Downs tosses sim game, expected back Saturday

Downs tosses sim game, expected back Saturday

Downs tosses sim game, expected back Saturday
ANAHEIM -- Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto and skipper Mike Scioscia stood behind the cage early Thursday afternoon, watching intently as lefty reliever Scott Downs fired pitches to Bobby Wilson, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo.

It was about as big as a 20-pitch simulated game can get.

Downs is that valuable to the turnaround of a struggling Angels bullpen. And the news that Downs is now expected to be activated by Saturday -- barring unforeseen setbacks -- is the best development this bullpen has had in weeks.

"I feel comfortable enough where I can go out there, pitch and help the team win," said Downs, out with a strained left shoulder since July 27.

"Scott did very well," Scioscia added. "The stuff he showed out there in the sim game is definitely what he needs to pitch with in the Major Leagues. We're going to see how he comes out of it today and tomorrow, and then hopefully activate him on Saturday."

Downs, who hadn't had any shoulder issues since college, also had one of these sim games Tuesday, but it was more to get a feel for his pitches and, admittedly, get over some of the apprehensions that would come with an injury like his.

He tried to treat Thursday as real as possible, warming up in the bullpen just like he would before checking into the game, then stepping onto the field and attacking hitters with his full repertoire.

"It felt good," Downs said. "Last time, I started fatiguing towards the end of it because I had thrown more than normal. This time I kept it more at game speed and it was all good."

Downs gave up nine earned runs in five innings to start the second half -- struggles he did not attribute to the shoulder issue that wound up landing him on the disabled list -- but still has a 2.57 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in a season that has seen him serve as a crucial lefty complement to righty Ernesto Frieri in the back end of the bullpen.

Since the All-Star break, the Angels bullpen -- also missing Jordan Walden -- sports by far the highest ERA in the Majors at 6.31. The Brewers follow with a 5.63 mark.

Downs should help that greatly if he returns to form. But, he insists, "There's no one guy who's going to make this team better. We're a team, and I think that's the main thing. That's what we focus on. I don't think there's one hitter that's going to carry us, there's not one pitcher that's going to carry us. We're going to do it all together."

Walden, nursing injuries to his neck and right biceps since July 8, made his third rehab appearance for Triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday, needing only nine pitches to record his second consecutive 1-2-3 inning.

Asked pregame if this could be Walden's final step before rejoining the bullpen, Scioscia said: "We'll see. I think with Jordan it definitely is going to be contingent on the evaluation of his outing and where he is."