7/22/2014 3:04 A.M. ET
Out of lineup for opener, Aybar ready to return
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Erick Aybar was out of the starting lineup for a third straight day on Monday, a precaution for the sore right groin the Angels' shortstop sustained while reaching first base on a ninth-inning single against the Mariners on Friday night.
Prior to batting practice, though, Aybar did some light agility drills on the field with strength-and-conditioning coordinator T.J. Harrington, then took some batting practice and felt good. The 30-year-old -- an All-Star for the first time while sporting a .283/.320/.409 slash line -- pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Monday night's 4-2 loss and expects to return to the starting lineup on Tuesday.
The groin initially bothered the switch-hitter while batting from the right side of the plate.
"But I'm good now, from both sides," said Aybar, who grounded out while batting from the right side on Monday. "I'll be ready to go tomorrow. They told me one more day, and then tomorrow I'll [return to the starting lineup]. But I'm ready for whatever they need today, too."
Angels have no plans to shut down Richards
ANAHEIM -- Angels starter and burgeoning star Garrett Richards is coming up on some uncharted territory with regard to his workload, one that will see the 26-year-old right-hander blow past his previous career high in innings if he continues at his current rate over the season's final 10 weeks.
But that won't prompt the Angels to temporarily shut down Richards, a move clubs often deploy to preserve young starters and monitor how big of an innings jump they make from year to year.
"Not at all," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said Monday. "Garrett has thrown from end to end in a season. His innings have not escalated to the point where they're 200-plus, but Garrett throws the ball as easily as anybody you'll ever see. It's not a violent delivery, it's not a violent package. He maintains velocity pretty easily."
Richards is already at 131 1/3 innings, fewer than 14 innings shy of his total from last year, fewer than 17 shy of his total from 2012 and fewer than 26 shy of his previous career high from 2011 (157 innings, if you count his workload in the Majors and the Minors).
If Richards pitches every fifth game the rest of the way, he's on pace to finish the season with 216 2/3 innings.
Though shutting him down for the last three weeks of the season -- like the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg in 2012 -- is out of the question, a team like the Angels could benefit from temporarily taking Richards out of the rotation to make sure he's fresh for a pennant race in September.
But as Dipoto alluded, Richards has pitched into September each of the last three seasons. And though his volume of innings is much greater this season, Richards says his arm responds better to the routine of a starting pitcher as opposed to the back-and-forth from the rotation to the bullpen he's gone through the last couple of years.
"The more consistent I stay with my routine, the better I feel," Richards said. "Throwing 100 pitches every five days and getting my bullpen in between, that's when I feel my best.
"I want to pitch every fifth day. I wouldn't want to get shut down or have my innings conserved."
The Angels will once again have six capable starters when C.J. Wilson (sprained right ankle) returns from the disabled list, giving them the freedom to push Richards back a day or skip his start if needed. They're open to that. But Richards has a 2.47 ERA and has completed at least seven innings in 14 of his 20 starts.
He's shown no signs of slowing down, so the Angels won't do it for him.
"He's going to go out and he's going to pitch," Dipoto said. "There will be time in the second half where we might be able to back up his pitch count on a given day or take him out. But we're not so phobic with innings that we're not going to pay attention to what the player is doing, or what his performance is telling us."
Wilson throws in 'pen as Cowgill rejoins Angels
ANAHEIM -- Prior to Monday's series opener against the Orioles, Angels starter C.J. Wilson threw his first bullpen session since sustaining a sprained right ankle on July 9 and backup outfielder Collin Cowgill returned to the team for the first time since breaking his nose and right thumb on a July 12 pitch.
Cowgill expects to return from the disabled list in a couple of weeks.
Wilson called Monday's 50-pitch bullpen session "good progress" and plans to take part in some semblance of a simulated game on Wednesday, which could put him on track to return right around the time Cowgill does.
Wilson, who's almost certain he'll have to pitch in a rehab assignment before being activated, said the ankle doesn't really bother him while throwing and is only a problem when he has to field his position. The injury, sustained while fielding a comebacker on July 9, carried an estimated timetable of two to four weeks, putting the 33-year-old on track to return by late July or early August.
"I'm going to have to adjust to how it feels, because it's not just going to heal itself in a week," said Wilson, who has a 6.81 ERA since the start of June. "Some of the adjustment is going to have to be pain tolerance and things like that, and just learning how to use a somewhat-destabilized ankle."
Cowgill flew in from his home in Kentucky on Sunday night, had stitches removed from his nose on Monday and said it would probably be another few days before he could swing the bat. The 28-year-old did not require surgery on his thumb.
Rangers reliever Matt West apologized shortly after plunking Cowgill in Texas, and the Angels' outfielder said there are no hard feelings.
"It's baseball, accidents happen," Cowgill said. "It's just unfortunate it happened to my face."
Catcher Buck signs Minor League deal with Halos
ANAHEIM -- The Angels signed veteran catcher John Buck to a Minor League contract and assigned him to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees on Monday.
Buck, 34, was released by the Mariners six days ago after batting .226/.293/.286 in 92 plate appearances. He'll join Luis Martinez and John Hester in Triple-A, but he can join the Angels as a third catcher when rosters expand in September if he doesn't find an immediate Major League opportunity before then.
Buck was an All-Star with the Blue Jays in 2010, a season in which he set career highs with a .281 batting average, 20 homers and 66 RBIs. He played his first six seasons with the Royals, then suited up for five different Major League teams from 2010-14.
For his 11-year career, Buck has batted .234/.301/.398 while throwing out 25 percent of would-be basestealers (the Major League average was 27.2 percent in that span).
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. Associate reporter Matthew DeFranks contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.