Downs is back, and not a minute too soon

Downs is back, and not a minute too soon

ANAHEIM -- You can forget about easing Scott Downs into his role in the very back end of the Angels' bullpen, even though he was activated Saturday after being out since July 27 with a strained left shoulder.

"I don't know if we have that luxury," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Downs feels good. He's going to go out there and he's going to make pitches, whether he's making them in the seventh inning or eighth inning or ninth inning. We trust his stuff and trust where he is that he'll be able to go get outs."

Downs' return, if he's back to his old self, will provide a huge lift to a bullpen that came into Saturday's game against the Rays with the worst second-half ERA in the Majors (6.04). Despite some second-half struggles, Downs has a 2.57 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP while serving as a critical lefty complement to righty Ernesto Frieri late in games.

On Sunday, hard-throwing right-hander Jordan Walden is expected to join him. Walden, with a 3.86 ERA in 28 innings, has been out since July 8 with injuries to his neck and right biceps, but completed a three-outing rehab assignment for Triple-A Salt Lake and came out of his Friday bullpen session just fine.

The question is, whose spot does he take?

One option could be lefty Hisanori Takahashi, who can be sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Another could be 39-year-old right-hander Jason Isringhausen, who provided a big lift in the first half but has given up seven runs in 5 1/3 innings this month, putting his ERA for the season at 4.02. Isringhausen, who didn't even expect to play this season, won't accept a demotion to Triple-A Salt Lake, even if it means rejoining the team when rosters expand in September.

If it comes to that, he may just retire.

"I will not go down," Isringhausen said. "I've been here too long to go down. ... We'll see what happens. I know it's been a rough couple of weeks, but my workload should say enough that I know I'm healthy and they can throw me out there any time they want. They know that. And I'll pitch any time they want. I don't care what the situation is."

Rookie Steve Geltz was sent down after Friday night's game to make room for Downs.