TEMPE, Ariz. -- Veteran reliever Sean Burnett continues to feel good through every step of his rehabilitation from August forearm surgery, but the Angels are taking a cautious approach that could have him on the disabled list by the time Opening Day rolls around on March 31.
For the first time on Wednesday morning, Burnett progressed past his long-toss program and threw roughly 25 pitches off a slope -- an artificial mound that's placed behind the traditional bullpen mound and has him throwing from about 75 feet, but without pushing off a rubber.
The 31-year-old lefty "felt good," said it was the most positive step in his rehab and expects to do it again on Friday. But he wasn't throwing at full intensity, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia estimated on Thursday morning that it'll still be "a week to 10 days" before he throws his first bullpen session, which would leave roughly two weeks before the start of the regular season.
"No doubt we're cutting close," Scioscia said. "But he'll be ready in his own time. You can't look at the schedule and say you have to have him ready by a certain date. He'll be ready on his own time and we'll see when that is."
Scioscia stressed that the target date for Burnett's first bullpen session falls in line with the original projection.
Burnett doesn't need a lot of time to get ready because he's only a one-inning reliever, but the Angels will take their time with him because he missed a full season and because having him healthy throughout the summer takes precedence over having him on the active roster coming out of Spring Training.
The Angels can backdate Burnett's DL stint far enough so that he only misses the first 10 days of the regular season, and they have several lefty relievers in camp -- Brian Moran, Clay Rapada, Robert Carson, Buddy Boshers, Nick Maronde and Michael Roth -- who can fill the void in the meantime.
Burnett's arm has stood up to every test, but he knows he has to continue to follow the steps.
"Unfortunately, it's not my first surgery," Burnett said, "so I know how the process works, and I know you have to be patient."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less