ANAHEIM -- Jordan Walden, fresh off a three-outing rehab assignment for Triple-A Salt Lake, was back with the Angels on Friday, set to throw a bullpen session in front of pitching coach Mike Butcher and hopeful of a weekend return.
The Angels' bullpen, owner of the worst second-half ERA in the Majors, will get lefty Scott Downs back from a strained left shoulder on Saturday, with Steve Geltz optioned after Friday night's 12-3 loss to the Rays to create roster space. Walden, meanwhile, could follow on Sunday.
Walden struggled in his first rehab outing -- "I threw a first one?" he joked -- giving up four runs (two earned) on three hits while recording just two outs. But in his last two, he breezed through 1-2-3 innings, needing only nine pitches in his most recent one on Thursday.
Now Walden, out since July 8 with a nerve problem in his neck that helped cause a right biceps strain, is ready to return to a bullpen that sorely needs him in the back end.
"I'm excited, just to be part of the team again," said Walden, with a 3.86 ERA in 28 innings this year. "I feel good. ... My stuff feels strong."
Walden's average fastball velocity last season, when he posted a 2.98 ERA and compiled 32 saves, was 97.5 mph. This year, it's 96.5 and he's hardly touched triple digits, which he seemed to do routinely in 2011. But the 24-year-old right-hander felt getting shut down to heal up his nagging injuries would get him back in his usual range.
"I think it'll be back," Walden said. "We'll see."
To make room for Walden, the Angels could send down Hisanori Takahashi, or perhaps end Jason Isringhausen's tenure with the team -- and possibly his career. The 39-year-old right-hander surrendered a solo homer to the Rays' Jose Molina in the eighth inning on Friday and has given up seven runs in 5 1/3 innings this month, putting his ERA at 4.02.