NEW YORK — Help could be on the way for the Angels' beleaguered bullpen, and not only in the form of veteran left-hander Darren Oliver, who is expected to be activated off the disabled list Monday.
When Kelvim Escobar returns from shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the 2008 season -- he is expected back in early June -- the Angels may insert the right-hander into the bullpen.
"There's a possibility he'll come back as a reliever," Manager Mike Scioscia said Saturday. "We want to stretch him out as a starter, evaluate what he's able to do and determine what role is best for him. We're not ruling anything out."
Escobar's role will hinge on how the team's relievers are throwing at the time of his return and what kind of shape Escobar, who completed another bullpen workout Friday, is in.
The bullpen has a 1-8 record, four blown saves and a major league-worst 7.66 ERA, and the top three relievers -- Brian Fuentes, Scot Shields and Jose Arredondo -- are struggling.
The Angels blew a 9-4 eighth-inning lead in a 10-9 loss Friday night, the first time they've lost when leading by five or more runs after seven innings since a 9-8 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 1, 2000.
Escobar could make a difference. He was a closer in Toronto earlier in his career, and in September 2005, he boosted a sagging Angels bullpen with a 1.89 ERA in nine relief appearances, a key to the team's American League Championship Series run.
But Escobar, 33, also went 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 30 starts in 2007 and could have a huge impact on the rotation.
"If he's throwing the ball great and has stamina issues, that could point you in a different direction," Scioscia said, "but we're not going to know that now."
When John Lackey and Ervin Santana return from injuries -- they're expected back this month -- the Angels will have the option of moving Dustin Moseley, Shane Loux or Matt Palmer from the rotation to the bullpen.
"We're looking forward to some of those decisions," Scioscia said. "It's going to be a very welcome meeting when those decisions are presented, where we have an abundance of guys for one role, whether it's starting or relieving."
Shortstop Erick Aybar was knocked out of Saturday's game in the first inning . . . by his own catcher. Mike Napoli's one-hop throw to second on Derek Jeter's stolen base caromed off of Jeter's helmet and into Aybar's upper left jaw.
Aybar remained on the ground for about a minute but was able to walk off the field on his own. He was examined by Dr. Scott Levy, the Yankees' team dentist, and received several stitches in his upper lip.
Aybar, who was replaced by Maicer Izturis, is questionable for today's series finale against the Yankees.
Napoli singled, walked twice, was hit by a pitch and reached on an error Saturday and has now reached base in nine of his last 10 plate appearances. . . . Bobby Abreu did not play Saturday because of lower-back tightness, an injury that knocked the outfielder out of Friday night's game in the seventh inning. Scioscia said he would return to the lineup today. . . . The Angels ended Robinson Cano's hitting streak at 18 games.