04/09/11 10:46 PM ET
Pineiro weeks away from making return
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Pineiro appears to be at least two weeks away from making his season debut with right shoulder tightness, while Kazmir likely will miss at least two starts with lower back soreness.
"Joel will need at least two rehab [assignments]," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Pineiro, his fourth starter. "Depending on where he is today, two weeks is probably the best case [scenario], but it's possible."
The Angels were relieved to hear on Monday that Pineiro was experiencing no lingering pain in the aftermath of muscle tightness in his back near the right shoulder blade.
He left a camp game on March 20 against the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., after two innings with what was described as muscle tightness in the back near the right shoulder. The veteran downplayed the pain the following day, but he has been unable to cut loose since then.
Kazmir needs more time to get healthy
ANAHEIM -- Scott Kazmir needs a little time to allow his lower back to calm down after he aggravated it working with his right leg kick in a delivery designed to generate more drive behind his fastball and slider.
Kazmir, who has been placed on the disabled list, felt pain on the right side throwing before and after he was knocked around for five runs in 1 2/3 innings last Sunday in Kansas City by the Royals -- the shortest outing of his career. He has been replaced for now in the rotation by Matt Palmer, who took the assignment on Saturday night against the Blue Jays.
"We want to get his back calmed down," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Kazmir, his fifth starter. "He'll definitely miss this start and maybe one more.
"He was trying to find his release point, and it set him back. He's probably going to need a Minor League rehab [outing] when he gets over the back issue."
Scioscia saw Kazmir fix a mechanical flaw after coming to the Angels late in the 2009 season, enabling him to finish strong. The manager is hopeful the lefty can do it again.
"Right now, there's reason to tinker," Scioscia said. "He's got to get in tune with some things that have gotten away from him."
Diminished velocity, spotty command and an erratic slider have been Kazmir's primary hurdles. When he was a two-time All-Star and American League strikeout king in Tampa Bay, he threw pure heat and vicious sliders past hitters. With pitching coach Mike Butcher at his side, he has been experimenting with his delivery, trying to find the key that unlocks everything.
Takahashi a rotation option for Angels
ANAHEIM -- The Angels will need a starter for Tuesday night against the Indians after Dan Haren opens the series on Monday. A possible option is Hisanori Takahashi, who has been used exclusively in relief by the Angels since signing as a free agent in December.
Takahashi made 12 starts for the Mets last season in addition to 41 relief appearances and was a starter for most of his decade with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.
The projected return of Scott Downs, who made his second rehab appearance on Saturday night for Class A Inland Empire, would free up Takahashi to stretch out as a starter. Downs, facing Rancho Cucamonga, worked one inning, giving up one earned run on three hits with a strikeout.
Downs, a veteran lefty also signed in December, fractured his left big toe playing with his kids in Spring Training.
"It'll be in-house," manager Mike Scisocia said when asked about a Tuesday starter. "Scott Downs could be activated to give other guys a chance."
That would make Takahashi the most likely candidate, backed by the likes of well-rested Rich Thompson, Jason Bulger and the rest of the bullpen.
Palmer always ready in the pinch
ANAHEIM -- Matt Palmer showed up for work on Saturday night, a blue-collar guy with a fastball that darts and sinks. He was asked to take on Toronto's heavy-handed Blue Jays in the rotation slot vacated by Scott Kazmir with a balky back.
Palmer, the big man from Missouri, has been here, done this. In 2009, he came out of nowhere to win his first six starts and go 11-2 with a 3.93 ERA. Shoulder issues set him down for most of last season, limiting him to 14 appearances. He was 1-2 with a 4.54 ERA.
"The way Matty finished up Spring Training is indicative of how he can pitch," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He has a great amount of cut and sink. He really came alive at the end of spring."
Palmer had offseason knee surgery, and it has given him more freedom and mobility in his delivery than he'd had in about six years, he estimated.
Palmer's final start of the spring, on March 25 in Mesa, Ariz., against the Athletics, was one of the most impressive turned in by any of the Angels' pitchers.
Palmer allowed one run, a solo homer by Andy LaRoche, in six innings. Only one other runner reached scoring position with Palmer scattering four hits, two walks and two hit batsmen while striking out one man.
He had been rocked for 10 hits and six runs in four innings by the Rockies in his previous start.
"He had better command of both his four-seamer and two-seamer early and opened up the zone," Scioscia said. "He threw strikes. Matty's stuff is legit. He just needs to get it in good zones."
War hero honored before Angels game
ANAHEIM -- The Angels had some special guests on the top step of their dugout during Saturday night's game against the Blue Jays at Angel Stadium.
Specialist Daniel A. Foster, presented the distinguished Silver Star Medal by the United States Army in a pregame ceremony, was joined by his command unit in cheering on the Angels.
An Orange County native, Foster displayed valorous conduct as a machine gunner in Afghanistan on May 21, 2010 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"The Angels organization is extremely privileged to host this ceremony for Specialist Daniel Foster," Angels vice president of communications Tim Mead said in a club release. "Throughout our history, the Angels have supported the men and women who have served this country both at home and abroad."
SPC Foster was on his second tour in Afghanistan when he was severely wounded during an attack on his tower. He fought on, defending the compound, as its last line of defense. The Silver Star is one of the military's most treasured awards.
As part of the ceremony, SPC Foster grabbed a glove and caught the ceremonial first pitch thrown by one of the original 1961 Angels, outfielder Albie Pearson, as part of the club's 50th anniversary celebration.
SPC Foster and his troops were in the dugout to greet Angels second baseman Howard Kendrick following his first-inning home run.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.