CLEVELAND -- The next step in Jason Vargas' rehab will be determined within the next couple of days. He felt perfectly fine after his 4 2/3-innings rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday, even though he gave up four runs and three homers, but the Angels will evaluate Vargas within the next couple of days to see if he needs another tune-up.
Not long after that, the next step in Vargas' career will be determined.
In three months, Vargas will be a free agent for the first time in his career. And given the state of the Angels -- 13 games out of first place in the American League West entering Friday and in need of replenishing a depleted farm system -- there's a good chance they'll explore a trade for the left-hander shortly after he's activated off the disabled list.
But that wouldn't deter the Angels from exploring an offseason contract with Vargas, who will join a very thin free-agent starting pitching crop. And residing in Southern California surely would help their case.
"It's been a while since I lived in California, but this is definitely where I grew up and what's real familiar for me, going to school down there for a little bit," said Vargas, who grew up in Apple Valley, Calif., and played with Jered Weaver at Long Beach State. "It'd be great for my family, it'd be great for me. It's one of those things that you don't worry about, because ultimately, you can't control those things."
But Vargas can control where he signs as a free agent. And though he was a steady contributor the previous three years in Seattle, posting a 3.96 ERA over 611 innings, his next contract could hinge on how he does in his last eight or nine starts of 2013.
The Angels would very much be interested in signing Vargas long term, a source said, but those talks are likely to wait until the offseason. In the meantime, they probably wouldn't shy away from parting ways with him if the right match materializes through trade waivers.
But Vargas admits being dealt in-season would inevitably affect his desire to return.
"It's business, but I think it would affect anybody," said Vargas, who's 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 14 starts for the Angels. "You meet a new group of people. It's just how it works out. Circumstances change then. When's the last time it worked? Cliff Lee?
"It just all depends on how it plays out. I feel capable in what I bring to the table, so all I'm trying to worry about is get out there and hopefully pitching in New York [next week]."
Left knee still sore, Kendrick lands on DL
CLEVELAND -- Howie Kendrick's sprained left knee didn't progress steadily enough over the last four days, prompting the Angels to put their reliable second baseman on the 15-day disabled list Friday.
"It sucks, but there's nothing you can do about it," said Kendrick, who was having somewhat of a career year with a .301/.341/.437 slash line. "You play the game hard, sometimes injuries happen. It was something that I couldn't avoid."
Kendrick hurt himself in a game against the Rangers at Angel Stadium on Monday night, ranging back on a fly ball before his left knee caught the right forearm of right fielder Collin Cowgill, sending Kendrick to the ground in agonizing pain and forcing him to be helped off the field.
An MRI exam on Kendrick's left knee revealed no structural damage, prompting the club to give the 30-year-old an extra four to five days to see how he responded. But, as Mike Scioscia said prior to Friday's game, "He's still sore."
"He's made a little progress, but in talking to [head athletic trainer Adam Nevala], it's not the type of progress you'd hope to see where he might not have to go on the DL," said Scioscia, who still has to determine a corresponding move. "We'll have a decision on that at some point in the next day."
Kendrick traveled with the team to Cleveland, but was getting treatment all day and hadn't been able to do any running since suffering the injury. His DL stint -- his first since May 2011 -- is retroactive to Tuesday, allowing him to return as soon as Aug. 21.
"The way I look at it is it could've been a lot worse," Kendrick said. "Hopefully it'll just be 15 days or whatever and go from there."
Injuries, struggles force Scioscia to alter lineup
CLEVELAND -- Albert Pujols will be out for a while, Howie Kendrick will probably go on the disabled list, Peter Bourjos is still on a rehab assignment for Triple-A Salt Lake and Josh Hamilton is coming off a 2-for-26 homestand, which means Mike Scioscia's lineups will feature several interesting twists -- and probably very little continuity -- for the foreseeable future.
For Friday's matchup against Indians lefty Scott Kazmir, Mike Trout was back in the No. 3 spot after hitting second the previous seven days, Josh Hamilton batted sixth for the first time in eight games, Chris Nelson hit fifth for the second time this season, and Collin Cowgill was in the No. 2 spot for the first time since July 31.
It was the seventh consecutive different lineup Scioscia has used, and there could be more.
Continuity is a difficult thing to attain these days.
"It's been very tough," Scioscia said, "because we're dealing with more unknowns with young players and also good players who are not performing to a level that they can."
• Bourjos, out since June 29 with a fractured right wrist, went 1-for-5 with a walk and a strikeout while playing center field in his first rehab game for Triple-A Salt Lake on Friday. Scioscia said Bourjos "felt good," but will need at least three or four more games, as anticipated.
• Left-handed-hitting outfielder Kole Calhoun sat against the southpaw Kazmir on Friday, even though he's 10-for-28 with three homers in August and hit .435 (27-for-62) against lefties in the Minors. Cowgill started in his place.
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.