SEATTLE -- It's a long shot, but Maicer Izturis, who underwent what was said to be season-ending surgery to repair a ligament in his left thumb on Aug. 19, has not given up hope of playing again this season.
The shortstop, five weeks removed from surgery, has been throwing, running the bases and doing agility drills, and he expects to begin swinging a bat and catching next week.
Doctors told Izturis he would need eight to 12 weeks to recover. The key is for the soft tissue in the area to be strong enough to be stressed -- but if Izturis is ready near the front end of that window, he could return if the Angels reach the World Series.
"They don't want to push me because they want me to be ready for next year, but I'm trying to come back this year," Izturis said. "It feels good. There's no swelling, and I can move it around like normal."
The problem, of course, is that even if Izturis, a switch-hitter who was batting .269 when he got hurt, is physically ready to play in late October, he probably won't be in good enough game shape to be much of a factor.
"I'm not going to say it hasn't been floated around a little bit," Manager Mike Scioscia said of a possible return for Izturis, "but it would be tight."
An ultrasound on Tuesday showed that Joe Saunders' kidney stone had moved "a lot lower" from where it previously was, Scioscia said, but the left-hander still hadn't passed the stone as of game time Tuesday.
Saunders, who remained at the team's hotel during the game, was scratched from Tuesday's start, and he is not scheduled to pitch again until Sunday's regular-season finale against Texas.
Scioscia does not believe the layoff will affect Saunders, who is expected to start Game 3 of the division series, in a negative way. Saunders is 16-7 with a 3.52 earned-run average.
"It's like a guy missing one start -- it won't have that much of an effect," Scioscia said. "If we started the playoffs tomorrow, it would be an issue, but he'll be able to pitch over the weekend and get back on board."
The Angels, who have a 21 1/2 -game lead in the American League West, are attempting to become only the 10th team since 1900 to win their division by 20 games.
The last team to do so was the 1999 Cleveland Indians, who won the AL Central by 21 1/2 games. The 1995 Indians hold the major league record for margin of victory in a division race, winning the Central by 30 games.
The Angels have won 191 games since the start of the 2007 season, and 80 of those (42%) were by one run, the most one-run wins in the major leagues in that span.