PHOENIX — Ervin Santana declared himself fit to return to the rotation after giving up three hits, striking out seven and walking none Sunday night in a 3 1/3 -inning rehabilitation start in an Arizona Summer League game.
"It felt very, very good," said Santana, sidelined since June 12 because of an inflamed triceps. "There's no discomfort. I feel I'm ready to go."
Of the 45 pitches Santana threw against an Oakland Athletics rookie league team, 33 were strikes. His fastball was clocked from 91 to 93 mph.
"I thought I would throw a little harder," Santana said. "But my location was good and I had good command in and out."
General Manager Tony Reagins, who watched Santana pitch, said how the right-hander feels today will be just as important as how he threw Sunday night.
"If he comes out of this fine, I don't think [another rehab start] will be necessary," Reagins said. "Going by his demeanor, and the way he commanded the baseball, he looked fine."
If Santana, who missed the first six weeks of the season because of an elbow ligament sprain, begins to regain his 2008 All-Star form, it would not only be a huge boon to the team's playoff hopes, but it would mitigate the need for another starting pitcher.
If Santana, who is 1-3 with a 7.47 earned-run average in six starts this season, suffers another setback or is ineffective, the Angels, already in the market for relief help, would probably have to pursue a starter.
Pitcher Matt Palmer executed the "butcher boy" play, squaring to bunt, pulling the bat back and chopping a single over third baseman Augie Ojeda's head during the Angels' five-run fifth inning Sunday.
Unfortunately for the Angels right-hander, that was the highlight of his day.
Palmer got the win to improve to 7-1 but gave up six runs and 10 hits in five innings and has now given up 18 runs, 33 hits and 12 walks in 22 innings of his last four starts.
"If Matt was making pitches and getting hit we'd be concerned, but he hasn't been making pitches like he did earlier in the year," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "His inability to control the count has caught up to him in his last couple of starts."
If Santana returns to the rotation, Palmer will be in jeopardy of losing his rotation spot to Sean O'Sullivan.
AL West showdown
The Angels couldn't have much more momentum going into tonight's AL West showdown series against the Texas Rangers, who swept a three-game series from them the last time the teams met May 15-17.
"We've got some guys healthy, and we're definitely running on all cylinders," Gary Matthews Jr. said. "The Caddy is running a little smoother."
A day of rest
Torii Hunter, still feeling the effects of three high-impact crashes into outfield walls in the last five weeks, was given Sunday off to recharge.
"My legs are a little heavy," the center fielder said. "It's a good time to take a day off because in the second half, I don't plan on taking any days off."
Where: The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
When: 5 PDT.
On the air: TV: Fox Sports West. Radio: 830, 980, 1330.
Pitchers: Sean O'Sullivan vs. Vicente Padilla; Tuesday 5 p.m. PDT -- Joe Saunders (8-4, 3.66) vs. Scott Feldman (5-2, 4.06); Wednesday, 5 p.m. PDT -- Jered Weaver (8-3, 2.65) vs. Kevin Millwood (8-5, 2.64).
Update: The Angels, winners of five games in a row, appear to be better equipped to handle the Rangers now than they were during their last visit to Texas, when they were swept in a three-game series and outscored, 18-11, May 15-17. The Rangers have lost seven of 10 games, but they have their hottest pitcher starting tonight. Padilla is 3-0 with a 2.16 earned-run average in his last four starts. O'Sullivan has given the Angels two solid starts in place of the injured Ervin Santana, giving up four runs and 11 hits in 12 innings of a win over San Francisco and a no-decision against Colorado.
-- Mike DiGiovanna