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Oliver ready to give bullpen a boost

Oliver to give bullpen a boost

NEW YORK -- A settling, soothing presence awaits the frayed and dismayed Angels' bullpen as the club alights in the Bay Area for a two-game series against the Athletics.

Darren Oliver, sidelined since his April 18 start in Minnesota with a strained left triceps, has been activated from the 15-day disabled list and is eager to rejoin his buddies in the bullpen.

Rookie reliever Fernando Rodriguez was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake to make room for Oliver on the 25-man roster.

"With Darren, we get two things: what he does on the mound and his great leadership," setup man Scot Shields said. "He really makes a difference in our bullpen, and it will be good to have him back, believe me.

"We do have some young guys in our bullpen. Darren's definitely a good role model for them. The example he sets in the bullpen is good for everybody down there, what he's done throughout his career and the way he goes about his business. I think he's underappreciated by some people, but not in this clubhouse. We all know what he can do and what he gives us."

Oliver, 38, is a former starter who had his best overall season as a reliever in 2008. He was 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 72 innings.

Summoned as an emergency starter in Minnesota, he went four innings, yielding one earned run, but felt the strain on his arm the next day and was placed on the DL.

"I feel good," Oliver said. "I'm ready to get back to doing what I do."

There were signs in Saturday's 8-4 win over the Yankees that two other valuable members of the bullpen had unlocked a few keys and rediscovered their form.

Jose Arredondo, pumping fastballs at the knees accompanied by an occasional knee-buckling splitter, left the bases loaded in the seventh inning by retiring Derek Jeter on a comebacker.

"Jose made some adjustments," manager Mike Scioscia said of the second-year reliever. "His ball was definitely down. He threw a tough split [to Jorge] Posada and got the ball down to Jeter. He made good pitches. He's got to start down [in the strike zone] and elevate late."

Shields followed with a perfect eighth inning, needing only six pitches to get the job done.

"That was more like it," said Shields, who struggled through a rough April. "I got behind only once [in the count] and felt good with my rhythm, tempo, everything. [Mark] Teixeira hit a ball good [for an out to deep center], but that's what he does."

Scioscia said he expects to have Bobby Abreu back in the outfield for the A's series. Hitting .356 with a .424 on-base percentage and 11 steals in 11 attempts, Abreu has had two days off to recover from tightness in his lower back sustained stealing a base on Friday night.

Because the Angels' offense has been such a force of late, Scioscia has a dilemma now in finding enough at-bats for all of his hot hotters. The club ranks second in the American League in batting at .285 and has struck out the fewest times (128) of any team in the Majors.

Kendry Morales, the new first baseman, has 15 RBIs in his past 12 starts, and nine of his past 13 hits have been for extra bases. Torii Hunter has eight homers and seven doubles among his 27 hits, leading the club with a .674 slugging percentage.

Mike Napoli, responding well to his first designated hitter assignment on Friday by going 2-for-3 with two walks, has reached base safely nine times in his past 10 at-bats. And Brandon Wood has had two excellent starts at third base, going 3-for-7 with a walk while handling his defensive duties flawlessly.

The A's took two of three from the Angels to open the season at Angel Stadium. Joe Saunders claimed the opener, 3-0, with help from the bullpen, but Oakland came back to claim the next two games before the death of Nick Adenhart resulted in the postponement of the series finale on April 9.

Pitching matchup
LAA: LHP Joe Saunders (3-1, 3.41)
Saunders is 10-1 lifetime in April and probably sorry to see the calendar flip to May. He'll be the first to point out that's a small sampling over a brief Major League career, but if getting off to good start counts for anything, Saunders' impressive Aprils have become a welcome sight around Anaheim. His last outing, Tuesday at Baltimore, wasn't by any means dominating. Saunders allowed 10 hits and four runs, though only two of the tallies were charged as earned runs. And when the Orioles had runners on base and Saunders had trouble locating his pitches, he simply decided to let Baltimore put the ball in play and let his fielders do the work.

OAK: LHP Brett Anderson (0-2, 5.01 ERA)
A 21-year-old rookie, Anderson hasn't yet lived up to the hype that followed him out of Spring Training, during which he secured a spot in Oakland's rotation by leading the team's starters in ERA in his first trip to big league camp. He was solid his last time out, though, holding the host Rangers to three hits over five innings before being removed from the game with a blister on his left index finger on Tuesday. Anderson said he dealt with a blister in the same area last season in the Minors and didn't miss a start, but the A's are playing it safe and giving him an extra day between starts.

Tidbits
Shortstop Erick Aybar is expected to be available after getting several sutures to close a wound in his mouth after getting struck by a thrown ball at second base on Saturday. ... The Angels have claimed the past five season series from the Yankees. The two teams share the MLB lead for most wins at 388 since the start of the 2005 season. The Red Sox have 385, the Mets 367. ... Oliver needs three strikeouts to reach 1,000, and Gary Matthews, whose bat has come alive, is 19 hits away from 1,000. Abreu is 23 hits away from 2,000. ... Abreu has stolen at least 20 bases for 10 consecutive seasons, the longest streak in the Majors.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-W

On radio
• KLAA 830, KFWB, KWKW 1330 (Español)

Up next
• Tuesday: Angels (Shane Loux, 1-2, 5.24) at Athletics (Dallas Braden, 3-2, 2.10), 7:05 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Angels (Anthony Ortega, 0-1, 5.56) vs. Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 5-1, 3.68), 7:05 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Angels (Jered Weaver, 2-1, 3.13) vs. Blue Jays (Robert Ray, 0-0, 4.76), 7:05 p.m. PT

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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