ANAHEIM -- The Angels need Scott Downs now more than ever, considering the just-completed 10-game road trip that witnessed their bullpen post a 10.54 ERA with five losses and five blown saves. And Downs badly wants to join them. But his strained left shoulder still hasn't recovered enough for him to get back on a mound, and he'd rather take the safe route than rush it and risk a setback.
Times like these, though, it's not easy being prudent.
"It's tough to watch," Downs said. "Any time you have to sit back and watch and can't do anything to help, it's not easy, whether we're winning or losing. You want to be out there, you want to help the team as much as you can. We have a good bullpen, we have a good team, and we'll bounce back."
But it's tough to bounce back without Downs, the sage lefty who posted a 1.34 ERA in 53 2/3 innings last year and is a crucial complement to righty Ernesto Frieri in the very back of this year's bullpen.
At least the return of hard-throwing righty Jordan Walden appears to be more certain. Walden, out since July 8 with an ailing neck and right bicep, is set to pitch in rehab games for Triple-A Salt Lake on Saturday and Monday, and he could return to the team shortly thereafter.
Downs, out since July 27, has backed his long-toss regimen up to 150 feet and says he isn't experiencing any unusual soreness but still doesn't know when he'll begin throwing bullpen sessions again. He thinks it might happen within a week.
"That's what I'm hoping," said Downs, who has a 2.57 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP despite some uncommon second-half struggles. "We'll see what the doctors say and what the trainers say, and we'll kind of go from there. I'm optimistic, but then again, they're not going to let me be dumb and try to rush, and I don't want to rush and have a setback. We're doing what we can to get back as soon as we can."
Downs, who hasn't had shoulder issues since college, doesn't believe his current injury will require offseason surgery and is confident he can be as effective as he's always been upon returning.
"I don't see any reoccurring issues that are going to pop up," he said. "As long as I don't rush it and try to do anything I'm not supposed to be doing to get back any faster."
"If anything," manager Mike Scioscia added, "a refresher will give him a chance to come back and contribute the way we know he can."