt Lake. Romine had been called up to replace Aybar when the shortstop was placed on the DL on July 27 (retroactive to July 22).
Despite off-day ahead, Santana to make next start
OAKLAND -- Given his struggles this season, Ervin Santana seemed like a prime candidate to have his turn in the rotation skipped with an off-day coming up on Thursday.
But Angels manager Mike Scioscia indicated before Monday's game against the A's that, at least for now, the plan is for the starting five to hold to their schedules, and Santana will make his next start on Friday at home vs. the Mariners. Scioscia did, though, leave room for changing that, should it turn out that one of the other starters requires more rest.
"We got to see how guys come out and reserve the right to adjust it a little bit, but right now we need five guys that are going to throw the ball well for us," Scioscia said. "[Santana] pitched well in Chicago, pitched well in Texas. Hopefully he's turned the corner on some things."
Those last two starts were signs of progress for the right-hander, who's in the midst of perhaps the worst season of his career. Overall, he's 5-10 with a 5.83 ERA this season.
But held to a 15-out limit last Monday against the Rangers, Santana responded with three earned runs allowed in five innings. That limit was lifted on Saturday in Chicago out of sheer necessity, with the Angels' taxed bullpen needing as much of a break as possible. Santana was even better, with two earned runs allowed over six innings.
Should he continue to build off that improvement, Santana should secure his place in the Angels starting rotation. If not, he'll continue to be the subject of questions about his status.
Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.