Giavotella continues to close in on return

Giavotella continues to close in on return

MINNEAPOLIS -- Johnny Giavotella is moving closer to a return. The Angels second baseman has been dealing with fourth nerve palsy, a condition that affects his eye sight and causes double vision.

On Sunday, manager Mike Scioscia said Giavotella would take ground balls and work on his defense before hopping on a plane and heading to Arizona to the instructional league.

"He'll continue his rehab there and hopefully see some live pitching on Tuesday and Wednesday and then we'll evaluate where he is," Scioscia said.

Though there aren't games going on, Scioscia said that there were pitchers there throwing simulated games that Giavotella would take part in.

Giavotella was hitting .265/.312/.350 with 40 RBIs in 119 games before being placed on the disabled list on Aug. 25. He took batting practice earlier this week for the first time since the issue presented itself.

Worth noting

• Setup man Joe Smith's sprained ankle is forcing Scioscia to get creative with his bullpen. Smith sprained his ankle Saturday morning tripping down a stair while leaving the team hotel for the park. He was on crutches on Sunday.

Smith had X-rays done, which were negative, but the Angels were waiting for the swelling to subside to determine the severity of the injury. Scioscia wasn't sure if the medical staff would need to do an MRI.

"I think leading up to Huston Street, it'll be by committee," Scioscia said of the later innings. "I think we'll have to match up. We're going to have to use on a given day, you can line them up, but you know how it goes through two or three days. You need that depth, so we'll match up the best we can."

• With the doubleheader on Saturday, the Angels needed an extra starter for Wednesday's game against the Astros. Scioscia said Nick Tropeano will make the start on Wednesday.

Tropeano made two September starts while Matt Shoemaker was dealing with an injury and gave up five runs in 9 1/3 innings. He has made just five starts with the Angels this season, going 2-2 with a 5.26 ERA.

The Angels will send Jered Weaver, Hector Santiago and Tropeano to the mound in the critical series. They'll face Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Mike Fiers. Los Angeles entered Sunday's play just 1 1/2 games behind Houston for the second Wild Card spot.

Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.