HOUSTON -- Can Ryan Madson join the Angels' bullpen by the end of next week? That's the hope he expressed on Tuesday after an encouraging, aggressive, 20-pitch bullpen session off the Minute Maid Park mound.
It'll all depend on how he feels on Wednesday, and how his surgically repaired elbow reacts to facing hitters a second time around. But Madson is slated to pitch in extended spring training in Arizona later this week, and the 32-year-old right-hander wants to deploy a "super aggressive approach" that will have him facing hitters every other day.
The tentative plan, as relayed by Madson himself: Face hitters in Arizona on Thursday and Saturday, pitch in a Minor League game on Monday, then see how he feels. If he needs another outing, which he most likely will, he'll pitch on the following Wednesday. If not, he'll go straight to the big leagues.
Now, Madson has felt similarly close before. He felt really good after an April 16 bullpen in Minnesota, but when he faced hitters in a simulated game at Angel Stadium three days later, Madson experienced elbow tightness that kept him off the mound for two weeks.
Asked if there are any signs that it'll be different this time, Madson said: "There's more intensity being applied now than what was being applied then, as far as the hips and more thrust going through. And mechanically I'm a lot better now than I was even two weeks ago. That's helped, so that should take a lot of pressure off. I'm using my hips, using my legs a lot more; and just getting strength has helped me."
Weaver's recovery taking longer than anticipated
HOUSTON -- The Angels' pitching staff has a 29th-ranked ERA of 4.78, was deemed "absolutely awful" by manager Mike Scioscia on Sunday and seemingly takes a step back every time you think they're turning a collective corner.
Meanwhile, all the Angels' ace can do is sit -- and stew.
"It's been real tough," right-hander Jered Weaver said of being out since April 7 with a broken left elbow. "It's even harder to even talk about it or even answer questions about it. It's one thing when your team is struggling and you're out there and able to take the ball. ... But when you really can't do much about it and you're just sitting back watching, it makes it more aggravating."
The aggravation will have to continue a little longer for Weaver -- probably until the end of May.
Sunday marked four weeks on the disabled list for an injury that originally carried an estimated recovery time of 4-6 weeks. But Weaver is not two weeks away from rejoining the Angels' rotation, Scioscia confirmed on Tuesday.
He's scheduled to throw his first bullpen session on Thursday, a sign Weaver is progressing and has bounced back well after long-toss sessions, but he'll need at least two or three of those before venturing out on a rehab assignment. Once there, Scioscia said Weaver "won't need a full Spring Training" workload, but added, "It's going to take multi-rehab assignments to get him ready."
The Angels will know more about where Weaver stands once he throws off the mound for the first time. A CT scan on Friday showed everything is healing normally. And though catching certain low throws may sting his left arm from time to time, it isn't a pain he can't tolerate.
But still, this takes time -- and patience is one of the things with which Weaver continues to struggle.
"That's one of the tough parts," he said. "You're feeling good and want to keep going, but at the same time, you kind of have to still realize that there's a piece in your arm that's still broken; it's not fully healed yet. Sometimes I catch myself and tell myself to take it nice and easy. As frustrating as it may be, it's just the right thing to do."
Burnett battling inflammation in forearm
HOUSTON -- Angels reliever Sean Burnett's visit with Dr. James Andrews confirmed there's no structural damage around his left elbow, but it revealed inflammation and nerve irritation in the lefty's forearm.
When Burnett was placed on the disabled list on April 28, the hope was that two weeks off would allow his left forearm irritation to completely subside, allowing him to rejoin the Angels immediately. But an anti-inflammatory shot Burnett received during his visit with Andrews in Florida on Monday will keep him away from picking up a baseball for at least another week.
"There's nobody I trust more than Dr. Andrews," said Burnett, who threw a bullpen session at Angel Stadium on Sunday. "That was the whole purpose of going out there, just to get his opinion on it. He's done my surgeries [to replace his elbow ligament in 2004 and to remove two bone spurs this offseason], and I've had a lot of success with the other injections he's put in my arm in my career."
Conger getting more time behind the plate
HOUSTON -- Angels catcher Hank Conger was behind the plate for a fifth consecutive C.J. Wilson start on Tuesday, but it had less to do with any exclusive pairing with the left-hander and more to do with Chris Iannetta's early struggles with the pitching staff, manager Mike Scioscia said.
"First and foremost, we want him to get a little more comfortable behind the plate," Scioscia said prior to the opener of a three-game series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. "He's doing a good job, but it just doesn't look like he's as comfortable as he needs to be back there. On the offensive side, he hasn't gotten a lot of hits to fall in, but that's secondary to what our starting pitchers need."
At the plate, Iannetta has just one hit in his last 23 at-bats, putting his slash line at .203/.305/.367. Defensively, he's allowed only a couple of passed balls, but has been behind the plate for 14 wild pitches -- he had 17 in 78 games at catcher all of last year -- and has thrown out only two of 23 basestealers.
A lot of that, of course, is a byproduct of the pitchers he's catching. And Conger became the first catcher in franchise history to record three errors in one game on Tuesday night.
But Scioscia said Iannetta is still trying to find chemistry with a pitching staff that for two straight years has had a lot of unfamiliar faces. So he'll "mix and match" for the time being, though he added that Iannetta will still "do the lion's share."
"It's just trying to get acclimated with some of these guys," said Scioscia, who has started Conger at catcher in four of the last seven games. "Sometimes it takes a little bit of time."
• Rather than travel with the team on its road trip through Houston and Chicago, Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos reported to Arizona to receive treatment on his strained left hamstring.
• Kevin Jepsen, out since April 11 with a strained right lat, is ramping up the intensity in his throwing sessions and may get off a mound by the end of the week.
• Wednesday's game against the Astros will be broadcast on KCOP, with first pitch slated for 7:10 p.m. PT.
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.