"I was relieved and excited, but I kind of expected it - it wasn't a shocker."
The Angels' career leader in home runs with 290, Salmon underwent surgery on his left shoulder and his left knee following the 2004 season, and as a result, missed all of last year. He rehabilitated throughout the winter at his Scottsdale, Ariz., home and came to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
In 53 spring at-bats, he has hit .340 with four home runs and 10 RBIs, a performance that, along with his ability to demonstrate that his shoulder and knee won't hamper him, won him a job. He will platoon with Juan Rivera at designated hitter and could be available for occasional use as an outfielder.
"I think we were all surprised at the level he came into camp at compared to where he was when we saw him in October," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "There was a tremendous amount of work that was needed, and he did it. He's in the shape he needs to be in."
Salmon said Saturday that when he last visited Angel Stadium, during the Angels' American League Championship Series against the Chicago White Sox, he thought it would be his final visit. The 13-year veteran, who owns a .283 career batting average along with the 290 home runs and 989 RBIs, wasn't sure if he'd be able to get his shoulder, and especially his knee, back into playing shape.
And with the Angels pursuing White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko and Boston Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, Salmon didn't figure there would be a roster spot for a 37-year-old part-time designated hitter.
Neither Konerko nor Ramirez landed in Anaheim, Salmon's rehab went smoothly, and he passed every test during the spring, even playing a few innings in the outfield in a Minor League game.
He said he considered the possibility of coming back with another team, but the Angels uniform is the only one he's ever won in the big leagues, and he's looking forward to doing it for one more year.
"All along, that's what I kept hoping for," said Salmon, who added that this season would be his last no matter how it turns out.
Salmon didn't start Saturday's game, but pinch-hit in the ninth and lined out to right field.
"I'm like a rookie," Salmon said. "I get all nervous and uptight. It will be like that for a while, especially coming back here."
McPherson left out: One notable player not on the 25-man roster for Opening Day is Dallas McPherson. Unlike most of the players in the Angels' clubhouse, the 25-year-old third baseman did not have a gray road jersey hanging in his locker before Saturday's game, and he got the hint that he would be going to Triple-A.
"I guess I just didn't prove without a doubt that I belong here," McPherson said. "I had an opportunity last year, and I didn't take advantage of it."
McPherson, the Angels' second-round draft pick in 2001, was handed the starting third base job last year after the Angels let Troy Glaus walk as a free agent. McPherson hit just .244 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs, though, missing more than 100 games with back and hip injuries.
With Darin Erstad moving to center field this year and Chone Figgins to third, McPherson lost his starting job, and didn't do enough in Spring Training to win it back - he hit .182 with one home run in 44 spring at-bats.
"I do want to play every day, so if [Triple-A] is where I have to go to be in the middle of the lineup and produce runs, then so be it," McPherson said.
There were few other roster surprises. Right-hander Esteban Yan won the final bullpen spot, and Maicer Izturis was kept as a seventh infielder along with reserves Edgardo Alfonzo and Robb Quinlan. Salmon and Rivera are the extra outfielders.
Rookie catcher Jeff Mathis' biggest challenge this spring has been learning all the different pitchers, but after his fourth spring camp with the organization, he feels confident in his knowledge of the staff.
"I feel like we're pretty close to being on the same page, and they're getting more comfortable with me," he said.
Mathis is expected to be the starting catcher, though Jose Molina could get plenty of starts as well. Two years ago, Molina was essentially the personal catcher for ace Bartolo Colon. Colon will pitch on Opening Day, and Scioscia wouldn't say whether Mathis would start that game.
The Angels host the Dodgers in the finale of their three-game exhibition Freeway Series on Sunday at 12:05 p.m. PT. Sophomore right-hander Ervin Santana goes for the Angels, while righty Brett Tomko will pitch for the Dodgers.